James Hetfield: Iron Man
GW You came across as this taciturn mountain man.
HETFIELD A lot of it had to do with me proving my manhood to myself and a lot of the things that I felt my dad didn’t teach me—like working on cars, hunting, survivalism. Things like that. I really felt that I had to go and learn those things and prove to myself that I’m okay, that I can do it. My dad was like that.
GW Do you still go hunting?
HETFIELD Nowadays it doesn’t feel necessary, killing things just to kill them. I’m not against hunting, but it doesn’t seem as necessary as going 150 miles an hour in my car now. [laughs]
GW What changed your mind?
HETFIELD We went hunting in Siberia. This was just before I went into rehab, when I fell off the wagon majorly. I’ve got a wife and kids at home, but I was like, “See you later, I’m going to Siberia.” I went out on the Kamchatka peninsula, hunting grizzly bear on snowmobiles in four feet of snow. You fall off the snowmobile, you’re done. I saw a bear print and it looked pretty human [to me]. I saw something in that that didn’t make much sense to me. We were in this four-foot high chicken shack in the middle of nowhere, four-hour helicopter ride out of this shitty little town, drinking vodka. There was nothing else to drink. That was the end for me.
GW Were you uncomfortable with the band’s new image for Load ?
HETFIELD Most definitely. Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole, “We need to reinvent ourselves” topic was up. Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you then it doesn’t make much sense. I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe—Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn’t get into it. The whole, “Okay, now in this photo shoot we’re going to be Seventies glam rockers.” I would say half, at least half, the pictures that were to be in the booklet I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling.
GW What didn’t you like about the cover?
HETFIELD [laughs] How can I put this? I guess when I talked about the resentments of being left out of the bond that they had through their drug use—Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay—I think they knew it bugged me. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take on all that. I just went along with the makeup and all of this crazy, stupid shit that they felt they needed to do.
GW A lot was made of the haircuts at the time. Was that a group decision?
HETFIELD [laughs] It wasn’t like we went in together and went, “Hey, can we get a deal on four haircuts?” It just slowly happened, with age, thinning hair. Long hair just didn’t feel right anymore.
GW Musically was that the first time Metallica was unsure?
HETFIELD I would say so. That whole period. Why do we need to reinvent ourselves? A lot of the fans got turned off quite a bit by the music, but mostly, I think, by the image.
GW Were you uneasy about Kirk and Lars kissing in the photographs?
HETFIELD Totally. That’s why they did it—for the image. I’m the driving force behind their homosexual adventures. I think drugs had something to do with it too. I hope. [laughs] There are many times in our career that people have jumped ship, and that’s going to happen. It’s more hurtful to hear “Okay, people are stomping Metallica records because they’re suing Napster.”
GW It seemed like Lars led the Napster thing.
HETFIELD He is the figurehead for the band. He likes talking, he likes being out there. I’m extremely proud of what we did. It had to happen. No artist would stand up except some of the rap artists. We were abandoning the rebel attitude, and, man, there couldn’t be anything more rebel than that.
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