James Hetfield: Iron Man
GW In a 2001 interview with Playboy magazine, you said Lars is a bad drummer.
HETFIELD He will admit that. And I’m not a very good singer, but something happens when we play together.
GW Did you see therapy as being unmanly?
HETFIELD Definitely. Even [producer] Bob Rock introduced a little time-out meditation thing before playing. I just said, “No way! Fuck you guys. Have you lost your mind? Let’s just rock!” I was not open to it whatsoever.
GW What changed your mind?
HETFIELD My major crash—my wife throwing me out of the house. My wife said, “You’re not coming back until you sort this out and get some therapy.” It was not just the drinking but all the other crap that goes with it: the disrespect, doing whatever you want whenever you want. I had to grow up. I had a family.
GW When was this?
HETFIELD This was during St. Anger. We were starting to write over at the Presidio [former San Francisco military base, closed since 1995]. Then at one point during therapy I realized how much my life was fucked up, how many secrets I had, how incongruent my life was, and I was disclosing all this shit to my wife, shit that happened on the road during all those times.
HETFIELD Oh yeah. Women, drink, whatever it is. That brought up a lot of fear for the other guys, you know. [laughs] Like I’m this whistle blower, and then all of a sudden, their wives are going, “Wow, isn’t it terrible, honey that he did that? You wouldn’t do something like that would you?” “Oh, hell no!”
It did stir up the mud—and the water was very thick with mud at that point. I think it was part of what saved Metallica, without a doubt. It had to come to an end in a certain way. My wife stood up and told me, “Hey, I’m not one of your yes men out on the road. Get the fuck out.”
GW What was your reaction?
HETFIELD My life is over. But fear is a pretty huge motivator, and it motivated me, having all these issues with abandonment and losing a group, losing people in my life.
GW And it looked like you were going to lose your band and your marriage.
HETFIELD Both of them at the same time. So that was it. I thought, I’ve got to get it together or they’re both going to go away. And then what?
GW When did you move back in?
HETFIELD My wife was pregnant with our third; she’s my little angel, Marcella. My wife needed me there, and I was able to be there at the birth, which was amazing. I cut the cord and all that very bonding stuff. Yeah, my daughter pretty much glued us back together.
GW What do you think of St. Anger now?
HETFIELD It’s more of a statement than a musical piece of work. We had to make St. Anger. The guy who worked with us, [life coach] Phil Towle, said, “All this work you’re doing right now is not for this record; it’s for the next one.”
GW Was Bob Rock upset when you decided to have Rick Rubin produce Death Magnetic?
HETFIELD I hope so. Not in a mean way. We both know that it got too comfortable. It got too easy. And you need to go explore. Maybe there wasn’t the tension anymore. Bob was a fifth member, a father figure. Maybe we felt scared that we couldn’t go do a record without him. But I hope he misses us, because we certainly miss him.
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