Metallica: Monster's Brawl
One particular therapy session that fans will be anxious to see occurs when Ulrich sits down with Dave Mustaine to talk at length, and possibly for the first time, about Mustaine’s firing from Metallica in 1983 due to his hard-partying ways, and about the effect the dismissal has had on his life. As Ulrich sits in near silence, his eyes watery and often focused on the floor, Mustaine describes the pain of having to watch, as he describes it, “everything that you guys do…turn to gold, and everything I do fucking backfire.” It’s an intensely revealing scene that lends a human touch to a story that, over the years, has become a part of heavy metal folklore. While he places the blame for his ouster squarely on his own shoulders, Mustaine takes Ulrich to task for the hostile way in which it was handled, noting that, unlike Hetfield, he was never given the option of attending rehab, and how, over the years, neither Lars nor James had made a genuine attempt at reconciliation.
Mustaine has since made it known that he is unhappy with his portrayal in the film, and although he declined to comment for this story, this past January he posted a cryptic message on Megadeth’s official web site in which he wrote the movie off as “Some kind of bullshit,” and stated, “I noticed how much footage they used [of the meeting] and to whom it benefited, too.” Berlinger and Sinofsky, for their part, are confused by Mustaine’s reaction.
“My experience with Dave was that he was a real gentleman,” says Berlinger. “I know that when he showed up he was a little surprised to see the cameras, but I explained to him what we were doing, and he signed a release form giving us permission to use the footage. The whole meeting between him and Lars lasted about two or three hours, and we turned off the cameras three times, at his request, when things got a little too emotional. We tried to be very respectful of his feelings.”
“Here’s a case where the truth shouldn’t hurt,” says Sinofsky. “The Metallica and Megadeth fans who see this film will probably get a better understanding of Dave Mustaine than they have in 20 years.”
“The guys in the band are aware that Dave isn’t happy with that scene,” says Hammett. “But he said what he wanted to say, and nobody put any words in his mouth. Dave had free reign to present himself however he wanted to. And if he feels now that he didn’t present himself in the proper way, is that really our fault?”
For all the focus on relationships in the film—be it Mustaine coming face-to-face with his former band mate or a bunch of heavy metal he-men sitting around discussing their feelings with a middle-aged, bespectacled therapist—one relationship in particular is clearly at the center of Some Kind of Monster: that of James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, the two men who were there when Metallica began, and who will be there, for better or worse, when they end. What the movie makes apparent is that the band’s demise was actually a lot closer than perhaps anyone realized. Berlinger admits that there was a point during the filming where he and Sinofsky “were pretty sure that we were making a documentary about the disintegration of a band.” After one particularly nasty scene in which Hetfield and Ulrich argue over the latter’s choice of drumbeat for a song, Hetfield storms out of the room and doesn’t return—for months. It was during this time that he checked himself into rehab and cut off all contact with the rest of the band.
“It really felt like there was no future for Metallica,” says Hammett. “I had to start thinking about backup plans, like, Maybe I should make a solo album, or maybe I should start raising horses.”
“In all honesty I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back,” admits Hetfield. “And that was needed in order for me to come back in a healthy way. I had to ask myself, ‘Who am I?’ I have to walk around with the idea that people have pumped into my head that, ‘Hey, you’re the dude in Metallica. That is your worth. If you’re just a person on your own you’re not worth as much.’ Which is total crap. I had to realize that I could live without the band in order to live with it again. And I think that was scary for Lars, because I came back to the band as a different person, and it’s tough when someone else’s changes in their life begin to affect your own. Especially when the two people involved are both egocentric control freaks!”
Hetfield delivers that last statement with a laugh, but it’s clear that there is also some truth to his words. Which raises an interesting question: Is friction between great egos a necessary ingredient for all successful creative partnerships? Were the notorious clashes between legendary duos like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry in part responsible for them creating some of rock and roll’s most enduring music? According to Hetfield, the answer is not quite so clear.
“That friction does help in some instances, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. Because you see some musical writing teams that get along great, and even some that are husband and wife, and you think, My God, how can they work together and live together? But they do, because different people work off of different energies. In the case of Lars and I, we worked a lot of the time off of negative energy and also off of perfectionism. We were the kings of pushing each other further—like, Hey, to make this better I’m gonna drill you! As a result, there was this atmosphere of, Okay, I know he’s gonna say this, so I’ve gotta get my armor on, and then retaliate this way—just a lot of fear and defensiveness. But we’ve come to understand that it doesn’t have to be that way. We each have really clear and excellent visions of what music is for us, and we can realize those visions without making the other guy suffer.”
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