James Hetfield Says Metallica Is “Literally Afraid to Jam with Certain People”

(Image credit: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)

During Metallica’s 35 years as a band, they’ve sold millions of records, played thousands of gigs and become metal’s biggest act.

But guitarist James Hetfield says that, despite the success and adulation, he and the guys still have some insecurities.

“We’re literally afraid to jam with certain people, ’cause we think we’re not worthy enough,” he tells Metal Talks. “We’re not great musicians.”

The subject came up as Hetfield was discussing Metallica’s recent jam with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, a fun skit in which the two bands and Fallon performed Metallica’s 1991 hit “Enter Sandman” on children’s toy instruments. Hetfield said that despite the lighthearted nature of the attempt, he and his band mates were uptight.

“The Jimmy Fallon thing is one of those things that showed up in our lap, and we had a blast doing that. You have to have humor. You’ve got to laugh at yourselves. You’ve got to not take yourself so seriously all the time. Stuff like that is just fun and it lightens your heart.

But, he said, “It humbles you as well. We’re literally afraid to jam with certain people, ’cause we think we’re not worthy enough. We’re not great musicians.

“Even with those little flutes and stuff, I was worried. I mean, Kirk was practicing the song on this little [melodica]. It’s like, ‘Dude, stop practicing it! Just go have fun, man! Go screw it up.’

  • “It’s fun to give each other permission to screw up, and you’re not under a microscope. ’Cause live—sometimes we’re really tight, sometimes we’re really not.
  • “And before going out onstage, we always remind each other that, ‘Hey, mistakes are supposed to happen up here, and it makes this gig unique. Don’t be so hard on yourself. And if you’re feeling down, just look at the other guys, and we’ll carry you through.’

“So there’s a freedom to fuck up in Metallica.”

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