James Hetfield Discusses "Nothing Else Matters" 20 Years Later

Yesterday, at the first-annual Orion Music + More festival, Metallica performed their fabled Black Album (buy on iTunes) for the first time on U.S. soil, including the American debut of "The Struggle Within." The performance came as part of a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the band's eponymous fifth studio album (which was actually released in 1991).

In a new interview with The Village Voice, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett open up about an album that ultimately proved to be a turning point for the band, outselling any previous released while polarizing fans. One of the key tracks that signaled a departure from the band's thrash-metal roots was "Nothing Else Matters," a very personal song for frontman James Hetfield.

"It's absolutely crazy, that was the song that I thought was least Metallica," said Hetfield, "least likely to ever played by us, the last song anyone would really want to hear. It was a song for myself in my room on tour when I was bumming out about being away from home. It's quite amazing, it's a true testament to honesty and exposing yourself, putting your real self out there, and taking the risk, taking a gamble that someone's either going to step on your heart with spikes on or they're going to put their heart right next to it, and you never know until you try."

He continued, "That solidified, I think, that we were doing the right thing, writing form the heart about what we felt, and you can't go wrong that way. It has become an unbelievable song live, and from the New York Hells Angels putting it in their movie to sports people to people getting married to it, all kinds of stuff, people relate to it. I'm grateful that the guys forced me to take it out of my tape player and make it Metallica."

You can read more here.

Check out the book Learn Songs from Metallica’s Black Album, which is available now at the Guitar World Online Store. It's the matching folio to their critically acclaimed self-titled album. Songs include “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” “Nothing Else Matters,” "Don't Tread on Me" and more.

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.