James Hetfield reveals he writes riffs when he’s “really happy” and lyrics when he’s emotional

James Hetfield performing live
(Image credit: Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Jam-packed with James Hetfield’s angst-y electric guitar explorations and some of the most masterful guitar parts ever recorded, Metallica’s repertoire of riffs is up there with the very best in metal history, celebrated for its brutal high-gain tones and fierce fretboard-spanning constructions.

Who’d have thought, then, that the dizzying, rapid-fire opening riff of Fight Fire With Fire, or the riotous, chug-heavy opener from Sad But True, were written when Hetfield was in a “really happy, good mood”?

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Matt Owen
Senior Staff Writer, GuitarWorld.com

Matt is a Senior Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.