WORLD MAGAZINE INTERVIEW DEC. 1998
says playing in a cover band sucks? Metallica plays the heavy
hits & kills 'em all.
a chilly August night at the Shoreline Amphitheater, a cavernous
outdoor monstrosity -actually, an old landfill- situated just
outside of San Francisco. The 40,000 or so in attendance are primed
and ready in anticipation of the full-bore heavy metal onslaught
of their lives. Sizzling opening sets by Jerry Cantrell and Days
of the New kept have maintained the energy level at a proper feverish
pitch. Finally, the stage lights dim, a roar shoots skyward, hysteria
reigns supreme. As their customary The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
theme song intro tape fades out, Metallica bound onto the stage
and launch headlong into..."Breadfan"? Many in the crowd
caught unaware in the midst of a fist-pumping metallic fit look
perplexed: clearly they are unfamiliar with the song.
that's hardly surprising. Not only has "Breadfan" never
appeared on a Metallica album, it's not even an official Metallica
song. It was written in the early Seventies by a British rock
band called Budgie. So, what exactly is the band doing, shocking
the hometown faithful by opening with an unknown song?
just good to fuck with people, that's all," says Metallica
frontman James Hetfield. "The first song of the set is always
the 'yeah, dude, all right!' song of the night, and when we come
out with a cover, you can tell that a lot of people don't recognize
it. There's this to admit to their buddies that they don't know
the song. But hopefully they'll find out from someone what the
song was, and go discover the band that wrote it."
over 15 years now, Metallica have ruled the roost. Few could argue
that the core of the band's spectacular success has been their
songs. But while original compositions like "For Whom the
Bell Tolls," "Master of Puppets," "One"
and "Enter Sandman" are the hard rocks upon which Metallica
stand, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, et al., have also always
been a formidable cover band. Die-hard fans have always cherished
Metallica's versions of little-known British heavy metal classics
like "Breadfan," The Anti-Nowhere League's crazed "So
What?" and Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?"
the band's relatively casual approach to them in the studio, cover
songs were always taken seriously by Metallica. On the one hand,
they regarded the covers, which were mostly of older tunes, as
a way of staying in touch with their own metal and punk rock roots.
Metallica also saw them as a means of paying tribute to the original
artists -usually obscure British bands- who inspired them during
their formative years. Most were short, speedy songs teeming with
the kind of pure, raw power and attitude not always found in the
band's later recordings.
older covers definitely have a certain rough charm," says
guitarist Kirk Hammett, "because we didn't put them under
a microscope or record them as anally as we would normally record
our own songs."
their career, Metallica have recorded close to 20 covers, issuing
them primarily as b-sides of singles. In 1987, following the death
of original bassist Cliff Burton and subsequent hiring of Jason
Newsted, the band issued a five-song collection of covers called
The $5.98 EP-Garage Days Re-Revisited. The record, meant as a
gift to the band's hardcore fans, was taken out of print soon
after its release, making it one of the most sought-after Metallica
each of these songs in one complete package is something Metallica
fans have repeatedly wished for -but the longing stops here. Coming
in late November will be a new two-CD set from Metallica, complete
with every cover song they've ever recorded- including Queen's
"Stone Cold Crazy," Motörhead's "Overkill"
and Diamond Head's "The Prince," plus the entire contents
of the Garage Days record.
addition to the five rare Garage Days tracks, including "Helpless"
(Diamond Head), "The Small Hours" (Holocaust) and "Crash
Course in Brain Surgery" (Budgie), and each of the songs
mentioned previously, the new album will feature a mix of newly
recorded covers that pay homage to other bands that have impacted
the Metallica sound through the years. Some groups, like Black
Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and the Misfits, are not unexpected, while
others, like Bob Seger, seem slightly out of character. But the
point is that it is in character. Metallica have always been comfortable
hurling the occasional curve ball at their audience. As far as
they're concerned, anything goes when it comes to picking cover
songs -well, almost.
can pick up a very shitty song to cover," says Hetfield.
"I mean, the Foo Fighters doing 'Baker Street'? I don't get
that at all. It does take me back to high school, I guess, or
at least to a song that I completely fucking hated. [laughs] So
you have to be careful."
WORLD: Let's talk about some of the new cover songs that will
appear on this album.
KIRK HAMMETT: We're doing a Black Sabbath song called "Sabbra
Cadabra," which was on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. That opening
riff really gets us going -it's such a jamming riff. We might
try to glue "Sabbra Cadabra" together with another Sabbath
song, but we haven't figured that out yet. We'll also be doing
a Misfits song called "Die, Die My Darling," a nice
little ditty we've been listening to for the last 15 years or
so. There will also be a Bob Seger song called "Turn the
Page." It's a very odd choice; I'm not a big Bob Seger fan.
But "Turn the Page" is a great song about being on the
road. It's kind of ballady, but when you hear it you can really
picture James singing it.
There's also a Mercyful Fate medley. Their stuff was so incredibly
heavy and progressive for its time. Their guitarists, Hank Shermann
and Michael Denner, wrote some of the best riffs of all time.
Musically, they came from the same place that we did: old UFO,
Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Tygers
of Pan Tang. Fate had an incredibly huge influence on us in the
early days. The other night we were rehearsing the medley, and
Lars said, "Man, this stuff sounds like us!" We'll also
be doing Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey in the Jar,"
an old Irish drinking song. Cliff turned me on to Thin Lizzy's
Night Life  album; I had always listened to their later
stuff like Bad Reputation, Jailbreak and Renegade, but I was never
really familiar with that album until Cliff turned me on to it.
There will also be a couple of Discharge tunes.
GW: Will you be re-recording any of the older cover material?
JAMES HETFIELD: No, although we will remaster everything so at
least all the volume levels will be the same. [laughs] But we
want to keep that kind of dated sound with some of that material.
It's the sound of our history.
GW: Is the band always conscious of being faithful to the original
versions when you record covers?
HETFIELD: More so in the early days. I think a lot of that, particularly
with the older covers, was because we really didn't know that
we had our own style. We were inspired by those songs, so we played
them like the original versions. But now we have our own style,
so we know how to manipulate a song, and we know what we can and
can't do. Back then we had one volume and one speed, that was
HAMMETT: Our attitude now is, whatever the song needs, we'll do.
We're going to take as much liberty as we want to with these new
songs. We're gonna screw around with the arrangements, change
guitar parts, even change guitar riffs if it suits us. We'll also
be shifting around a lot of keys, which is something we've never
really done before. With our own material, once something is in
a certain key, it's committed to that key -it doesn't really change.
But with these songs, we're moving stuff from C# to E or from
E to C# or from G to F# -whatever feels right. Shifting keys might
make something easier for James to sing, or allow us to get some
open-string resonation going. Or maybe we'll tune something down
just to make it heavier. We're just taking these songs to wherever
we feel they must be taken.
GW: What factors into the process of picking cover songs?
HETFIELD: There has to be something there initially for us to
like and want to cover it. It might be the riff, the beat, or
even the lyric -but it's never all three. [laughs] Sometimes you
have this song with a great riff, and when you finally chase down
the lyrics you read them and go, "What the fuck? Man, I liked
it better when I didn't know the lyrics." [laughs] Or you
have a great lyric and the riff is like...hmmm. There were a few
Budgie songs where all of a sudden they went into some hippy-trippy
mellow bit in the middle, and we said, "Well, either we have
to make fun of it or just fucking forget that part."
GW: Do you remember what originally influenced the band to play
covers in your early days?
HETFIELD: Like any other band starting out, we would cover material
because we needed to have enough songs to fill up the set when
we played live. We had "Hit the Lights," "The Four
Horsemen" and a few others, but not enough originals to do
a full set. And since we were covering songs by these British
heavy metal bands, people thought they were our own songs.
GW: What subsequently motivated you to record cover songs?
HAMMETT: Basically, it was a good way for us to warm up and get
the feel of the studio when we went in to record an album.
GW: How did you discover bands like Diamond Head and Budgie and
the whole New Wave of British Heavy Metal?
HETFIELD: Lars. He introduced me to a whole new world of heavy
music. I was more into bands like Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith,
AC/DC, Ted Nurgent, Kiss, etc. I had heard of Iron Maiden and
Def Leppard, but not too many of the other, more obscure, English
metal bands. So when I first met up with Lars, I would spend days
just going through his record collection, taping over my REO Speedwagon
cassettes with bands like Angel Witch and Diamond Head and Motörhead.
I was in heaven at his house.
HAMMETT: It was pretty much the same thing with me. When I met
Lars, I was just amazed at how much he knew about European metal.
I knew about all the major bands and was into most of the same
stuff he and James were, but Lars knew so much about all the more
obscure bands like Parallax and Witchfynde and Quartz.
GW: How did these bands specifically influence Metallica?
HETFIELD: Diamond Head, for example, had a pretty unique way of
putting songs together. It wasn't the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle
eight and then out. They had middle breakdowns, new riffs that
came in at weird places, and their songs kind of took you on journeys.
Budgie and Mercyful Fate were also pretty inventive. Fate would
play a great riff and never come back to it, and it would piss
you off. [laughs] But those bands taught us that there were more
than three parts to a song -that you could have a song with different
parts, each of which could almost be its own song.
You can really hear their impact on ...And Justice for All [l988],
which was where we really started to go over the top with that
type of songwriting. Sometimes we look back at a lot of our material
and wonder how -or why- we ever came up with certain parts. Or
wonder why we just didn't turn certain riffs into their own songs,
because they were so good. We went out drinking one night recently,
and on our long ride to this club, we listened to a radio station
playing Metallica from A to Z. And it was really wild to hear
some of our old material again. When they'd play something like
"The Frayed Ends of Sanity" from ...And Justice for
All we'd sit there and go, "Whoa! Where in the fuck did that
whole middle section come from? What were we thinking?" There
was a lot of urgency to that material, but a lot of it was just
wank -just us showing off. But that's where we were at that time.
GW: Is that different from where the band is right now?
HETFIELD: Oh, absolutely. It's also different from where we originally
started. Back then, it was just about writing these bam! hit-you-kinda-quick
songs, then we got into the longer epic-y things. On the "Black
Album," we started to trim up again and get a little more
to the point.
GW: Does playing covers, particularly older ones like "Breadfan,"
ever bring you back to an earlier time; a time when you didn't
have everything you have today?
HETFIELD: Like a baby in a trailer at the Shoreline Amphitheater?
[laughs] No, it really doesn't take me back. For me, it's always
now. Whether we're doing a cover song or "Fight Fire With
Fire" live, this is how we play it now. I know how we played
it on the record and I know the initial thought behind the song,
but this is how we feel now. And even with our own material, as
you play it you add new things, stuff that makes you feel good
now, or stuff that you can play that you couldn't back then. It's
always "now" for us. As far as the lyrics, some of them
take on new meanings as you get older; others just become sounds
that come out of your mouth. What really takes me back is watching
our old videos. I recently saw the "Nothing Else Matters"
video, which was us recording in the studio, and it was really
weird for me -it wasn't really that long ago, but we sure looked
a lot different then. [laughs] So we can get a little nostalgic
here and there.
GW: Is it gratifying to expose bands like Diamond Head and Budgie
to a larger audience?
HETFIELD: We don't really look at it that way. The way it works
out is, here's a band that helped us out, and in our way we're
helping them out now. It's not intentional, but that's the way
it turns out. A lot of it for us is covering songs out of respect.
When we went to Lemmy's 50th birthday party [held at the Whisky
A Go-Go, in Los Angeles, in December 1995 -GW Ed.] and played
a bunch of Motörhead songs dressed as four Lemmys, we did
that out of sheer respect. I mean, he's the godfather of heavy
metal, and the truth is that he inspired me to sing and play in
an aggressive style. So it's all about respect.
I'm not saying it's because of us, but you take a band like Holocaust,
and suddenly, after all these years, they've reformed and gone
out on tour -and that's kinda cool. Take Diamond Head. They supported
us at a gig in England a few years back, and they hadn't played
together for years. And I don't want to say who, but there have
certainly been bands through the years that have asked us to cover
their songs, but we won't do it because of that.
But you know, the same has happened to us in some ways. The Mighty
Mighty Bosstones once did a cover of "Enter Sandman"
on an album [1992's Where'd You Go? -GW Ed.] and that might have
helped us gain exposure in the ska underground. And then you have
Apocalyptica [a string quartet from Finland known for covering
Metallica songs]. Even Pat Boone did a Metallica cover ["Enter
Sandman" on 1997's In a Metal Mood].
GW: In 1987 the band recorded an entire record of cover songs,
the $5.98 EP-Garage Days Re-Revisited, which was taken out of
print soon after its release. How did that record happen?
HETFIELD: We were still dealing with Cliff's death, and Q-Prime,
our management, was telling us to jump right back into it and
start playing again. Obviously, when you deal with a death, you
want to take some mourning time, but our management pushed us
a bit to get going again. I guess we kind of mourned through music
and doing the cover songs on that album.
HAMMETT: Doing that album was also a good way for us to break
Jason in to the public and give our audience a preview of what
was to come. We needed to buy some time, because we really weren't
ready to record another full-length album yet. We didn't have
anything new written. So it was a good way for us to put some
product out there and take our time before getting ready to do
...And Justice for All.
GW: A whole new generation of Metallica fans have grown up that
are unfamiliar with Cliff Burton. What are some of your best memories
HAMMETT: Well, I roomed with him, so I spent more time with him
than the other guys. Cliff had a lot of music in him that never
had the chance to come out. He was always listening to music or
playing music -I mean constantly. Toward the last four or five
months of his life, he started playing a lot more guitar. He'd
single out little licks or riffs when he listened to music and
would have me figure them out for him. I remember him really loving
the way Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd played guitar. He'd always ask
me to show him Skynyrd licks, and then he'd end up saying, "Man,
that's tricky. That's really tricky." [laughs] And he loved
Black Sabbath and Creedence Clearwater Revival. And the Misfits,
Thin Lizzy, the Sex Pistols, the Velvet Underground and the Eagles
-oh, he used to drive me crazy with the Eagles.
Cliff really knew a lot about music theory. I remember him playing
me these volume-swell things that he had come up with and that
we later used as the intro to "Damage, Inc.," from Master
of Puppets. He told me it was based on some Bach piece, and that
it had a death theme to it, some funeral march thing -when I listened
to it after his death, I always found that pretty ironic. He used
to carry around a nylon string classical guitar that was detuned
to C#! I once asked him why it was detuned, and he said, "So
I can bend the strings." [laughs]
GW: Were you able to learn from him as a musician?
HAMMETT: Oh, absolutely. All the harmony stuff that I know and
that James knows basically came from Cliff. I knew about harmony,
but I really didn't know how to apply it but Cliff did. He wrote
all the harmony parts for the whole last part of "Orion,"
from Master of Puppets. He would sit down with us and map out
harmonies on paper, like, "okay, it's in the key of E, so
you've got your root note here, and we'll go a fifth here,"
or "now we're going to a G, so let's put a major third here,"
and he'd write it all down.
GW: What was the band's mindset after Cliff's death?
HAMMETT: Such a huge void was created after he died -a really
big hole that only he could fill. I worried that we'd never find
anyone else like him, but then I realized that we shouldn't even
try -he was just one of a kind. He really had his own unique voice,
musically, and I definitely think there was a part of the Metallica
sound that was lost forever when he died.
HETFIELD: But that was why finding Jason was kind of a whole new
inspiration in itself for us -just getting this new blood in the
band really helped us move on. And [grinning] he was so fucking
excited to be in the band, it was almost embarrassing.
GW: Lately, we've been hearing rumors that Jason hasn't been particularly
happy as a member of Metallica. Is there any truth to that?
HAMMETT: No, no, everything's really cool with Jason. More so
now than any time before. We've given him a lot more space to
stretch out and pursue his own individual things. There was a
time when we thought that Metallica was a very strict family,
and anything outside of Metallica was pretty much prohibited.
But we've all kind of matured, and now we realize that it really
doesn't have to be that way. We've let loose a bit on the reins,
and Jason's been able to go out and do his own thing. But he's
still very much a part of Metallica.
GW: It must have been tough for him, coming in as Cliff's replacement.
HAMMETT: Yeah. There was a lot of grief and a lot of anguish when
Cliff died, and basically Jason was the punching bag. We vented
so much on Jason because of the whole bus accident and Cliff's
death, and it really wasn't fair to do that to him. But things
are different nowadays -our relationship with him is much more
this point during the interview, Kirk Hammett grabbed his '53
Strat and headed to another backstage area, where he taped a lesson
with Guitar World's Nick Bowcott. Hammett demonstrated the proper
way to play Metallica's most popular covers, including "Breadfan,"
"So What," "Killing Time" and "Helpless."
Be sure to check out this exclusive lesson with Kirk in the January
issue of Guitar World. Meanwhile, James and I opened a discussion
about his development as the band's lyricist.
WORLD: Lyrically speaking, it's highly unlikely that you would
ever write a song like the Misfits' "Last Caress" or
The Anti-Nowhere League's "So What," with its verse,
"I fucked a sheep, I fucked a goat, I rammed my cock right
down its throat."
HETFIELD: That's kind of the cool thing. It's just so much fun
to get up there and sing "I've even sucked an old man's cock"
and watch people in the audience go, "Huh?" It's just
shit that shocks people, and I can go, "Hey, I didn't write
"So What" was actually a song that we'd throw on the
stereo in the early days just to piss off the neighbors. Whether
they could hear the lyrics or not, it just felt good to blast
the words "cock" and "fuck" and stuff like
that. And that was absolutely why we chose to cover it -it wasn't
because it had some great riff or something. [laughs]
GW: Metallica is usually so serious. It must be a release to sing
HETFIELD: There is a great positive to that, but the negative
side comes when the lyrics are really stupid and you can't get
into them. It's hard to project and be convincing when that happens.
GW: Looking back, how do you feel about your lyrics on Kill 'Em
HETFIELD: They were where our heads were at, so they were absolutely
right because that was how we felt. And I wouldn't change anything
about them. Just the honesty and the innocence of it all is so
cool. It's all we knew at the time: "bang your head,"
"crush the town" and all that shit.
GW: Can you still relate to that now?
HETFIELD: Absolutely. The cool thing about Metallica and our history
is that there's always a new generation of angry young men who
latch onto Kill 'Em All and know what I'm talking about. And maybe
they grow up with the rest of the records. We've never been about
creating some fantasy world with our records; we're just documenting
where we're at at the time. There's always going to be youth on
the planet, and whether they can relate to that or not, I don't
know. But every time I look out in the crowd and see some kids
battling it out in the middle of the mosh pit, I'm like, "Yeah,
I was there, man."
GW: How do you view Kill 'Em All in terms of your skill as a lyricist?
HETFIELD: I guess there was some thought put into it; I mean,
at least they rhymed. [laughs] At the time I couldn't write a
lyric to save my life, so all I could do was listen to other bands
and see how they phrased things. I just wanted to put our attitude
into it -and that's why I loved punk at the time. It was that
honesty, which is something I'm not sure a lot of the older metal
bands had. I mean, what was Judas Priest really writing about?
Or Iron Maiden? It was all this weird fantasy stuff. And we maybe
got into a little of that with "Phantom Lord" or a few
other songs, but we've always tried to stay away from writing
about things we didn't know about.
GW: How did you manage to avoid falling into that heavy metal
trap of writing about dungeons and dragons?
HETFIELD: I think we realized early on just how goofy it was.
Those lyrics didn't mean anything to me; they just didn't pump
me up. What did pump me up were punk rock lyrics, stuff that I
cou1d maybe relate to or that would give me a little attitude.
For the listener, those lyrics are about feeling comfortable knowing
that the guy who wrote them is just as fucked-up as you are. There's
some kind of kinship in that.
GW: You also tend to avoid writing about women in your songs.
HETFIELD: Actually, the word "she" appears in a couple
of our songs...but it's usually about murdering her, so it's okay.
[laughs] But truthfully, "Nothing Else Matters" is a
song that was kind of influenced by a woman, but it also pertains
to everyone. I've always found that it works quite a bit better
when you have a certain vagueness to it, even though you know
what the initial inspiration was behind the lyrics. But yes, writing
specifically about women is something that, for us, is kind of
taboo, mainly because it's been done to death and, to be honest,
it's kind of silly. To me, if you're gonna write about a woman,
there are other ways to do it.
You know, a lot of times, lyrics really don't matter all that
much. But as the lyricist, when I write something, I want it to
be the best that it can be.
GW: On Ride the Lightning (l984), you began dealing with more
personal and social issues, among them suicide ("Fade to
Black") and capital punishment ("Ride the Lightning").
What caused you to mature as a lyricist?
HETFIELD: Touring definitely made us a little more worldly. Even
if it was just hopping in the Winnebago with [early Eighties British
metallers] Raven and touring across the country. [laughs] We started
to see other things that were going on in the world. And that's
when more of the punk-oriented, opinionated kind of thoughts began
to appear in our lyrics. It was about putting yourself in other
people's shoes: what if this were to happen to you? Just creating
And actually having to sit down and write an album made a difference,
because Kill 'Em All was just songs that we had been playing in
clubs for the two years before we recorded it. Getting Cliff in
the band also made a difference when it came to writing these
songs, because he was more of an educated musician, and, along
with the music, we felt we had to at least be a little more educated
GW: The song "Ride the Lightning" appears to sympathize
with the criminal in the electric chair. Was that an anti-capital
HETFIELD: Not exactly; I believe in capital punishment, but it
was more like the idea of being strapped in the electric chair
even though you didn't commit the crime. That song, and others
on the record, were about not being able to escape a situation.
Lars and I are both control freaks, and the idea of not being
able to get out of a bad situation is a fear we both have.
GW: You've indicated in the past that, as a boy, your family was
quite religious. The lyrics to "Creeping Death," which
deal with the Biblical stories of Egypt and the plagues, strike
me as the product of someone who grew up in a religious household.
HETFIELD: Or had just watched the movie Ten Commandments. [laughs]
I recall us sitting at this guy's house one day, and the movie
was on TV. When it got to the part where the first Pharaoh's son
is taken and the fog rolls in, Cliff said, "Look...creeping
death." And I was like, "Whoa, dude, write it down!
Sheer poetry!" [laughs] Then I got my own copy of the movie
and copied down a few lines and wrote a song.
GW: So your own background had nothing to do with it?
HETFIELD: [uneasily] Well...without getting into Sunday school
and all that, obviously religion has a lot of freaky shit. I mean,
to this day, the image of Jesus on the cross with all the blood
and stuff is so intimidating. And there's a lot of freaky things
in religion that either aren't understood or aren't meant to be.
But really, the whole idea of a fog rolling in and killing a few
people was a strange thing to me, and made for some good subject
matter in a heavy metal song in 1984.
GW: How did you react when the band was attacked for the lyrics
to "Fade to Black," which some thought was pro-suicide?
HETFIELD: Yeah, well, you can kind of rest on the whole "well,
this is art, so fuck off," freedom-of-speech thing. But when
you're up there on stage, anything you say can be taken literally,
and you have to be conscious of that. There's a real sick feeling
of power when you're on stage: you can start a riot or put everyone
to sleep if you wanted.
On the other hand, as soon as you start being "responsible"
with your lyrics, you start fucking with your integrity. Writing
is therapy for me, so fuck everyone else, you know?
GW: After Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All, two albums
that dealt primarily with death, war, religion and greed, you
started writing more personal lyrics on the "Black Album."
HETFIELD: Around the time of the "Black Album" we started
to become four individuals in the band. I realized that we didn't
really agree on things anymore -socially, politically or whatever.
We get along great, but we have different opinions on things.
So when I sat down to write lyrics, I wondered what I was going
to put down as "Here's Metallica, here's what we think."
So instead of going outwards and looking for issues to talk about,
I did a U-turn and went inside of myself. That was where the universal
bit came in, because most people have those feelings -fucked-up,
happy, sad or whatever. They're all there to be tapped into. And
that's kinda the beauty of writing from the heart -you really
can't go wrong.
I can remember when I wrote the lyrics to "Enter Sandman,"
[producer] Bob Rock and Lars came to me and said, "These
lyrics aren't as good as they could be." And that pissed
me off so much. I was like, "Fuck you. I'm the writer here!"
But when I went back, I dug harder, and I came up with some stuff
that obviously worked quite a bit better. That was really the
first challenge from somebody else, and it really pissed me off
-but it also made me work harder. From then on, I've thought twice
about everything I've written. Now I re-write stuff over and over
to get it right.
GW: It's interesting that you went that long without being challenged
on your lyrics.
HETFIELD: Well, you know, back then, I was "the man."
No one fucked with The Mighty Het. [laughs] That's why Lars and
Bob had to gang up on me that time.
GW: Do you think people take you seriously as a lyricist?
HETFIELD: It's still kind of a running joke that somebody's gotta
sing, so I'm doing it. When we first started out, I wanted to
just play guitar, and we wanted to find another singer and be
a five-piece. To us, you had to have a separate frontman to make
it. All the bands did: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC, etc.
But I ended up doing both. And since the singer usually writes
the lyrics, I figured, "Shit, I better start writing some
lyrics." [laughs] But as time went on, I decided that I wanted
to take things more seriously. In the beginning, I was afraid
to have my vocal loud in the mix. I felt that it didn't matter
what I sang about, and that it was a chore to go into the studio
and sing. But it slowly became more and more of me, and I started
to take it more seriously.
GW: You took writing about personal issues even further on Load
HETFIELD: That's just what's coming out of me right now. That's
what feels best and less clown-like for me. When you're writing
honestly, you can't be the clown.