Metallica Guitarist and Vocalist James Hetfield
Hetfield is one of the founding members of the metal band Metallica. The new documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster catches the band at a time of crisis, when their bass player quits and the group hires a "therapist and performance-enhancement coach" to help them sort things out. Also during the filming, Hetfield storms out and enters rehab.
Other segments from the episode on November 9, 2004
DATE November 9, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Metallica singer James Hetfield talks about his career
and other projects he's working on or completed
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
The band Metallica, the biggest-selling rock act of the '90s, has survived for
23 years. My guest is singer and guitarist James Hetfield, one of the
founders of the band. As The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll
says, `After gaining a solid cult following among fans who could not identify
with contemporary, pretty-boy pop-metal combos, such as Van Halen and Bon
Jovi, Metallica became known for its sophisticated, often complex song
structure and serious lyrics that reflected teen obsession with anger,
despair, fear and death.'
An illustrated book about the band has just been published called "So What!
The Good, the Mad and the Ugly." In January the acclaimed Metallica
documentary, "Some Kind of Monster," will be released on DVD. It chronicled
the making of their album "St. Anger" and the anger, tension and exhaustion
that nearly broke up the band as the members neared middle age. The band
actually hired a therapist to conduct group therapy sessions. During this
period, Hetfield checked himself into rehab. When he emerged, Metallica
completed "St. Anger." Here's a song from it called "Some Kind of Monster."
(Excerpt from "Some Kind of Monster")
Mr. JAMES HETFIELD (Metallica): (Singing) These are the legs in circles run.
This is the beating you'll never know. These are the lips that taste no
freedom. This is the feel that's not so safe. This is the face you'll never
change. This is the god that ain't so pure. This is the God that is not
pure. This is the voice of silence no more. Some kind of monster. Some kind
of monster. Some kind of monster. This monster lives. This is the face that
stones you cold.
(End of excerpt)
GROSS: James Hetfield, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's start at the beginning of
Metallica's history. What did you want Metallica to be?
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, boy. I wanted it to be freedom from school, from work,
from the typical music that we were hearing. But really it was--music was
somewhat of an escape for me that turned into a really great gift eventually.
But it was a way to get away from my screwed-up family that I felt...
GROSS: What was screwed up about your family?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, no one really communicated very well. It was very
insular, very--somewhat elitist in our religion. You know, `Oh, that's what
they believe, but we believe this, which is better, you know, which is
Christian science.' I grew up in that type of atmosphere. And I never really
understood it, either, so I felt very alienated from the outside world and
from my family. So it was a connection--music, for me, was. But
Metallica--when we hooked up, we were just passionate and loved music, and it
was the soundtrack for our lives, you know. It spoke for us.
GROSS: And how old were you when the band was started?
Mr. HETFIELD: Let's see, fresh out of high school, so 18 or 19 we started.
GROSS: So no college?
Mr. HETFIELD: No. We had college on the road basically. Street college.
GROSS: So you said that music was also an escape from work. Was this an
escape from the work that you would have been doing had you not been in the
band, or were you already working?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, I was working. And my dad left a note saying he was
leaving at age 13, never really said good-bye. My mom passed away at 16. I
went and lived with my older brother, and she left some inheritance for me,
but it was so tough to even want to touch that. It was like that was still
Mom. I didn't want to mess with that, so I went and I got a job working at a
high school, moving a high school, then it was custodial work, then I went
working in a factory, 'cause I had the long hair. That was pretty much all I
could get. Oh, it was so frustrating just sitting there. It was OK. At
lunch, I'd go out and write in my truck, write some songs.
But I remember seeing this older guy working as the foreman, you know, `One
day you'll be foreman,' you know. Ooh, joy, you know. And he's--I don't
know--40, 50 years old, and it's like, `Man, I cannot do this. I have to play
music.' It was in me. I knew that it had to happen.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is James Hetfield, one of the
founders of Metallica. And there's a new Metallica book called "So What! The
Good, the Mad an the Ugly."
Now I don't think you ever got into the kind of Spinal Tap-type of show-bizzy,
you know, heavy metal stuff with the breastplates and the codpieces, right? I
mean, you never were into that, right?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, under my jeans, yes.
GROSS: Under your jeans, yes.
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, we did some tours...
GROSS: You're more like T-shirts and jeans.
Mr. HETFIELD: Basically.
Mr. HETFIELD: Yeah, we would walk on stage and play with what was
comfortable, you know. Wearing a spiked wristband with, you know, nails
sticking out of it didn't--you know, you really couldn't wipe your forehead
off with that, you know. It wasn't comfortable. You know, at the end of the
day, we wanted to be, you know, just us. And, you know, we had done some
tours with bands--and growing up in LA, it was kind of everywhere, and there
was a little bit tried to sneak in, you know. I had bullet belts, you know,
'cause Lemmy from Motorhead had that. That was the extent of our dressing up,
you know, but you didn't really have to dress up and do things like that to be
Spinal Tap. There were Spinal Tap moments that happened all the time.
GROSS: Oh, tell me one. Tell me a great Spinal Tap moment.
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, landing in the wrong airport, you know, or, you know,
saying the wrong city that you're in or something like that or, you know,
there's always something that happens out there that people make fun of, and
you're living it. And it's not so funny when it's going on, but, you know,
those moments do happen.
GROSS: Did you have your destructive period of destroying hotel rooms and...
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. A lot of our early lyrics were all
about that, you know, on the road, show up in a city, rape, pillage, move on,
GROSS: Now what's your explanation for why you wanted to do that?
Mr. HETFIELD: 'Cause I guess we could. 'Cause I guess we were angry. We
needed attention and partly 'cause you were supposed to, you know. We'd heard
about, you know, the decadence of the '70s bands, you know, going in, and they
had orgies, they had--you know, they were throwing TVs at--you know, you heard
all those stories, and we didn't really throw any TVs out of windows, but we
jumped out of windows into pools, breaking bones, you know, setting off hotel
alarms at four in the morning and having to pay for everyone's room, you know,
things like that, you know, kicking holes in the walls, whatever, all kinds of
just--you know, kind of releases.
And after a while, it became a trap, you know. You're on tour paying for your
destruction, you know, and you're not bringing any money home, so...
GROSS: Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy destroying things?
Mr. HETFIELD: There was something about it, and I tie it in with my anger a
lot. And I had a lot of anger and rage problems that would just overcome me,
and I would--whatever was near, I'd throw it and it would break. And it was
just this adolescence that stuck with me, you know. And, you know, when I
finally started, well, dating my wife-to-be, who is my wife now, Francesca,
you know, it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing to myself and to her, and
she helped me grow up quite a bit. But, yeah, there was something about
smashing stuff that just felt right. It felt good.
GROSS: Looking back, do you think it's a healthy thing to have the liberty of
acting out rage in such a flamboyant, public kind of way? I mean, you know, a
lot of fans really go for that 'cause there's something so mythic about the
guys who have the guts and the money to be able to, like, destroy things on a
whim like that.
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, I certainly don't think it's healthy. There's plenty of
other ways to get your anger out, and I didn't know them. I didn't know those
tools. My survival technique was bottle up my anger 'cause I couldn't talk
about it. I was fearful of it. I was afraid that no one could relate to it,
you know, already feeling like an outsider, that if I told people this, they
would just lock me up or something. So just keeping it bottled in, and
usually it took a bottle to get it out. I'd be drinking and then somehow,
something would smash or I'd hurt someone, and a lot of it was just a survival
technique that I learned as a kid.
I remember the first time that someone looked at me scared. When I was a kid,
my mom--well, we had some friends over and I was trying to hammer a nail into
something and it was too loose and it wouldn't go in. And I had this hammer
and I kept smashing it and smashing it. I was, like, maybe six years old.
And my mom said, `Joey'--that was my friend--she said, `Come over here, come
over and stand by me.' It's like, `They think I'm dangerous. Maybe I am.'
That was the first time my mom looked at me really scared.
GROSS: Was that empowering to you, or did it scare you about yourself?
Mr. HETFIELD: It was both. It was a little of both. Like, `Wow, you know,
now I've got something over her,' but also, `Yeah, this gets attention, too.'
GROSS: My guest is James Hetfield, co-founder of the band Metallica. We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is singer and guitarist James Hetfield, co-founder of
Metallica. A new book about the band has just been published called "So
What!" When we left off, we were talking about breaking up hotel rooms and
acting out feelings of anger that date back to his childhood.
Now do you think that anger worked for you musically?
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, completely.
Mr. HETFIELD: I do now. At the time, we didn't analyze anything. It was
just going for--it was going with the heart, is what we called it, you know.
It was whatever was coming out at the time.
You know, I can't change what has happened, you know. Everything that has
happened in our career, you know, as far as angry lyrics or whatever it was
coming out, you know, subliminally even, that happened for a reason. It all
happened for a reason for us to get where we are now, to realize, wow, we were
very immature, in a way, but writing about it, you know, not knowing how to
grow up or how to change your survival techniques or your tools in life, how
to relate to people. And, you know, it took the band almost breaking up to
realize a lot of things, and one was our form of expression, what a gift we
have in that.
And, you know, after getting clean and sober, going back and reading a lot of
the lyrics, going, `Wow, that's pretty intense, and I can't belive there's
some fans out there that really like this, you know.'
GROSS: Give me an example of what you're thinking.
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, something like "Dyers Eve." This is a song about my
parents and how they've kept me in a cocoon, you know, not allowing me to see
the world, of what different religions there were or different kinds of
people. You know, for me, learning about other things was not--they were
trying to keep me in almost like a cult type of religion it felt like to me.
And this song talks about, you know, `Now that you're gone, I'm out here in
the world and lost and I'm scared and, you know, I blame you, I blame you
completely,' and a lot of blame put onto my parents, you know, at that point,
and it's pretty heavy stuff when I read it now. You know, but I realize my
parents were doing the best they could with what they had to work with, you
know. I didn't realize the trickle-down effect from their parents, you know.
You know, you look at your parents as--they're gods in a way, you know. They
could never do wrong, you know. But looking back and realizing that, yeah,
they made some mistakes, but they did the best they could and let me sort out
those mistakes and try and not repeat them.
GROSS: Well, why don't we hear that song? This is Metallica.
(Excerpt from "Dyers Eve")
Mr. HETFIELD: (Singing) Dear Mother, dear Father, what is this hell you have
put me through? Believer, deceiver, day in day out live my life through you.
Pushed onto me what's wrong or right, hidden from this thing that they call
life. Dear Mother, dear Father, every thought I'd think you'd disapprove.
Curator, dictator, always censoring my every move. Children are seen but are
not heard, tear out everything inspired. Innocence torn from me without your
shelter. Barred reality, I'm living blindly.
(End of excerpt)
GROSS: That's Metallica, and my guest is one of the founders, James Hetfield,
guitarist and vocalist. And there's, by the way, also a new Metallica book
which is called "So What!"
OK. So that song speaks a bit about your parents. You know, your mother's
died, your father's still alive?
Mr. HETFIELD: No, he's passed away. He passed away about 12 years ago or so.
GROSS: Did you write this before he died or...
Mr. HETFIELD: Yes.
GROSS: What did he think when he heard it?
Mr. HETFIELD: I don't know and I really didn't care. We didn't connect
again for a long time.
Mr. HETFIELD: And it was somewhat difficult trying to figure out what is
this relationship? Am I supposed to hate him still? You know, he's my dad.
I love him, but, dude, I mean, you screwed us over. You left, took all our
money, enough that my mom couldn't survive, and she worried herself sick and
eventually died and kind of was left hanging. And a lot of the stuff I was
mad about was really him not teaching me how to be a man or a boy or whatever
it was, and I had to figure it all out by myself I felt, you know. And I
wasn't ready for it. But I worked a lot of that anger out in some therapy
things, which was really helpful. But, yeah, you know, our relationship was
very strange. After he left, it devastated me, you know. Well, he came back
probably six months or a year later and he was, you know, a midlife crisis
dad, you know, had the Stingray and the funky haircut, he shaved. And who's
this guy, you know? Bringing me gifts from Europe, you know, and Hawaii, and
meanwhile, we're struggling, you know.
Mr. HETFIELD: He tried to shower us with, you know, gifts for love back, and
I didn't take it. My sister instantly accepted him back, and I was not having
it. So we had a strange relationship, eventually got to be somewhat friends
again, but it was never resolved. This stuff was never resolved.
GROSS: Was the music that you loved something you weren't supposed to listen
to as far as your parents were concerned? Were there, like, religious reasons
for not--were you supposed to listen to the music you love?
Mr. HETFIELD: No.
Mr. HETFIELD: My mom was--it was quite bizarre. I see it in my marriage as
well, you know, the opposites attract, you know. I'm somewhat this, you know,
kind of rebellious, unplanned character, and my wife is very organized,
extremely moral, has a lot of that that I was craving and, you know, we're a
good balance. And in my parents, it was quite like that, too, though. My dad
was very strict, extremely strict, and Mom was out there, very liberal, you
know, she was letting us express our art. And so she really helped it along.
She encouraged it, and Dad was kind of just--he didn't say much about it, you
GROSS: The movie about Metallica, "Some Kind of Monster," is an unusual kind
of rock, you know, music documentary. It's not only the band, you know, kind
of introspecting out loud about what's gone wrong with the band, about your
relationships with each other. I mean, there's a therapist that you hire who
usually works with sports teams, I think, to come in and talk with you and
kind of help you all figure out what's going on and what you should do.
Now that the movie has been out and a lot of people have seen it, a lot of
your fans have seen it, they've seen a side of you and other members of the
band that they probably didn't know. What has it changed in terms of, like,
your public image or your relationship with your fans, how they see you?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, I sum it up as in you get back whatever you put out, and
I truly believe that. And, you know, a lot of times we were putting out some
pretty negative stuff, very cynical, and we were getting that back. And now
we're putting out some of our real fears, our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses
and putting them out there, and we're getting a lot of that back. We're
getting people that relate to the human side and not just the fantasy side of,
`Oh, he's up on stage, he's on a pedestal, he's an idol of sorts and this and
GROSS: Can you compare the difference...
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, yeah.
GROSS: ...in fan reaction?
Mr. HETFIELD: Yeah. But also, I enjoy being a source of inspiration for the
real me, you know.
GROSS: Right. Right
Mr. HETFIELD: There's no doubt about that. There was a lot of energy put
into the on-stage me, which--you know, I love that me, too, and that's the me
I kind of want to be. But I'm incorporating a lot of the real me up there,
which is great. I can go up there and say, `Hey, everyone, how you doing? I
feel like crap, and I'm feeling better now, though, that I'm up here.' And
just being real with the situation and, man, it defuses all kinds of fear and
this anxiety about just being alive for me.
But before the shows, we have something we call a meet-and-greet. And there's
usually the fan club members that get picked out of a hat, or somehow
they--there's about 15 to 20 of them that come backstage before the show. And
we actually get to talk with them, and it's amazing the different reactions we
get. You know, there's your typical, `Dude, da-wa-wa, you know,' you know,
high-fiving guys and then there's other people that are, `You know, my dad
struggled with alcohol and I'm so glad, I'm proud of you for doing this,' and
they relate on different levels, and it's great to have access to all of that.
GROSS: James Hetfield is the co-founder of Metallica. There's a new book
about the band called "So What!" Hetfield will be back in the second half of
the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: Coming up, Milo Miles reviews new collections of music from Bollywood.
Also, James Hetfield talks more about his life with Metallica.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with James Hetfield,
co-founder of Metallica. This metal band is still going strong after 23
years. A critically acclaimed documentary about the band called "Some Kind of
Monster" opened in theaters over the summer and will be released on DVD in
January. A new Metallica scrapbook has just been published called, "So What?
The Good, the Mad and the Ugly."
When we left off, Hetfield was talking about who he really is vs. the on-stage
version of himself, and how his fans relate to him now, now that the more
vulnerable side of the band was revealed in the documentary.
You know what I find interesting, like the kind of fan who relates to, like,
the persona that you created, like the mythic version of yourself, the
on-stage version of yourself, and they're trying to model themselves on
somebody who you're not even.
Mr. HETFIELD: That's right.
GROSS: Do you know what I mean? It's like, this is something that you
created, it works really well when you're on stage, but it's not who you are
off stage, and they're trying to be that on-stage person.
Mr. HETFIELD: Yeah. It is quite a strange cycle and, you know, for me, there
are parts of me on the stage that are certainly me. You know, there's
somewhat of a hat or jacket that you put on...
GROSS: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Mr. HETFIELD: ...to go up and perform. We're performers.
GROSS: Yeah, yeah.
Mr. HETFIELD: But with a real heart, you know, it's all really about the
music. But when fans come to see you play, they want to see something. You
can't just stand there and play. You could, but it's not as entertaining as
running around or showing on your face some of the anger of a song or some of
the sadness in a song or some of the thing--it is performing.
And then when they meet you at the airport, you're waiting for your bags and
you know, they come up to you, `Hi, how's it going?' and you're, you know,
kind of tired from a flight and you're shaking hands and they're like, `Wow,
you're not what I thought you were.' And instantly, like, why do I feel
depressed about that, you know? `So you think I should jump on the turn-wheel
and, like, smash some bags or what should I do, you know?' And I'm not going
to do that, you know? You know, yeah, this is me and maybe I'm in a crabby
mood, so go away, or, you know, whatever it may be. Or, hey I'm in a great
mood, come over here, let's take a picture and, you know, it's subjective to
moods at times. But when people get disappointed for meeting you, that's so
But I've owned what part is mine and what is theirs because, you know, they've
got something built up in their head that they need for their life, and if
it's not that that they meet, they're disappointed in what they built up for
themselves. And sometimes that's a tough reality check. And, you know, so I
leave that with them, but I also am nice and say, `Hey, you know, this is
another part of me.' And yeah, like you mentioned in this movie this is the
extreme other part of us. There's the giant mighty Metallica, indestructible
on stage, and then there's this broken, lost, confused, fighting, struggling
GROSS: And there's two different James Hetfields in the movie, too. There's
the pre-rehab and post-rehab version of you.
Mr. HETFIELD: Prehab, yeah, I call it.
GROSS: Yeah, prehab. Yeah.
Mr. HETFIELD: But I like to resolve--I like to reside in the middle
somewhere. That's the challenge, you know, somewhere in the middle. Because
that movie was, it just captured us at such a time. And what a great gift the
movie was. Not scripted. We had no idea that was going to happen. We're
rolling cameras and, you know, things start happening.
GROSS: You talking about when you walked out?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, any of that...
GROSS: Oh. Right, yeah.
Mr. HETFIELD: They were filming us making a record and then some--boy,
the--all of our shells started cracking and inner stuff from childhood and
everything started coming out in front of the cameras and we did not care who
was there or what was there. It was flowing and it felt right.
GROSS: Why didn't you care? Why weren't you self-conscious about this being
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, I was. There's plenty of parts in the movie where I'm just
saying, get this camera out of--you know, why is this--and I felt that it was
hindering my recovery, you know, and--oh, but I had to check it out, you know.
I'm really glad it was all filmed, because it's one of the best gifts that I
could have in my life, to go back and visit some of the--see yourself in a
completely childish moment or a really articulate moment or a scared moment,
you're crying or whatever it is, seeing yourself on film but having the other
people around you, and going to a theater watch people reacting to you doing
Mr. HETFIELD: Like, wow.
GROSS: What do you think about when you watch yourself in the first part of
the movie, and you're getting really angry with the bass player because he's
forming his own band and you kind of, like, resent that and this is the
Mr. HETFIELD: Yep.
GROSS: ...period. What do you think of yourself, you know, in that frame of
mind and being, like, really angry and resentful?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, part of me is embarrassed for it. Part of me realizes
that those were my tools, that's what I had from childhood. I don't want
people to leave me. Don't go.
GROSS: Oh, yeah.
Mr. HETFIELD: If he finds something better somewhere else...
GROSS: Yeah. Right, right.
Mr. HETFIELD: If he finds something somewhere else, he might like it better.
And I don't want my--another family to disintegrate, you know? So I was going
to do everything I could to, you know, choke things.
GROSS: Had you already made that connection? Or did the therapist...
Mr. HETFIELD: No. No.
GROSS: ...make you--help with that connection?
Mr. HETFIELD: No. I didn't until later and it made total sense.
GROSS: Right. Was it you who figured that out or the therapist who got you
Mr. HETFIELD: I think we discovered it together. I think--you know, a good
therapist lets you discover the things...
GROSS: Right. Right.
Mr. HETFIELD: ...because it's very, very cathartic when you do it, of course.
Mr. HETFIELD: But other times, you know, they've got to help pound it in
there, but I think rehab helped a lot.
GROSS: So there's this moment in the documentary when you were really angry.
You walk out and then you go into rehab and you don't come back for 11 months
later. When you walked out of the room, did you know that you were headed to
rehab after that?
Mr. HETFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. It's somewhat deceiving in the movie that, you
know, I slammed that door, you know, Bob came out and we had a talk. You
know, eventually I came back another time and talked about how things weren't
going well at home, how I'd got thrown out of the house, and a lot of that
revolves around that, and how things in the band weren't going well, or at
home, and just well what a--how lost I felt. My whole world was shaking under
me. You know, all of the roots, the foundations that I felt I had in my life.
And I came back and I talked to them, that, `Hey, I've--you know, after
so-and-so date I have to go away, I have to work on myself.'
Mr. HETFIELD: And they knew I couldn't just leave, you know. That was not
right. But it was disgust, and I told them, you know, `I don't know how long
it's gonna be, and I don't know. You're gonna have to trust me on this. I
just know I have to go and just, you know--I have to rebuild my life. I have
to strip down.' I had no idea what was in store for me really, but I knew I
had to get some help.
GROSS: Were you, like, a star in the rehab unit?
Mr. HETFIELD: That was the hugest fear out of everything.
GROSS: What, that you'd be or that you'd not be?
Mr. HETFIELD: That I would be. That--and it's so silly now to think about
it, but at that time, you know, for me the biggest fear was--you know I had
tried therapy before and--to stop drinking and my just destructive behaviors,
and I wasn't really ready for it and I thought, `Well, it doesn't really work
for me.' And then check--you know, my wife says, `You've got to check
yourself in somewhere. You've got to go to a hospital or a rehab or
something.' It's like, `No way. Don't you know who I am kind of thing,' you
know. I wouldn't get real treatment there, you know. I couldn't do that.
And my fear was that I couldn't. There was no help for me and I was, of
course, creating that fear for myself to continue my behavior, you know.
But when I went there, I checked in under a different name, did all that
stuff, you know, had the tag on that said, `Hi, my name is Frank blah blah,'
whatever it was. And at the first meeting they had in there, people went
around the room saying their names and what, you know, was going on in their
lives and I just said, `You know what? My name is James and I've got a fake
tag on and this is crap and I'm here to get some help and I'm fearful of this
and this and this.' And I broke down crying and I told people my fears and,
man, they were just right behind me saying, `Don't worry about it, you know,
you're human. We're all humans in here struggling.' And that right then, I
knew I was in the right place.
GROSS: My guest is guitarist, singer and songwriter James Hetfield,
co-founder of Metallica. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is guitarist, singer and songwriter James Hetfield,
co-founder of Metallica. There's a new book about the band called "So What?"
Whose idea in the band was it to actually hire a therapist and have the band
work through its issues like a couple might go to a marriage counselor?
Mr. HETFIELD: It pretty much is a marriage counselor. Old Mr. Towle, he was
a therapist. He didn't have a therapist license. He was an enhancement
coach, which was, you know, another form of, you know, attitude adjustment,
you know. But basically, that told us that he could give feedback, you know,
and eventually it was tough to kind of just find the boundary of friend and,
you know, whatever, hired coach. But he came on board when our management,
Q-Prime, called and said, `What do you think about this?' you know. `He's
worked with another one of our acts, and we got to get talking, you know.'
'Cause that was the big deal. There was no communication, you know. Over the
years of this machine of Metallica rolling on, we discovered that, say, a band
like a Guns N' Roses, they're in each other's face, they're very vocal about
their attitudes, their thinking, their feelings. We said, `We can't do that,
you know, look at them,' and they eventually break up, so we're not going to
do that, so we shut up for years and years and years, and that was
self-destructive as well.
We had to communicate, so we got this guy, Phil Towle, to come in. He was
like a mediator in a way. He kind of made the room safe, neutralized the
room, so he helped us talk to each other, 'cause there was a lot of defusing
of bombs in the early days, so much baggage, tons--heavy stuff from years and
years of resentment that has just--had just crushed our creativity and our
GROSS: Some of the resentment was directed at you for being, you know, too
controlling and for not allowing other people's creativity to surface in the
way that yours could and the band. Was that news to you?
Mr. HETFIELD: Yeah.
GROSS: Were you aware...
Mr. HETFIELD: Oh, yeah.
GROSS: ...of those feelings before?
Mr. HETFIELD: No, not really. You know, being the controlling person, boy, I
thought I was just doing what I was supposed to do. But really, it was a lot
of insecurity, you know. I'm afraid that if I'm not the creative guy, what
use am I here, you know? But that had a lot to do with me, you know,
projecting that onto other people, you know. `Why are you here?' you know.
If you don't serve a purpose, see you later, you know. It's kind of the
radar--the famed radar goes up, you know. You know, `Are you a friend of
mine? No? What have you got to offer? Go away,' that kind of attitude. And
I was putting that out myself. So I was afraid that if I wasn't creative, I'd
GROSS: Was there something that the therapist actually helped you understand
about the relationship of the members of the band that you don't think would
have emerged without him?
Mr. HETFIELD: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, when he brought up the word `ego,' I
looked at Lars. He looked at me, you know. And then we had to look at each
other, ourselves, you know.
Mr. HETFIELD: We had to look in the mirror. Like, `OK, yeah, all right.
I'll own a little bit of that.' And eventually, it's, like, yeah, you know
what? We're both--we've both driven each other to certain just egotistical
giants, you know. And thank God Kirk, you know, was such the referee through
life, you know. And Jason obviously didn't fit in, because he was--he had--he
was, like, the minor ego, you know, and it was out of balance, you know, it
But yeah, that was a shock, somewhat. And yeah, you know, I brought up the
words, you know, `ogre' or `intimidator,' you know, and how I hated being that
person. `I want to have friends. Why don't I have friends?' And they're
telling me, `Well, you're like this.' It's, like, `Well, no, I'm not. I
don't want to be that. How do I not be that?' That's when I realized that
that was a tool I'd brought with me since childhood, you know. Intimida--man,
my dad was pretty darn good at that. He'd just shoot a look, and that was
all. That's all you needed to know. And, you know, it was such a great tool
to not have to get to know people, you know. I didn't have to get friendly
with anyone. Intimacy was so scary. And it still is, you know, to get so
close to someone. What if they leave? I would be crushed, you know. It's
like the amount of love that you give, to me, equated the amount of hurt when
they left, you know.
Mr. HETFIELD: And it still--I still struggle with that.
GROSS: So when you're on stage now, do you feel like you have a different
stage persona than you did in the era before the movie, before rehab?
Mr. HETFIELD: Definitely, yeah.
GROSS: What's different?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, touring itself is different. There's a mission, and that
mission is that two and a half hours on the stage and meeting people
beforehand. But as far as being on the stage and being able to look people in
the eye and feel like, you know, we're equal. We are--I don't have any shame
about all the behavior I've been doing out here. I'm clean with that. We're
here to express some joy for life. And yeah, we are here. We're alive.
We're able to yell and scream and connect through lyrics, and you're not
alone, and I feel that, too. And it's really great to be able to get up
there, and that's the part I'm going to miss most being off the road. It's
almost like a drug in a way, you know...
GROSS: But being on the road is like a drug?
Mr. HETFIELD: Well, being on the stage...
GROSS: Oh, yeah.
Mr. HETFIELD: ...and getting that feeling of being loved, you know. And
obviously, I have people at home that love me, but there's something that's
there. There's something that's just intoxicating on the stage that you can
change people's attitudes, you know. You can make them smile up there, and
it's so cool. It was never like that before, never.
GROSS: Now when you're performing to an audience, I mean, the audience might
all be, like, you know, swaying their arms in motion or, you know, the crowd
becomes like an organism. If you were in the audience for a band you loved,
do you think you would be part of that organism, or do you think you'd be more
hanging out on the periphery?
Mr. HETFIELD: I'd be the outsider, and it always--I always felt that way,
though. And there is some comfort in that, but I--actually, there was a
moment on stage about a week ago where alm--I got--I felt sorry for myself,
because there was--during this song we have called "Nothing Else Matters,"
there was a guy and his girlfriend and his buddy, a male buddy. And they were
all arm in arm, kind of rocking back and forth. And I'm going, `You know
what? I never had that. I never would have done that.'
Mr. HETFIELD: `And look, they're smiling. They're enjoying a moment
together. There's no jealousy. There's no competition. There's no whatever,
stuff in between them. Look at them.' I was living through them vicariously
for a moment there, and it was really cool.
GROSS: I want to read you something. This comes from--this is from the BBC
News Service, and it's headlined, `Heavy metal music and popular American
children's songs are being used by US interrogators to break the will of their
captives in Iraq.' OK, so let me read some more. `Uncooperative prisoners
are being exposed for prolonged periods to tracks by rock group Metallica and
music from children's TV programs "Sesame Street" and "Barney" in the hope of
making them talk. The US' psychological operations company said the aim was
to break a prisoner's resistance through sleep deprivation and playing music
that was culturally offensive to them. Sergeant Mark Hadsell of psychological
operations told Newsweek magazine, "These people haven't heard heavy metal.
They can't take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body
functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down, and your will is
broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."'
Our producer, Amy Salit, found this, and I had to read it to you. What do you
think, hearing that?
Mr. HETFIELD: Yeah, there's many things that go through my mind. First of
all, I mean, I want to make light of it, you know, instantly, like, `Uh,' you
know, `we have nothing to do with the war and, uh,' all of this, and it's,
like, I don't have to defend that, you know. We make our music. It goes out
there. Whatever's done with it is kind of done with it. We have no control
over that. There's another part of me that wants to joke about it that says,
`We've been punishing our parents, our wives, our loved ones with this music
forever. Why should the Iraqis or whoever it is be any different?
And also, there's a pride also that, you know, it's culturally offensive to
them, freedom, you know. The lyrics, for me, are a form of expression and a
freedom to express my insanity. And, boy, if they're not used to freedom, I'm
glad to be a part of the exposure. But I really know the reason. It's the
relentlessness of the music. It's completely relentless. And to break
someone that's not used to that, yeah. I mean, if I listened to, like a death
metal band, you know, for 12 hours in a row, I'd go insane. I'd tell you
anything you wanted to know, you know, so...
GROSS: Well, obviously, they didn't ask you for your permission.
Mr. HETFIELD: No, no, they didn't.
GROSS: Not that I'd expect them to.
Mr. HETFIELD: No, no. I wouldn't either. But, you know, "Sesame Street" can
be pretty annoying, too, but...
GROSS: Yeah, can you imagine? "Barney" and Metallica. What...
Mr. HETFIELD: Awesome. Well, that's the--there's our next tour. There you
go, in Iraq. That'd be awesome.
GROSS: James Hetfield, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. HETFIELD: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: James Hetfield is the co-founder of Metallica. There's a new book
about the band called "So What?" The documentary about the band, "Some Kind
of Monster," will be released on DVD in January.
Coming up, music critic Milo Miles reviews music from Bollywood. This is
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: New collections of Bollywood soundtracks
TERRY GROSS, host:
Centered in Bombay, the Indian film industry so rivals that of the US in
worldwide popularity that it's known as Bollywood. A surprising development
in the past few years is that the wilder types of Bollywood soundtracks have
become popular with a Western audience that doesn't even know the films.
These soundtracks mix and match diverse types of Western pop, from swing jazz
to street funk to electro-techno. The ever-shifting blends are often topped
with huge string sections and nasal, high-pitched female vocals. But as
critic Milo Miles explains, Bollywood's appeal to Westerners makes sense.
(Soundbite of "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" in foreign language)
MILO MILES reporting:
That music was the breakthrough moment for Bollywood soundtracks. It came with
the start of the 2000 film "Ghost World." Enid, an alienated teen desperate
to neither fit in nor be cool, watches a video of a zany, frantic dancer team
set to that number, "Jaan Pehechaan Ho," and is transported. This is her
music. It became one of the most talked about scenes in the film. Before
that Bollywood soundtracks, known as filmi, were mostly favored by
international cinema buffs, world music specialists and dance club fans who
enjoyed techno remixes of filmi numbers.
The selections that English journalist John Lewis made for the three-disk
"Beginner's Guide To Bollywood" pinpoint what Enid found so seductive
about the music. `It's shamelessly in love with its own garishness and will
embrace any style, any music segue, no matter how cheap or corny, if it's
delightful.' This is what so much American pop misses nowadays. If it's
cheap and corny, it's usually safe and sentimental. It's not crazy and out of
bounds. And if it's crazy and out of bounds, it's too angry or too cool to be
The rise of Bollywood music was foreshadowed a few years ago by the vogue for
old blaxploitation movie soundtracks. In an era starved for sly but goofy
dance music, Afro-American shoot-'em-ups provided relief. But too many
blaxploitation tunes are merely dumbed-down versions of more mainstream soul
In parallel with blaxploitation flicks, Bollywood was turning out funky
soundtracks that were more flipped out than dumbed down. Some outstanding
examples appear on the second disk of "Bollywood for Beginners." The
following tune was later covered by the Kronos Quartet, no less.
(Soundbite of song in foreign language)
MILES: The "Bollywood for Beginners" anthology benefits from reflecting a
single point of view and its bargain price, too. Many other collections are
mere gatherings of hits, some good, some dull, and nondescript filler tunes.
Also, these collections could use more memorable titles, including the two I
will recommend. The first is "The Best of Bollywood: 15 Classic Hits From the
Indian Cinema," which has vibrant flow and a sense of humor. The other
recommended anthology is "The Very Best of Bollywood Songs II," where you
can tell why the selections were hits. It features the popular "Mitwa"
from the crossover hit film "Lagaan."
(Soundbite of "Mitwa" sung in foreign language)
MILES: How long will the current fascination with Bollywood sounds last? Hard
to tell with such a scavenger art form that depends on transforming styles
from outside sources. The fad for Bollywood dance club remixes seems to be
fading, though Indian youths in Britain remain a stronghold. What's certain
is that the Bollywood film industry isn't going away at all, whether the West
pays attention or not. Whatever they sound like, Bollywood soundtracks remain
among the most heard pop music in the world.
GROSS: Milo Miles is a contributing writer to Rolling Stone.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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