ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist Jerry Cantrell recently spoke to Classic Rock magazine (web site) for its latest issue in which the stars of rock (plus some assorted rock-loving comedians, sportmen, MPs and other riff raff) nominate their "rock icons." The following is Cantrell's explanation for why METALLICA frontman James Hetfield belongs on the list:
"Earlier this year [May 12, 2006], me and Sean [Kinney, ALICE IN CHAINS drummer] got together with James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo [METALLICA bassist] to do this benefit show [for the MusiCares MAP Fund] in Los Angeles. James actually asked to sing 'Them Bones' and 'Would?' and I was thinking: 'Right on!' So we did those two songs and then we did 'Nothing Else Matters'. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life.
"Later on [in early June], on the European tour, we were playing the [Rock am Ring festival in] Nürburgring [Germany] or something. James had a day off, but he came down anyway and was just like: 'Let's do it!' We were pretty surprised — if you'd ever been on a tour you'd know how precious those days off are. So it's been a meaningful couple of years, where I've got to know James better out of circumstance. I was tighter with Lars [Ulrich; METALLICA drummer] early on. But me and James have ended up in the same places and spent some time together, and it's meant the world to me.
"Do I prefer James Hetfield to Kirk Hammett? As a guitarist, definitely. That's no slight to Kirk — what he brings to METALLICA is important too. But I come from the Malcolm Young school of rock, which is about rhythm and songwriting. If you talk to anybody, I'm not really known as a virtuoso soloist. Where it's at for me is rhythm, tone, feel and arrangement. I think James definitely comes from that school, too.
"What makes James such a great frontman is his physical presence. Nobody else commands the same kind of respect and attention without it being self-seeking or egocentric. He's all about the music; all about the fun and the celebration and the connection with the fans. And that to me is really inspiring. Especially because he's done this for so long, and he's been at the top of his game for so long, and he continues to search for a deeper meaning. I can't wait to see what he does next.
"James Hetfield, to me, is just a fine example of a human being. Let alone the musical legacy; just the way he leads his life and the choices he's made and some of the things he's turned around in his life — it's been a real inspiration to me. And obviously he changed music. He took an underground thing and took it worldwide. METALLICA is a huge thing for me and for any hard rock or metal band. Will he go down in history as a rock icon? He already has. He's the godfather, man."
Hetfield most recently joined ALICE IN CHAINS on stage for a renditon of their song "Would?" on November 26, 2006 at the Warfield in San Francisco. Watch a fan-filmed video clip at YouTube.com. A professional-quality clip of Hetfield playing "Would?" with ALICE IN CHAINS at the Rock am Ring festival in Nürburgring, Germany on June 2, 2006 can be viewed at this location.