METALLICA's JAMES HETFIELD Says 'St. Anger' Was A 'Statement' That 'Didn't Work'

Britain's Kerrang! magazine (web site) recently conducted an interview with METALLICA frontman James Hetfield. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:

Kerrang!: You're working [on the new METALLICA album] with Rick Rubin who has a reputation as an "absentee" producer...

James: Oh, I met him once, I bumped into him in a corridor! [Laughs] No, we were well aware of his reputation when we signed up. On "St. Anger", [longtime METALLICA collaborator] Bob Rock did everything — he was producer, engineer, bass player, babysitter, father figure. And Rick is pretty much the opposite; he's not there to babysit. When we first came in, his opening statement was, "I want you guys to impress me; I want you to feel like you're starting out again." He really wants us to get in the mind-set of "Master of Puppets". It's impossible to recreate what we were 20 years ago, that's silly, but we had to get that hunger back.

Kerrang!: And he's impressed so far?

James: Rubin is really good at feeling songs, and he'll tell you straight-up if he doesn't like something. We started with 20 songs and we've whittled it down to 14 since he came in. He won't say "This fucking sucks," but he'll make suggestions and I'm definitely open to that. With "St. Anger", it became so open-minded that it became unfocused. This time around, there's a lot of "Sorry, it's not good enough." We're aiming for excellence.

Kerrang!: With "St Anger", did the democracy you practiced in the studio end up comprimising the album?

James: Definitely. It was very unrealistic. We went from tearing each other's throats out with sarcasm, anger and not speaking to the polar opposite where we'd embrace every stupid idea so as to not hurt anyone's feelings. And that didn't work either!

Kerrang!: It seems weird that you're taking time out to tour when you're on a roll in the studio...

James: Well, hopefully it'll inspire us to take it to another level. You'll listen back to a new song and go, "We were just out there listening to 60,000 people screaming at what they love about METALLICA and I don't think they're gonna scream at this! Also it gets claustrophobic in there — you can be trapped in there not knowing whether people are still out there.

Kerrang!: Have you started to work on the lyrics?

James: I have phrasings and something vocally to at least feel what the song is like. I forgot about "Let's please everyone in the band." Now it's, "This is where my head's at." I think people will identify with it.

Kerrang!: Is there a sense that time is running out for METALLICA and you need to make a defining album again?

James: Well, we have no shortage of ideas and what am I gonna do? I write songs, I play songs and I like doing this. I know we're getting older, there's no point in trying to hide that fact, and we might tour less than we did, but as records go, we just want to make a good record, that's all we ever want to do. I mean, we thought "St. Anger" was going to be amazing, but it turned out to be more of a statement than METALLICA music that we enjoy playing live. It was more of a purge, just getting that shit out of me, as a catalyst for the next chapter of METALLICA.

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