During a brand new interview with Noisey, METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett revisited one of the most controversial eras of the band's career, tackling a question about the band's infamous lawsuit in 2000 against the Napster file-sharing service. Asked how he has adapted his views on piracy since the legal battle with the company, which effectively drove Napster out of business, Hammett said: "It's just become too big of a beast to try to control. The best thing to do is to try to put a positive spin on it and embrace it for what it is because it's still keeping our music alive and out there, and people are still hearing us and listening to us. We're just learning how to roll with the changes.
"The whole piracy thing, the whole Internet thing, really destroyed the record industry, and it ended up changing music and the way it even sounds. Now, it just seems like there's less of a drive to be the best musician you can be or the best band that you can be because you can record anything, and put it out there, and people will say, 'Hey, that's great!' or, 'No, that sucks,' whatever. It used to be that you had to really work hard to earn the respect selling albums, competing with all the other great bands making great albums — that just doesn't exist anymore. Everyone just kinda throws an album out there and it kinda just floats around in the cyber world.
"What I miss is, there was a time when people would rally behind bands. When an album came out, it was a huge event that everyone spoke about, and you'd go down to the record store and see other people buying it and other people excited, and, 'Have you heard this yet!?' 'No, I haven't!' All that is gone now because of the Internet. The convenience of it is great, but it really put a big fuckin' kibosh on all that shit.
"Maybe I'm lamenting that a little bit, but it was a great time to be a musician, or a fan, and now because of this culture of convenience we have, it's just changed differently. Now, I'm glad that we're an established band but I'd hate to be a band that was just starting out because it's so much more difficult and the musical audience seems much more divided these days from person to person, whereas back in the day, it was a musical community thing, and now it's all divided, and separated, and everyone's just on their own course…. It's a sad thing but we're just trying to roll with it and do what we can do to still get the METALLICA name out there, and still get our music out there, and we're constantly trying to think of new ways of getting people our music and experiencing our music, and we'll see what happens when it comes time to release our next album which will probably be in a couple years or so, three or four."
Asked if he thinks he has embraced social media given everything that's happened, Hammett said: "Well, personally, I don't give a fuck about social media. I'm not on Facebook, I'm not on Twitter, I'm not on Instagram, I'm not on all these other fuckin' things that I don't even know about, and I don't give a fuck. I don't care. I. Don't. Fucking. Care. But there are people in our organization who recognize the power of social media and the power of getting the word out there.
"Social media can be extremely effective for whatever thing you're doing or whatever cause so I think it's important, but personally, I don't give a fuck."
METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich spoke about the Napster lawsuit in a recent Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session, saying, "I do find it odd how big of a part of our legacy it has become to so many people, because to me it's more like a footnote."
At the time 14 years ago, Ulrich told The Pulse Of Radio that the Napster battle was not about getting money for the band's music, but about having control over how it was shared. "All we want as an artist is a choice," he said. "There's nothing to argue about that. Nobody has the right to do with our music whatever they want. We do. We're saying as much as the next band want to work with Napster, we have the right not to."
His views on the subject today have not changed, with the drummer saying in the "Ask Me Anything" session, "The whole thing was about one thing and one thing only — control. Not about the Internet, not about money, not about file sharing, not about giving shit away for free or not, but about whose choice it was. If I wanna give my shit away for free, I'll give it away for free. That choice was taken away from me."
Napster was launched in 1999 as a pioneering, easy-to-use peer-to-peer file sharing service that was used mainly by music fans trading songs and albums in the MP3 format.
At its peak, the service had 80 million users and provided the template for later services like Limewire, Grokster, Gnutella and many others. Its success arguably began the end of the "album era" in popular music and sent the music industry into a tailspin from which it has never fully recovered.
METALLICA sued Napster after the band discovered that a leaked demo version of its song "I Disappear" was circulating on the service before it was released.