METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett spoke to Daniel Durchholz of St. Louis Post-Dispatch about last week's bogus report that the litigious hard-rock band, which has gone to court on several occasions to protect its brand name and copyrighted material, was suing a little-known Canadian group called UNFAITH for unauthorized use of the "METALLICA-branded" chords E and F.
"That's hilarious," said Hammett, being told of the ruse for the first time as he sits stuck in traffic on the way to a concert in Washington, D.C. "METALLICA has always been the butt of a lot of jokes. We've always been outsiders. We've always been on the fringe. It's always easy to pick on the kid with the green hair."
In 2000 METALLICA sued the Napster file-sharing service for copyright infringement and delivered to the now-defunct company the names of more than 300,000 users — "fans" by another name — whom they accused of illegally making METALLICA songs available over the network. Facing an absolute public relations debacle, METALLICA eventually relented and withdrew the suit.
Why didn't other bands, especially high-profile ones, stand alongside METALLICA in court and at congressional hearings on the matter?
"It's because they're chicken-shit," Hammett said flatly. "There was a lot of behind-the-scenes backslapping, like, 'Yeah, good job. I'm totally in agreement with what you're doing, blah, blah, blah.' But where were these people when it came time to walk the walk? They weren't anywhere around.
"A band like RADIOHEAD, who is so against file-sharing — they didn't do anything. That is really surprising to me, because they're so proactive in a lot of other things.
"We took a lot of flack for our stand, and I think a lot of bands were intimidated by the flack that we were getting."
While the embattled Napster eventually folded, the backlash against METALLICA was intense.
The problem, Hammett feels, is that the public never really understood the band's motivation for taking the fight so far.
"It doesn't feel like file-sharing is taking anything away from anyone, but it is," he said. "The repercussions don't come till much later, but when they do, they might hit you and you won't even know it. It can lead to the ultimate demise of a band.
"But our biggest beef is that we wanted control over what files were being shared. Online piracy does not give you that kind of control. METALLICA collectively are control freaks. We want to be able to say what sort of product goes out there and in what kind of situation. And to this day, that's a problem that has not been solved." Read more.