METALLICA frontman James Hetfield spoke to Kerrang! magazine about his battle with alcohol addiction and the much-publicized trip to rehab in 2001 that has seemingly enabled the singer to emerge a much healthier and more positive-thinking person that he was during much of the group's 20-plus-year career.
In the latest issue of the magazine (dated March 29), Hetfield discusses his decision to seek out help for his addiction, his relationship with his bandmates and his new outlook on life and friendships on the eve of the release of the group's eighth studio album, "St. Anger", due June 10 through Elektra Records.
The following are some of the highlights of the Kerrang! interview:
"Going away to rehab taught me about priorities. I've been in METALLICA since I was 19 years old, which can be a very unusual environment, and it's very easy to find yourself not knowing how to live outside of that environment, which is what happened to me. I didn't know anything about life. I didn't know that I could come home and live a family life. I didn't know that I could live my life in a different way to how it was in the bad since I was 19, which was very excessive and very intense. And if you have addictive behavior then you don't always make the best choices for yourself. And I definitely didn't make the best choices for myself."
"But rehab is like college for your head. I really learned some things about myself in there. I was able to reframe my life and not look at everything with a negative connotation. That's how I was raised. It was like a survival technique for me. And getting into METALLICA meant that initially I had to fight to survive, for food, for the towel, for the shower, for everything. And then fighting to be the best band you can be, and putting other bands down. Finding fault with everything was how METALLICA was fueled. And not only did I play a part in that, I was buried in that."
"[In rehab] I learned that every human being is born perfect. I learned that the flaws in ourselves comes from the things around us, from our backgrounds and influences. But when we're born we all have the same-sized soul. There are certain things that are genetic, but that doesn't mean that I have to act in a certain way, and I didn't know that. My lifestyle has been very intense, and I didn't know how to remove myself from that. Rehab taught me how to do that, it basically taught me how to live."
"I was afraid of so many things. I'd look at other peoples friendships and think. Man, why cant i have friendships like that. But I didn't know how to. So I used to try and buy friendships."
On whether it was difficult to say to himself, "Look, things have gone too far for me, I need to reach out for help":
"Yes, it definitely was difficult. That was one of the most difficult things of all. I had no humility and I felt that I couldn't show any weakness. For me, I was James Hetfield of METALLICA rather than just James Hetfield. And I was trying to live that lifestyle at home, I was trying to wear that mask all the time. And it's amazing how long you can wear a mask for. We're performers who play music — I mean, this is us. This isn't an act. But now I've learned how to be more congruent with where I am. Admitting that sometimes being on tour really sucks, and that I would rather go home. Or that I'm not in a good mood right now, and not worrying if people turn around and say, 'Hey, you're an asshole.' That can't hurt me now, whereas I used to be so concerned that people liked me.
"There's a lot of machoism in this world, but I suppose the most manly thing you can do is face up to your weaknesses and expose them. And you're showing strength by exposing your weaknesses to people. And that opens up a dialogue, it opens up friendships, which is definitely what it has done for me."