Greece's metal TV show "TV War", which airs on MAD TV, recently conducted an interview with METALLICA frontman James Hetfield. Watch the interview in two parts: Part#1, Part#2. A transcript of the chat follows:
On why the setlist for the "Sick of the Studio '07" tour consisted mostly of pre-1991 material and not any newer songs:
Hetfield: "Well, it's tough when you're doing festivals and also you have a lot of material. You wanna do something new, you wanna do something different, you wanna do the ones that people identify with. And a lot of times… you know, we haven't done some of these festivals in years. But we did the festival circuit last year also. So we're hitting some of the festivals we've done… Every night is different. Sometimes that's fun, sometimes it's… for me, introducing the wrong song or something, or starting a wrong one…. But as far as the stuff on 'St. Anger' goes, I guess we have so much time, and they don't make the list — that's all. But we also don't wanna be one of those bands that are just playing the favorites. You wanna put some in there, so… We have been playing a song like 'Ride the Lightning', '…And Justice for All', 'Whiplash', 'The Four Horsemen'… you know, some songs that we haven't played in festivals in a long time."
On playing the "Live Earth" concert and whether musicians should get involved in politics:
Hetfield: "Fuck politics! I mean, I can't stand it. It drives me crazy. And there's politics within music; the business side a lot of times really, really bothers me. I like playing music. We were asked to play, and I said, 'OK. I wanna play. There's a lot of people that are gonna be watching that show.' . . . I don't like talking politics. METALLICA is about music from us, music for the ears of our fans. Really, that's what it's about. I don't like playing for any cause. I had to get a little more talked into playing this show. I don't like any strings attached to things. I wanna play because I like to play."
On how things are different in the recording studio now compared to how it was for 2003's "St. Anger":
Hetfield: "A lot of growing up happened on 'St. Anger'. We went from hating each other, not talking, to, 'Ah, I love you,' hugging — you know, from one extreme to the other — and both of them were just a little bit crazy, so we're somewhere in the middle now where most people live, maybe. [Laughs] I don't know… We're feeling better about it. And all the therapy and the work we did for 'St. Anger' is really for this record, because now we don't have Phil Towle, the therapist, with us; we don't have Bob Rock babysitting us a lot — that's not his only job, of course — but a different producer. And we're trying to take more responsibility for ourselves and grow up through the process."
On the "Some Kind of Monster" movie and SLAYER guitarist Kerry King's explanation that he didn't want to watch the film because he didn't want to "see these fragile fucking old men that can't have a cocktail anymore":
Hetfield: "That's probably what they saw, and that makes a lot of sense — that's what they're afraid of… they don't want to get old and… Everyone gets old, everyone goes through things. It happened that we went through that on film. And we're not afraid to show ourselves to anyone at any time. That is pure freedom right there. Putting that movie out was more for us, I would say. I'm not interested in showing everyone my dirty laundry, but that was part of human nature. It wasn't to shock anyone, it wasn't to make money, it wasn't to… there was no ulterior motive to that except showing what we went through at that time."
On various descriptions that have been used to describe METALLICA's upcoming album, including that it sounds like a cross between "Master of Puppets" and the "black" album and that it contains Middle Eastern influences:
Hetfield: "I think there always is, as far as scales go — minor scales — there's been that type of stuff since 'Fight Fire with Fire'. Robert [Trujillo, bass] just yesterday said, 'Hey, that solo section in 'Fight Fire with Fire', it sounds Greek to me.' It sounds like Greek music, maybe."
On why "Master of Puppets" is regarded as such a classic album and other bands' aspirations to make their own "Master of Puppets":
Hetfield: "I think it's more of a landmark. I think when a band says, 'We want to record our 'Master of Puppets',' that's more of a landmark… I think it was a bit of a peak in the band with Cliff Burton, just like the 'black' album was, I think, a peak with Jason [Newsted], and maybe we'll peak with Robert somewhere. But 'Master of Puppets'? Who knows? Who knows why? Just a bunch of good songs at the right time. That happened, you know?! There was no extra thought put in it — we were just doing what we were supposed to do, and that's play our best music. We were just thinking about that the other day. We were driving in England and looking in all the bushes between the estates, you know, and saying, 'Oh, that's a hedgerow.' And then we started singing, 'There's a bustle in your hedgerow' — the lyric from 'Stairway to Heaven' [by LED ZEPPELIN] — and [we were like] 'What is that?' The most popular song in the history of rock has some gibberish lyrics. It's just magic somehow."
On what makes producer Rick Rubin (SLIPKNOT, AUDIOSLAVE, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, SYSTEM OF A DOWN) so special and why METALLICA picked him to work on the new album:
Hetfield: "It's not luck that these albums that he does [that] they sound good and they hit the mark. Bob Rock… god bless Bob Rock. We learned so much from him. But at a point we were too enmeshed together, and I think we needed to just separate for awhile. And working with someone new — someone who we might be able to respect... It's tough when you're at the top of your game and you've done it all. You need someone to show you things, and hopefully he's gonna show us some things we don't know."
On some of the off-the-wall and outlandish things that people have done as a result of their love for METALLICA — such as the Swedish couple that named its daughter "Metallica", the book "Metallica and Philosophy" written by a college professor, and the death of a Canadian fan following an argument over METALLICA:
Hetfield: "We are four very grateful and lucky kids that play music. . . I don't know what to say. We're just doing what gift we have, and their gift may be writing a book. Naming your kid METALLICA… I don't know about that. Maybe my dog or something, but your child? Hey, if they love it so much, why not? People getting married to METALLICA songs… Hopefully it's not just a trendy thing, [and] it really moves you. And everyone in life just wants to be moved and feel like they're a part of something, or feel alive, and METALLICA music does that for me, and I'm grateful that it does it for a lot of other people."