METALLICA's JAMES HETFIELD: 'When I Don't Pick Up The Guitar, I Get Depressed'

Aaron Beck of The Columbus Dispatch recently conducted an interview with METALLICA guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Columbus Dispatch: You've been doing this since you were a teenager. What do you physically and mentally still get out of playing METALLICA music?

Hetfield: When I don't pick up the guitar, I get depressed. When I'm at home and starting to get bummed out, my wife will point it out: "Well, you haven't played guitar in a couple of weeks." Then I'll sit down and play. It's my weapon; it's my pacifier; it's kind of everything just to write one riff and then feel good about myself: "Oh, yes! I'm still relevant!" But just using different amps, different guitars — I truly believe, finding an older guitar that might cost some crazy amount of money, you get this thing, and there's something living in it. It's still got riffs in it, and I think they're grateful that you have the guitar. I think the souls of these guitars speak.

The Columbus Dispatch: You've had to be onstage and singing a few times without a guitar, most notably after you were burned onstage in Montreal in the early '90s. What does that feel like?

Hetfield: It sucks. You're up there and you're singing, but a lot of our songs have some pretty long instrumental bits and it's, like, "What the hell am I going to do here? Head backstage, do some laundry?" You can only be a cheerleader for so much, and it looks kind of silly. I did not like it. It is kind of job security when you can play guitar and sing.

The Columbus Dispatch: What is in your mind when you go onstage now versus, say, 1990?

Hetfield: We get pretty inspired when we go in the tuning room beforehand and jam together and maybe write a riff. We bond that way, then we hit the stage. I don't know if it's us against them anymore; it's more just us. In the old days, it was us against them: "Let's kill 'em! Let's smash it!" Now it's more "Let's go out there and show them what a force to be reckoned with we are and see how many new fans we can disease with METALLICA and see if they'll come back."

The Columbus Dispatch: How did having children change your approach to your job?

Hetfield: At the beginning, it was a big struggle, me being the first one having kids and drummer Lars (Ulrich) soon after. Trying to separate the two was hard, you know? "I have to carve out time for family," and it wasn't well-received. Then it became more of a normal thing for us. We have to balance these two things and have them live together. We have to get everyone knowing each other. There's really a lot of fear for the wives — "What's going on out on the road?" and "Why don't they want us coming out?" Sometimes it is what it is, and sometimes it's "I need my space." But as soon as you invite 'em, sometimes it's, like, "No, I don't want to go" (laughs). But the kids have brought such a joy to all of us. I think it inspires us, and it's made us happier so we can be even more "metal" (laughs), if that makes any sense.

Read the entire interview from The Columbus Dispatch.


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