From the Archive: James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica Discuss Their 1997 Album, 'Re-Load'
Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett discuss the making of 1997's Re-Load.
There were rumors circulating that Re-Load would be a return to your unadulterated metal roots. Where did people get that idea?
HETFIELD: [laughs] I have no idea. Is this a return to our roots? It depends what you think the roots are. Our roots are not giving a fuck, and that's what this is. It's become very ironic to me that a lot of fans started liking Metallica because we didn't give a fuck. But now it's kind of backfiring on some of them. They have to really sit down and try to figure out why they like Metallica.
Throughout Re-Load you experiment with metal, blues, psychedelia, country and southern rock. There's even a spoken-word bit on there. Are you trying to redefine the parameters of hard rock?
HAMMETT: Not really. We're just slowly integrating other styles and techniques into our music, which is something any artist does, whether they're a musician or a painter or a race car driver or hairstylist. After a while, if you're truly devoted to what you're doing, you'll take on a lot of influence and integrate it into your own style to make things less boring.
Do you think some of your old fans will listen to this record and ask, "Have Metallica lost their fucking minds?"
HETFIELD: I hope so. I said that myself when Kirk wore black nail polish to the studio one day. [laughs] There's a fucking recklessness to all the new stuff which I just love. In the past, we were pinned down by so many rules that were put there by fans or by heavy metal. It's time to move on.
HAMMETT: If people think we've lost our minds, I think we're doing the right thing. These songs have definitely landed in a place we've never been to before, and that's great. I think it's good for people to expect the unexpected from us. At least you're provoking them and challenging them to think.
Are you at all worried that some listeners won't get the new stuff in the same way they didn't get Load?
HETFIELD: Well, that comes with evolution, really. If you have the balls to move forward, you're gonna lose some people who don't want to move forward with you . We gotta do this, that's all there is to it.
HAMMETT: I don't really care what people think. These are our songs, and that's the reality of it. You can either take it or leave it, and if people don't like it, they have every right not to. We've never catered to anyone, so why should we start now?
Many critics have accused you of trying to latch onto the alternative rock craze. How do you plead?
HAMMETT: That's totally ridiculous. All the changes in our sound weren't made overnight. They were made over the two or three years we spent out of the media's eye. It wasn't like we all had a meeting two weeks before Load came out, and made all these necessary changes to fit in. Anyway, I hate most alternative music. In the mid Eighties, when glam was really popular, did that have an impact on our music? Hell, no. Did alternative have an impact on our music? Hell, no.
A lot of metal bands don't ever evolve or mature. They just get stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence. Is that because their fans don't want them to grow and change?
HETFIELD: I understand how metal fans don't want metal bands to change. They need a safety zone in their lives. Things are so crazy out there a lot of people need that kind of safety. I'm just sick of safety.
Are the changes in your sound symptomatic of your desire to grow as individuals?
HETFIELD: Absolutely. When people don't change, they get stuck and they stop Iiving. I'll go back and see friends from high school or back in the old days. I look at them and go, "Fuck, man, you haven't changed one fucking bit. You're still going to that same liquor store and hanging out at the same places. God damn, man. How about taking a risk and moving forward a bit?" If they're content in what that does to them, that's fine. We're a little more challenging as humans. We want to see what can happen.
HAMMETT: Also, we're maturing as musicians. We're not afraid to show different aspects of our musical personalities, and we're not intimidated to try new things, whereas in the past we were. We've broken out of that, and we're slowly spreading our tentacles farther out into different realms of musicality.
Do you feel more like an adult now than you did five years ago?
HETFIELD: I've got some more aduIt confidence, but some more childish actions. Getting an old '55 Chevy and working on it to turn it into a hot-rod to make the cops chase me -- shit like that has become exciting to me. I never did that as a kid. Cops chased me doing other things, but some of the shit that I missed out on as a youth I'm getting into now.
HAMMETT: I feel like I've matured more musically than I have personally. But I totally embrace what becoming older has to offer. I find the wisdom that comes with each passing year is a trip. Just living, and knowing that I've made it this far, makes me happy, because I sincerely didn't think I'd ever make it this far age-wise. I was really, really wild in my early twenties and a bit self-destructive. I did a really good job of keeping it from the public eye, but I was really into drugs, booze and all the things you shouldn't do when you want to stay alive.
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