playboy april 2001
interview
Metallica

PLAYBOY: But he could respect you by letting you release the album?
NEWSTED: We're getting really close to some things we shouldn't be talking about. I would like him to see that this music is truly a part of me, like his child is a part of him.
PLAYBOY: What did James say when you told him that you wanted to release the album?
NEWSTED: I won't go there. We have to change the subject.
HETFIELD: Where would it end? Does he start touring with it? Does he sell t-shirts? Is it his band? Thats the part I don't like. It's like cheating on your wife in a way. Married to each other.
PLAYBOY: So what is Jason supposed to do during the hiatus?
HETFIELD: I don't fucking know. I'm not his travel agent.
HAMMETT: I just hope we can survive this in one piece without tearing each other's fucking throats out.
PLAYBOY: Lars, do you think that Jason should be able to release his album?
ULRICH: I wouldn't be able to look him in the eye and go, "You can't put that record out." That's not who I am as a person. That's pretty much all I have to say. I just can't get caught up in these meltdowns. I've got some issues in my family life, with my wife, that are a little more weighty than, like, whatever James Hetfield and Jason Newsted are bickering over.
PLAYBOY: What if Jason were to put it out anyway?
HETFIELD: I don't know. I would disappoint me a lot.
PLAYBOY: How is the record?
HAMMETT: It's a great album.
ULRICH: It's a nice record, very bluesy, like a poppier version of Stevie Ray Vaughan's stuff.
HETFIELD: It's respectable.
HAMMETT: I've spoken with Jason for hours on end. I'm upset for him. James demands loyalty and unity, and I respect that, but I don't think he realizes the sequence of events he's putting into play. Jason eats, sleeps and breathes music. I think it's morally wrong to keep someone away from what keeps him happy. That album will always be available in some format - whether it's on Napster or in stores, people are going to hear it.
PLAYBOY: Wouldn't it be funny if Jason released his album on Napster?
HAMMETT: It would be fucking ironic as shit.
HETFIELD: I don't mind being looked at as the asshole in the band. Well, within the band. As long as the fans think Lars is the asshole, that's fine [laughs].
NEWSTED: James is on quite a few records: In the South Park movie, when Kenney goes to hell, James is singing, and he's on just about every Corrosion of Conformity album. That's a shot at him, but I'm going to keep it. I can't play my shit, but he can go play with other people.
HETFIELD: My name isn't on those records. And I'm not out trying to sell them.
PLAYBOY: You want loyalty and unity in the band, but if you're too much of a dictator, you can end up losing band members. We've got three words for you: Guns n' Roses.
HETFIELD: Those are three ugly words[laughs].They were a prime example of egos out of hand. We're definitely not in a Guns n' Roses situation. It would never get like that. I'd kill us all before that happened.
PLAYBOY: It's three against one here: You're the only one against letting Jason release his record. Can this conflict be worked out?
HETFIELD: Some of us are just going to have to bend a little.
PLAYBOY: Or bend over.
HETFIELD: My back hurts, so it won't be me.
PLAYBOY: Do all these conflicts actually help the band?
ULRICH: You've used the word conflict a lot in the last 15 minutes. Ultimately, we have a love and respect for each other that supersedes the bickering. The key thing is, we're fucking still here. And we're the only ones that are still here. For whatever conflicts you keep talking about, we still find a way to exist as a working unit, and pretty much at the drop of a dime go onstage and kick everybody else's ass.
PLAYBOY: Is this just the usual tension within Metallica, or is it worse now?
ULRICH: That's a great question. It's an interesting time to interview the four of us separately. You're hearing people get things off their chest - almost using you as the middleman. Like, James and Jason won't call each other, so they're having a conversation through you.
PLAYBOY: You and James haven't talked, either.
ULRICH: I haven't spoken to him for a while, that's true.
HETFIELD: He hasn't called me. I'm sure he'll say I haven't called him.
ULRICH: It's a little bit of the rock star stubbornness. Like, "He's not calling, so I'm not going to call him. Fuck him."
HETFIELD: We both need time away; me and that fucking guy have been togheter for 20 years, man. It's an extreme love-hate thing, you know?
ULRICH: We've been in this scenario a hundred times before. On the road sometimes, we don't speak to each other for a week. Me and James Hetfield are the two most opposite people on this planet.
PLAYBOY: Your wife, Skylar, used to date Matt Damon, and he made her the model for the female lead in Good Will Hunting. A few years ago, Matt described you as "a fucking rock star who's got $80 million and his own jet - a bad rock star, too."
ULRICH: He said that before we met. And he's apologized about a hundred times. The first five times I saw him, he would spend 10 minutes apologizing profusely. He really is a sweetheart.
PLAYBOY: And you're an art collector, which is an unusual hobby for a metal drummer. What schools do you collect?
ULRICH: Abstract expressionism, the Cobra movement, art brut. I own a lot of Basquiat, a lot of Dubuffret, a lot of de Kooning. I have the best collection of Asger Jorn on this planet. I have what is universally considered as one of the two greatest Basquiat paintings; I spent a year and a half chasing it down. Hanging out backstage with Kid Rock is an amazing turn-on, no less so than sitting and staring at my Dubuffet for an hour with a fucking gin and tonic.
PLAYBOY: Tell us about the summer 1992 tour with Guns n' Roses, when a pyrotechnic explosion set you on fire during a show in Montreal. How bad were the burns?
HETFIELD: It was down to the bone. My hand looked like hamburger. No matter how much water you poured on it, the pain came back instantly. The most painful part was the physical therapy - they would scrape off the skin with a tongue depressor. It was brutal. I was on pills, too, and it still hurt like a motherfucker.
Playboy: Speaking of pain, do you ever get headaches?
HETFIELD: Are you saying it's too loud? It's got to be loud. You're supposed to feel it all over.
PLAYBOY: Metallica toured a lot less than usual last year.
NEWSTED: We did maybe 30 or 40 shows, and that's probably the least we have ever done. Metallica usually does from 150 to 250 shows in a year.
HAMMETT: I have no qualms about not doing yearlong tours anymore.
ULRICH: Ten years ago, we wanted to play as many gigs as possible and have as much debaucherous fun as possible. Now, playing 200 shows in North Dakota is not as stimulating as it used to be. Sometimes it's great being onstage, and other times the show themselves become totally mediocre and you're just sort of floating through them. The older we get, and the shorter we tour, the better we are.
PLAYBOY: How much longer can the band go on, given how physical the music is?
NEWSTED: It's limited. People won't ever see me weak, won't ever see me just standing there onstage. When the day comes that I cannot perform, I will bow out. That's it.
HETFIELD: A gray mullet would look all right.
PLAYBOY: Are there any tricks to writing a Metallica song?
NEWSTED: About 90 percent of Metallica songs are in E minor, because of James' vocal range is limited - although he's developed by leaps and bounds.
PLAYBOY: Any chance Metallica will follow the rap-metal direction?
NEWSTED: No. No rap in Metallica.
ULRICH: The chances of James Hetfield going in a rap direction are probably between zero and minus one.
PLAYBOY: From your perspective as a Metallica fan, Jason, it must be interesting to see James continue to evolve since Nothing Else Matters.
NEWSTED: Where there was darkness before, now thers's a lot of light, since James' children entered the picture. The darkness will always be there, because of the damage done, but there's a big bright spot now.
HAMMETT: We can't sing about flowers and happy shiny days, you know?
PLAYBOY: So, James, will the next batch of songs be happy?
HETFIELD: Yeah, I'll start writing about my house and family and dog. Look, there's always got to be some turmoil to write, and now, within the band, there might be some pretty good fuel.
PLAYBOY: On the next record, we can expect a song called -
HETFIELD: Side Project [laughs]. There's always something that's going to piss you off. Something you'd like to change. Something that confuses you. All I have to do is go to San Francisco for one day - I get pissed off enough for a week.
PLAYBOY: You're happily married, the father of two, you've been to therapy. You even wrote a love song. Can you still find the dark spot?
HETFIELD: I know it's there, and how it got there. I can visit it and leave again. It's a dark spot you can't wash off.

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