HETFIELD: "I'm definitely not the smartest guy in the band, so winning an intellectual argument is not going to happen. Resorting to violence used to work."

NEWSTED: "Five years ago, the band took priority over all other things. Now, families come first. I understand that -- but I'm the only one who's not married."

HAMMETT: "Criticism is something that we've always dealt with. Even our fans fucking criticize us. We have bulletproof vests on. To tell the truth, we feed off of it."

ULRICH: "We all had some pretty slutty moments. I don't think there's anybody in this band who hasn't had crabs a couple of times or the occasional drip-dick."

Playboy Interview:Metallica (April 2001)

Even when Metallica's quiet, they manage to make noise.

On a mid-January morning, in the middle of the longest respite from touring and recording the band had ever taken, Metallica issued a terse but emotional press release, in which bassist Jason Newsted announced his departure from the group because of "private and personal reasons and the physical damage I have done to myself over the years." A few hours later, a source close to Metallica told Playboy that Newsted's decision had capped a nine-and-a-half-hour band meeting the day before at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, the sequel to a similar marathon caucus a week earlier. Newsted's resignation, the source said, had been "very well discussed" by the band.

In some ways, it was just the usual tumult for Metallica, who spent much of last year waging an assault -- or, they might say, a counteroffensive -- against Napster. The website drew an estimated 38 million users in its first 18 months by allowing fans to trade sound files without paying any tariff; in short, by providing free music. Metallica sued for alleged copyright infringement and racketeering, and on July 11, drummer Lars Ulrich -- whose press campaign against Napster was full of typical bravado -- testified against the website before the U.S. Senate.

Between politicking and press conferences, Metallica played music, too. I Disappear, a new song on the Mission Impossible: 2 soundtrack, was nominated for five MTV Video Music Awards. The band released S&M, a two-disc concert album recorded with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. They toured during the summer with Kid Rock, who handled some lead vocals when singer James Hetfield missed three shows because of a Jet Ski accident. Even VH1 embraced these one-time scourges, profiling the band in a particularly bloody Behind the Music. The year 2000, says bassist Jason Newsted, "was possibly the highest-profile year for Metallica ever."

We sent freelance writer Rob Tannenbaum to interview the last of the big rock bands. He found that although the band members were out of touch with one another during the hiatus, they were not out of one another's minds. His report:

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