JAMES HETFIELD On METALLICA: 'Individually, We're All Really Average Players'

March 24, 2023

In a new interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine, METALLICA frontman James Hetfield once again repeated his belief that he and his bandmates are not the greatest musicians in the world. "I know individually we're all really average players, but when you put us together, something happens," he said. "Something really happens…. Getting up and jamming with people is like a nightmare for me."

Hetfield also spoke about his struggles with stage fright during METALLICA's early days and how he overcame his performance anxiety in the band's later years.

"Early shows were really difficult — I was so shy," he admitted. "[I] didn't want to talk. I'd have the other guys in the band introduce the songs. [Now] I feel so comfortable up there, it's so weird. Sitting down one-on-one with someone is a lot more anxiety ridden than standing up in front of 10,000 people, 20,000 people."

Hetfield previously touched upon the METALLICA members' musical skills — or supposed lack thereof — in a 2016 interview with Spotify's "Metal Talks". The subject came up as Hetfield was discussing METALLICA's performance of its classic song "Enter Sandman" using children's musical instruments during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon". They were joined by the house band THE ROOTS and host Fallon.

"The 'Jimmy Fallon' thing is just one of those things that showed up in our lap," James explained. "They said, 'Hey, you wanna do this?' [And we were] like, 'Sure. Why not?' And, yeah, we had a blast doing that."

He continued: "You have to have humor, you have to… you've gotta laugh at yourselves, you've got to… not take yourself so seriously all the time. Stuff like that is just fun, and it lightens your heart, and it humbles you as well.

"We're literally afraid to jam with certain people, 'cause we think we're not worthy enough; we're not great musicians. Even with those little flutes and stuff, I was worried… I mean, Kirk [Hammett, guitar] was practicing the song on this little recording thing. It's, like, 'Dude, stop practicing it! Just go have fun, man. Go screw it up.'"

Hetfield added: "It's fun to give each other permission to screw up, and you're not under a microscope. 'Cause live, I mean, sometimes we're really tight, sometimes we're really not. And before going onstage, we always remind each other that, 'Hey, mistakes are supposed to happen up here and it makes this gig unique. Don't be so hard on yourself. And if you're feeling down, just look at the other guys, and we'll carry you through.' So there's a freedom to fuck up in METALLICA."

METALLICA's 12th studio album, "72 Seasons", will be released April 14 via the band's own Blackened Recordings. Produced by Greg Fidelman with Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, and clocking in at over 77 minutes, the 12-track "72 Seasons" is METALLICA's first full-length collection of new material since 2016's "Hardwired…To Self-Destruct". The album will be released in formats, including 2LP 140g black vinyl and limited-edition variants, CD and digital.

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