Chris Steffen of The Village Voice recently conducted an interview with METALLICA guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and guitarist Kirk Hammett about the band's breakthrough album from 21 years ago, 1991's self-titled fifth LP, commonly known as "the black album." A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Village Voice: "Nothing Else Matters" was a major departure for the band. It pissed off some fans expecting thrash metal, but it's still played at almost every show.
James Hetfield: It's absolutely crazy, that was the song that I thought was least METALLICA, least likely to ever played by us, the last song anyone would really want to hear. It was a song for myself in my room on tour when I was bumming out about being away from home. It's quite amazing, it's a true testament to honesty and exposing yourself, putting your real self out there, and taking the risk, taking a gamble that someone's either going to step on your heart with spikes on or they're going to put their heart right next to it, and you never know until you try. That solidified, I think, that we were doing the right thing, writing form the heart about what we felt, and you can't go wrong that way. It has become an unbelievable song live, and from the New York Hells Angels putting it in their movie to sports people to people getting married to it, all kinds of stuff, people relate to it. I'm grateful that the guys forced me to take it out of my tape player and make it Metallica.
The Village Voice: What do you find so compelling about the themes in "The Unforgiven" that you decided to revisit the song for two sequels?
James Hetfield: Maybe it's not done, maybe I didn't feel forgiven or wasn't able to forgive. It's one of those songs to me that is pretty personal, obviously revolving around forgiveness of the world and self and whatever else you have some resentment against, working through that. The melody itself never went away in my head, it's potent for me, and lyrically, stuff kept coming along with it, and probably the fact that you're not supposed to do a trilogy or something, or keep writing the same thing onto the next album. I think after "The Unforgiven III", we're kind of done with it. I think I'm able to forgive, forgive myself and move on.
The Village Voice: Do you ever look at a setlist before a show, see "Enter Sandman", and say, "Seriously, guys, not tonight."
Kirk Hammett: There's a certain amount of songs we know we have to play, because the audience expects us to play them, and songs we throw in because we feel like playing or get requests. The great thing about our music is most of it is really, really fun to play, and very dynamic, dynamic enough so that if we wanted to change part of a song or add a part, take out a part, it can pretty much survive that. When songs start to become a little tedious, what we'll do is just change them, take parts out, add parts, or make it more dynamic, and that's our way around getting around the whole boredom factor, which I think is a good approach, an honorable approach. There were times when the mention of "Seek And Destroy" would make me gag, but we started playing it in a heavier key, and now it sounds like a brand new song to me. We made the change six or seven years ago, and I love it all over again.
Read the entire interview from The Village Voice.