METALLICA's JAMES HETFIELD: 'I'm Not The Most Social Guy You'll Meet'

September 11, 2009

Paul Liberatore of the Marin Independent Journal conducted an interview with METALLICA guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield ahead of the band's performance tonight (Friday, September 11) at a benefit in Northern California. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.

On METALLICA's first hometown concert, a benefit for the Marin History Museum's "Marin Rocks" project in the sold-out, 2,000-seat Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium:

Hetfield: "We've never done a public show. I don't know why. Probably because there aren't that many places to play in Marin that are large enough to satisfy enough people. But in the last few years, basically after 'St. Anger' (METALLICA's 2003 album),we started getting more into public service, giving back to the community, discovering how good that feels."

On the Marin Rocks project, in which James envisions a place for young people to express their feelings, their anger and alienation through music, just as he did in METALLICA:

Hetfield: "Growing up struggling in a dysfunctional family and being able to turn to music as my escape and therapy and savior is dear to my heart. So introducing kids to music and having a safe clean place for the youth of Marin to come in and jam, talk about their problems and write songs together really excites me."

On balancing METALLICA and family life following a stint in rehab during the recording of the 2003 album "St. Anger":

Hetfield: "Up to that point, METALLICA ruled everything in our lives and everything else was second. But that didn't make any sense anymore. We had to balance this correctly or else one was going to go away. So, obviously, my priorities have gotten in order. Family has gone way up on the ladder. The serenity of this place we live in has become a lot more important to me. When I'm home, hanging out with the family, there's no other place I'd rather be. A very close second is jamming with the guys."

On his 500-acre spread in San Rafael where he lives with his wife, Francesca, and their three children, Cali, Castor and Marcella, ages 11, 9 and 7:

Hetfield: "My wife, Francesca, has been the most amazing person in my life. She has ridden the big waves with me. We have gone through some extremely difficult things and come out stronger. She's stuck with me through all the hell. When I met her, I knew she was brought to me to help me get out of this hell hole. And she did. There was a point where she stood up for the family, saying, 'You've got to get out of here. You've got to go get yourself together. I'm not submitting me or my kids through this.' Fear is a great motivator. I have abandonment issues because I've had one family that disintegrated. I didn't want another one to."

On tonight's performance being Hetfield's rare public appearance on his home turf:

Hetfield: "I'm not the most social guy you'll meet. I do like my space. I do like my privacy. I'm from a little different school. It's not like, 'Let's all get in a big room and jam.' I like my peace and quiet here. That allows me to make my noise and create by myself and then, when the band gets together, we take it to another level."

On how sometimes fans refuse to separate the rock god from the family man:

Hetfield: "When you're walking around, people expect you to be that person on stage, and you're not. I'm not going to scream the F-word and jump up and down and make monkey faces when I'm hanging out with my family having dinner."

On being able to move around at home pretty much without being bothered:

Hetfield: "It's very easy in Marin. Most of the people who stop me are very polite, saying things like, 'Hey, James, what's up?' That's pretty much it. The people who get star struck or clingy are tourists, and they associate their trip to Marin with me. Everyone else sees me as a resident of this county. It's very easy to kick back and be an equal."

On finding himself generating some unwanted publicity last year when hikers complained about a heavy metal fence he erected on his property to protect his privacy and prevent vandalism:

Hetfield: "Oh, you mean the Berlin Wall? That's what we call it now. We're still negotiating what's going to work best for us, the county and everyone else. We want to come to a good, respectful decision. There are lots of great places to hike. And I'm certainly not doing anything on purpose to piss people off.

"Like I said, I enjoy my privacy. I don't enjoy picking up the trash. I don't enjoy watching out for paparazzi, or whatever they may be. I like seeing people have a good time. So we're trying to make sure there's a trail that people will be able to connect to open space and have a good time on. And at the same time I'll be able to have my peace of mind. We're working on that."

On how METALLICA seems to be mellowing as its leaders age and their children are old enough to attend their concerts:

Hetfield: "For me, it's been pretty important in the past to show that I could say the F-word every other word. I still love using the word. It's a powerful word. But I don't have to highlight it all the time because I wouldn't want to take a kid to a show where the dude's foul-mouthed.

"I want the music to be the thing he or she remembers. Or when the guy on stage leaned over and gave them a pick. Or he smiled at them. Or he saw them singing along and gave a thumbs-up. Something like that is what I want the youth to remember."

Read the entire article from the Marin Independent Journal.

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