METALLICA's JAMES HETFIELD: How I Have Grown As A Lyricist

May 23, 2024

During an appearance on the latest episode of "The Metallica Report", the podcast offering weekly insider updates on all things METALLICA, METALLICA frontman James Hetfield was asked if he thinks his confidence in his ability as a lyricist has grown a lot in the last couple of decades. James said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Absolutely. I mean, my faith and where it comes from is strong. And just like when you're on stage, you don't know what you're gonna say. That sacred moment where you walk up to the mic and you say what you're just supposed to right then. Trusting that moment, trusting the moment that the lyrics will be there when they're supposed to.

"The lyric journey is kind of its own thing," he explained. "Music, yeah, it's a collaboration of all of us, but then lyrically, I can freak out. Like, 'I don't know what to write about.' And then I just start somewhere, and then it ends up going somewhere else. You start somewhere and then, 'Oh, that kind of sounds like this story or that sounds like this character,' or whatever. And then you have the metaphor of what does it mean? There's a deeper, vaguer kind of attachment to something else that hopefully everyone can relate to, so it's not all just about — whatever — my struggle with darkness or whatever. There's definitely a theme there, but being able to riff off of that and go other places. So, yeah, trusting that it will find its uniqueness."

When interviewer Steffan Chirazi noted that "it's nice not to be overthinking", James concurred. "I think," he laughed. "No, the mind is the enemy most of the time, and just trying to avoid that overthinking. And then just stream of conscious. Just be connected to the higher power, or whatever you wanna believe in, that what's supposed to come through me is supposed to right at that time and not will it to happen."

Regarding how he prepares for a METALLICA tour, especially when it comes to performing around 32 songs at each stop on the ongoing "M72" trek, Hetfield said: "Obviously, before heading out on tour, sitting there, trying to remember the myriad of pretty awesome songs we have, and then just trusting that once we get together, it's, like, 'Oh, yeah.' It's muscle memory. But, yeah, over the last month, I will say that the normal thing happens where I start to doubt myself. I start to feel insecure that, 'Whoa, we're old. We can't do this,' and blah, blah, blah, all that bullshit that everyone tells themselves before they go into something that they care about and is important. So having the nightmares of, 'I'm the only one who cares about what we're doing here. Where is everybody?' I show up at the gig. Everyone's goofing off or there's 200 people backstage. And where's my stuff? Where's the setlist? What songs are we doing? And then typical things like the guitar neck is made of rubber, and there's only two strings on it. And where's my roadie? And the guitar cord won't let me get to the microphone. You know, silly stuff like that that has to happen, and I don't freak out over it. All you do is you practice and that comes back pretty quickly."

In support of METALLICA's latest album, "72 Seasons", the band has been playing two-night, no-repeat shows in each city— first in Europe , then in North America and now back in Europe — as part of the "M72" tour. Each concert sees METALLICA performing on a massive ring-shaped stage, with the Snake Pit in the center, and four drum sets which are equally spaced out around the circular stage so drummer Lars Ulrich can get closer to the audience at various points in the show.

According to Billboard, METALLICA's production travels in 87 trucks — 45 for the band and its setup, plus two groups of 21 each for the steel stage and towers. There are 130 people in the band's crew, plus 40 steelworkers, local hires and truck drivers.

METALLICA's manager Cliff Burnstein told Billboard that between 80% and 90% of fans at each concert attend both shows.

The "M72" tour launched in late April 2023 in Amsterdam.


A portion of proceeds from the shows go to METALLICA's All Within My Hands foundation, which seeks to assist and enrich the lives of members of the communities who have supported the band and combat food insecurity; provides disaster relief; and bestows scholarships.

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