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JAMES HETFIELD AND KIRK HAMMETT - THRASHER MAGAZINE 1986
 

Interview by Pushead 



PUSHEAD: SO THE NEW RECORD "MASTER OF PUPPETS," IS OUT AND IT'S PRETTY CLOSE TO A GOLD RECORD AT THIS POINT, WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK OF THAT?

James: I'll stick it up in my storage place.

Kirk: I'll give mine to my mom.

YOU COULD SELL IT AND BUY AN APARTMENT FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS. THAT'S THE WEIRDEST THING, HERE YOU GUYS ARE, RIDING ON A SUCCESS, RIGHT? YOU'RE ON A SUCCESSFUL TOUR, YOU HAVE A SUCCESSFUL ALBUM, EVERYTHING'S DOING WELL AND YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE A PLACE TO LIVE.

J: No.

WILL YOU EVER?

J: I don't know.

K: I need a place to store my comic books when I'm out on the road.

J: We've got some stuff, I've got a bed and all that crap, it's just in storage. It sucks. I've got an address where I can get mail.

AND YOU GUYS ARE ON ALLOWANCES AND STUFF LIKE THAT?

K: Yeah, we have accountants. Now I get to buy the comics I've been wanting since I was a little kid. I can pay more attention now to my hobbies. When I was younger, I was always into comics and I never had enough money to buy Fantastic Four number 1, which I just got today, because of the price.

BUT ISN'T THE PRICE MORE NOW THAN IT WAS THEN?

K: Yeah, but when you think about it it's pretty much the same price--what was a quarter back then is a dollar now, it's still at the same distance.

ARE YOU BUYING THESE AS AN INVESTMENT?

K: Sure, they're a good investment and I do buy certain comics as investments, but I'm not into this hobby just to make money. That sucks, that's more like a broker or something. I don't buy it as much for the monetary value, though, as I do for just sentimental reasons and from a collector's point of view.

J: I've got two Dennis The Menace that HE gave me. I'm going to save them forever.

WHAT IS YOUR REASON FOR GETTING INTO THE COMICS, JAPANESE TOYS AND THE HORROR STUFF?

K: The reason I buy toys and stuff is it's good plain fun. I'll admit it, I used to spend a lot of money on drugs at one point.

WHY?

J: Yeah, why?

K: Because I thought maybe drugs were fun...

J: Why?

K: Until drugs all of the sudden weren't very fun at all...

J: Why?

K: And it was like a huge illusion. And I thought drugs brought me a certain kind of joy...

J: Why?

K: But, they don't... shut up, James... they stopped bringing me a lot of joy. And around the same time I was buying comics and toys and they were bringing me a lot of, for want of a better word... fun. It's healthier for me and I have something to show for it.

J: Do you think comics saved you from drugs? Spiderman saved me, dude.(laughs)

K: I've talked to friends who have made a lot of money and asked themselves, 'Where has all my money gone?,' and the answer was always, 'Well, it all went into drugs and booze and such.' And I asked myself that same question and I have something to show for it, my money went into toys and comics and I got a lot of fun out of it and I'm a lot healthier to boot. They can still bring me a lot of fun.

J: What about comic books about drugs?

K: Those are the best ones.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE GROWING TREND OF OLDER PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED IN SOMETHING THAT MOST PEOPLE SAY IS FOR LITTLE KIDS?

K: A lot of people make the association of comics and toys with youth. They put two and two together, when I was younger I played with toys and they were a lot of fun. But, why should anyone say that should end because you're older? There's absolutely no reason why that should end. I mean, it might appear to be an immature kind of thing to do, but if you think about it, what's so immature about wanting to have fun? People still go to the movies to have fun. It's just another form of play.

WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU HAVE AN ADDICTIVE HOBBY?

K: To obtain the unobtainable is a real rush in itself, like to see something in a magazine and go, 'Wow, I'd really like to have this...'

WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING ARE YOU PERFORMING A LITTLE BETTER BECAUSE YOU HAVE OTHER GOALS THAT YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH WITH THAT?

K: The musicianship is an entirely different thing altogether. The music comes first and any sort of thing on the side I think of a lot farther down the line. I don't go into studio thinking, well, you know, we're going to have to write some great songs so I can buy some great comic books. It does keep everything together because I have a more sound mind and a healthier attitude toward the lifestyle in general. Of course, if my hobby was to get totally screwed up every night and blow my brains out every night, I'd be a crash and burn individual. If my hobby is to collect comic books and have a real sound mind, doing better in health... comic books are inspiring to me. There are a lot of ideas that I can find in comic books that I can interpret through music. It's just better in the overall picture to be able to think clearly and to relate my music better. It's real complicated, I never really looked at it like that before.

AN ESCAPE?

K: Yeah, you could call it an escape. It's hard to say whether I really needed an escape. I didn't really watch a lot of TV. I wasn't a TV kid, I was more of a comic book kid. You know, you get TV kids and comic book kids. It's as much of an escape as television. Everyone needs that sort of entertainment. I collected that stuff for a long time and then I bought a guitar and got totally obsessed with playing guitar. I kind of backed-down on the comics and played the guitar a lot.

AND NOW THE TWO HOBBIES HAVE KIND OF MATCHED...

K: Yeah, they've come back together, because while I was playing guitar I would walk into a comic book store and see comics that I used to have and say, 'wow, I used to have that,' and I slowly came to realize that I still wanted it so I got back into collecting comics and collecting the things I like the most which are the horror comics. The EC's and Famous Monsters and just the whole horror genre in particular. When I was even younger, I was a big fan of Walt Disney. 

IS THERE ANYTHING NEW THAT YOU LIKE OR IS ONLY THE OLDER STUFF GOOD?

K: A lot of the new stuff is real good too. There's a lot more violence in comics now...

IS THAT GOOD OR BAD?

K: I think it's great. It's entertaining. It's making comic books more interesting, because back when I was reading comic books there was a comics code, which is like the equivalent of like a PG rating at a movie. The underground comics were a lot more lenient and underground comics are more like an R-rated movie. Let's face it, most of the time an R-rated movie is better than a PG-rated movie. There's a lot of good stuff out there nowadays, like Mr. Monster, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And there's other stuff like Dark Knight. It's really good because it puts Batman in a more realistic setting. It's Batman, he's middle-aged, he's retiring and he's freaking out because his profession of stopping crime is turning him into a loony case. It is like a social statement because he is becoming what he once chased after... you could relate that to something like a song like "Sanitarium"....

METALLICA, IS PLAYING A QUICKER, RAW BUT POLISHED SOUND THAT MOST PEOPLE SAY IS A VIOLENT TYPE OF MUSIC. DO YOU THINK THAT'S THE WAY THE WORLD IS HAPPENING? ARE YOU GUYS REALLY SCREAMING AT PEOPLE, SAYING, 'LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENING.'? 

K: Yeah, I think you've got a point there. People can relate to that because it's more like the world as it really is. I mean, let's face it, the world is not a pretty place. The world is pretty sick. There's a lot of ugly things out there and no matter how much you try and escape you always have to wake up and face the fact that the world is fucked-up and ugly. 

IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO TELL PEOPLE IN YOUR MUSIC? 

J: Hell no. I don't want to tell people what to do because I hate people telling me what to do.... 

YOU GUYS ARE NOW IN A POSITION WHERE SOME PEOPLE TAKE WHATEVER YOU SAY LITERALLY, THEY CAN EVEN TAKE IT THE WRONG WAY. 

J: Yeah, a lot. 

K: It's happened in the past, people have taken us wrong. 

J: And then that's what gives the band a bad reputation. It's utter bullshit. 

K: When we're taken wrong and bad things happen, like people get hurt, there's other people who are quick to bring blame, even though it's a personal motivation on that person's part. The person takes us wrong and brings harm to other people for whatever reason. That's fucked up, because a lot of the times it's the person themselves and not us who are really saying the wrong things. 

J: All these freak people are trying to build in this huge symbolism between the music they listen to and the lyrics and why they did this...the lyrics I write I write pretty much for myself. I'm not telling people how to think. Like, 'If you don't believe the way I do then you're not a real Metallica fan,' or some shit like that.

YOU'RE JUST PUTTING OUT AN OPINION...

J: My opinion.

THEN DOES THE WHOLE BAND AGREE WITH YOUR OPINION?

K: I do. I feel that we pretty much stand behind anything he has to say. If we didn't stand behind it we would let him know that in advance. So far we haven't so we pretty much stand behind everything James says.

J: We talk about topics, concepts...

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE SUCCESS THAT YOU HAVE FROM WHAT YOU'RE DOING?

J: We're doing it our way, we've always wanted to do it our way, I'm happy with it. We haven't had to conform to any certain standards, record companies or whoever else wants us to do it. They haven't molded us a certain way, we did it all ourselves and that's great. I used to think back, and go, 'Oh my God, I saw us in Circus or Hit Parader or I saw us in that magazine, oh shit, I hate it.'

WHY DID YOU HATE IT?

J: Because it's so widespread, people see you in the magazine, 'Oh wow another band blowing it.' But we're doing it our way. We're saying what we want to say in interviews and they're not twisting the shit around.

DO YOU THINK YOU'LL COME TO A POINT WHERE YOU HAVE TO WRITE A RADIO HIT, OR YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE A VIDEO?

K: If it happens, it happens by accident.

J: No. We're not worried about that. You start thinking too far ahead and you start fucking yourself up.

K: I don't think we've ever regretted anything we've done.

I GOT THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO WITH YOU GUYS ON THE BUS, YOU HAVE ALL THESE PEOPLE RUNNING ALL THIS STUFF AND YOU GUYS DON'T EVEN HAVE TO TALK TO THEM BECAUSE YOU TRUST THEM TO DO THIS OR THAT, THEN YOU GET TO THE ARENA AND YOU AND KIRK GO TO THE CLOSET, GRAB YOUR SKATEBOARDS AND HOP OUT AND YOU TAKE OFF. IS THAT LIKE A RELEASE FOR YOU GUYS?

J: There's nothing else to do. Our guys are setting up our shit and... 

K: The thing with all these people is, we work with them. Those people don't work for us, they work with us. We're all like a huge bunch of family. 

J: We all travel together.

K: We're like a gang. They have their jobs, we have our jobs. Our jobs don't start until 7:30 or so, so we just wait around, skate...

IS BEING ON TOUR BORING?

K: A lot of the times.

J: It depends on where you are, but with a skate, if you're bored you've always got something to do.

SO THE TWO OF YOU GOT STARTED SKATEBOARDING THROUGH BOREDOMN ON TOUR? 

K: It just seemed like a real good idea.

J: It's just kind of so we can flip away from all the hectic shit for awhile. 

DO YOU GET ANY HASSLES OR ANYTHING WHEN YOU'RE SKATING? 

K: Yeah, I get hassled by security guards but I just go on. 

DO THEY REALIZE YOU GUYS ARE THE BAND OR DO THEY THINK YOU'RE SOME LITTLE ROADIE?

J: No way, hell no. They just think we're freaks coming to watch the shows. 

K: I just go to another floor and skate. Fuck that. 

SO ARE YOU HAVING A GOOD TIME SKATING WHEN YOU'RE AT THESE ARENAS? 

J: Hell yeah. 

K: The polished floors are really cool. 

J: Well, it's best when there's no seats. A lot of the places have got seats. 

HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS SKATING THING? 

J: Wanted something to do on tour, because there was a lot of idle time when we're not doing anything. And I don't drink as much as I used to so it mellows me.

IS THAT GOOD OR BAD?

J: I think it's good.

YOU GOT HURT ONCE DIDN'T YOU?

J: There was a couple of shows where I had to have my ankle taped up. For like a week. It was banged up and twisted and...

SINCE YOU GUYS HAVE STARTED THIS TOUR WITH OZZY, YOU'VE GOT A LITTLE FAMILY OF SKATEBOARDING HAPPENING ON THIS BIG TOUR, CORRECT?

K: Yeah, some people on Ozzy's crew and Ozzy's band.

J: Yeah, guitarist Jake and his roadie are skating together now too. They saw us with our boards and go, 'hey, fuck yeah, that's a good idea.'

AND THE MANAGEMENT'S NOT GIVING YOU ANY HASSLES BECAUSE YOU'RE VALUABLE? 

J: We told the management, 'hey, look we're thinking about taking boards out on tour'...I thought he was going to go, 'oh shit, no way, you can't.' He just said, 'well, you break something, you still play.'

K: Yeah, 'You break a leg on your skateboard you play on stage with a broken leg.'

YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO ADMIRE THE MISFITS.

K: Hi Glenn. Fuck yeah.

AND YOU'RE GOING TO DO A COVER OF ONE OF THEIR SONGS, THAT'S WHAT THE WORD IS...

K: Yep. This is true. They're great.

WHAT GOT YOU INTO THE MISFITS? DOES IT GO WITH THE PUNK THING? 

J: Cliff turned us on to them.

J: All of his friends were into them and he taped some stuff from his friends. 

K: It just grew on us and we started listening to it a lot. I like the Misfits. I liked the songs and then I saw pictures of them and went, 'Wow, this is cool.' The imagery that they used was like some of the stuff I've seen in old horror comics.

JAMES, WHAT ARE YOU INTO, BESIDES TV?

J: Live comedy. I'm into the Bobcat (Bob Goldthwait) and Sam Kinnison. 

K: Cliff's into Dawn of the Dead type stuff, stuff like that. 

HOW COME YOU DON'T HAVE COSTUMES? 

J: Yeah, we still haven't got our costumes back yet. Ozzy said we couldn't wear them. We've got our red, white and blue sparkly suits. (laughs) 

WHERE'S THE MAKE-UP AND THE STUDS?

K: They got rusty and fell off because we sweat too much.

YOU HAVE A WHOLE CONCEPT BEHIND "MASTER OF PUPPETS", RIGHT, IS THAT WHY YOU HAVE THE CROSSES AND THE WHOLE THING ON STAGE?

J: Yeah, I think it's cool, something new. Last year we had our stacks...We're supposed to be playing in the Aldacomet or whatever.

K: It kind of helps the concept of the album too.

WHAT IS THE CONCEPT OF THE ALBUM?

K: Manipulation. Various forms of manipulation, which can go into entirely a different subjects which we could talk about for hours.

WHY ARE YOU SAYING "MASTER OF PUPPETS"? IS IT SOMETHING THAT YOU'VE FELT HAS BEEN DONE TO YOU OR THAT YOU SEE BEING DONE TO YOUR FRIENDS?

J: Nah, I see it done to different people. Some of the stuff...well "Master of Puppets" deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and doing it's drugs controlling you. Like, I went to a party here in S.F., there were all these freaks shooting up and geezin' and this other girl was real sick.

DOES THAT SCARE YOU?

J: Yeah, hella.

ARE YOU GUYS GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE YOU'RE BECOMING AN ANTI-DRUG BAND? 

J: No, because we don't want to tell anyone what to do. If people are into it that's cool, they wouldn't mind about the subject we're talking about. I was at that party and it freaked me out and I'm hella paranoid.

K: We run into a lot of freaks on the road messed-up on drugs, all the time. 

J: That's what happened at the last show...

K: Yeah, someone O.D.ed at the L.A. show.

J: Three people died.

BUT THAT'S NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY THOUGH...

J: 'Oh, of course it is,' all the mom's say.

K: The P.M.R.C., they don't know about it yet, but if they did know about it they'd raise a fucking all-holy ruckus.

J: "Leper Messiah" deals with how people bow to TV preachers and send all their money away... it's just that we're aware of the fact that shit like this happens.

WHAT'S THE FEELING FOR YOU GUYS WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING LIVE?

K: It's a lot of fun. Just go out there and bash it out, you know, have a lot of fun while we're doing it and if other people dig it, cool.

EVEN WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING THE SAME SONG EVERY NIGHT?

K: Yeah, we still get into it.

J: It's a different feeling every night, different people there. It's cool to freak people out too. A lot of people will be sitting there and don't know what the hell... and you just go over and throw a beer on them. And then they go, 'Oh my God, you're gettin' out of control.' Some people who come to gigs are so lame. They sit there, they pay all this money to get front row, 'Yeah!,' and they sit down. Like man, what the fuck.

YOU GET NERVOUS UP THERE IN FRONT OF A CROWD?

J: I get nervous every night. Before I go on I feel like barfing my guts out. Not nervous really, just a kind of excitement. Like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to forget this, I'm going to forget the lyrics, I'm going to forget how to play guitar...'

K: Yeah, I'd say it's adrenaline that's building up, a lot of it's nervous energy.

WELL, HERE YOU ARE PLAYING FOR A CROWD OF LIKE 20,000...

J: I don't even think of that. I don't think, 'Oh God, how many people are going to be here tonight?' I just go out there and play.

K: When you go out there and bash it out it brings up a rush of adrenaline. Adrenaline is flowing and along with that is a touch of nervous energy. The adrenaline like totally takes over when you get up on stage and start playing and having a lot of fun. Then you forget the nervous energy. But I get nervous...

DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT THEY SIT THERE? ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO AMP OUT? 

J: Not really, I like watching that though. It's kind of hard for kids to get a huge pit going when there's all these chairs happening. Kids have fun their own way. That's the way I have fun, so maybe they do it my way. You know, you gotta have some fun. A lot of time they're just sitting there having fun their way, you don't realize that's how they have fun. But, we're not out there goin, 'OK, everybody, give me your cigarette lighters, everybody go like this.' 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE OR ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD TELL PEOPLE? 

K: Be honest with yourself. 

J: Honest. Get some originality happening and be aware of certain positions you could get stuck into as far as management and record companies. 

K: Be aware of the fact that it is a business and you have to have a business-like attitude, because people will fuck you up any chance they get. 

LIKE PEOPLE USING YOU? 

J: I hate the business side of it all. I go to all of our band meetings or wherever and end up falling asleep. 

K: I do too, I have a lot of contempt for it. You really have to pay attention whether you like it or not. There has to be someone in the band who is aware of what can happen and what is happening all the time. It's really easy to get fucked over. So easy.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT JAMES AND KIRK HAVE TO SAY FOR METALLICA? 

K: Don't lie to yourself. Don't try to be something you're not. 

J: Hey, I'm eight feet tall. 

K: No you're not. 

J: People have to be confident in what they're doing, if they're not then people will step all over them. Confidence in yourself. 

IS IT HARD TO SOMETIMES REALIZE THAT YOU GUYS ARE BEING USED? 

J: I get pissed-off once in awhile listening to bootleggers out there. I almost fucking slammed one of them, then I realized, shit, I might get arrested and then I can't play the show. Yeah, you gotta think ahead...at least one hour.

 

 

 

 

 

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