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James Hetfield
James' Equipment

Instrument: Vocals, guitar
Specialty: Angst-ridden, soul-rending, growling, loud-ass vocals
Birthday: August 3, 1963
From: Los Angeles, California
Vitals: 6'1" & 180 lbs (1.85 meters & 81.65 kilos); blond hair & blue eyes
Marital status: Married with 3 children
Drives: Chevy Blazer, Dodge Ram, '55 Chevy BelAir
Food: Mexican, meat-n-potatoes, Bar-B-Que, Oysters
Sports teams: Oakland Raiders, San Jose Sharks, D.C. United
Before Metallica: Played in Obsession, Leather Charm
Pre-Metallica career: Worked in sticker printing factory
Likes: Hunting, hot-rods, anonymity, snowboarding, street hockey, wave boarding, cigars, choppers, guns, wood work
Listens to: Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Spaghetti Western Soundtracks
Heroes: Clint Eastwood, Pops Hetfield
First concert: Aerosmith & AC/DC, 1978, Long Beach, California
Movies: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; Easy Rider; Sling Blade, Pulp Fiction; Vanishing Point
Describes himself as: Rugged, honest, stubborn

"I sit there and go 'Oh god what am I going to write?' and all of a sudden it happens. The first line's down and all hell flows after that" James Hetfield

James Hetfield

James Hetfield is the voice among other things of Metallica's songs, but it wasn't always planned that way. In the early days Metallica tried a few different vocal/guitar configurations. Some of the experiments included adding another guitar player, or having then lead guitar player Dave Mustaine play the sole guitar. John Bush from Armored Saint was even asked to sing for the band at one point. Hetfield was born to a truck driver and light opera singer on August 3rd, 1963 in Los Angeles. His family's Christian Science religious beliefs are often mentioned as the root of James' "tortured soul" lyrics. Musically, he began at age 9 with piano lessons, then banging away on his brother David's drums and finally to guitar. With his guitar in hand, James aspired to become a rock star in his first band, Obsession. The band was made up of the Veloz brothers on bass and drums and Jim Arnold on guitar. A pair of friends, Ron McGovney and Dave Marrs, acted as the band's roadies. This meant sitting in the loft of the Veloz garage running a control panel for makeshift lighting effects. After Obsession broke up, the Marrs-Hetfield-McGovney trio continued jamming together.

Phantom Lord was James Hetfield's second band. After moving to La Brea, James attended Brea Olinda High School and met up with drummer Jim Mulligan. The two would jam at lunch time with another guitar player, but eventually scared him away with their loud and heavy sounds. Hugh Tanner was discovered carrying around part of a flying V guitar at school, and shortly thereafter Phantom Lord was born. With Hugh on guitar and Mulligan on drums, James sang and played guitar. The group went through a few bass players until graduation when James moved back to Downey. In Downey James moved into a house owned by Ron McGovney's parents that was slated for demolition due to an expressway expansion. This house was the perfect place for James and Ron to crash and hold rehearsal and practice jams. James talked Ron into taking up bass, and promised to teach him.

And as Ron joined the group, Phantom Lord was no more they were now Leather Charm. James Hetfield's third band overall, Leather Charm was formed from the members of Phantom Lord, except that James performed sole singing duties (no guitar) and Ron was added to play bass guitar. Completing the line-up were Phantom Lord carry-overs Hugh Tanner and Jim Mulligan.

Leather Charm was more of a glammy attempt at music. The band played originals and covers like Quiet Riot's "Slick Black Cadillac", Iron Maiden's "Remember Tommorrow" and a few others. The band managed to perform at a few parties and recorded a demo, but then began to fall apart. First Tanner left the band and was replaced by Troy James. Then Mulligan left for a more progressive Rush-like band. With no drummer the band was forced to call it quits. Although it was Mulligan's departure that led to James searching for a new drummer, it was Hugh Tanner that introduced James to Lars Ulrich.

Ultimately it was Leather Charm's break up, through Jim Mulligan's quitting, that led to James and Lars meeting, and to form Metallica. From the very start, James has been the main songwriter in Metallica, from the riffs to the lyrics. When he's not writing, singing or playing, James indulges in hunting and various sports such as snowboarding, as he has hung up his skateboard after a series of mishaps.

Guitars are a major part of his life and he has started collecting older guitars. particularly those manufactured in 1963, the year he was born. He can also be found in his garage working on a new passion hot rods. He currently has a Chevy BelAir that he built himself. James in recent years has taken to the rock 'n' roll fashion of getting "inked" he now sports many many tattoos some of which are pictured below.

 


Hetfield's Tattoos
- Click on the image to see a bigger version.

Interviewer - "So the cross tattoo just where your shirt opens, that is more a metal symbol then a religious symbol?"

James - "Well I like symbolism. Iíve always loved symbolism. I came up with the damn logo, you know, that ninja star, Iíve always loved the association with things, and this represents a family. You know, I donít know, thereís something about. Iíve always. You know if I wasnít playing music Iíd be doing, you know graphic design or something. And I get to do both which is awesome, and so... Symbolism is pretty big for me, and the cross for me represents balance and connection with a higher power, and you know, it can mean many things for everybody else, but tattoo wise I have St. Michael, which to me, thatís pretty huge. Facing your demons and I love those stories. I love some of the religious stories because whether they are real or not they are awesome inspiring stories."
 

         
 
         
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Click here to go to the photo gallery where you can find more pictures of James Hetfield and the other members of Metallica.
         
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Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Jamesī favourite Metallica song when playing live?
It depends on what the crowd reacts to certain songs, he can tell after the show which one is his favourite, it changes every night.
 

If Metallica didn't exist what band James would like to be a member?
Misfits.

What equipment does he use? James uses mostly ESP Explorer guitar's with EMG pick-ups and Ernie Ball strings, Mesa Boogie amp's are James' main set up. James uses many different guitar/amp combo's for different sounds in the studio.

What does James drive? Amongst his favourites are a '55 Chevy BelAir (which he helped built and restore himself), and 'The Beast', a fearsome all-terrain 4-wheel drive Blazer that is designed to survive everything from earthquakes to nuclear holocausts.

Has he ever recorded for anyone besides Metallica? James has recorded backing vocals for "Twist of Cain" and "Am I Demon?" on Danzig's first album, he also contributes vocals on "Man Or Ash" from Corrosion of Conformity's "Wiseblood" album, and on Jim Martin's recent solo album. The liner notes say: James-guitar and Kirk-guitar.

What does James play? James is responsible for the great majority of the guitar work in recorded Metallica. James handles all the rhythm guitar and most melody and harmony guitars, not to mention the acoustics and the occasional guitar solo. Kirk's duties on the albums are mostly for the full blown lead guitar solos; although with the latest Metallica album's the guitar duties for both Metallica guitar players has expanded quite a bit.. Both have played rhythm, and both have played leads.


What was the first song James learned on guitar? Flight Of The Bumble Bee.

What does James do in his free time? James is an avid hunter and sportsman, also likes to tool around in his garage working on his Chevy Bel Air or Harley. He can also be found watching his favourite sports teams (Oakland Raiders) and NASCAR. Snowboarding, water and jet-skiing, goes to hot-rod shows. He collects older guitars (particularly those from 1963) and enjoys working on old cars. Aside from these pursuits, James is often happiest spending time with his wife Francesca and three children, Cali, Castor, and Marcella.

Who were his main influences? Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Waits, Nick Cave. What current stuff does James listen to? Rocket From The Crypt, Gov't Mule, Corrosion Of Conformity.

James' skull ring and wolf pendant where did he get them? James once wore that ring that belonged to Cliff. The pendant is from a store called The Great Frog in London (the same place that Cliff got the skull ring.)

Why did James switch from the Flying V to the Explorer? In the early days of Metallica, the Explorer was James' back up guitar. When the Flying V's' neck broke, he switched to the back up guitar, only to discover that the Explorer was a perfect fit for James. James know also plays a ESP Flying V on tour, this guitar is his first "signature" series guitar available from ESP.

What sports teams does James follow? James is lifelong, diehard Raiders fan; San Jose Sharks and D.C. United. James can be seen on the opening of the NHL's Cool Shots TV program, and was also part of an NHL commercial.

What jobs has he had before Metallica? James has worked in a sticker factory, as a high school janitor, and as a mover. What happened at the Montreal show 8-8-92,

Why did James get burned? The band was informed of a pyro change... Pyro would be ignited along the "wings" of the stage during "Fade To Black". The Pyro-tech however, failed to inform the band that new pyro would be going ALONG with the old pyro. Assuming that the new pyro cancelled out the previous pyro; James stood atop of where the old pyro occurred, a 12 foot flame was ignited, severely burning his left hand and that side of his body.

Does James still skateboard? No, but rumours abound that past tour contracts have included a "NO SKATEBOARDING" clause, just in case. He has recently taken to Snowboarding, apparently it has a slightly softer landing.

What happened to James' hair between the Roam tour and the summer 1994 tour? He was involved in an ATV accident while hunting which required 40 stitches in his head. Then he quite simply got it cut... Before the release of the Load Album James got his hair cut, this time even more of it went!

How does James switch guitar sounds during a show?
James' long-time guitar tech (roadie) Andy Battye, handles James' guitar effects during the concert. Andy also cares for and maintains James' guitars and equipment.

What does James smoke? A. Fuente Hemingway Short Stories are his cigar of choice.

What bones has James broken? Two broken knuckles, left wrist, both bones of left forearm (compound fractures) with a total 156 stitches.

What now defunct bands would James like to see reunite? Thin Lizzy (Live And Dangerous line-up), Tank (first line-up), Motorhead (with Eddie)

What album changed James' life? To Hell With The Devil by Stryper.

Why? James explains: "It sparked a hatred that will forever scar me. I can't bare to see striped spandex jumpsuits to this day.

What does Jaymz say about business, Metallica and Lars? Lars likes to keep in contact with more of the business side of things. He really enjoys that, I really donít. I just, you knowÖ ďHi, howís it going?Ē, and then I go hang out with my friends. I donít live for the business part; I live for the creative music part. But he finds creation in the business part, and thatís great. Iím glad there is someone in the band that does do that.

Is there anything that  James would have done differently in the last ten years? Anything he would have done differently? ... I wouldnít want to change anything because we are here. And we are still here, and uh, I guess the only thing I would want to change is from my past my old behaviour and my past in just degrading behaviour. Iíve hurt people, and it has affected others and their lives, and I hope it hasnít done in such a way that itís is really damaged them.

 

JAMESī TOP 10 SONGS - James spoke to Rolling Stone magazine and picked his Top Ten Greatest Songs of All Time, they were:

1. Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
2. Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
3. Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
4. Behind Blue Eyes - The Who
5. Candle in the Wind - Elton John
6. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
7. Yesterday - The Beatles
8. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
9. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
10. The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy

 

Have a look at the info on the other band members below

Lars Ulrich    |    Kirk Hammett    |    Rob Trujillo    |    Jason Newsted
Cliff Burton
    |    Dave Mustaine    |    Ron McGovney

     
 
 

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