Brad Angle of Guitar World conducted an interview with METALLICA‘s James Hetfield (guitar, vocals) and Kirk Hammett for the magazine’s November 2011 issue, which features the “Big Four” of 1980s thrash metal (METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX) on the cover. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Guitar World: Touring back in the early days was filled with a lot of youthful, drunken troublemaking. There’s the classic story of [ANTHRAX guitarist] Scott Ian and [late METALLICA bassist] Cliff Burton pissing down laundry shoots in London…
Hetfield: [laughs] Yeah, now it’s shitting down laundry shoots. [laughs] There was certainly some childish behavior that happened on the road. There was a lot of pent-up energy back then. And I can only speak for myself, but now I’m able to channel that energy a lot better and focus it on the music. But I will say watching my kid piss off the balcony is still pretty funny. I wasn’t even the instigator, but the wife still busted me. But she’s supposed to. So I have to tell my son, “Hey, don’t do that again!” But it was so funny. [laughs]
Hammett: For these Big Four shows, a lot of the guys have their families out with them. So you don’t get that crazy debauched rock-and-roll party scene you might have gotten 15 years ago. I hate to say it but now it’s all about dealing with the family and being tired from hanging with the family. But take away all the responsibility and it would be one great party scene at every show.
Guitar World: The METALLICA machine has grown significantly over the years. Ever get nostalgic for piling in a van and hauling your own gear.
Hammett: Heck no. [laughs] I have neck, back, shoulder and knee problems. But I do get nostalgic for the old days, when things were very simple. To play a show nowadays, it means you have to alert everyone and crank up the machine. I wish we were a lot more stealthy and quick on our feet. But we’re an established band that’s been around for a long time. What are you gonan do? We’re brontosauruses.
Hetfield: [laughs] Usually we’ll hop in some vehicle together, take a little ride and realize that’s good enough. There’s just so much other stuff in life that is fun for us and inspires us. And you know what? Headling out on tour is still one of those things. It’s hard to say goodbye and leave the family, but once you get out there, you realize you really crave this guy hang time, whether that’s jamming and writing together or just hanging out at HQ [METALLICA‘s headquarters in San Rafael, California]. We’re all still a bunch of guys that need the guy hang. The circle is just a lot smaller than it used to be, and the word party means something a little different now. We do get nostalgic about the old days, and what they meant to us. But we’re making “old days” right now. Ten years from now, we’ll look back and wonder why we were wasting our time looking back at the previous ten years. We’re making history now, and enjoying it while we do it.
Guitar World: James, I noticed that you were having a good time on the side of the stage watching MEGADETH‘s set. Is that a regular part of the hang, too?
Hetfield: Oh, definitely. I love to see what’s going if I have time. It’s real nice to get up there early and see what’s up. It’s annoying that I don’t get to stand there the whole time and watch the show. But there are a lot of other parts of touring for us, with the fan club, interviews and actually grabbing a bite of dinner. It’s nice to see how the crowd’s reacting, and it’s a good sign when the crowd’s up for it. Because, really, we want everyone to do well and feel the vibe. And when the crowd is anti one of the Big Four, that’s no fun. We’re all moving forward in the same direction, so you gotta put that stuff aside. Sure, you might like one band better than the other, but hey, you’re seeing some history.
Guitar World: Right now, Yankee Stadium is the last scheduled Big Four show. Are there any plans to add more dates?
Hammett: Well, there’s a lot of surf spots I’ve yet to hit in the world. [laughs] I think we should bring the Big Four to Indonesia, Tahiti, the Maldives and Tavarua. [laughs] But seriously, the vibe at these shows is genuinely good. We’ll do a slew of Big Four shows, go do our own things for a few months, and when we come back, everyone is glad to see each other. It’s a super-cool thing for us, and I’m sure there are a lot of fans still out there that would love to see the show. I won’t say yes, but I won’t say no, either.
Hetfield: We don’t know what’s gonna happen. We’re trying to cover the U.S. coasts, at least. Then we gotta get in and start focusing on writing a new record. But more Big Four shows? We never say never, because obviously, this was never gonna happen in the first place.