METALLICA Frontman: ‘We Do Things Because We Feel The Need To Do Them’

METALLICA guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich were interviewed for a cover story in the May 2012 issue of U.K.’s Metal Hammer magazine. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

On the progress of the songwriting sessions for the next METALLICA album:

Lars: We’re circling the new stuff. We’ve started writing a little more in stages. There’s so many projects that we do all the time When we wrote the ‘black album,’ we started writing it and we finished writing it without anything else [going on] — it was three months, boom. We don’t do it like that anymore. We’ll write for awhile and we’ll go to Brazil and then we’ll come back and go do a week’s worth of shows with Lou Reed, and then we’ll write for two weeks and then we’ll pick our noses and we’ll do something else and then we’ll play the Fillmore, you know what I mean? So it’s difficult to be cohesive in an interview about it. I don’t really have any direction yet, and I’ve heard most of it. It sounds heavy and energetic and very METALLICA-like, but whether it’s more like ‘Death Magnetic’ or more like this or that, I don’t know.”

On whether METALLICA is planning on working with producer Rick Rubin again on their next studio album:

Lars: “Rick is a lot about creating comfort and atmosphere and a vibe, and right now that’s kinda how it’s looking. We haven’t sat down and gone to the next level on direction and practical elements and all that type of stuff. I saw Rick in L.A. two weeks ago and we talked about him coming up to San Francisco in March or April to start talking about the process, but as yu know, we’ve got another couple of balls in the air with our movie and live dates and the Orion festival. It never ends, and right now some of these balls are quite time-consuming. Rick is not a one-trick pony; he builds a particular ease around whatever your task is, so I think whatever we want to do for this next record, he will help us with that, whatever it may be.”

James: “He’s a different kind of producer. He’s challenging. He’s a very cut-and-dried, to-the-point kind of producer, but he’s also very open, and open to lots of ideas. He does have lots of great ideas of his own as well. But I think that the main thing for us was getting to the core and essence of METALLICA, and that’s the reason we chose to work with him. He gets the best out of artists that have been around for a while, I believe. And he helps you get back to that essence. That’s what we wanted him for.”

On whether they were successful in getting back to the essence of METALLICA on “Death Magnetic”:

James: “I believe so. And, you know, that was just part of the goal. We don’t really sit down and plan it outm like, ‘What do we want this album to be?’ It just happens. That’s the way art’s supposed to work. It is what it is. We don’t try to mould it too much, because the more you try to mould it and the more you try to please, the more you have to compromise and the less of a statement it becomes. So these things that we do, they are what they are and people like ’em or don’t like ’em. That’s part of having an ever-changing fanbase, I guess. [Laughs] We do things because we feel the need to do them. Simple as that.”

Lars: “We have an absurd thirst for going into uncharted territory, and there are obviously some hardcore people in the metal community who have a disdain for that, but that’s OK It’s something that we have to do, because it would kill us to keep doing the same thing and stagnate. A festival, a movie, a Lou Reed album, and spinkled in between those, all the live dates and records, is something that, for better or worse, we have to do for ourselves.”