Thirty five years in, Metallica frontman James Hetfield still really loves his job.
“I’ll tell ya, when I’m talking about or thinking about or playing or listening to music, it’s a joy,” said the singer-rhythm guitarist.
“It’s a great language for me. And a therapy, there’s no doubt about that.”
We caught up with Hetfield, who famously overcame alcohol abuse and band infighting in the 2004 Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, in Toronto recently for a one-on-one chat.
Among the subjects: the group’s first studio album in eight years, ‘Hardwired … To Self Destruct’, their long game, and his own family who recently relocated to Colorado.
The new album went to No. 1 in 57 countries. Does that ever get old?
No, absolutely not. And it’s a shock. It really is. I got an email with how many countries it went number one — it blew my mind. It’s a lot. And the tour could go really long. ‘Really in Uganda? We’re going to go play there? That would be awesome.’ But I tell ya, it makes me happy that people have either been waiting or they really need some hard rock out there.
You’re survivors of the genre yourselves after 35 years. Is that what the new album title refers to among other things?
Stuff that’s just in my head as a dad, as a ponderer of the future for generations. What is it going to be like for them. And a very cynical view of just getting to complain for a little bit. Gosh, things are really scary. But what do you do with that? Where do you ground yourself? Obviously, we have music that we’re able to do that with, or family. So the song Hardwired was the last song written and it kind of summed up all of the songs.
What affected you personally during this time?
The death of [Motorhead’s] Lemmy which was kind of a, ‘Wait, he was idol of ours. Right, we’re all human at the end of the day.’ There’s a lot [of musicians] that have passed in  and it wakes you up to want to live more. And then another subject that was on my mind, me having children that are extremely plugged into social media and what does that mean to them. At one point is the convenience dependence? And you know kind of a cliched dystopian view of man, machine. Just a lot of wonderment still. Giant question marks.
You have three teenagers — aged 14, 16, 18 — are they musical?
Yeah, of course. They love music. They thrive on it. I love watching them listen to music. They like everything and anything. Whoever’s sitting shotgun is the DJ. And the kids are in the back most of the time. So my wife [in control]. She likes anything that’s dance. She loves not so much house or club stuff, she likes like K.C. and The Sunshine Band, anything that gets them boogying.
K.C. and The Sunshine Band actually plays in your car?
Oh, hell yeah. I love that too. That’s fun music. My kids love it too. But she’ll be flipping through the stations and my two older kids will say, ‘No, no, change it.’ And my youngest daughter will go, ‘I like that song.’ But she just loves everything and she knows every song on every station. It blows my mind.
How much longer do you think Metallica can go on for, given the physical nature of playing this kind of music?
We don’t know. We’re pioneering this ourselves. And we’re making it up as we go along. It will reveal itself, however it does. If one show somebody can’t get up and perform then we kind of know. We’re trying to be as smart as possible with it and tour age appropriate. At the end of the day we want to have fun out here and if we’re doing three in a row and it’s hard to get up the third show then why? It’s not the money that’s driving us, it’s the fun.
You’ve been sober for over a decade. Do you look more forward now to touring?
It’s not a tour of bars and strip clubs anymore. It’s actually, ‘Hey, there’s a great restaurant or here’s a really cool, whatever, there’s a car show in town.’ Getting out and doing stuff. I love just walking too. Just kind of get lost in the city. So yeah, priorities have certainly changed.
Jane Stevenson via Postmedia Network | Photo: latimes.com
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