METALLICA’s JAMES HETFIELD: ‘I’ve Built A Really Cool Community Of True, Unconditionally Loving Friends’

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In a new interview with METALLICA‘s fan-club magazine So What!, James Hetfield spoke about how he has been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. He said: “Well, COVID is certainly not welcomed. A pandemic is not welcomed. People are hurting. People are dying. There’s lots of people struggling, really, really struggling with funds, wherever they’re living, they can’t afford things anymore. Lives are changing drastically. So I don’t mean to sound cold about it, but for me personally, it’s been really helpful to slow down, stop the work, stop the circus of what’s going on with touring and band and all of that stuff, family struggles as well. So it’s really good to have time to just be. To just be. Not have to have an agenda, but just to chill, to soak up life on life’s terms, to plug into my community here in Colorado. That’s definitely one thing that has been difficult for me to have [in the past] because of coming and going every few weeks, not really being able to plug into any commitments or say, ‘Hey, let’s do this once a week,’ or get together and barbecue, have a cigar pit or whatever, those weekly things that people get to do. I was not able to do those and now I am. I’ve built a really cool community of friends, true, unconditionally loving friends, and I would not have had that if I didn’t have this time.

Asked if it’s a different community to the one he has been in most of his life, Hetfield said: “When I’d come home and you know, I’d get a couple weeks at home, and Francesca, my wife, has got things planned out: ‘Here’s the friends we’re hanging with,’ and I’d just kinda jump right into that. It’d take a week to even say ‘hi,’ to even want to come off the couch and say ‘hi.’ I’m noticing a lot more since I’ve been away from it and stepped back, big picture-wise, those transitions between road and home have been more difficult than I really had at first imagined. I guess I’ve only been doing it for 40 years, but [I’m] just recognizing it now, seeing how difficult it is, and being okay with it. Because I felt so guilty that I only had two weeks at home and you have to just plug right in or else, and I would, you know, kinda go off the rails. So, yeah, just a different type of self-care now.”

Hetfield also talked about what it was like reuniting with his METALLICA bandmates for last month’s “Pandemica” drive-in event after nearly a year of not performing together.

“Here in Colorado, [having] been here for months and months, you know, in your little cocoon, building your community and buddies and all the stuff that we love doing outside… and you know, there’s been a lot less quarantine here in the mountains than most cities, which I’m really grateful for. And [then] sitting there doing our weekly Zoom call with the band, Lars [Ulrich, drums] talking about being in his home in San Francisco and he’s, you know, not leaving. He’s getting things delivered, and how he hasn’t been in a grocery store in four or five months. That just blows my mind. I’m really fortunate here. I’ve got four or five buddies to come over, barbecue, we go shooting, we go camping, we go fishing, whatever. There’s grocery stores, the Home Depot, all the normal stuff. Very grateful for that.

“But getting back into work, I’ve been playing, writing kind of nonstop, and trying to slow down and trying to have the other guys present some stuff that they would like to play in METALLICA,” he continued. “So getting back together with the guys was anxiety ridden. I mean, it really was. Getting on a plane, traveling. And then what we really had to do was make the least comfortable person comfortable with all of this COVID and testing and whatnot. So double masks, face shields, rain slickers, hazmat suits, you know. Walk into a, whatever the little smoking things that they had, little fogger to fog your backpacks, and there was every precaution taken that was available. Some people just feel a little more freaked out by this, feel safer with a different cautionary level. So I think we did a great job in that department. But getting back and playing was just scary. After almost a year, you get up there and, ‘Wow, I can’t play as quick as I used to, I can’t this or…’ And it’s all the same stuff that’s happened over the years, where we have nightmares before getting back together, and then as soon as we play, everything’s fine. It’s just that messed up creative mind that’s the blessing and curse, you know?”

In late August, METALLICA broadcast a show to hundreds of drive-in and outdoor theaters across the U.S. and Canada, as part of the “Encore Drive-In Nights” series. The concert was filmed nearly three weeks earlier, on August 10, at the Gundlach Bundschu winery, about a 30-minute car ride from the band’s headquarters in San Rafael, California, and was subsequently edited and mixed by the band’s award-winning production team to the highest standards possible.

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