James Hetfield Responds to Speculations That Metallica Will Break Up, Answers Whether Lars Has Any Input on Lyrics

Apart from the obvious issues, 2020 brought a few other worries to rock and metal fans out there, most notably James Hetfield’s relapse and return to rehab. Of course, a plethora of other personal issues was shared with the public over the past two or three years, right before the announcement and upcoming release of Metallica’s new album “72 Seasons.”

In a newly published interview for So What, the magazine of Metallica’s official fan club, Hetfield opened up on some of these personal issues and how it all translates to the band’s current work. Among other things, James was reminded that some of the people speculated that Metallica was breaking up and asked whether he only started to trust himself and open up to himself. He replied:

“Yeah, I think [so], and also out of just sheer fear that I don’t know what else to do with my life. Playing music and being of service, going on tour, playing, writing, creating. Thank God so much for that. Because I don’t know where I’d be. So I *do* care for it, and I need to embrace it and accept it.

Metallica: 72 Seasons (Official Music Video)

“As far as other people’s worries and concerns and fears about Metallica continuing on or not, you know, I don’t feel responsible for them. But I *do* feel that I’m responsible for what *I* can do, what *I* can put out there. Maybe it seems egotistical to think that there are so many people relying on the Metallica record to get them through the year, whatever it is, [but] I get that it does help people.

“It’s not up to me, absolutely. And I think most of the feedback around me going to rehab and all of the stuff, people’s theories, people’s ideas… what does that mean? You know, trying to figure me out. *I’m* still trying to figure ‘me’ out. I mean, all that stuff’s out of my control, man.

“And I get [that] most of that stuff is out of fear because they want Metallica to continue. So do I. So do I, and I’m doing my best to do that, and that’s why I go away. That’s why I go and reboot. That’s just me. Embracing that part of me.


“And it also allows me to be more vulnerable – looking the world more in the eye and just saying, ‘Hey, this is how my life is. I wish it was different, I wish it was easy, I wish I didn’t have to do all the stuff, but here’s what I go through. And it brings fuel and meaning and purpose to my craft.’

Elsewhere in the interview, James was reminded about his professional and artistic relationship with Lars Ulrich, particularly whether Lars has any input on the lyrics that he writes. Asked whether they had a “tea and biscuits” chat about the lyrics, Metallica frontman said:

“There has not been a lot of that. There have been comments from him just saying, ‘Wow, these lyrics are really good,’ without him going into detail about them. And nor do I do that with his drumming.

Metallica: If Darkness Had a Son (Official Music Video)

“You know, ‘When you hit the third tom in that roll, it was fantastic. I really related!’ We trust each other to bring the best to the table. I think more this time, some of the feedback I got from him was, ‘I like this cadence better than this one.’ Simple as that.

“It wasn’t so much the lyrics but song titles there’s input on, and I can get wound up because Lars can name a certain song from three albums ago, and he still calls it by the working title. You know, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the Black Squirrel riff.’ Like, ‘What the hell are you talking about? Oh, you mean ‘Cyanide’?!’ [Fact-checkers said that it was actually ‘Broken, Beat & Scarred’ – ED] ‘Yeah. Yes, I do.’

“And I can take that as a slight on not wanting to include the lyrical content into that piece of art, or I can just say that’s where his head was. He remembers that riff and putting that riff in that song, and that’s where he’s at.

Metallica: Lux Æterna (Official Music Video)

“But when it comes to song titles, he likes to voice his opinion, and I put that out to everybody in the band. We have a little pow-wow and say, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m thinking for song titles. What do you think?’ It’s like what we do with the artwork or the album title itself. So it is a democracy in that way.

“I do find that living in consultation around that is helpful. Sometimes it’s not what I want to hear, but again, we all have to deal with differences of opinion and be somewhat humble in the band. This is representing all four of us, and even more than just the four of us, we just want to make it the best. And once I understand that everyone is wanting the best, then you can throw it out to democracy. And if three people say this one’s better than this one, okay, alright.

Metallica – Holier Than Thou

When the interviewer reminded him of the idiom “how sausage gets made” and used that as a comparison for the topic at hand, James replied:

“Yeah. I agree with that… how the sausage is made. And I’m not really great at carrying *any* of that in my mind or soul. ‘Oh, that riff was written by him, or that song title was his…’ At the end of the day, it might be important, but I don’t care, and I can’t tell you who wrote what riffs, really. And it’s fine.

Photo: Raph_PH (Metallica – The O2 – Tuesday 24th October 2017 MetallicaO2241017-52 (37299688654)), Ralph Arvesen (Lars Ulrich 2017)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.