Metallica LiveWhy did James choose to check himself into rehab?

“It started the minute Jason Newsted walked into a hotel room in San Francisco and told the rest of us he was leaving the band. That was the triggering point that led to us spending the next few months taking a long, hard look at who we were as a band, who we were as people, what was the state of Metallica 20 years on.”

“When we started the process of taking a long, hard look at ourselves, I think that process stirred some things up inside of him that were even beyond what was going on with Metallica and the relationship in Metallica and had to take it to another level. He had to go away and deal with some of his own stuff.”

How is the new James?

“He’s 180 degrees a different person. The James Hetfield, lead singer/frontman/rock god of Metallica, that’s gone now. Now he’s just James Hetfield, human being.”

“I’ve never really been around anybody that had ever gone through that process, so I didn’t really know what to expect or what kind of changes would come. When he came back five months later, he always a completely different person.”

“That facade, that James Hetfield, barking at people and intimidating people and all that kind of shit, that was gone.”

What kept Metallica together during this period?

“The relationship, the history and everything that we had been through together. There were difficult times but ultimately we’re all survivors. Apart from maybe the death of Cliff (Burton, original bassist who died in a coach crash in 1986), there had been no point lower than where we were in the fall of 2001. For the first time ever in our career we had to do a real time out. Just stop everything and put everything on hold.”

Are there any contemporary acts that get you sap rising?

“I have to say that I subscribe to the NME and after being bombarded by The White Stripes for the past year, when they came to San Francisco last month I thought, ‘OK, I have to go see this’. It blew my mind. I’ve never seen anything quite like that. I went down after the show, I went in and humbly professed my love for what they were doing.”

“We had a nice few moments, shared a few cigarettes and a couple of shots of Meg’s whisky. It was just the three of us about ten minutes – it was pretty cool.”

“So I went out and bought their record the next day and I’ve been playing it on CD in hotels across Europe for the last week.”

“I also love The Datsuns – they showed up on my radar about a year ago and I’ve been a champion of theirs.”

Are you going to take any of these bands on tour?

“I’ve been trying to get The Datsuns for months. Schedule-wise, it hasn’t worked out yet. And I was really pissed at out booking agent, because I found out that they are playing on the other day at Reading and Leeds than we are.”

“I gave my email to The White Stripes’ manager because he knew Dolf De Datsuns, so he passed it on. And a couple of days later there was this email from Dolf, which was very cool. We have to do something with that band real soon.”

© NME June 14, 2003

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