Metallica has been around for more than three and a half decades. When you reach that rare level of rock stardom, there are few things your die-hard fans don’t know about your band, and that can be said about Metallica.
After all, what die-hard fan doesn’t know that Cliff Burton said he’d only join Metallica if the band left Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco? What die-hard fan doesn’t know that Lars Ulrich was groomed as a pre-teen to become a pro tennis player like his father?
So what is left to know about Metallica?
In a new interview with Sopitas.com, a Mexican website – that came hot on the heels of Metallica’s performances in Mexico City (with a guest appearance by Iggy Pop!) earlier this month – James Hetfield was asked, “What don’t fans know?” about each of Metallica’s albums.
What the Metallica frontman said might surprise even some of the most die-hard Metallica fans.
For their debut record, Kill ’em All, Hetfield says that Metallica recorded their album in a haunted studio. Recorded in May 1983, at Music America Studios in Rochester, New York, James said that the Metallica roadies would go upstairs to Lars Ulrich’s drum kit and the cymbals would mysteriously be spinning on their own.
When Metallica recorded their sophomore effort, Ride the Lightning, Hetfield says that the track, “Escape,” was a last minute addition that had to be written in the studio. Furthermore, James says that “Escape” was the first ever Metallica song that was wholly written in the studio.
“I remember we had all the songs and Lars said, ‘They want us to record one more. They need one more for the album.’ I was like, ‘You didn’t tell me that.’ So we had to record and write – and it was really last-minute. So “Escape” was one of those songs that was written in the studio.”
Master of Puppets, what many die-hard Metallica fans consider the band’s masterpiece, holds fond memories for Hetfield. James says that Metallica was spending a lot of time in Copenhagen during the recording of the album with producer Fleming Rasmussen. Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, and Hammett actually slept in the tape room of the studio, and whiled away their evenings with beers while listening to famous guitar tracks.
Metallica’s fourth album, …And Justice for All, the first album with new bassist Jason Newsted, posed mixing problems. Metallica was touring on the Monsters of Rock tour with Van Halen while mixing …And Justice for All in New York. As the tour progressively moved west, Lars and James had to drive back from the Big Apple, sometimes seven hours at a shot, to make the gigs on time. Hetfield commented that perhaps that’s why “the bass isn’t so loud on the album.”
James didn’t comment on their self-titled and best-selling record, often referred to as The Black Album, nor did he discuss St. Anger, which was the subject of the documentary, Some Kind of Monster. But when it comes to the Metallica releases, Load and Re-Load, James views them as a single entity. While citing that the recording of the two albums is “a blur,” Hetfield says that both albums were recorded at the same time as the band had so much material. However, what the Metallica frontman learned from those two albums was quality over quantity, indicating that perhaps in the case of Load and Re-Load, more wasn’t necessarily better.
As to Death Magnetic, an album that many die-hard Metallica fans saw as a return to form for the band, James simply said that when the cover art for the album was released – which depicts a coffin in the ground – many mistook the artwork for looking like female genitalia.
And that thought brings us to Metallica’s latest album, Hardwired… to Self Destruct. Hetfield says that there isn’t much that fans don’t know about their latest album, other than it’s easily one of his favorite Metallica releases.
Metallica launches their North American tour on May 10th in Baltimore.
[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]