James Hetfield likes Queen, guns, women who aren'tbrain-surgeons, and he hates rap music. Yet "Hetto" feels proud to be part of the AIDSAwareness Tribute To Freddie Mercury. In this hilarious NME piece from May 1992, the late great Steven Wells catches a faintwhiff of rock-star moralism in the ranks of monster Metal unit-shifters Metallica--Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock'sBackpages
JamesHetfield leads Metallica on stage at the AIDS Awareness Tribute to FreddieMercury and he doesn't look - as TheIndependent once claimed - "like Lemmy - only uglier."
No, helooks like one of those big old bull-poodles with the nervous eyes and thegravy-stained beards. 'Enter Sandman' kicks ass! 'Sad But True' kicks God ass!'Nothing Else Matters' is... balladified! Icky icky! And it's their new single.Now, I like Metallica but I hate Metal Ballads, don't you? They're like sort ofpop songs with bad breath and covered in horrid warty tubers. Talking of which:
"Haveyou seen Lemmy recently?" asksHetfield. "He's all tanned and nice lookin'." The world stops androcks on its axis and the firmament is rent with the screams of hurtling pork.
Extremeare crap. The guitarist is wearing an untucked white shirt, a large red tie anda little beard. Mr. Unpleasant! Say what you like about Metallica, they lookgreat, like Mexican bondage bandits out of some leather-fantasy spaghettiwestern, ooh yeah! Then Def Leppard kick the ass clean off the universe, yes theuniverse is now butt-free and it's Def Leppard what did it.
Deffo Leppare the corporate Metal machine; theyare Metallica's perfect cousin, the posh kid up the road with the Meccano setinstead of Stickle Bricks. Deffo are perfectly at home in helicopter pilot heavenas Elto and Ronso and Stanso, Dalto, Pfanto, Sealo, Bowo, Lennoxo, Minnello andextra Brian Mayo to go-oh get all chummy and sincere. Bowo will recite the'Lord's Prayer' (aaaagh! eeeeegh! ugggggh!!) and Liz Taylor will make aneggs-skrew-she-ating speech in the sincere Hollywood voice, like she'sforgotten how to speak like a real humanbeing, and she says about Freddie's Death - "It shouldn't havehappened. It must not happen again!" Eh? I mean; we are talking showbizzyrock star schmaltzoid uggydreck, not something one would normally associatewith COOL alternative punkrock Metallica? Right?
"We'vesteered away from all that, we've had numerous letters asking us to play forthis cause, that cause," says Hetfield, obviously answering a slightlydifferent question, it was that kind of day. "We're a musical band,"he says, not really into "political s--t."
"Buty'know, this AIDS thing, it's, huh, gone beyond politics, it's gone beyond, youknow, whether you want to donate money to it or not, it's something thataffects all of us, it's a scary thing and also it's a historical kind of thing,no doubt and y'know, to be part of that is quite some honor."
"Thatband could do just about f---ing anything. They could go into - rinkydinkydink -some circus thing and then, you know, go into something mon-ster-ously f---ingheavy," rants Heto.
"Guitarorchestration was just amazing; y'know, wild ass guitar work, that's kinda - Itook from Queen - kinda, opened my actual style was the actual harmony andthings like that, guitar orchestration type thing. Somebody said that I mighthave a chance to sing with the band which was - OK! Don't ask me twice, motherf---er. I'll be there... !"
Do youknow all the words to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?
"Actually,I don't think I do."
You don'tknow all the words to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?!?!! Monkeys fly out of my butt!
"Icould sing along quite easily but if I was up there by myself goin' -Umhuhhuhhuh-oohf - I wouldn 't even attempt that, my voice doesn't go higherthan a growl, so, you know..."
Whatabout the Axl problem?
"Whatcould that be, I wonder? Hehhehheh!"
Well Ithink it's something to do with the "n----s and f----ts" spreadingsome kinda f---ing disease on 'One In A Million'. Axl keeps on making thesebizarre, incoherent explanations about why he wrote the song, but he's neversaid sorry...
"Wellmaybe he's not sorry. LA is, if you've ever been to parts of LA and walkedaround, it's... maybe that's part of what he saw as part of life at thattime... what do you think... ?"
"Ithink most people have been pissed off with Axl at one stage or another. Hethrives on that s--t. That's the way he wants to live his life, fine, maybelater on he might... shed all that. No, he thrives on the attention but, uh, Idon't know, I think it's actually, I don't think it's, uh, an insult to Freddieor whatever. I don't know, I really don't care really..."
Metallicaare all things to most baseball-hatted and wispily-bearded yank sproglings.Both the Brit-Metal inspired traditionalists and their younger, flashier cousinsare catered for, the Mets are both mainstream and hip - for now. Stories of Metallica's Metal excess bound acrossthe gossip waves like kangaroos with strychnine and E-induced permanenterections -DEE-BORCH-AIRY!, dodgy dog-shag frenzy, extravagance and quiveringlysnoutish spermpiggery BOING! Not particularly unusual behavior for a Metalband maybe, but Metalllica, sort of un-clichéd,sort of alternative, aren't they? Intheir attitude to women and stuff? "I like women heh heh heh!"
"Yeah,well, I mean... All the women you run into aren't brain-surgeons, you know? Ithink it attracts, y'know, they're there for a reason... I can't talk for thewhole movement or whatever you want to f---ing call it. We tried to steer awayfrom any kind of cliché."
Because,I'm afraid, as much as we'd like to claim Metallica as one of our bands, the fact is that they are soMetally that if you kicked them in the balls they'd go "clunk".
"Imean when it comes down to all this oh-they're-cooler-than-this-band-now kindas--t, I mean, like Nirvana - 'We don't want to tour because it might make usfamous, it might make us rich or something' - I mean - what the f---?"
Metallicafacilitated Nirvana's crossover to the mainstream audience, and Nirvana broughtwith them the ideological baggage of the punky alternative, more standards forMetallica to be measured against and found wanting.
"It'sa cliché to play music now or what? Heh! It's a cliché now to have pink hair orsome s--t, y'know they're f---ing caught up in their f---ing selves, y'know?'
LET'STALK about guns. Are you a gun head?
"Idon't, I... I like weapons, y'know? Guns, knives, archery..."
Rememberthat guitar came out that was in the shape of a Thompson sub-machine gun.Knobs, guitars and guns are all pretty much the same thing, really, aren'tthey: Guitars and guns are both penis substitutes aren't they?
I'm notsaying that all guitarists are sexually frustrated rapists, but it's nocoincidence that the electric guitar is mostly held at cock level, is it?
"Whatare you...? What else? Don't you have something else to think about?"
On ...And Justice For All you had thattrack 'One' which was about the soldier who had all his limbs blown off. Yet inthe Gulf War, apparently, they were stencilling 'Kill 'Em All' with your logoonto bombs. That's kind of a contradiction isn't it? I mean there are probablyan awful lot of people with no arms and legs in hospital beds in Iraq who wereput there by bombs with your logo on.
"Alot of military guys are into the band because of the, uh, aggression, y'know,a lot of them will come up and go - 'That song 'One' - I've got letters fromparents or sisters who've had relatives in certain wars here and there and havereally grasped onto that song and have really kind of made them think aboutthings'. I mean we're not anti-war, we're not pro-war..."
Don't bedaft, you must be one or the other. You can't say - War? take it or leave it,mate...
"Hehheh heh heh!! War has its purpose, y'know, but I'd rather not see it happen.Sometimes it has to happen but not, you know, LETS GO F--- THEM UP! kindas--t..."
How comeyou don't like rap, then?
"Rapis just to me very annoying. Bunk Bunk y'know like wow, f--- man. It reallystrikes something in my head that I've just got to get away from. Just the factthat it's extra-black too - blacks, y'know, we want everything, we deserve it,give it to us, you f---ed us this and that and that kind of s--t. It's all meme me and my name in this song, y'know...?"
Ironicthat, James Hetfield hates rap for the same reason many people hate Metal -because he knows f--- all about it.
And I wasa bit disappointed that James, along with everybody else on stage at the AIDSAwareness palaver, couldn't find anything more to say than "becareful" - the stench of apolitical rock star moralism was in the air. Iwas hoping maybe someone would mention how hideous it is that Bush and Majorkeep AIDS research and the care of HIV carriers so desperately underfunded.
We coulddiscuss all this and much much more but we won't because Metallica do not existto fulfil the wet dreams of left wing Ingerlish music hacks and now's the timefor the photos to be taken and then it's back on the road to shift those units.Oh what a busy busy buzzy bee! Yo heave ho! KER-CHING!
Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
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