GET IN THE JET - JAMES HETFIELD 1999 (Metal Hammer Magazine)

Attempts to get Jason to shag photographers and punching Lars out. James Hetfield tells all these stories and more... 

Tell me about the first tour you ever did.

The first proper tour was Raven and Metallica in a Winnebago from the east coast to the west. There were really horrible smells on that bus as there was a lot of drinking, puking and fucking going on. You would have to get drunk to actually fall asleep on that thing as it was so horrible. We would always fight for the top bunk. The air conditioner broke down somewhere in Texas, so it was about 200 degrees when you woke up. Raven weren't really the drinkers, but we got their drummer drunk on the last show and he went completely nuclear and started smashing up the place. 

Who was the real pig on the bus?

I think we were all pretty good at being pigs. Lars had got to be a bit more of a pig than anyone else. I don't know if it had to do with him being Danish or being an only child, but I don't think they had soap in Denmark. 

Do you have good memories of that tour?

Absolutely! That was where we cut our teeth on the road. We actually got to do one show with Motorhead, Raven and us. Getting out there playing fields in the middle of Arkansas to your dumpy little club called the rat in Chicago was great. We made a lot of friends on that tour. It was also pretty amazing to find out how our demo tape had gotten across the country and taken a hold on a lot of the young, angry youth of America. 

The weirdest bill you ever played on?

We did some shows with Big Country in Europe and a few other bands and took the 'ry' off the end of their name. 

The weirdest venue?

It would have to be the Molson Ice Beach Party in the tundra in Canada. It was the show where 500 contest winners got flown to this little Eskimo village and it was us, Hole and Veruca Salt, and we played this tent in an area that was the last camp before the North Pole. We played for a bunch of contest winners and Eskimos who were huffing gasoline. It was all of 20 degrees in this tent. 

The most grueling tour you've ever did?

No doubt it was the one for the Black album. We had no idea it was going to take that long, but it ended up being close to 24 months. The album kept taking off everywhere, so it got longer and longer. I'm glad we finally finished it. My body was up for it, but my throat was kind of saying in its hoarse way that it was time to quit. But we battled on and got a lot of shit done by playing a lot of places we hadn't done before. 

How do you keep up the enthusiasm playing the same songs night after night?

You see different faces, that's for damn sure. On the last tour we pulled out a lot of really old stuff and mixed it with really new stuff. Just adding different songs to your set helps quite a bit, but on the Load tour it got really good doing the same set over and over so it became finely tuned, like a sharpened weapon, so tight and so powerful. But then there's times when you really do get tired of the set and that's when the goofiness comes in between songs. 

How do you combat on-tour boredom?

We are usually playing five nights a week so the two nights we do have off are usually spent sleeping. Depending on where you are and the season, in the summer you are either hanging with friends or find some local thing to do like water-skiing and drag races. Winter time we go snowboarding and now I have the family out we do the touristy stuff. There's never a dull moment! 

Before Metallica broke huge, who was the most considerate headline act?

Ozzy Osbourne on the Bark at the Moon tour. We went out and did Master of Puppets. He gave us full reign on the stage and sound checks every night; we got our backdrop and little crosses up behind us. We would get up and play Black Sabbath songs and hope he would get up and jam with us, but we knew it wasn't going to happen. He thought we were taking the piss when in fact we were honouring him. 

Has there been a tour when the band has nearly broken up?

The Black album tour was very grueling, but there was never any talk of anyone quitting. We have never been quitters and that has been very apparent through catching on fire, breaking bones and Kirk's appendix operation as he's still playing seated. When Cliff got killed in the bus accident, that was probably the closest to feeling we weren't a band. I knew we would continue, but at that moment you were in such shock that you don't know your future. 

Have you ever punched Lars out?

Absolutely! It was way back in the beginning when we played The Troubadour in Los Angeles. We had got our first encore ever and we went backstage and agreed that we were going to play this song and he went into something else which we hadn't rehearsed in months and months. I didn't know the lyrics, so we just muddled our way through it and after he got up from his drum riser I just slugged him really hard in the stomach and said "Don't ever fucking do that again!" There have been a few times where I have felt like using my size against him, but he gets the picture most of the time. 

Did you ever put Kirk through an initiation when he joined?

Kirk really didn't get any. It was a little close to the beginning of the band. He was in it less than a year after we started. We knew he was in the band when he first played, so he didn't have to go through anything. Maybe we should start now. (laughs) 

What was the worst thing you ever did to Jason?

That would be the time when Ross Halfin was out with us in Japan. It was Jason's first tour and we told him that in order to get Ross Halfin - the best rock photographer of all time - to work with us, we all had to sleep with him, and seeing he was the new guy, it was his turn. We had him going there for a while saying that we had all done it. He just said "Fuck you guys. There's no way I'm doing it, fuck you!" (laughs) 

Why didn't you want any photos of the Metalli-jet when you first got it? 

We had a feeling that people wouldn't understand. It was mainly Bon Jovi's fault as in a few of their videos he is (adopts camp accent) all tired and stressed out on their plane. We didn't want to be lumped in with that bullshit. It is our mode of travel that helps us get a good nights sleep so we can play better. Some people aren't open to things like that, they think, "They have a plane, so they have sold out" but it allows us to get to all the gigs in fine form. 

Have you ever joined the mile high club in it?

(laughs) No, I read an article about it and it seems a trendy thing to do. Since its all guys on the plane, Id have to say no one has unless Jason and Ross Halfin sneaked into the toilet without us knowing. (laughs) 

The most excessively drunk tour?

Monsters of Rock with Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Kingdom Come. That was the Jagermeister days. I am still hearing stories about it, like that I slugged Lars but I don't remember any of it. We were drunk the whole time. We were very much into drinking and having a good fucking time. That was the pinnacle of all the debauchery, drinking, fucking and general insanity. 

Why did you give up drinking?

I got really sick of being hurt the next day. I got really tired of wasting days and feeling like shit. I don't give a shit if people drink around me or not drink. I'm not out to preach the fucking straight edge life either. It works for me and I'm having a good time being straight. It feels really good and really focused. 

Tell me a good groupie story.

Once we had eight girls in the shower scrubbing the whole band down, shit like that. 

Dave Mustaine seems to have taken full responsibility for being a total asshole while in Metallica. How do you view that time and will you ever make amends? 

Were not enemies and were not friends and I think it is best kept that way. Back in those days we were all drunk and having a good time, but he took it too far. He was a real excessive person who had to take everything too far, which included drinking and drugs. He sent my daughter Cali a nice gift at her birth and it was very nice. There isn't any animosity there as it was 16 years ago. He does his thing, we do ours.






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