Frontman James Hetfield credits Metallica’s enormous success to the magic that happens as a collective unit, as opposed to the individual members’ musical skills.
“I know individually we’re all really average players, but when you put us together, something happens,” Hetfield said in a new cover story for Cigar Aficionado magazine (as transcribed by Far Out). “Something really happens.”
The singer-guitarist went on to admit that he’s less comfortable playing with musicians outside of Metallica, adding, “Getting up and jamming with people is like a nightmare for me.”
Over the years, the members of Metallica may not have been regarded as virtuosos compared to many of their metal peers — with drummer Lars Ulrich unfortunately bearing the brunt of the musical condescension — but Hetfield makes a great point. It’s really how a band operates as a whole that matters most, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another metal act whose first five albums are as legendary as Metallica’s — save for, perhaps, Black Sabbath.
Elsewhere in the interview, Hetfield reflected on his initial stage fright when Metallica first started playing gigs. “Early shows were really difficult — I was so shy,” he said. “[I] didn’t want to talk. I’d have the other guys in the band introduce the songs. [Now] I feel so comfortable up there, it’s so weird. Sitting down one-on-one with someone is a lot more anxiety ridden than standing up in front of 10,000 people, 20,000 people.”
He continued, “As we get older, we would love to continue to play all the places we’ve been before but it’s near impossible to keep up the pace we’ve had, say, in the ’90s. We would go out for months at a time…We are very self-critical and hard on ourselves and have very high standards. So we do take care of all aspects of bringing the best show visually and sonically to the people that enjoy our music and continue to come to see us live.”
Speaking of seeing Metallica live, the band will soon embark on a 2023-2024 world tour in support oft their upcoming album, 72 Seasons. Tickets for their upcoming shows are available here.