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The State Of Metallica In 2020, In Their Own Words

Updated September 25, 2020 353 votes 67 voters 9.2k views14 items

List RulesVote up the most revealing insights from an unusually frank Metallica interview.

Howard Stern's interview with Metallica on August 12, 2020 on his radio show offered a number of fascinating stories and details about the band, including how they operate now as adults versus the anger they felt toward almost everyone in their early years.

Stern, who talked with Metallica virtually (he was in Manhattan; they were in their San Francisco studio, where they performed a few songs), asked about how they're handling the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular how it has impacted James Hetfield's sobriety. These are the most interesting insights from that interview, which featured several of the band members talking.

  • 1

    They Now See The Bands That Once Fueled Their Anger As Peers

    Stern said that, when he started his radio career, he firmly believed that all other radio shows were terrible and his was the only one worth listening to. However, this view gradually shifted as he matured. When he asked Metallica's bandmates if they felt the same way about their career, they answered:

    I totally agree with what you're saying. It's weird to sit here 36 or 38 years later and dis on these people because we've gone through the exact same transformation, and they're our peers now and we respect them in different ways. But back then you're 18 years old; you're fueled by being an outsider and this fierce belief in who you are; and all those other bands are the enemy or opposition in achieving what we wanted to do, which was bring this new kind of music to LA and the West Coast of America.

    It fueled a lot of our angst and anger against whatever was out there, and whatever we didn't like. Like you wanted to change radio, we wanted to change people's perception of music and how free it made us feel. There were a lot of bands that were talking crap about us. Which actually helped us. Then we started touring with some of those bands, like Mötley Crüe, and we'd get, 'Oh, I'm sorry about what I said in that Creem magazine interview.'

  • 2

    Metallica Threw Darts At Pictures Of People Who Dissed Them

    While discussing bands they didn't get along with early in their career, Metallica reminisced about filling their tour program for the Black Album with a mountain of negative comments:

    We had a tour book, tour program, this big 32-page glossy full-color pride of the tour. On the Black Album tour we found every single negative, nasty quote anyone ever said about Metallica - and there was a lot - and we put them all in that tour book. From Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, to Cult, to all these critics, we had them all in there. It was just kind of this way to get back at these people.

    In the 'Nothing Else Matters' video, which was filmed at the studio while we were recording the Black Album, we had a dartboard... We'd get Creem magazine, Circus magazine, and we'd take posters of people who look particularly obnoxious and put them up on the board and throw darts at them. There's a shot in that video of me thowing darts at Kip Winger. To this day I apologize when it's brought up in interviews; it was nothing against Kip Winger personally.

  • 3

    The Band Learned Lady Gaga Was A Fan When They Collaborated At The Super Bowl

    Stern marveled at the band working with Lady Gaga to perform a Super Bowl halftime show in 2017. He asked about the experience and whether Metallica would have considered working with Gaga when they were younger.

    After a while, you get mature about things and realize we're all in this together. And we just respect her as an artist; we had chatted with her when we arrived, and she was there two hours before us working on her moves, and thinking stuff up. She extremely creative and she's a fearless artist.

    And when you get to know a few of these people better, you start understanding more about their background. Lady Gaga in particular loves metal and was very vocal about showing up at Iron Maiden shows and Anthrax shows. She was telling me that 'Metal Militia' - which is this deep cut on our first album - was her favorite song back in the day. With her everything was very authentic and true.

  • 4

    Metallica Never Felt The Need To Change Their Look To Become More Commercial

    Stern opened the interview by asking if the band had faced concerns from their management early in their career to dress more commercially like other popular bands rising in the 1980s. The band said they never questioned their visual identity:

    It was clear when we signed with our managers Peter [Mensch] and Cliff [Burnstein], they had Darken, they had a few other bands, and we were the antithesis of that. That was the premise for which we joined that management. They were fiercely protective of us staying away from that. All the bands that we were inspired by, all the British bands, the European bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden, their whole thing was dressing down and just that street look that kinda came out of the punk aesthetic, too.

    When asked about making their music fit into the popular aesthetic, the band said that wasn't a consideration:

    We just played what we liked, simple as that. Our influences were what Lars was saying, the more European down-to-earth, just gritty riffs and straight-ahead drum beats. No flashy stick spinning and extra things. The music was the most important thing and we didn't want anything else to get in the way of that. No masks, no special costumes that you kind of get stuck in.