Metallica: 'We Never Wanted to Get Stuck Like Exodus and Slayer, Limiting Yourself to Please Audience Is Bulls--t'

Hetfield also calls Mustaine's "The Mechanix" lyrics "silly," more inside.

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Guitar World magazine recently opened up its vaults to unveil Metallica's guitar duo discussing some of the crucial songs that made their careers.

Note that this is not a fresh interview in a typical sense, but is still packed to the gills with tasty info, so by all means, scroll down. Throughout the chat, James Hetfield mostly provided the background stories, while Kirk focused on the technical, guitar-related parts.

Discussing "Fade to Black," the song known as one of somewhat controversial 'Tallica tunes, as well as the one that marked the beginning of "sellout" accusation on the fans' behalf, James pointed out that getting "stuck" like their peers Exodus or Slayer was never the group's plan.

"That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so it was challenging and we knew it would freak people out," James said. "Bands like Exodus and Slayer don't do ballads, but they’ve stuck themselves in that position which is something we never wanted to do; limiting yourself to please your audience is bulls--t."

Taking a chronological step back, the pair talked about "The Four Horsemen," explaining how they basically upgraded Dave Mustaine's "The Mechanix" track, later released on Megadeth's 1985 debut "Killing Is My Business ... And Business Is Good."

"Dave brought that song over from one of his other bands. Back then it was called 'The Mechanix.' After he left Metallica, we kind of fixed the song up. The lyrics he used were pretty silly," James commented.

The matter of song inspiration also popped up on a few occasions, with Hetfield explaining how the inspiration for "Seek & Destroy" came from a Diamond Head song "Dead Reckoning." "I used to work in a sticker factory in LA, and I wrote that riff in my truck outside work," he said.

Furthermore, the frontman also admitted that the main riff from "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" was "lifted from some other band, who shall remain anonymous." Black House's "Rainbow Warrior" maybe?

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More cool stuff? Sure. Switching to "...And Justice for All," Hetfield said that the band initially wanted to make shorter songs, but ended with some of the longest tunes they'll ever compose.

"That song is pretty long, like all the songs on that album. We wanted to write shorter material, but it never happened," he said about the title track. "We were into packing songs with riffs. The whole riff is very percussive; it goes right along with the drums. The singing on that song is a lot lower than usual."

If you're up for an eight-page piece featuring James and Kirk discussing all-time Metallica classics, make sure to check out the article source here.

101 comments sorted by best / new / date

    telephonebear
    i never realised the sanitarium riff was 'borrowed'. they are pretty much identical though
    Shavyi
    I just discovered that borrowing too, but I must admit that Welcome Home brings that riff on a whole other level. Much more intensity, deeper and more angry vocals along.
    matteo cubano
    ironic people give A7X so much shit for the same thing. And there's isn't nearly as exact.
    Regression
    No, its bullshit that Metallica would do this. A7X was worse than this though imo. Metallica did copy the riff but at least everything else around the riff was distinctly Metallica. A7X on the other hand also had similarities in structure, and the vocals were very reminiscent of Hetfields too. In the end they both deserve shit for plagiarizing. Im a fan of both bands by the way, I just hate plagiarism. And Im sure most of you guys wouldnt hurry to defend someone like Justin Bieber if he plagiarized something.
    chrus
    are you also upset about the hundreds of years folk and blues artists plagiarized each other until they invented the phonograph?
    Regression
    I think theres a distinct difference. That was a huge part of that musical culture. Now youre expected to credit the songwriters, derivative material is quite common, but it doesnt take the forefront. An example is jazz where its quite common to quote other pieces/famous solos. Its about balance really, if your riff is similar, make sure the drums have a completely different feel, play it in a different key, at a faster or slower tempo. If youre going to copy an artist to the extent that they have, then credit the original songwriters.
    matteo cubano
    In structure? Intro, Verse, Pre chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre Chorus, Chorus, Guitar Solo, Verse, Chorus? Metallica signature.
    Regression
    No, the way they open with the big held power chords and slow pounding drums. This all builds up to silence, then you get hit with the main riff. And eventually you get that heavily accented first word of the first verse. You must be consciously trying not to hear the similarities. Im not meaning "hur dur they got the verse chorus solo", Im not that retarded.
    matteo cubano
    haha that last part was really funny, actually made me laugh, kudos. okay I see what you mean, no trust me i've noticed a lot of similarities.
    Regression
    Thats good. I only comment in these articles because it feels like a lot of people are trying to excuse it and deny it. I get the whole influence thing but this is a case where the influence has been taken too far. I guess it's the difference between "this verse sounds like Sad But True" and "the guitar riff sounds like something Metallica might write".
    FistOfFury
    Metallica were inspired by a riff, A7X copied a whole song.
    noodles07
    Only 1 riff is simillar. Nothing more. I'm so surprised that so many people still feed pain in their anus cause of this one riff It happens a lot, especially in pop music, but you decided to make a7x synonym to 'rip off'.
    Sixxstarr
    Because people really just seem to want a reason to dislike things that are different so they draw at straws to end up holding a tiny one and say "ha this is why this sucks" as everyone who isn't an idiot laughs at them
    Regression
    Couldnt be further from the truth. I own many A7X albums. They wrote a lot of good music without blatantly copying other songs. Its strange that you say people really want a reason to dislike things that are different when the reason people dislike it is for precisely the opposite reason. It's not different, they're rehashing a song that was written 20 years ago. No wonder so many people think rock is dead. After City of Evil and songs like A Little Piece of Heaven they go and do that. Hopefully its just a phase theyre going through.
    Sixxstarr
    I don't think you understood what I meant. I was talking about people disliking Avenged Sevenfold as a whole and using that song as a reason to say "they suck because they ripped off metallica" when before the same people were saying "they suck and M Shadows has nasally shit vocals" while completely ignoring everything else in songs because they want something to justify themselves jumping on a train of people that dislike something because it's against the crowd to do so. Many people truthfully do just want something to dislike if you look at more than just this situation.
    RosetaStoned351
    If this was true, Metallica would play more song from Load & ReLoad live. Also, playing Sad But True at every show is definitely audience pleasing.
    Lightning_Ray
    I'm all in favor for a band playing to please themselves, if it also pleases the fans that means they did something right. Metallica constantly changed their sound, even back in the 80's, the straightforward "Kill 'Em All" is completely different from the complex "Justice" album, and yet both are Thrash masterpieces in my opinion. I can't think of any other Metal band besides Black Sabbath whose first 4, 5 albums were consistently brilliant and so influential, and one of the reasons is because they never did the same album twice, and yet the sound was instantly recognizable!
    Nuclearcrayon
    Really I could not agree with James more. Metallica have always taken risks and that's one of the reasons they're one of my favorite bands. Slayer... meh some good songs but at the end of the day they just try and please their audience which isn't what being in a band is about.
    Maiden95
    Everything about Metallica vs the other thrash bands is so stupid. Metallica has taken many risks and that is one of the reasons I love them. But I wish people would accept musicians making the kind of music they want to make and leave it at that. It's not some incredible concept. Even though I agree with what James has to say.
    Vinura
    If by silly he means lewd, then yeah Mechanix was a bit silly, I liked both versions though.
    Chronologo
    It's really subjective, I for one do really enjoy Metallica's first 3 albums. I like some of the Black album and Load and Reload but not as the same level. Somehow I do like other bands that "evolved" their sound like Cynic for example, and also like bands that been churning the same for 30 years like Grave Digger. It's just something that clicks with you, like some sort of feeling or vibe with the band itself. It's hard to explain
    BlackLabel5150
    OR maybe some bands just don't like ballads? What's to say a band wouldn't feel like it was selling out or something by writing a song that is completely opposite of the original vision the band had? I'm not saying either direction is wrong, but there is nothing wrong with a band staying its original course.
    QuantumInfinity
    Which is probably why he said "limiting yourself to please audience " and not just limiting yourself. If the band sticks to the original course because they want to, then that's what they should stick with, if they want to stray from their origins, then they should do so as well. I'm pretty sure the main theme for them is the intent and the musical identity of the band.
    link no1
    I don't think it has much to do with ballads specifically, rather limiting what your band does. Ballads was more than likely just a quick and easy reference from Hetfield rather than something for you to take as a serious point and say something silly like "What if Slayer don't like ballads?" Slayer and Exodus might not have done ballads but they've not really done much of anything else other than Thrash metal. Even when they did 'branch out' they barely pushed the limits, it's an exaggeration to say they pushed anything at all. You can't tell me that the members of Slayer and Exodus like nothing other than thrash metal and if they do, they're either liars or incredibly close minded.
    LightThisCity23
    Slayer did experiment with groove metal, and Exodus have had strong death & groove metal sound in their thrash since 2005.
    brettmarkusic
    Slayer seemed to change with the trends IMO. Exodus has always been pretty consistent.
    Eissari
    Slayer seemed to change with the trends??? I thought they are one of the few bands that actually keep their own sound and don't follow trends. Diabolus in musica is bit different but you can't say that just because of that. It's still great album.
    Rimfrost
    But isn't this practically what they have been doing since Death Magnetic (Movie and Lulu aside)? Lords of Summer even sounds like a cross between Leper Messiah and something off Kill Em All ( The thing fans have been asking for since Black Album) and they practically only play the old stuff these days. They say they don't want to be a nostalgic act, but they keep acting like one. Maybe it's time to write some new stuff that proves that they want to look forward instead of repeating the past? But they were good at it in the past, i think most of their stuff with Burton and Newsted is pretty interesting and they always maintained their melodic core throughout the years. They might have changed genres a bit, but it kept being recognizable.
    Nuclearcrayon
    I don't know about everyone else but I loved Death Magnetic from start to finish! "All Nightmare Long" and "The Unforgiven 3" are classics IMO!
    Rimfrost
    All Nightmare Long was great,but i didn't like the rest. There are good moments but i generally don't like the riffs, vocals and compositions, it just seems so bloated and lazily glued together. But hey, it's all a matter of taste.
    GeriatricNinja
    I liked it but definitely felt some of the tracks were a bit longer than necessary. I think if the whole album was edited down a bit it would be pretty solid.
    vikkyvik
    OK, so basically, if at anytime in their career Metallica decides to write thrashy music again, they're simply bowing to the fans' wishes. Never mind that the fans have been clamoring for this since 1991, and Death Magnetic was released in, um, 2008. So yes, of course they're simply limiting themselves to what the fans want! It just took 17 years and 5 albums! As for only playing old stuff, I believe they've played every song off of Death Magnetic live. When I saw them on that tour, they played: That Was Just Your Life The End of the Line Broken, Beat and Scarred The Day that Never Comes All Nightmare Long Cyanide ...all in a single concert. And anyway, far as I know, their recent setlists have been fan-voted. Can't really fault the band for the fans choosing older songs.
    reeksofsteel
    Enter Sandman anyone?
    arabmetallion
    meh. The intro is similar but the song itself is very different, 2:46 sounds like YYZ. Good song though, so thanks for that!
    acglee
    But yeah - holy shit! Just had to check and it came out 2 years before the Black Album too. Oops Kirk!
    Slayer35
    This is why I love Metallica. They take risks, they play for themselves, they write what they want to write and not what the fans want.
    Eissari
    They turned to commercial band and they have been fixing their mistake for while.
    david.medlen.58
    So to throw things off with metallica fans they came out with the EPIC. "st. anger" .... really... playing the same staple songs every show isnt pleasing the crowd? come on now. this is just stupid
    Slayer35
    St Anger was awesome, I wish they would play more Load/ReLoad stuff on tour, but their 80's stuff is way more fun to play on guitar than their late 90's stuff so who knows, maybe that's the reason.
    kiwiug
    Neither Exodus nor Slayer ever really decidedly stick to audience pleasing. They are just making the music they want to. If Slayer are shit songwriters and write the same song over and over again, so be it. They're still doing it for themselves. And Exodus has evolved quite a bit, actually. Just compare Bonded by Blood with Atrocity Exhibition and hear the difference in tone and mood.
    -LAW-
    However, specializing in balls-to-the-wall thrash metal also brings advantages. Personally, I'd listen to Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth, Destruction, Kreator etc... over Metallica any day of the week, as they are simply better at thrash.
    GenerationKILL
    Better at Thrash when? Because if it wasn't for metallica's first 2 or 3 albums, most of your thrash bands you listed wouldn't even sound the same. Even Slayer themselves said Kill em All was a huge influence. Plus Master of Puppets is practically a gospel of thrash metal, Anyone who denies that is ignorant to the genre. Regardless of where Metallica went after ...And Justice For All.
    GenerationKILL
    This interview perfectly describes Metallica's creative desire to always push the boundaries and limits of their music and the genre. That's what set metallica apart from the other big three, and many lesser thrash bands. You can crap all over them now for growing old and becoming great at making money, but even their older songs are so much more than anything on old megadeth or exodus albums. They wrote great songs back then which set them apart from everyone else. You could sing along with master of puppets, but it wasn't the same singing along with black friday by megadeth, or even Testament songs.
    Second Rate
    Speak for yourself, fanboy. I haven't felt the desire to listen to Metallica's music in a long time. I can't remember riff one from any Metallica album, yet I remember Into the Pit, Angel of Death, Unborn Again, Burned at the Stake, and many other (what you would call) "lesser" Thrash songs note for note. It's called personal preference. I don't favour Metallica, boohoo. What you call pushing boundaries, I call the lowest form of pandering. Metallica jump ships more readily than a skittering gaggle of plague rats. When Thrash Metal was the in thing.... we got four albums worth of Thrash Metal from them. When the commercial hard rock stylings of bands like Guns N' Roses were at their height... there was Metallica, with their self-titled album that leaned heavily in this direction. When hard rock nostalgia and balladry became the obsession of Generation X, Metallica were there with Load and Re-Load. Two albums perfectly positioned for the "why was my parents' music so much cooler than mine" crowd. When Nu Metal was at the height of its commercial viability, we were introduced to Nu Metallica with "St. Anger." Now that Thrash Metal has come back around and become commercially viable again... why, who is that that I hear calling? Pushing the boundaries of their genre? Death pushed boundaries, Emperor pushed boundaries, Atheist, Cynic (in the beginning, they've since switched genres), Exhorder, Dark Tranquillity. Constantly switching to a mediocre approximation of a genre that you have no grounding in is not pushing the boundaries of your genre. Introducing new and interesting elements in a tasteful, well done manner while still maintaining an identifiable sound, THAT is pushing boundaries.
    GenerationKILL
    Notice your down votes? You're in the minority here, "troo metalhead." Nobody cares that you don't remember any metallica riffs, the fact is the rest of the world does, so I'll take their opinion on it over someone like you any day. Metallica have always pushed the boundaries, and it might be the reason why they were able to take metal to such huge pop music highs with the black album. Metallica have had 5 consecutive number 1 albums, which is a record and also pretty impressive for a band that's considered metal, whether you like it or not. The fact that Metallica as a band can be listed in the same sentence as the beatles, ACDC or even led zeppelin because of their popularity means something. The millions and millions of fans are right, NOT you. So there. Figures you'd also list a bunch of extreme bands that have also only sold a tiny fraction of what Metallica has. Not to mention most of those bands wouldn't be where they are today with out Metallica's influence, which they've probably all said at one point or another anyway. Metallica are like the rolling stones of metal bud, too huge to ignore, too important to the genre to downplay. Get over yourself and your black clothes and pointy guitar, nobody here has been impressed with your elitist opinions. I'm speaking purely from an influential point of view, which is what's important with a band as old as they are. So there. Funny how you say inflames pushed the boundaries but even THEY have covered a Metallica song!!!! What does that tell you? When you're no longer a 22 year old dweeb who only cherishes extreme metal, then we can talk about musical opinions.
    discovolante13
    The fact that Justin Beiber can be listed in the same sentence as the beatles, ACDC or even led zeppelin because of his popularity means something. The millions and millions of fans are right, NOT you. Other musicians who have/had millions of fans: New Kids On The Block Kanye West Nickleback Brittany Spears Oasis Toby Keith Poison The Bee Gees Black Eyed Peas Phish Spice Girls...etc etc etc This list could go on forever, but the point is: Having millions of fans DOES NOT make you a great musician. Keep buying those Billboard Chart top 10 albums. Millions of Lady Gaga fans MUST BE RIGHT (oops, I forgot Metallica are ALSO fans)
    Freddiez79
    Well said! People need Stop makeing metallica out to be a hero for changing there sound to "appeal to a broader audience". That's just a nice way to say we're changing with the fads of the time.
    METAL JEFF
    James is correct about Slayer and Exodus.Why stick yourself in a rut?If you have the creativity and the skill.Why not do different things with your music?
    Freddiez79
    At least I know what I'm going to get when I buy an Exodus album, I want thrash and that's what I'm going to get. I haven't been able to say that for metallica.
    Mikethespud
    Isn't it a bad thing if you know what you're going to get. Doesn't that mean they're just pumping out the same old shit over and over again?
    qrEE
    not even. Listen to early Exodus and then listen to recent Exodus. They don't just do the same thing over and over again. But their "experimenting" is done tastefully in small doses instead of entire 80 minute albums of failed ideas. Their experimentation is also limited to occasional soft parts, instrumentals, and like 3 or 4 examples of clean singing. They do this because they just play the music they like to hear, and not everybody likes ballads.
    Freddiez79
    I started listening to them because they were thrash. I continue listening because they are thrash. Why is this a bad thing?
    Mikethespud
    It's just the way you put it. 'At least I know what I'm going to get' makes it sound like you're content with a band pumping out the same album time and time again.
    SGofawesome
    Yes, but sometimes that's okay for some people. I myself do not feel content with a band that releases the same music over and over again unless I REALLY like the band to begin with. Like how I feel with Slayer - yeah it may be the same Slayer album again but that's why I fell in love with Slayer in the first place, because it's ****in' SLAYER.
    MaidenisGOD89
    I like Metallica and I agree with you. I wish they'd just be a little more consistent with their sound.
    Allysonb7001
    i think a musician should evolve with there music style as they grow older. you cant be a 25 year old man forever. you have to grow up eventually. and its kinda pathetic if a musician has been whining about the same thing for years ( coff coff Chester benington) but at the same time most bands fail at the evolution processes.
    Allysonb7001
    i think a musician should evolve with there music style as they grow older. you cant be a 25 year old man forever. you have to grow up eventually. and its kinda pathetic if a musician has been whining about the same thing for years ( coff coff Chester benington) but at the same time most bands fail at the evolution processes.
    Allysonb7001
    i think a musician should evolve with there music style as they grow older. you cant be a 25 year old man forever. you have to grow up eventually. and its kinda pathetic if a musician has been whining about the same thing for years ( coff coff Chester benington) but at the same time most bands fail at the evolution processes.
    Zaqua
    "Dave brought that song over from one of his other bands. Back then it was called 'The Mechanix.' After he left Metallica, we kind of fixed the song up. The lyrics he used were pretty silly," James commented. --- So says the table.
    Eissari
    Ive never understood why people cry about bands that like to keep their sound same. When i like band i want to hear their sound. If bands wants to experiment they don't have to release that stuff on album and try to rip of money from fans. Ofcourse little experimenting and changes are mandatory but changing the whole musical style is not fair to fans. But yeah this whole thing is like coin. There are both sides and i see them both.
    Mikethespud
    The whole point of being in a band is playing what you want to play. If it doesn't please the fans, that's their problem. They can go listen to another band.
    vikkyvik
    changing the whole musical style is not fair to fans My lord, this statement makes me want to throw away all my musical equipment and go be a hermit somewhere in the woods.
    Patres87
    I've always considered Seasons in the Abby's to be a ballad type Slayer song...
    Zaqua
    I like when bands get softer, they use the excuse that they don't want to limit themselves. I don't find bands like Overkill, Exodus, Testament, etc limited simply because they don't write neutered metal songs.
    Manovvar
    yeah, i get that you don't want to do what people tell you, but james...you're not smart enough to do it on your own. and listening to lars(aka your immature girlfriend who has you by your tiny little man-balls) all the time, hasn't worked for your "music" for quite some time. if you don't listen to your fans, at least some times, then maybe they'll stop listening to you too. don't bite the hand that feeds you, you money hungry fags.
    SkepticalCynic
    good, good... let the butthurt flow through you
    Manovvar
    good, good...follow that trendy cliche crowd of butt kissers and unoriginal repliers. here's another cliche response that fits well for you and the downvoters for the tallica band-wagon: must be 'murican.
    SkepticalCynic
    Witty reparte. And yep, from the greatest country on this rock. Run along, mom says your hot pockets are ready.
    Manovvar
    hot pockets, mom and ripping off comebacks that have been done an infinite amount of times? greatest country on this "rock"(according to no one else, than the average redneck american in denial... seriously tho... lol)? ...let the...dependency flow through you...(yeah...you won't get it. you don't seem like the "free-thinking" type).
    SkepticalCynic
    ouch, that ol' "look how smart I am cuz I can't form a coherent thought but I call it free-thinking" chestnut. I can see how much this stings you.
    tomyo117
    So James admits to stealing other musicians riffs and tweaking them slightly, this is one of the reasons i hate Metallica. Their time has come and gone, it went in 2003 with st anger, they should of packed it in then
    qrEE
    I'd like to point it out that they weren't saying anything bad about Slayer or Exodus. They were saying that Exodus and Slayer don't do ballads, and if Metallica had done that themselves then they would be catering to an audience instead of doing what they want to do. They aren't even really saying that Exodus and Slayer are just trying to please the fans. Also Exodus has pissed off fans before, just look at people's big complaints that Exodus's last album Exhibit B was "too long". They do what they want, when they want, and good for them.
    1916
    I thought the riff they took was the one intro riff from Rush's Tom Sawyer
    StrikeoftheBeas
    Im a Metallica ,Exodus and Slayer fan....My only complaint about Metallica was just when James started to actually "sing". I much preferred his old vocal style, it was much more aggressive and fit there tempos of the songs back then. His vocals work on there new material but anytime I see live performances of there old material with him singing I cringe...
    GenerationKILL
    In the book "justice for all" which is the definitive Metallica guide, one of the reasons why James had to change his vocal style was because they were playing 300+ shows a year. If you try to play that many shows a year, for maybe 3 years of touring, your voice won't even last, which is why MANY extreme bands lessen the harshness in their voices when they become big touring acts. It's still happening today, look at how much Trivium, Avenged Sevenfold or even Corey Taylor and Chester Bennington's voices have changed since they became bigger and bigger.
    esky15
    Chester was forced to change because he was losing his voice I believe.
    Maiden95
    James completely blew his voice out covering So What. He mentions that in Some Kind of Monster
    Izzy-Sweet
    In his defence, he's a bit older now. He's adapted for the sake of saving his vocals so they're still good in 10 - 20 years time.