Metallica's Hetfield: I Never Wanted to Release 'Nothing Else Matters'

Frontman says the classic tune was originally a personal thing he made just for himself.

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Metallica's Hetfield: I Never Wanted to Release 'Nothing Else Matters'
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James Hetfield said he never wanted to release "Nothing Else Matters," explaining how one of Metallica's most well-known songs was simply something he made just for himself and no one else.

The musician told Jeff Woods (transcribed by UG): "'Nothing Else Matters' was a song for me. It was not to be heard by the general public. [Chuckles]

"It was a song written in hotel rooms on ['Justice'] tour about missing friends at home, being out for such a long time.

"That was a song that was not meant to be played for other people, it was for me. I think that's important - to write music that makes you feel good, I've got quite a few songs that are like that.

"'Nothing Else Matters' was heard by the band, they thought it was amazing. I though, 'You're crazy. That's just this sappy ballady thing that makes me feel OK.' 'No, that's good!' That just goes to show I have no idea what's good. [Laughs]

"But it eventually made its way out there. It was a vulnerable, vulnerable song for me, and a real risk at that time, being where I was at that time to let that song go and be heard.

"I'm really glad they all pushed for it. I think it's a vulnerable song that everyone can relate to. It doesn't really mean one thing, it's not just about relationship, I've seen that song show up for sport teams... It's a belonging, belonging song."

64 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hudsonstradlin
    I love the rare instances where Hetfield throws in a solo. He's really an underrated lead player.
    thejay2
    The solo in this song is perfect! As you said he is very underrated. My guitar teacher said that the solo was written by a vocalist as guitar is almost like it sings
    Sandman4991
    Because it has the feel. And it may sound stupid, but when I first learned it, it was just some quite simple solo to play. Then after a loong time I came back to this tune just for fun and played it with ease, but felt the energy and emotions in this solo. If you have an open heart, you can make your guitar sing with this solo.
    dirtyrandy1
    I think that's the main reason why I've never been overly fond of Kirk's lead playing.  Much of his work just lacks that "feel" to me.  Yeah, he can shred, and he's very good, but I prefer that emotion and feel over just throwing out notes and slapping a wah over it.  Not that I don't enjoy some of Kirk's solos, but in general I don't prefer his style.
    RnFnR95
    but dont forget that Kirk also wrote solos like the unforgiven and fade to black. amazing solos with tons of emotion still
    darkwolf291
    He did the first half of the solo in My Friend of Misery as well The one before the wah
    adarsh0765
    Also in Whisky in the Jar.  There is an extended version of Suicide and Redemption for Guitar Hero where Hetfield does a full solo instead of Kirk.  Check it out on youtube it's amazing. 
    thejay2
    I'm glad you brought that up, I remember playing that at the time and thinking it was immediately better than Kirk's!
    fromzero
    First fade to black solo is Hetfields too right? Correct me if I'm wrong. Would love clarity on this.
    RnFnR95
    dont believe so. Kirk always plays it live and this is the first ive ever heard about it being Hetfields 
    Binbags
    No it isn't. It's Kirk. James' first credited solo is in the middle of Puppets.
    [Azrael]
    Isn't it the short solo on Battery after the first chorus? Or does that not count only being very short.
    Binbags
    It doesn't count as it's Kirk and not James. Which dodgy website are people getting this disinformation from? The first solo James plays on any album is the middle one on Puppets.
    selkayann
    Around that matter, do you know any other instances other than the MOP solo and this one? I would love to hear it.
    ivonahora
    He plays a solo before Cliff's in Orion (live it's Kirk who plays it). The mellow solo in To Live is To Die is played by him as well. He plays a couple of soli in Load and ReLoad as well. The talkbox solo in The House Jack Built, the strat in Thorn Within (as well as the outro solo), the solo in the 2nd verse of Ronnie, the outro improvisation in Outlaw Torn. Carpe Diem Baby has another really cool solo (butchered... I mean played live by Kirk). Turn the Page, Whiskey in the Jar and a couple of the Motorhead covers too. Then there's the solo on Suicide & Redemption, which was cut short for the album version. Go check out the full version, I like that one so much more than Kirk's
    CreepingDeth775
    I don't understand why he lets Kirk plays those few solos of his live though. I get James is more of a rhythm guy, but I don't think any Metallica fan would argue against him playing an extra solo or two at their shows.  
    ivonahora
    Not to mention Kirk doesn't know what the fuck to play in those songs. Orion sounds close enough, but you can still tell it's not James, mainly because of all those flat notes. But when they do that to their 90's stuff it sounds terrible, you can tell Kirk still hasn't figured out what to play in Carpe Diem Baby, which is, in my opinion, one of James' best soli, with a very clear structure and back-and-forth dynamic.
    CreepingDeth775
    He does fail at solos more often than a professional musician should. Still one of the greatest heavy metal guitarists ever though.
    ivonahora
    Yeah, there's no denying that. He's laid down lots of really iconic melodies over the years. It's just that, in looking for a "more challenging" approach to his playing, he's doing his sound a great disservice. The way the action on his guitar is set up, they're just unplayable (for Kirk too). Of course the super high strings sound flat in the middle/upper register. Add to that the occasional, very human brain fart and you've got a once highly revered player sort of ruining his legacy. A shame, really. He seems to be the sweetest, most down-to-earth guy in the band.
    CreepingDeth775
    Just growing old like the best of them. He does well with some solos and unfortunately slaughters other ones. Not sure what his deal is, other than maybe losing the fire he had when he was young. What matters the most though is the work he did in his younger days.
    ivonahora
    Oh, I forgot about their cover of The Ecstasy of Gold (kickass solo). I think 2x4 is also him. It definitely sounds like his rig, but some of the note choices seem odd for James. The lead-in to the solo in Just a Bullet Away sounds like him too. He also does all of the volume swells throughout their discography (except for Puppets), so, like others have pointed out, My Friend of Misery and the swells in Outlaw Torn are all him. Every single solo in their demos, too. Enter Sandman sounds great, but not as bombastic (the non-existent production doesn't help either)
    note-4-note
    He also played first solo on Orion, 2nd solo on To Live is To Die, 2nd solo on Breadfan
    TreyR
    And this two solos are actually similar from the technical point of view, they are tasty, but Hetfield lick vocabulary isnt biggest.
    Doodle75
    I think that he pretty much writes the structure for all of Kirks solos but he cant do the fast solo stuff as well as Kirk.  Lot's of his initial demos have the structures played by him
    Sandman4991
    Doodle75 He doesn't write Kirk's solos (they're Kirk's work, and on the most recent record Lars helps him in terms of structure and which licks to choose), and he can play fast licks, these days even better than Kirk himself. Maybe it's to leave Kirk some space on the album. And I prefer Hetfield's solos - a lot more tasteful, no effects overused, he just has the feel.
    Binbags
    Kirk writes his own solos (apart from the ones Dave claims he stole on Kill 'em All) At the time of "And Justice" Kirk did an interview about how hard he found it to write solos for the rhythms James had come up with. Stated how it pushed him as a guitarist to come up with stuff. In that sense James' backing defines how the solo will flow. Prior to that he seeked tuition from Sach who told him to be inventive as thrash at the time was new and there was no rule book. On a lot of the demos that surfaced Kirk is doing adlib solos or a rough version of the final lead. Only around Black and Load is Kirk not listed as appearing on the Demos(though other sources list him as appearing). I'd say he takes the occasional cue or idea from something James has done(you can't be in a band with another guitarist and not have their influence seep in to your playing) but I guess many guitarist would come up with similar themed ad hoc solos to those that James did on the Black demos, they weren't really pushing the envelope.
    CLiFF-BuRToN
    Suicide and redemption, first solos on Orion and To Live Is To Die (both studio versions), Whiskey in the jar and he also plays a little solo on seek & destroy when they play it live
    Vampire_State
    He did a great solo on The Outlaw Torn that was cut for time, thankfully the full version is still out there
    friday.the.13th.jasonx
    Say he's an underrated lead player then say it's rare he does a solo?
    tonello
    Two things can be true at once. It's true that he doesn't play solos very often. It's also true that he's highly underrated as a lead guitarist during the few instances that he does solo. 
    friday.the.13th.jasonx
    Well he's not exactly Randy Rhoads is he?
    tonello
    Is anyone claiming that he is? You can be underrated without having to be a shredder. Hetfield's voice on the guitar is very bluesy and emotive and it works well in contrast the the usual shreddy stuff that Kirk plays. 
    friday.the.13th.jasonx
    If you knew anything about Randy Rhoads you'd know he was not about shredding. I'm saying Hetfield is not underrated as a lead player because he hardly does any lead playing. We're hardly going to say "Oh he's the best soloist in the world after doing like 5 solos".
    tonello
    I don't think that he's the best soloist in the world. That's putting words into my mouth. But those solos that he does play speak to me a lot more than many other guitar solos. 
    hak_hap
    Without Hetfield all the people playing guitar for the first time ever wouldn't have that well known, awesome thing they can play right away. "I can't play anything!" "Yes, you can! watch this:" |-------0-----------0-------- |-----0---0-------0---0------ |---0-------0---0-------0---- |----------------------------- |----------------------------- |-0-----------0---------------... 
    friday.the.13th.jasonx
    Umm Smoke on the Water?
    Anjohl
    That's much harder, plus 99% of people play it wrong. Hint: you don't use a pick.
    joplambrix
    why is this downvoted? Blackmore himself said that the notes on Smoke on the Water are finger picked and played without a guitarpick. It gives it that dirty and direct sound.
    CreepingDeth775
    When I was in middle school, my best friends dad died in an accident and he was a huge Metallica fan. I had never heard Nothing Else Matters until they played it at his funeral. It was a powerful moment and it inspired me to look into the band. Been rocking out to them ever since.
    TakaTanaka
    I never really liked the song myself (I realize that's unpopular) but understand it's role in Metallica's collection. At least more than Mama Said. It's a nice break during a live show for them too to cool off a bit. And if that helps them melt my face 30 min later with Battery, I'm all for it.
    jwise683
    I think that vulnerability brought out best this song. James is an underrated lead player I feel as well.
    RBM01991
    This is not anything new. Anyone who's seen the Behind The Music special knows this.
    GR84
    Still more interesting than 90% of some of the articles floating around on here these days, 
    anibalbarbarian
    if mr. hetfield did more solos in the other songs like the one he did on this, and maybe hammet´s first solo man place, could be second solo man, ja. (just a thought)