Kirk Hammett says that one of the biggest regrets of his career is that Metallica were all-but abandoned to fight Napster at the beginning of the digital music explosion.
The band launched the first-ever legal action against a peer-to-peer service in 2000, citing breach of copyright and racketeering, leading to Napster being shut down.
In the intervening years the matter has been reconsidered and the band are generally held to have been correct in their attitude – although their approach of delivering a list of 30,000 people who’d downloaded their material remains controversial.
They’ve argued on several occasions that their lawsuit wasn’t about money, but about an artist’s right to choose how and where their art can be accessed. That’s a principle that’s become central to arguments about digital distribution.
Hammett tells The Word Of Wheeler: “If there’s anything thing I regret, I regret that no one else supported us during that Napster time.
“I don’t even know if you can call it a regret. Maybe it’s more of a disappointment. I was very disappointed that other musicians who saw our point, they supported us in ways that were less inconvenient to them.
“We stuck our necks out there. At the end of the day, I’d like to say what we were doing had some merit – some truth to it.
“From that point on, everyone who cares has seen the music industry go on this total downward spiral.”
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The guitarist adds that, while the situation was “unfortunate,” it underlined Metallica’s determination to survive. “We’re very good at adapting what we need to adapt to,” he says. “The 80s, the 90s, the 2000s.”
He recalls: “We were in Copenhagen – I just lost it. I left it in a cab. I went back to my hotel room to grab my iPad and Find My iPhone. The map came on of Copenhagen, I watched the dot go to Copenhagen Airport, and then it vanished.
“That was that. There were maybe three or four hundred riffs – and I could remember maybe four.”
But he’s adopted an upbeat approach to the incident. “I’m someone who believes that certain things are meant to happen. The universe has a plan.
“So I’m thinking, maybe I wasn’t as balanced as I should have been. Now I’m hopefully more balanced and I’m sitting on a lot of music right now. One of thee days we can get to it.”
Hardwired… To Self-Destruct was released on November 18. Metallica continue to add dates to their WorldWired global tour, which is expected to run for at least two years.
Metallica tour dates 2016-17 so far
Dec 17: Oakland Fox Theater, CA
Jan 11: Seoul Gocheok Sky Dome, South Korea
Jan 18: Beijing Le Sports Centre, China
Jan 20: Hong Kong AsiaWorld-Expo, China
Jan 22: Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore
Feb 03: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 05: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 07: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 09: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Mar 01: Mexico City Foro Sol, Mexico
Mar 03: Mexico City Foro Sol, Mexico
Mar 25: Sao Paulo Interlagos Racetrack, Brazil
Mar 31-Apr 01: Buenos Aires Hippodrome San Isidro, Argentina
Apr 01-02: Santiago Parque O’Higgins, Chile
May 19-21: Rock On The Range festival, OH