Metallica's James Hetfield on going to rehab: "there was a rebirth...realizing my life was needing some help"

James Hetfield in 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

Metallica frontman James Hetfield has opened up in a rare and expansive interview for official Metallica fanzine So What!. Speaking to journalist Steffan Chirazi, Hetfield discusses his return to rehab in 2019, the impact of the pandemic on himself and his bandmates in Metallica and the band's imminent new album, 72 Seasons, which arrives this week. 

When asked how he felt and where he was in his journey at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Hetfield replies: "The feelings of 2020, early spring of 2020… for me, there was a rebirth again, realizing my life was needing some help. Going away to rehab, putting the halt on some band stuff again out of personal health, mental health reasons, you know? That takes priority, even though I just want to keep running and let the band just keep going and run away from problems. I needed to deal with stuff. A lot of rawness at that point. It’s really difficult when there’s so much stuff going on around you in the rest of your life to take time for yourself, to get yourself at least to a point where you feel like you’re functioning. And for me, it hasn’t been easy at times to just shut out the rest of the world.

"And then, obviously, when the pandemic happened, it was – and I want to word this right because it was horrible, absolutely horrible for many people – in a strange way, it was kind of a silver lining for me," he adds. "I was able to put the brakes on life and really take some time to embrace my needs at that time. So yeah, not discounting all of the terrible things that were happening at that point. It was just a timely thing that happened, and I can see the [positivity] in it for myself."

When discussing the rawness of 72 Seasons, in which the band explore themes surrounding youth and the turbulence of growing up, Hetfield notes that, lyrically, there is "a lot of open heart surgery, in a way, in this album. We opened up. I was much more ready to open my heart to everyone in the band: lyrically, emotionally, and creatively. I was really an advocate, going out of my way to say, 'Send in your riffs. We need stuff, c’mon,' you know? I don’t want to sit there with [only] Lars and create the songs anymore. I want everyone to be a part of it and be in it. 'Can we all show up? Can we all be in the studio together? Can we jam on these things together? Can you speak up and say what you think might be great and not so great?' Really wanting to open it up, and there were challenges in that. But I think we got through most of ’em, you know?"

You can read the full interview over at the official Metallica website.

Metallica are also on the current covers of Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines.  In the band's interview with Metal Hammer, drummer Lars Ulrich has admitted that he reads fan comments about Metallica's music online, and went snooping for feedback after the metal legends released comeback single Lux Æterna at the end of 2022.

"I’d like to challenge anybody in a band to say they don’t look at comments," he says. “I mean, I’m not sitting up until four o’clock in the morning scrolling through every one. But when you haven’t put any music out in five or six years and you dump something like Lux Æterna on an unsuspecting world, you’re going to want to see what the feedback is.”

You can read that interview, as well as Classic Rock's interview, in both magazine's latest editions, which are out now. 

Order Classic Rock here, and order Metal Hammer here.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.