"Toxic masculinity has fuelled this band": Kirk Hammett calls out Metallica's "weird masculine macho bullshit"

Metallica in 2022
(Image credit: Tim Saccenti)

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett has called out the "weird masculine macho bullshit thing" at the core of the band, while acknowledging that the San Franciscan metal icons might not be where they are today without that aggressive, uncompromising mindset driving them forward.

“Toxic masculinity has fuelled this band,” the 60-year-old guitarist admits in a new interview with The New Yorker. “I’m still sitting around saying, O.K., I’m gonna write a really, really tough, kick-ass riff. Just look at my rhetoric there: toughkick-ass riff. It’s an aggression that everyone feels, but it was ratcheted up in us—this weird masculine macho bullshit thing.”

In the course of an in-depth portrait of the band, Hammett reveals to writer Amanda Petrusich that, at times, friction between band members has threatened to boil over into physical confrontations.

“We would get drunk, and just start in,” Hammett says. “I remember once James [Hetfield] got up and pushed Lars [Ulrich], and Lars literally flew across the room. We would see each other and start wrestling. We could be in a room of twenty people and we’d fixate on each other. No one else mattered.”

The New Yorker piece is an unusually analytical deep dive into the Metallica pysche, and Hammett is not alone in musing upon the potential challenges to an individual's mental health which seems to come hand-in-hand with the kind of rarefied success Metallica enjoy.

“Being up onstage is a fantasy world,” James Hetfield states baldly, seeking to drill down into some of the causes of his own insecurities and the damaging self-medicating he once adopted as a coping mechanism. “Everyone is out there sprinkling you with wonderful dust. You start to believe it, and then you get home and you go, ‘Where’s my dust?’ ” he said. “Not so wonderful now, sitting here alone with two cats, taking the garbage out.” 

In the article, Hetfield touches upon the recent break-up of his 25-year-marriage and admits that he still has work to do in his personal pursuit of happiness and inner peace.

“I think everyone searches for that sense of presence,” he muses. “I searched for it in the wrong medicines for a long time. I just wanted to turn my head off. That worked until it didn’t work. Finding a new god that isn’t alcohol . . . yeah, that’s what I’m still workin’ on.”

“I believe the addiction to fame is a real thing,” Hetfield adds. “I’ve got my little recovery posse on the road to help me out. We’ll say a prayer before going onstage: ‘James, you’re a human being. You’re going to die. You’re here doing service. You’re doing the best you can.’ That is helpful for me.”

For the full, in-depth feature on Metallica, go here.

Yesterday, Metallica announced details of their forthcoming 12th studio album, 72 Seasons, and shared its thrashy lead-off single, Lux Æterna.

Revealing the concept behind the album title, Hetfield says: “72 seasons. The first 18 years of our lives that form our true or false selves. The concept that we were told ‘who we are’ by our parents. A possible pigeonholing around what kind of personality we are.

“I think the most interesting part of this is the continued study of those core beliefs and how it affects our perception of the world today. Much of our adult experience is reenactment or reaction to these childhood experiences. Prisoners of childhood or breaking free of those bondages we carry.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.