Lars Ulrich’s Struggle With Opening Up Metallica Writing Process
James Hetfield explained why he wanted to involve all four members of Metallica in the writing process for their latest album 72 Seasons, and said it had taken Lars Ulrich a while to come round to the idea.
In the past, almost all writing duties were covered by Hetfield and Ulrich, with former bassist Jason Newsted recently describing them as a the "best garage duo ever." But when the band's thoughts turned to their 11th album, Hetfield was certain he wanted to change that.
"I was much more ready to open my heart to everyone in the band: lyrically, emotionally, and creatively," the frontman said in an interview with fan club magazine So What! (video below). "I was really an advocate, going out of my way to say, 'Send in your riffs. We need stuff, c'mon!' I don't want to sit there with 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 them."
Asked about Ulrich's reaction to the idea, Hetfield reflected: "Well, I think we all have fear of change...fear of change or, 'Wait, this is working; let's just keep going with it.' But as an artist...I like those challenges. I don't like them out in the regular life very much. I don't like changes and challenges. But in the studio, I feel comfortable with it, and I think Lars eventually understood why and where I was trying to go with it."
He went on to say that even when bandmates Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo felt they had nothing to add, it felt good to know the "white space for input" was there. At other times, "Lars would be looking at me [and he'd say], 'What do you feel the next part is?' And I would just be quiet. Just say, 'What do you guys think? What are you guys feeling?' It felt really free to kind of just sit back and let the process happen more."
He allowed: "And yeah, it did take longer, and we might have gone through 10 ideas that didn't work to get to one that did, but if you’re not out there mining for gold, you're not gonna find any. So there were nuggets that came out of it that were just amazing."
Watch James Hetfield's So What! Interview