JAMES HETFIELD On Going Back To Rehab: ‘My Life Was Needing Some Help’

James Hetfield

During a recent conversation with the METALLICA fan club publication So What!, lead guitarist and singer James Hetfield talks about his 2019 rehab comeback, the influence of the global crisis on him and his fellow METALLICA members, and the band’s forthcoming album, 72 Seasons, set to release this week.

Asked about his emotions and the stage he was at in his journey during the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Hetfield responds: “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.

He continues: “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. 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.”

Asked about the extent to which the 72 Seasons idea was influenced lyrically by his childhood experiences and the degree to which it was shaped by his role as a parent to his own kids, James said: “Well, ’72 seasons’ as a concept, that’s been digested from somewhere else. Meaning it was a concept — it was the ’72 seasons of sorrow,’ and I dropped the ‘sorrow’ part off because the first 18 years of life aren’t all sorrow. And we tend to just focus on that in our adult life, like, ‘I need to fix all the s**t that was wrong when I was a kid.’ There was great stuff as well, so 72 seasons, everyone’s got their version of what their 72 seasons were and what they mean to them now.

“Having kids definitely helps you understand your childhood and what your parents went through,” he continued. “More the latter. You know, me being a parent, like, ‘Come on, guys, give me a break. I’m just a human.’ But when you’re a kid, you look up to your parents as gods. They can do no wrong, and whatever they say is what’s supposed to be. Then, when you get older, you go, ‘Man, I’m sorry I put you guys up on a pedestal, made you gods, and blamed you for this and that, or wished differently, but you were just humans too. You were doing your best, and you were working with the tools of your parents.’

“It goes back generationally, and as a parent, really, what I want to do is maybe do it a little better than my parents did. That’s really what I want to ask of myself. There’s an inheritance of whatever they brought… you inherit some of those things. There’re some I need to work on, there’re some I need to completely forget, and there’re some I need to find. Everyone’s had a childhood. Most people I’ve met have had a childhood. Whether it’s good or bad, we can decide later on in life. You can’t change your childhood, but you can change your concept of it and what it means to you now.”

In a discussion with interviewer Steffan Chirazi, he observed that the lyrics of 72 Seasons serve as an additional outlet for James to express his darker side, to which James responded: “Well, it’s interesting to contemplate, you know. ‘Am I who I am just because of all that? Can I change? Can I not change? Am I capable of changing? Is this just ingrained, is it in the stars? I read my astrology thing for today, and this is just how it is?’ I don’t know. Nobody knows, and I certainly don’t, either. I know the parts of me that I’d like to change take work, and it’s hard work. But I’ve got awareness of it, and if there’s some things I can’t change, that’s really not up to me as well. But the ‘blame’ part, blaming my parents for all of this and that and whatnot, it’s got to stop. Because I have the capacity to make my own choices now. There’s a lot of psychology in this, and I can overthink all of it, but at the end of the day, is it these 72 seasons that form your true or false identity? Am I able to change or not? That’s a lifelong question.”

72 Seasons will be released on April 14th, 2023, and it will mark band’s first new material since 2016 and it will be released in formats including 2LP 140g black vinyl and limited-edition variants, CD and digital.