Bassless Metallica To Begin Work On New Album

Metal icons feel 'tremendous amount of freedom' despite Playboy interview documenting discord.

UNIVERSAL CITY, California — Metallica won't let a little thing like not having a bassist stop them from getting started on their next album.

"Obviously before we play any shows, we're gonna need someone playing bass," singer/guitarist James Hetfield said Saturday (April 7) during the ESPN Action Sports & Music Awards (see "Metallica, Moby, Eminem Score At ESPN Awards"). "But we can still write and record and do some things together. We have a total free-form attitude right now, so we could go any which way we want. It's a great place to be."

Though they're "starting to entertain" the idea of finding a new bassist, Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett and drummer Lars Ulrich plan to spend time jamming and possibly recording new material before they buckle down for their search.

"Right now the three of us are gaining strength — the three of us are getting our sh-- together and whoever comes into this is gonna have to put up with a lot," Hetfield said. "We're really enjoying each other's company and retouching on things we haven't connected on in a long time. It's a fun and healthy time for us."

Hetfield said Metallica has moved beyond the internal friction evident in the April issue of Playboy, which features an interview done with the band prior to bassist Jason Newsted's January departure. Bandmembers incessantly take shots at one another in the 12-page article. Hetfield knocks Ulrich's drum skills, for example, while Ulrich calls the singer homophobic. It also implies that Newsted's departure resulted from Hetfield forbidding him from releasing a side project as well as the hurtful hazing he received after replacing Cliff Burton, who died in 1986 (see "Metallica Bare All In Playboy").

"A lot of people don't realize that's how we really talk to each other — they think it's all mean," Hetfield said. "At the end of the day, it documents a time in our history when we're probably the most fractured, and it's good to look back on that for inspiration. Why just highlight the great times? Highlight the sh-- times, too."

Hetfield said they've been in touch with Newsted since he left.

"Jason's still very much our friend," Hammett said. "We can't stress that enough."

The upcoming album will be Metallica's first studio effort since 1998's double-disc cover collection, Garage Inc. Though they expect to have a new record out by next year, Metallica enjoy the liberation of life without deadlines.

"The best thing about where we're at right now is we don't have anything in front of us," Ulrich said. "We for once feel a tremendous amount of freedom to basically do whatever we want and whatever comes to us."

"I'm actually working on my surfing," Hammett said.

"I'm working on my marriage," Ulrich said.

"I'm working on my next beer," Hetfield said.