If you think Metallica have harsh words for Napster, that's nothing compared to what they have to say about one another.
In a Playboy magazine interview that hits newsstands Monday (March 5), the reasons for bassist Jason Newsted's January departure see ("Bassist Jason Newsted Leaves Metallica") become clear.
In addition to the sometimes-hurtful hazing Newsted received after replacing the previous bassist, Cliff Burton, who died in 1986, much of Newsted's strife stems from a side project that singer/guitarist James Hetfield forbade him from releasing, according to the interview. A band rule holds that no member is allowed to engage in extracurricular activities while still brandishing the Metallica name.
"Fans have always viewed Metallica as something they can rely on: We're always there, always strong, and that's a band," Hetfield says in the interview. "We've been the same guys since day one, essentially. The only way you can get out of this band is if you die. ... When someone does a side project, it takes away from the strength of Metallica." Newsted, meanwhile, sees Hetfield's views as hypocritical, since the frontman sang in the South Park movie and appears on "just about every Corrosion of Conformity album," the bassist says. Interviewer Rob Tannenbaum evidently struck a nerve with his line of questioning, as Newsted then politely asked that the subject be changed.
Despite the bickering, the band's former bassist maintains in the interview that he "would not leave Metallica for another band." "I would do it to live my life," Newsted says. True to his word, the official statement released in January cited "private and personal reasons" for his departure.
Throughout the article, the bandmates take various other shots at one another, most in response to the interviewer relaying another member's disparaging comment. Many of Hetfield's particularly pointed barbs were aimed at drummer Lars Ulrich, whose percussion skills come under fire ("To this day, he is not Drummer of the Year. We all know that."), as well as his outspokenness: "Spoiled that's why he's got his mouth." Ulrich retaliated with digs of his own, the most scornful of which is about Hetfield's alleged struggle with his sexuality. "I know he's homophobic," Ulrich is quoted as saying. "Let there be no question about that. I think homophobia is questioning your sexuality and not being comfortable with it." Other topics covered in the probing, 12-page feature include Metallica's war with file-sharing service Napster, criticism from fans and the press, various band makeovers both musically and fashion-wise early alcoholic road stories and groupies.
The three remaining members of Metallica plan to enter a studio in April to begin recording their eighth album, at which time they'll contemplate filling Newsted's vacant slot. (see "Metallica Won't Look For New Bass Player Until April").
A spokesperson for the band's management declined to comment on the interview, which appears in the magazine's April issue.
Internal turmoil notwithstanding, Ulrich assures fans that Metallica as a band won't follow Newsted's path. "Ultimately, we have a love and respect for each other that supersedes the bickering. The key thing is, we're f---ing still here. And we're the only ones that are still here. For whatever conflicts you keep talking about, we still find a way to exist as a working unit, and pretty much at the drop of a dime go onstage and kick everybody else's ass."