James Hetfield turned 51 years old on Sunday (August 3). The METALLICA singer/guitarist's former bandmate Dave Mustaine took to Twitter to wish James a happy birthhday, calling Hetfield "my first real guitar partner" and adding, "We changed the world, brother!"
Born in 1963 in Downey, California, James was the son of a truck driver named Virgil and a singer named Cynthia. Hetfield's parents were Christian Scientists and strongly disapproved of the use of any kind of medicine or medical treatments, even when Cynthia was dying of cancer in 1979. This upbringing inspired many of METALLICA's later songs, such as "The God That Failed". Hetfield also had two older half-brothers from his mother's first marriage and a younger sister.
Hetfield took up piano at the age of nine and began playing guitar at 14. He was in bands called LEATHER CHARM and OBSESSION during his teen years. In October 1981 he answered a classified ad placed in a local paper called Recycler by Danish drummer Lars Ulrich, and METALLICA was born.
Hetfield told The Pulse Of Radio he still recalls the group's first gig, with original lead guitarist Dave Mustaine. "First METALLICA show was at Radio City in Anaheim. I remember the first song we played, Dave broke a string, and I was stranded up there. I was just singing, I wasn't playing guitar back then, and I was so uncomfortable, I was like, 'So, how's it going...' There were about 200 people. You know, your first gig, everyone shows up. Second gig, there's about 20, you know. [laughs]"
Solidifying the lineup with bassist Cliff Burton and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, who replaced Mustaine, METALLICA signed to Megaforce Records in 1983 and released its debut album, "Kill 'Em All", in July of that year, while also relocating from the Los Angeles area to San Francisco.
Little Kids Rock, the nation's leading nonprofit provider of music instruction and instruments to public schools, honored METALLICA frontman James Hetfield at the charity's annual "Rockin' The Bay Benefit" on Saturday, November 9 at Facebook's Menlo Park, California headquarters. Hetfield was recognized for his ongoing support for and contributions to the organization and received the inaugural "Livin' The Dream Award," which was created in honor of Josef Desimone, the late executive chef of Facebook who spearheaded this benefit forLittle Kids Rock and who was a huge fan of METALLICA.
Video footage of Hetfield performing with kids at the "Rockin' The Bay Benefit" can be seen below.
More photos are available at the METALLICA Facebook page.
"We're presenting James with this special award as a way to not only recognize his support ofLittle Kids Rock over the years, but also his role as an inspirational presence in a band that has revolutionized and defined a music genre," said David Wish, Little Kids Rock founder and executive director.
"Josef was a passionate philanthropist who touched our lives with his generosity and we know he would've been proud to see James honored at the event held in his memory."
The benefit assembled a star-studded lineup of musical luminaries to help raise awareness and funds for its mission of revitalizing music programs in school districts whose music programming has been impacted by budget cuts. This year, Jeff Campitelli, most famously known as the drummer on Joe Satriani's various albums, and Marcus Henderson, critically acclaimed heavy metal guitarist known for his role as the lead guitarist for the Guitar Hero series, joined Little Kids Rock in celebrating James Hetfield and eleven years of service to schoolchildren in the Bay Area.
"I'm a firm believer in creative expression through music. It is important to have it available from a young age, which is why I support Little Kids Rock's mission to make music education accessible to children," said Hetfield. "I've seen how music changes people's lives for the better and I am honored to have a part in helping the organization enrich young lives through the lifelong gift of music education."
Founded in a single classroom in East Palo Alto in 2002, Little Kids Rock currently funds modern music programming for more than 112,000 public school children in 12 states, including over 3,500 in the Bay Area.
The "Rockin' The Bay Benefit" is held annually in the Bay Area to support schools in the region in which Little Kids Rock was founded.
Each year, the benefit features a fun night of music and live auctions, as well as a number of musical performances from special guests. Last year's guests included Sammy Hagar, BLACK EYED PEAS' Taboo, and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame drummer Matt Sorum (GUNS N' ROSES,VELVET REVOLVER). The event raised enough money to put more than 5,000 rock instruments and educational programming into local public schools, providing free music lessons to tens of thousands of children in the Bay Area.
The four members of METALLICA spoke to HuffPost Canada about the progress of the songwriting sessions for the long-awaited follow-up to the band's 2008 album, "Death Magnetic", tentatively due in 2015.
"Writing music is somewhat important to us," METALLICA frontman James Hetfield said. "We focus. Focus."
"That's the plan," added guitarist Kirk Hammett. "We'll start writing the album. We were supposed to start last year [laughs] but there you have it; we'll see how it goes."
"We are looking forward to making a record," drummer Lars Ulrich said.
"It's not even penciled anymore," said bassist Robert Trujillo. "We're going to have to do this."
"Up at HQ in northern California, we've already done, what, two or three dances there," saidUlrich. "We've got a lot of the basic stuff waded through. When we write, we have a very peculiar writing process; we don't sit down and go, 'Okay, A to E to let's come up with something.' Ninety-five percent of our records come from jams — literally pre-concert jams, tuning room jams, all this kind of stuff — so everything we do is always recorded," he explains.
"The biggest time consuming element of us making a record is listening to all the stuff that we've recorded. So there's five years worth of stuff. We've listened to about 80 percent of it. We've done two or three dances maybe, collectively six weeks to just listen through the ideas and kind of grade them."
"Process of elimination, too, at the same time," Trujillo interjected.
Continued Ulrich: "Grade them. Five stars, four stars, three stars, and then we take all the five stars bits and try to make songs out of them."
"But during that time we're having a blast, really a lot of fun doing it," added Trujillo, "so if we can continue with that spirit, we're gonna have a good time making this record."
Ulrich acknowledged in a new interview with U.K.'s Kerrang! magazine that the band's next studio album is unlikely to arrive before 2015 at the earliest. The drummer explained: "Obviously, there are a lot of people asking where the next record is. We're going to make another record, but like I said before, we don't really feel this kind of… what's the word? I guess 'responsibility' is probably the right word. We don't feel this inherent responsibility to just churn out records whenever people want them. [Adopts a sarcastic voice] 'I'm sorry! Let me slap myself on the wrists and go make a record for you!' We'll get 'round to it again."
Asked about a possible release date for METALLICA's next CD, Ulrich replied: "Actually, we know the date… no, we don't! If I was betting on this, I would say 2015 — that's where my money is. So if you think of the actual age of this planet, if it's been 75 billion years since dinosaurs walked the Earth or whatever, then one year is basically a blink of an eye, right?"
Ulrich also spoke about METALLICA's mindset going into the songwriting phase for the band's next album. He explained: "The only thing I can tell you is that there seems to be a consensus in the band that [2008's] 'Death Magnetic' was a really good record that we're proud of, that had good legs on it — meaning that it still sounds really rocking five years later. And I can tell you that with most of the previous METALLICA records, I found any faults, I had any issues with them way, way sooner than five years. So the stuff that we've been jamming on is certainly not a million miles removed from where we left off from 'Death Magnetic'. But two years from now, when I sit and talk to you about the new record, it'll probably be a different story from the six-year-old looking for the ice cream shop."
According to Lars, there is no shortage of ideas for METALLICA's next CD, with the guys having met up twice in the last six months to cook up some tasty riffs in the studio.
"We have more riffs than we know what to do with," Ulrich said. "We talked about setting up a special riff thing, where maybe we could share some of these riffs with others, like an eBaykind of thing for leftover riffs. Some of them are actually quite decent, but we won't be able to use all of them."
METALLICA frontman James Hetfield recently spoke to The Detroit News about the progress of the songwriting sessions for the follow-up to the band's 2008 album "Death Magnetic".
"We have been pushing that further and further away," Hetfield said. "We want to make a record, that's what we do best and that’s what we've gotta do in springtime. We've got skeleton bones that we're starting to lay out to make something out of it, but there's a lot of work ahead of us that we're really excited about doing. And that will be next year."
Hetfield was also asked if the group planned to stage a third installment of its Orion Music + More festival in Detroit next year, after bringing the show's second edition there last June.
The guitarist/vocalist replied: "I sure hope so, that is the plan. The festival itself is not 100 percent greenlit yet. There’s gotta be a powwow where all of us get together and make sure we’re on the same page."
This year's Orion two-day event drew at least 20,000 people a day to see METALLICA, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, DEFTONES, SILVERSUN PICKUPS, RISE AGAINST and more.
METALLICA surprised fans at Orion Music + More on June 8 by playing its 1983 debut disc "Kill 'Em All" from beginning to end on a smaller stage at the event. METALLICA was officially announced to play a headlining set on June 9 to close out the festival, but hit the stage at 4:30 p.m. one day earlier for a 10-song set that started with "Hit The Lights" and finished out with "Metal Militia".
The four members of METALLICA took part in a press conference prior to the band's August 24 performance at Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore. You can watch video footage of the question-and-answer session below.
On how they deal with the physical demands of touring:
Kirk Hammett (guitar): "I do a lot of yoga. We're all pretty physical. Rob [bassist Robert Trujillo] and I like ot surf. We just got off a week-long stint in Bali, surfing a lot. You know, it's important to keep maintenance on the road — eat well, sleep well, and just make sure the engine inside is running well. It's really important. 'Cause the last thing I wanna do is drop on stage."
Robert Trujillo: "You go through transitions in life, and you have to adjust, and you have to listen to your body and you have to listen to your spirit and really focus on what that means. And you will continue to enjoy life and do things that you couldn't imagine. I mean, to be honest, at least for Kirk and I, we're surfing better than we ever have in our life right now, at our age, which is pretty cool. So if you take that to the stage as well, it's the same principle. You get up there, you play hard and you just know your body and don't push the limits too far so you don't hurt yourself."
Lars Ulrich (drums): "We have two guys downstairs who take care of stretching us and putting us back into shape — our necks and our arms and everything. They're among the two hardest-working guys in rock and roll. So we take all that stuff really seriously. I mean, if you could see our [tour] rider, it's carrots and strange vegetables and nasty fruit juices. It's not what it was back in the day, thankfully. But yeah, we do take [staying healthy] very seriously. Absolutely."
On how long they can keep METALLICA going:
James Hetfield (guitar, vocals): "We'll do this until we don't wanna do it anymore; it's as simple as that. There's no use doing something your heart is not in. But for us, we love what we do and we're blessed that way."
On what advice they would give to young, up-and-coming bands: