James Hetfield has lavished praise upon two of his musical idols, Steve Harris and Brian May, after hanging out with them in Canada last month.
In a freshly published interview with Metallica’s official fan club magazine ‘So What!’, James was discussing the band’s Canadian shows on the WorldWired Tour where their paths crossed with both Iron Maiden and Queen + Adam Lambert.
“Everyone is here (in Toronto) at the same time - Dwight Yoakam and Tom Petty, Iron Maiden, Queen, they’re all in town. It’s really cool when there are days off and we get to go and watch someone else do their craft,” James said.
“Obviously hanging out with the Maiden guys… I mean 1981, hanging out in Hollywood, California, driving around with Ron McGovney (original Metallica bassist), me and Lars in the backseat, and seeing Steve Harris - we found out where they stayed - seeing Steve Harris walk down the street and us, y’know, dorky, shy metalheads shouting 'Hey, Steve!' and he actually turns around and starts walking towards us and we’re like (mimics panicking).
“That was, like, our first brush with somebody kinda cool and famous, so that always stuck with me. Steve Harris, super-down-to-earth, really cool guy. Nothing has changed. I mean, he showed up at the show that we did (in Quebec City).”
Steve Harris © Getty Images
James continued: "It's really cool when other musicians are hanging out, watching you do what you do. It takes to another level. You've gotta kind of go to Olympic metal mode — you step it up. Our set list was at least five minutes faster. Lars was so nervous: 'Oh, my God! Steve Harris is watching me!' 'Does this part sound too much like Iron Maiden?'
"Usually halfway through the show, you figure, 'Okay, he's gone and he's moved on to the next thing,' but no, for the whole show he was standing there; the whole show, to the very end. And not only was he there the whole time, he got in the vehicles with us, came to the hotel with us. Super-cool guy. And then we got to go see them a couple of days later. And likewise, super hospitable there."
Turning his attention to Brian May, James said: “Queen has been a huge inspiration in the early days for me guitar-wise, especially Brian May.
“Just watching Brian May, there was a moment in the show (during) ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, it was like this rock n’ roll dream I was looking at. I was right on, right at the sound desk looking at him… long ramp, he popped out of the middle just before his solo, there’s smoke, there’s a light behind him, white hair, y’know this big white aura around him. And he rises up out of the stage and he’s doing the solo and he’s in a giant silver cape from the seventies look and Kirk and I just looked at each other like ‘Holy S***! This is awesome!’”
Reflecting upon hanging out with Brian backstage on the eve of his 70th birthday, James added: “We were total fanboys at that point and then after the show Brian says ‘I wonder if Kirk likes what I’m playing?’ And Kirk and I look at each other like ‘Huh?! Yeah Brian May’s just said that’.
“We met his roadie and we were all hanging out… and I’m thinking ‘what’s that on your back? Is that THE guitar?’ And he says ‘Oh yeah’. (I said) ‘Um okay, is there any way possible I can just take a look at it?’ He’s like ‘Oh yeah, Bri is it ok if he takes a look at it?’ (Brian says) ‘Oh sure!’
“So he takes it out and I’m jamming on Brian May’s original guitar that him and his dad made when he was 18 years old and he still has it on tour and he still plays it every night! It was spectacular. And then Brian leans over to me and he’s taking selfies. I was like ‘Oh my god’, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was extremely cool. And then Kirk’s like ‘My turn!’, ‘Okay, here you go’. So we all got to play Brian’s guitar.
“It was a super memorable, unforgettable moment. If I’m alive at 70 (like Brian May), I’m that cool and that down-to-earth and… loving life, he’s so serene. A big inspiration so far as all that goes.”
Metallica have just four shows left on the North American leg of their WorldWired tour. They come to the UK for five completely and utterly sold out gigs in October.