There's so much positivity around Metallica these days it's hard to imagine any major arguments in the band.
But everyone has bad days, everyone gets stressed out, and most of us are liable to snap at others when those feelings build up.
Speaking to The Ex-Man With Doc Coyle podcast about the work that goes into maintaining a functioning band, longtime Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo looked back on the last time he and frontman James Hetfield were genuinely nasty to one another.
To the pair's credit, their most recent instance of acrimony was at least three years ago while the band was on tour in Italy. Trujillo recalled a sorry sequence of events that put himself and Papa Het in mutually rude moods.
As the bassist recalls, there was an outbreak of poison oak in the touring party, Hetfield had recently been stung in the face by a bee, the weather was bad (for an outdoor stadium show) and Trujillo himself was in his head about his looming bass solo that night.
So I'm tense. And [James is] tense too, but we're tense about different things. And we're going on stage very soon and things are running late. And we're playing 'Memory Remains' [in the tuning room], and I'm just kind of jamming through it, but I'm not really jamming through it with full intensity; I'm just kind of ghosting it a little bit. And he's, like, '[Do] you know the song?' And this is a song we've played thousands of times. And I was insulted, because this is one of the easiest songs we play, and you're asking me if I know the song.
So I'm just kind of, like, 'Yeah, I know the fucking s…' I blew a fuse for a second. And then I felt horrible, and he felt horrible. And then we realized, I think, that I'm tripping on the load that I have on my shoulders over here; he's tripping on this and this and probably… I mean, I get it, man — I've had poison oak; I've had bee stings before, and it ain't fun. And you're out there and you're trying to be the best you can. So, rather than throwing your instruments down and coming to blows or anything like that, you work it out — you kind of calm yourself and you realize what's going on."
Trujillo says he's proud of the way Metallica has prioritized the relationships between band and crew over the years. He says they accept that they all "have our moments," but they try to do their best by one another.
For his part, as someone who's worked with numerous bands over the years, Trujillo says he knows that "anybody can be replaced," so it's wise to be "as respectful as possible" at all times.
"Because you're gonna have your ups and downs and you're gonna bump heads — that's a given — but it doesn't mean you quit or you hate the person of whatever," he said.
Hetfield recently had a "moment" of his own before a recent show in Brazil. He was so appreciative of the way his bandmates picked him up that he related the story from the stage to the audience of 60,000.
"I've gotta tell you, I wasn't feeling very good before I came out here," Hetfield said at the time. "Feeling a bit insecure, like I'm an old guy, I can't play anymore, all this bulls--t that I tell myself in my head. So I talked to these guys, and they helped me — as simple as that. They gave me a hug and said, 'Hey, if you're struggling on stage, we've got your back.' And I tell you, it means the world to me."
Trujillo, Ulrich and Kirk Hammett responded by rushing over to Hetfield for a group hug as the crowd cheered in support.
"And seeing you out there, I am not alone," he continued. "I am not alone, and neither are you."