James Hetfield Talks Metallica Owning Their Label and Masters: ‘We Can Put Our Music Out Our Way’
Most major-label artists never have the opportunity to own their masters outright — and if they do, they typically only command that kind of cash toward the end of their careers. As they have in so many other ways, Metallica are the exception to that rule.
The band gained control over its masters in 2012, launching their Blackened Recordings imprint after buying their back catalog from longtime label Elektra. As frontman James Hetfield recently told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, running your own record company means no small amount of additional responsibility — but with it comes the type of power many artists can only dream of.
"As if we don’t have enough going on," laughed Hetfield. "We finally own our masters, we can put our music out our way. We even bought our own record press, over in Germany. It’s awesome. You can do colors, you can do whatever you want."
Hetfield was in town for Metallica's appearance at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, where they opened the venue with a livestreamed performance on Aug. 20. Asked whether they timed the announcement of their upcoming Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct LP to the show, he pointed out that the album's birth wasn't as carefully planned as something they might have put together during their major-label days.
"We’ve been working on this record, realistically, for eight years," said Hetfield. "But it’s been two years starting to put songs together and, literally, the last two months is when it all started to come together. There’s no rules anymore as far as you’ve got to do what the record company says or what the manager says. It’s got to be cool and fun for us, that’s the number one priority."
Now that the record is officially on its way to stores, it's only natural to wonder whether the Minneapolis gig will serve as a prelude to a full-fledged world tour — and the answer is no, as far as Hetfield is concerned.
"We’re not planning to go out and kill ourselves for three years. We love the road, we respect the road. But it can kill you," he warned. "We’ve paid our dues. We want to tour smarter, be prepped for every gig, feel in the best health we can. It might be no two-in-a-rows. Maybe we’re only out for two weeks at a time. We just want, by the end of each show, to know we gave it our all and we feel great about it."
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