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Metallica’s James Hetfield Says Cliff Burton ‘Here in Spirit,’ Band Streams Remastered ‘Creeping Death’

Metallica James Hetfield
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

This year is huge for Metallica with the thrash kings keeping quite a few plates spinning at once. With a new album looming, the band has also prepared deluxe reissues of their first two records, Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning. Metallica are also celebrating the 30th anniversary of Master of Puppets, which has also brought forth discussion about the late Cliff Burton, who tragically passed away in 1986. James Hetfield went into detail about everything surrounding the busy year in the latest Met Club interview.

When talking about sifting through the archives for special content for the album reissues, Hetfield recalled certain memories that came flooding back when seeing images from back in the day, especially those regarding Burton. The frontman stated, “The obvious stuff too… things with Cliff… like, ‘Oh my God, that gig, that stage, we have the amps underneath the thing,’ and just lots of cool memories, you know? And it just, it makes me grateful that somehow that picture came back into my life. Because I do miss those times. I miss Cliff a lot. I think about him quite often. But it also makes me realize that you know, he’s here in spirit. He’s not here physically, but there are people that are here physically, and let’s have some good times now.”

He went on to detail how he and the rest of the band numbed the pain of the loss, adding, “We drank a lot. And then when Cliff passed away it was doubled, you know? Took twice as much to stuff it down. And [I] never, ever really grieved. Obviously we’ve talked about this, where we just went back out, started touring again, and that was supposedly the remedy to shake it off and to get back on the horse, all the clichés.”

Talking about his 2001 stint in rehab and the chance to finally openly grieve about Burton’s death, Hetfield said, “I think just by [opening up to the] memories, just by thinking about him, feeling his presence, that’s how grieving is happening for me over a longer period of time.” Shifting to his present day feelings, the frontman went on, “I miss him more as a person than as a musician, and that’s different for me. You know, back in the day, he and I were pretty alike as far as things that we liked and things that we liked to do. I think I learned a lot from him, and I learned a lot after he passed. You know, ‘What would Cliff do?’ But I think I’m able to be more myself, and he taught me that, you know? He helped teach me that it’s OK to be different and to stand up for what you believe in. You don’t have to have all the ammo in the world to fight the war, just be you. That’s enough.”

When the focus returned to the Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning remasters and all the work that went into digging up as much rare content as possible, Hetfield said, “All the old stuff, some of the outtakes, we have the equivalent of the FBI working on this stuff trying to find things from back then. You know, ‘Somebody’s gotta have this,’ and after the years and years of not thinking about it, you go ‘Wait a minute, there’s gotta be a different version of this when we recorded it. Did we only record it once and that was that? What happened to all this other stuff?’ So little things are showing up from the old studio. For example, ‘Here’s the microphone you sang Kill ‘Em All on.’ Are you kidding me? So I now have that here at the studio.”

As we inch closer to the April 15 release date for the reissues, Metallica have been steadily serving up streams of some of their classic tracks. The latest is a remastered version of “Creeping Death” off Ride the Lightning, which can be heard in the player below.

Metallica, “Creeping Death” Remaster

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