Even professional musicians that have dedicated their lives to perfecting their craft have to shake off the rust when they pick up their instrument after a time off.
Metallica frontman James Hetfield took part in an interview with the band’s fan-club magazine and spoke about the anxiety he felt preparing for the band’s drive-in concert that was held in August. It was a combination of factors that led to this. The COVID-19 pandemic and the time that’s elapsed since he last played with the band.
Hetfield has been quarantining in Colorado where he’s been able to enjoy the community and outdoor environment. "Here in Colorado, [having] been here for months and months, you know, in your little cocoon, building your community and buddies and all the stuff that we love doing outside,” he said. “There's been a lot less quarantine here in the mountains than most cities, which I'm really grateful for.”
He and his Metallica bandmates would talk about their situation during their weekly Zoom calls. Hetfield mentioned how different Lars Ulrich’s situation is in San Francisco compared to what he was experiencing. “Lars is talking about being in his home in San Francisco and he's, you know, not leaving. He's getting things delivered, and how he hasn't been in a grocery store in four or five months. That just blows my mind,” he said.
“I'm really fortunate here. I've got four or five buddies to come over, barbecue, we go shooting, we go camping, we go fishing, whatever. There's grocery stores, the Home Depot, all the normal stuff. Very grateful for that.
When it came time to prepare for the band’s drive-in concert, Hetfield admitted his anxiety was high. "Getting back together with the guys was anxiety ridden. I mean, it really was,” he said.
“Getting on a plane, traveling. And then what we really had to do was make the least comfortable person comfortable with all of this COVID and testing and whatnot. So double masks, face shields, rain slickers, hazmat suits, you know. Walk into a, whatever the little smoking things that they had, little fogger to fog your backpacks, and there was every precaution taken that was available. Some people just feel a little more freaked out by this, feel safer with a different cautionary level. So I think we did a great job in that department. But getting back and playing was just scary.”
On top of the anxiety caused by the pandemic, Hetfield also said it took a little longer to get his musical chops going. “After almost a year, you get up there and, 'Wow, I can't play as quick as I used to, I can't this or…' And it's all the same stuff that's happened over the years, where we have nightmares before getting back together, and then as soon as we play, everything's fine. It's just that messed up creative mind that's the blessing and curse, you know?"