As a co-architect of the grunge sound and one of the biggest rock stars to come out of the '90s, Cantrell has had plenty of brushes with greatness. (He was once gifted an entire tour-worthy guitar rig by Eddie Van Halen.)
But Cantrell tells Metal Hammer that jamming with Hetfield in 2006 was one of the "coolest things" he's ever done.
As someone whose written his fair share of songs and attempted fronting his own band while also handling complex rhythm guitar parts, Cantrell says he knows that Papa Het is as good as it gets.
"As a guitarist, I come from the Malcolm Young school of rock, which is about rhythm and songwriting," Cantrell explained. "If you talk to anybody, I'm not really known as a virtuoso soloist. Where it's at for me is rhythm, tone, feel and arrangement. I think James comes from that school too."
He continued that, as a frontman, Hetfield's "physical presence" is unmatched: "Nobody commands the same kind of respect and attention without it being self-seeking or egocentric."
"He's all about the music; all about the fun and the celebration and the connection with the fans. And that to me is really inspiring. Especially because he's done this for so long, and he's been at the top of his game for so long and he continues to search for a deeper meaning. I can't wait to see what he does next."
But Hetfield is also the leader of a musical movement. Cantrell noted that when Metallica started, the band was playing just about the most extreme, niche music imaginable. The band "took it worldwide" anyway and built itself into being one of the biggest rock acts in history.
With its 2020 tour dates canceled, Metallica has started working on a new album virtually.
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