Gary Holt Says James Hetfield Cheats On His Picking Style
James Hetfield of Metallica during MTV's Metallica "Icon" Taping- Rehearsals at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
In the rock scene, James Hetfield has been dubbed “the King of Downpicking.” While most people will agree with this remark, Gary Holt of Exodus has some criticisms about Metallica’s frontman during their live performances.
Hetfield, like many performers in the business, occasionally deceives the audience during his downpick parts, which he himself admitted. However, Holt claimed that he has witnessed Hetfield’s “cheating” take place during Metallica’s live performances. Holt said:
“Everybody cheats. Even James Hetfield cheats now. I’ve seen it enough times! If he’s doing a savage downpick section and then he throws in a ‘brrrp’ [motions descending slide], then that ‘brrrp’ is there for a reason. It allows you to lose a couple of notes.”
He also shared his own struggles and justified:
“It’s become really hard for me after battling this chronic tennis elbow in both arms. Toward the end of Slayer, I was getting so many cortisone injections I couldn’t even count them. It turns your tendons into mush! I have a friend who is a San Francisco Giants hand surgeon, and he saw my MRI and said I might need Tommy John Surgery. I couldn’t play anymore. I’d play for 10 minutes, and my arms would lock up. I’ve been through therapy and don’t have any injections anymore, so I’m good now, but downpicking is harder than it used to be. Age catches up!
“But I’m grateful I’m still playing every day and playing injection-free. I need my sound to be really good, and then I can ride. If I have to cheat a little more on downpicking because of it, so be it. Yeah, I’ll do the down, down, down, up – throwing in that little one. Usually, that’s all I need! And you mentioned ‘Verbal Razors.’ Damn, when I listen to that sh*t now, I think I must have been out of my mind! There’s so much downpicking, but then you’ve got to jump from the E string into all this riffage. That one is a challenge these days!”
Despite Holt’s troubles with doing the downpicking passages of “Verbal Razors,” the guitarist is no longer dependent on cortisone injections and considering Hetfield’s “cheating,” still, most guitarists strive to learn this complicated style of playing over the course of their careers.