Metallica's James Hetfield Talks Bataclan Attack: 'Why There?'

"To actually have played a gig in a place that this has happened [at] ... it’s surreal," singer-guitarist says

Metallica's James Hetfield reacted to last year's terrorist attack on the Parisian venue Bataclan, while discussing the band's Bataclan live album Credit: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty

As Metallica readies a special Record Store Day CD of their 2003 performance at Paris' Le Bataclan, James Hetfield reflected on last November's terrorist attack on an Eagles of Death Metal concert in a new interview. "My first reaction was, 'Why there?' And then, 'Who was playing?'" he said in an interview with So What!, the band's fanzine, which is accessible with free registration. "I learned it was the Eagles [of Death Metal]. And I also learned that Deftones were playing there the next night. So they were there that afternoon, just to check out the Eagles, and about half an hour before the incident happened, they decided to leave and thank God they did. … Just the insanity of that."

Metallica played Le Bataclan on June 11th, 2003, a few days after the release of their St. Anger album. It was one of three Paris venues the group performed at that day, and some of songs from Bataclan later appeared on their Some Kind of Monster EP. A recording of the entire concert will come out on April 16th, Record Store Day, as a CD with the title Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! - Live at Le Bataclan. Paris, France - June 11th, 2003. The band will be donating proceeds from sales of the album to Fondation de France's Give for France charity. Metallica are this year's Record Store Day Ambassadors.

Hetfield recalled Metallica's Bataclan set – the second of the three Paris performances – as one of the hottest concerts he ever played. "The walls were dripping, sweating," he said. "There was no air, and I remember I felt fortunate to be on the stage moving around at least. … We had to take a break, ice buckets with towels and you know, you're throwing them on you to get your temperature down a little bit."

The singer also vividly recalled leaning against a wall in a stairway backstage that goes down to a side exit just to cool off. "Obviously it is not suffering compared to what's happened there recently – there's been some really insane suffering and insanity that's happened in there recently – but to actually have played a gig in a place that this has happened … it's surreal. It's extremely surreal. And seeing the footage of the alleyway, the one where that stairwell goes down to … brutal."

Hetfield said later that he was happy to celebrate his band's relationship with France with a release "celebrating something wonderful that happened there."

The day before Record Store Day, Metallica will also be releasing two deluxe, expanded reissues of their first two albums, 1983's Kill 'Em All and 1984's Ride the Lightning. Both feature combinations of vinyl, CDs and DVDs, and include previously unreleased demos, full live concerts, archival interviews and more.