“There has been a lot of talk recently about us asking the military not to use our music to ‘soften people up before interrogation,'” Metallica wrote on the group’s website. “We NEVER commented to the military either way on this matter. Any statements that have been made otherwise are not correct.”
The military’s reported use of Metallica’s music has been long discussed, including by SPIN in David Peisner’s 2006 piece Music As Torture: War Is Loud. But the Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden broke new ground in a recent Esquire story. First, the Shooter confirmed the military had indeed played Metallica’s music to psychologically torture prisoners. Second, he said the military had stopped using the music after, in his words, “Metallica got wind of this and they said, ‘Hey, please don’t use our music because we don’t want to promote violence.'” (The Shooter said the military then shifted to using music by Christian metal band Demon Hunter, who responded to the story with a statement describing themselves as “humbled.”)
Metallica’s statement leaves it unclear exactly what the Shooter might’ve meant by his quote. If the Shooter is referring to Metallica’s public statements rather than some private communication between the band and the military, his account is hard to support with the facts available. In a 2008 interview, frontman James Hetfield chose not to condemn the military’s use of his group’s music for torture, instead expressing mixed feelings: He said was both “proud” and “kind of bummed.” In a 2009 interview, drummer Lars Ulrich did say the band doesn’t “advocate or condone” the use of their music for torture, but he stopped short of calling on the military to stop doing it. And the article doesn’t say exactly when the Shooter switched from Metallica to Demon Hunter, so it might’ve been before 2009. We don’t know.
Metallica wouldn’t be the first ones to challenge some of the facts in Esquire‘s article, a blockbuster piece by former San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein that stirred instant National Magazine Award speculation. As Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, who has written for SPIN, explains, Stars and Stripes has challenged the implication that the military left the Shooter without health-care benefits when he quit. Esquire issued an unbylined retort that ultimately included a correction. If the magazine provides any further clarification or correction about the Metallica-torture situation, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.