Metallica: 'Who Would Think A Band Like Us Would Be Accepted Like That'

Kirk Hammett talked about his early influences, his musical position in the band, and which newer bands he's been listening to lately.

Metallica: 'Who Would Think A Band Like Us Would Be Accepted Like That'
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As a music journalist you get the chance to interview all kinds of interesting musicians. It's without question, one of the perks of the jobs. That said I wasn't prepared for what my friend at Warner Bros Records proposed a few weeks back. He asked me if I would be interested in interviewing Kirk Hammett. I thought about it for a millisecond; if that. Being a 34 year old guy who grew up on a steady diet of Metallica records, it was a chance to talk shop with one of my guitar heroes. Many wrote Metallica off in the early 2000's when they released the universally maligned St. Anger but 2008's Death Magnetic was a complete return to form. The lead-off single, "The Day That Never Comes" had all of the familiar traits that made the band legends in the first place. The epic arrangement, James Hetfield's unmistakable snarl, the shifting tempos, and Hammet's speed-metal injected solos silenced the naysayers in one swift move. Death Magnetic is the sound of a band coming full circle. The collection ranks up there with the rest of the group's most coveted releases. I spoke with Hammett last weekend before he hit the stage at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA. Since this was done for Ultimate-Guitar, I chose to focus the conversation on his career playing. We talked about his early influences, his musical position in the band, and which newer bands he's been listening to lately. So with much honor, I present the Ultimate-Guitar interview with Metallica's Kirk Hammett. UG: First off, congrats on being voted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame! Metallica and Black Sabbath have to be the heaviest bands to ever get in there. Kirk Hammett: (laughter) Thanks man! Yeah, we just got the official word from them so we're still wrapping our heads around the idea. Who would have ever thought a band like us would be accepted like that? It's an honor either way. Due to the nature of the site that this interview will be going to, I wanted to ask you more about guitar than anything else. That sounds good to me. I love talking guitar. Thinking back, which guitarists had the most impact on you when you first started playing? I know you have mentioned your love for UFO. Yeah man, I really loved those UFO records! Michael Schenker had a big impression on me when I first started playing guitar. I was also struck by Jimi Hendrix at a young age. If I remember it correctly, I caught a documentary about Jimi when I was a kid and I was hooked. Something about his style just moved me. He's a guy I still listen to all the time. Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top was huge. Oh man, I still remember when Van Halen's debut album hit stores. That was life changing!
"I was also struck by Jimi Hendrix at a young age."
We all know Eddie Van Halen as this guitar god or whatever but I guess for some of our younger readers they might not really be aware how radical his playing was for the time. When you first heard Eddie's performances you knew things had changed. There was nothing like it dude. All of a sudden you knew you had to step your game up. A few other guitarists that I worshipped back then were Robin Trower and Pat Travers. Your readers should check them out if they haven't already. These guys are the ones that helped shape the way I play. Were you one of those players who would sit in their room and run through scales for hours on end or did learn more from playing along to records? Without question, I would say the latter. I would throw an album on and learn the solo little by little till I nailed it. This was obviously before the internet and tablatures being so readily available so it must have been a great way to train your ears. I think it was. I would figure out what key the song was in and then just solo over the whole damn thing (laughter)! It made me comfortable enough to play along with the tempos and everything else. But I definitely would break the solo parts down and learn them. That was the way I really got started. You played in Exodus before you joined Metallica. Was there a big stylistic/technique shift for you when you first entered the picture? Metallica were still playing more in the Motrhead school of things and not as technical as you guys went on to be but I wondered if there was some level of adjustment on your part. Oh yeah, for sure. I realized I had to step up my rhythm playing right away. Even then Metallica was trying to get tighter and play more accurately. James was already a monster rhythm player at that point. I had to work hard to keep up with him in that sense. It was the summer of 1983 that I recall James just getting so fucking good at the rhythm stuff. I got better around 1984 and started going in a modal direction. But yeah, James always had a real knack for the rhythmic kind of stuff. Anyone who has seen A Year And A Half In The Life of Metallica and Classic Albums: The Black Album knows how hard producer Bob Rock worked you when you were tracking your solos. I've always wondered what it was like working with Flemming Rasmussen. It was night and day man. Flemming was more concerned with tuning and pitch. He was a perfectionist about that. Precision was also something he would focus on more than any other producer I've had a chance to record with yet. We would play parts over and over until it got to a point he was happy with in terms of the precision. How about your solos? What I would do on those albums was double track my solos note for fucking note! It was really difficult at times. All I wanted to get back then was a fuller sound so that is the way we went about reaching that. It's not till I started doing the self-titled album with Bob that I stopped doing that. Bob was more into a greasier, looser guitar tone and playing style. It was perfect for me because at the time I was listening to a lot of blues. I learned a lot from those sessions. Since the band broke in the mid 80's, how much time do you find yourself playing on your own time when you're not on tour or in the studio? I'm not sure if a lot of people know but I took guitar lessons from Joe Satriani in the early 80's. That was really helpful. But most of the stuff I've picked up over the years has been by learning from listening to other players. In the 90's I did take lessons again. That time it was with a great jazz player from the Bay Area named Scott Foster. This guy is insanely good! He would sit there and transcribe John Coltrane which is crazy. I'm sure between your family and all of the band commitments it has to be hard to find time to set aside for lessons. That's so true. If I could just find some time down the line I would love to take classical lessons but that won't be for awhile the way things are going. With little kids running around the house it seems like I won't be getting the chance any time soon.
"I'm not sure if a lot of people know but I took guitar lessons from Joe Satriani in the early 80's."
Do your kids take lessons? No, way too young for now but I will try and get them into it down the line. My newest was just born over the summer. My other son is still too young but we'll see what happens. I know our time here is short so I wanted to get this one of the way. Are they're any younger players and/or bands that have caught your attention? A lot of people must assume since you guys are so big that you probably don't check out newer groups. Right. But yeah, I do actually look for stuff to listen to all the time. Let me think here It doesn't have to necessarily have to be metal or anything. In terms of newer, younger bands I love Trivium. They have great playing going on. Lamb of God are really good too. We're on tour with them and they kick ass. Robb Flynn from Machine Head is great. I love the way he plays guitar and writes too. We've toured with them too so that was fun. A friend of mine recently played me a band from the Bay Area I hadn't heard of before that I love at the moment. Damn, I can't think of their name! Let's see here Perish or something like that? Oh! You mean All Shall Perish? All Shall Perishyes! They blew me away dude! They have so much technique going on and it's so well done. These groups have so much ability these days. It's exciting to hear. Finally, since this is for Ultimate-Guitar and many of our readers come here to check out guitar tablatures I wanted to see if you have ever looked at one of Metallica's and spotted glaring mistakes. I've checked a few out in the past but not too many so I don't really remember how accurate they really were. You never know with those things. It depends on who the person transcribing them is. But no, I really haven't looked at too many Metallica ones. I guess you don't really need to. (laughter) (Laughter) Yes, exactly. I think it's great that a site like Ultimate-Guitar exists though. But yeah, I know the songs at this point (laughter). I just wish I had the tabs for other bands so available when I was a kid. That would have definitely been helpful at times. Thanks for talking with us today! I know you don't really do too much online press so it means a lot to our community. Hey man, it was my pleasure! Thanks for taking time out to chat guitars with me. Interview by Carlos Ramirez Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009

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    Shabalaba
    Shame it was a short interview, would have liked it to be longer, it's one of the few interviews i enjoyed reading. He has always come across as the lightest character in Metallica, lowest ego & easiest to talk to.
    Bored to Tears wrote: Kirk is probably the most respectable member as regards to personality, but he really needs to learn some new solo techniques. It has gotten to the point where it's just simply annoying to hear his wah solos in the exact same scale as the one in the song before.
    Agreed the solos in the last album were very uninspired, speed =/= good solo in a lot of cases, bands focus on their chops more than whether the solo sounds good
    From_The_Ashes
    guns-o wrote: Cool interview, and thanks Kirk for the guitar players to chek out. The first metallica riff i learned was lepper mesiah 12 years ago and I still play it. Now Im starting to learn Kirks solos now, Ill tell you in 12 years how im doing
    It took you 12 years to be able to play kirk's solos. Practice. Practice. Practice.
    Rtard_GWARRIOR
    Heh, finaly a picture of Kirk not looking so much like a pedophile... Anyways, its cool to see older bands listening to newer ones.
    Echoplex
    damskippy wrote: Seems way more approachable than that dickhead Lars Ulrich. Money grubbing punkass.
    +1
    Les Paul Ell
    Kirk is the only Metallica member that I like. Robert might be okay, but I don't consider him to be a member of the Metallica that I like.
    livingspeedbump
    ah great interview. Interesting how hes into lamb of god, trivium and all shall perish, especially the later one. Im a huge metallica fan, but never was a fan of that pesky wah pedal of his. Still he has some brilliant solos, especially intro solos (fade to black, sanitarium, one) great stuff.
    damskippy
    Seems way more approachable than that dickhead Lars Ulrich. Money grubbing punkass.
    HammettFTW
    trendkill- wrote: Many wrote Metallica off in the early 2000s when they released the universally maligned St. Anger but 2008s Death Magnetic was a complete return to form. The lead-off single, "The Day That Never Comes" had all of the familiar traits that made the band legends in the first place. The epic arrangement, James Hetfields unmistakable snarl, the shifting tempos, and Hammets speed-metal injected solos silenced the naysayers in one swift move i still say there new album is mediocre at best. *puts up flame shield* old stuff kicks ass but still they didn't have much development with in their songs. thats not to say i didn't like them.
    you realise that that comment about DM was from total guitar mag dont u? i hope so.
    Kastöm
    jairic wrote: Great interview; I hope Kirk realizes that a majority of the "haters" on here are the 17 and under crowd with opinions no one values.
    If you think youngsters opinions dont matter in the music world you are very wrong. Excluding of course techno/rave listeners.
    Jackolas
    sneaky11 wrote: Synyster915 wrote: noobiepro1996 wrote: dude ur a bloody ****tard mustaine is a dumbass dick Are you saying that Kirk is better than Dave? Get your ears checked man. Dave owns the living hell out of Kirk, who's one of the most overrated guitarists of all time. At least he's not a jerk in the interview, but god, Alex Skolnick, Marty Friedman, Dave Mustaine, and Kerry King (who's also pretty overrated) all own Hammett. All Kirk has is some alternate picking and wah-wah pedals, his solos all have the same structure. you sir are not very smart. so you say all kirk does is use wah-wah? have you even ever listened to metallica's first four groundbreaking thrash albums? you wont find much if any wah-wah on those records. and he honestly doesnt even use that much alternate picking either so im really not sure if you know what alternate picking is. it is true that metallica uses alot of alternate picking in their riffs though if thats what you were saying. and i cant believe you are criticizing a metal guitarist for writing amazingly melodic solos that have feeling rather than just shredding something rediculous that doesnt realy sound good. because if you havent noticed, thats what makes metallica far and away better than all those other metal bands....they are about writing good music
    Amen.
    grind
    "Who would have ever thought a band like us would be accepted like that?" Umm... who does he think they are? The ****ing Melvins? Metallica's music is quite accessable to just about anyone. Every single twelve year old kid knows and loves the black album and Enter Sandman, it borders on like a top 40 hit.
    j-walk
    I never could understand how someone could like metallica but not megadeth. i personally think mustaine is a better guitar player but kirks solos stand out more.
    Pyd Pyper
    Nah dude. Lars Ulrich is way cooler than all of them. I mean who doesn't hate napster? Who doesn't hate drummers who can't use double bass pedals anymore? By the way, for the more oblivious out there, I WAS BEING SARCASTIC!
    grille
    aha. I never thought that Krik would listen to band like All shall Perish and love it. Thats just great
    St. Angry
    jimithrash wrote: nice interview i think this is the first interview i've fully read! hahaha
    same here actually. =P
    tomsawyer67
    jairic wrote: Great interview; I hope Kirk realizes that a majority of the "haters" on here are the 17 and under crowd with opinions no one values.
    who old were u when u started listening to metallica? a lot of the early listeners that were under 17 gave metallica one of the strongest fanbases that are still loyal today. just because a couple ignorant young people dont enjoy metallica doesnt mean you have to steriotype.
    sweet-cheeks-72
    i think that trivium is starting to sound like a faster and more modern day mettalica. but that's just me. nice interview
    TheSilverBeatle
    DarthKarth wrote: yes kirk, we all know you took lessons from satch... trust us, we know. like we also know you left exodus... [shakes head]
    Kirk doesn't sit at home looking up information on himself. [shakes head]
    DimebagJosho
    He took lessons in the 90's? Imagine teaching the guitarist from one of the biggest bands ever. Intimidating much?
    CoreysMonster
    not a big fan of metallica, but Kirk seems like a really easy-going, likeable guy. I'd love to jam with this dude sometime!
    -Collapse-
    patbuck2 wrote: That was a cool interview. Kirk seems like the kind of guy you would just want to chill with sometime. You know, like have a couple drinks and watch a movie with or something.
    Yeah, I bet he's a great cuddler.
    Trynstopme
    damskippy wrote: Seems way more approachable than that dickhead Lars Ulrich. Money grubbing punkass.
    +2
    Mr. Skull
    napolon wrote: Kirk plays better than Mustaine. And even i'm sure he sings better...
    well he definitely couldn't sing worse.
    ReeseKillsHIV
    The fact he mentioned ' All Shall Perish ' makes him a lot cooler than I thought. Not a bad read, all in all.
    CurlyBash
    he's a good guy. people need to lay off him sometimes. yeah the wah is annoying SOMETIMES but look at what he's done and is still doing in modern guitar playing.
    Cheeseman Jay
    If you want inspiration, just grab the Kill Em All album and Disc 2 of GARAGE INC. Just listen to those timeless licks and riffs pulled out by Kirk in ALL the solos, sounds like the guitars about to ****ing take off half the time. 100% bluesy and impressive stuff. I love it, and don't care what anyone can say otherwise. IT's a shame Dave Mustaine wrote those solos isn't it. Ha ha. If you buy the No life till leather tape and carefully compare the solos Kirk copied Dave note for note. Mustaine didnt write all of them. The most notable one is The Four Horsemen but James co-wrote them all and Lars did too. So Ha! HA!
    patbuck2
    That was a cool interview. Kirk seems like the kind of guy you would just want to chill with sometime. You know, like have a couple drinks and watch a movie with or something.
    DBrooks0022
    Cheeseman Jay wrote: If you want inspiration, just grab the Kill Em All album and Disc 2 of GARAGE INC. Just listen to those timeless licks and riffs pulled out by Kirk in ALL the solos, sounds like the guitars about to ****ing take off half the time. 100% bluesy and impressive stuff. I love it, and don't care what anyone can say otherwise. IT's a shame Dave Mustaine wrote those solos isn't it. Ha ha. If you buy the No life till leather tape and carefully compare the solos Kirk copied Dave note for note. Mustaine didnt write all of them. The most notable one is The Four Horsemen but James co-wrote them all and Lars did too. So Ha! HA!
    Actually dude i have "No Life til Leather" and thats my proof for saying that kirk DIDNT copy daves solos note for note. he simply started the solo the same way and then did his own thing to do. thats what he was instructed to do from james and lars. he made the solos much more melodic and memorable.
    DBrooks0022
    thrasher01 wrote: noobiepro1996 wrote: dude ur a bloody ****tard mustaine is a dumbass dick Yea Mustaine might be an arrogant dick, but thrash isn't for pussies like kirk who talk with a lisp. he might be a nice guy and everything but that doesn't make you good. all his solo's sound the same they are just arpeggio sweep's the whole time over and over.
    lol first off the only solo that really uses sweeping is leper messiah. if youre gonna say how bad someone is, at least know what youre talking about. as for me, kirk is my favorite guitarist. his use of melody with shredding is amazing and it makes me prefer him over dave mustaine any day. im not saying tht dave sucks, cuz he doesnt. hes amazing. i just prefer kirk. but anyway dude, shut the hell up, youre clueless.
    RukiaTH
    I don't see what people's issue with Kirk's wah pedal is. His wah pedal is just part of his own individual style.
    GasPipe
    I luv metallica but neva bn a huge hammett fan, cos his solos dont appeal 2 me (xcpt fade 2 black and one, luv those solos), but he seems a nice guy.
    rip3149
    Vedicardi wrote: Didn't Exodus's first album come out in 1985 though? I guess they were playing long before that then.
    you've gotta remember that back then in the bay area it wasn't about albums as much as it was about tons of demos. exodus had probably just as many as metallica had if not more.
    realiztik
    Kirk is amazing! Reusing stuff?? C'mon man... Listen to Kill em All, then puppets... then the black album... and then the huge turn on Load/Reload! When DM came out and I heard that super wah heavy solo on End Of The Line... seriously... KILLER!!! Yah he uses wah, but he does it right!!! Love the guy!!
    noobiepro1996
    Synyster915 wrote: noobiepro1996 wrote: dude ur a bloody ****tard mustaine is a dumbass dick Are you saying that Kirk is better than Dave? Get your ears checked man. Dave owns the living hell out of Kirk, who's one of the most overrated guitarists of all time. At least he's not a jerk in the interview, but god, Alex Skolnick, Marty Friedman, Dave Mustaine, and Kerry King (who's also pretty overrated) all own Hammett. All Kirk has is some alternate picking and wah-wah pedals, his solos all have the same structure.
    dude.do you actually look at how hard the solo is or how nice the solo sounds?if you want solos which are hard and sound like crap,listen to yngwie if u want solos that sound nice but are easy listen to kirk.anyway the fact that its easy and nice is good cause its easy to play and it sounds nice.dave mustaine isnt good at al.marty rules.but as far as it goes.kirk's solos sound nice.kerry king cant play solos.his solo in R.B and A.O.D is screwed up.
    haz_uk
    none of you know the man, and you never will, therefore you don't know what he's capable of. his ability and tastes clearly stretch beyond that of metallica - but his more recent work obviously isnt what purists want to hear. i haven't seen/heard anyone live who's been able to improvise their way out of a screw up like kirk can. metallica and kirk have inspired millions of people around the world, and to say he's crap or overrated is like saying the beatles had no influence on pop music in the 60s. it's fairly retarded.
    Bendybaws
    For ****s sake drop the mustaine/hammett arguement already, it's old hat. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Kirk, you're alright dude