Metallica’s Kirk Hammett could be seen as the quiet member of the group. Hammet is George Harrison, taking a backseat to James Hetfield’s Lennon and Lars Ulrich’s McCartney. Kirk has always been viewed as the voice of reason, as the level-headed member when Metallica’s two primary egos have gotten a bit too heated.
After going on 35 plus years of making metal, Metallica’s website just featured an interview done a few months ago with the guitar legend, where Hammett recalled where he’s come from and where the band that he’s helped to shape is headed.
Back before a large majority of Metallica fans were even born, Kirk Hammett co-created the legendary metal band, Exodus, in San Francisco in 1979. Four years later, Metallica’s frontmen, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, would famously fire Dave Mustaine from the band, and subsequently hire Kirk. Hammett has been Metallica’s lead guitar player ever since, helping the band to sell over a hundred million albums to date.
Besides being Kirk “The Ripper” Hammett – a moniker given to him by Hetfield – Kirk co-owns KHDK, a guitar pedal company, has fully explored his interest in Horror Films and memorabilia by sponsoring the annual Fear FestEvil, has given himself over to surfing, and continues his interest in eastern philosophy and religion.
The latter might seem like an odd interest for one of the foremost heavy metal guitar players in the world, but Metallica and its members have never been about following the rules, even when those rules are dictated by their own fans.
When Metallica released the albums Load and Re-Load in the nineties, they did what most metal acts found blasphemous, they cut their hair. In the CD inlays for those albums, Kirk can be seen wearing eyeliner, nail polish and sporting some extremely un-metal clothes… and Hammett seems to be enjoying every minute of it. Now, going on a quarter of a century later, while Hetfield and Ulrich still retain their short hair, Kirk’s is long again.
In the early 2000’s, when Metallica bassist Jason Newsted decided he’d had enough of Hetfield’s controlling ways and quit the band, it was Kirk that brought in the man that would eventually fill a serious hole in Metallica’s lineup. Hammett had surfed with Robert Trujillo – formerly of Suicidal Tendencies and fill-in bassist for Ozzy. In the documentary Some Kind of Monster, you can clearly see Kirk gunning for Trujillo from the get-go during the bassist interviews. It was almost as if Hammett knew that Trujillo’s unassuming, zen approach to rock stardom was just what the flailing Metallica monster needed at the time.
During the filming of Some Kind of Monster, the problems that had been plaguing Metallica’s members came to a head, namely the constant clashes between Hetfield and Ulrich, and Hetfield’s addiction issues. As most Metallica fans know, it all worked itself out before the band could unravel. However, Kirk admits that he’s battled with his own issues just up until the last few years.
“It’s been a couple of years — maybe two, two and a half years. I hit my apex not that long ago. I’ve cleaned my life up a bit and I’m feeling good about it…. I was living the myth, the rock star mythology — and it’s all mythical by the way. That myth has taken a lot of musicians’ lives. I hate to say it, but that myth has taken its toll. The myth is dying out because the people who believe in it are dying out.”
It’s interesting to note that St. Anger, the album that was featured in the documentary Some Kind of Monster, actually featured no guitar solos… something that didn’t sit well with fans, and something that most lead guitar players probably wouldn’t have stood for. Then again, if you haven’t noticed already, Kirk Hammett is not the usual lead guitar player. Luckily for all of us, by the time Death Magnetic was released in 2008, Metallica realized that they had one of the finest lead guitar players in the world on their roster, and it would serve them well to unleash him in all his glory.
On Metallica’s latest release, Hardwired… to Self Destruct, Hammett is once again unleashed. Whether it’s his blistering solo through “Spit Out the Bone” or his technical touch and go on “Moth into Flame,” at 54 years young, Kirk Hammett is still one of the top guitar players in the world, even if he is the quiet one.
[Featured Image by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images]