From the Archive: Kirk Hammett Discusses the Past, Present and Future of Metallica in 2002 Interview
As for the months that will follow, until work is finished on the band's new recording studio, Hammett is content to make music at home. "I've been playing a lot of blues, a lot of jazz," he says, "been jamming with friends in my basement studio." He's also been pursuing his newest love: "I recently discovered surfing," he reveals, "and it's the best thing in the world! I feel really fortunate that, in playing guitar and surfing, I've found two things that mean so much to me, and which really complement each other. There's definitely a spiritual thing to both of them; they totally connect you to a higher realm."
Now that we've got some idea where Hammett's going, let's take a look back at where he's been. While our prize committee goes off in search of a gold plaque for the Hammett mantlepiece, pull up a beverage and join Hammett and Guitar World as we trace the evolution of his sound through some of Metallica's musical high points.
"SEEK AND DESTROY"
Kill 'Em All (1983)
"When I was doing that guitar solo, I was using James' Marshall. That was the Marshall -- it had been hot-rodded by some L.A. guy, the same guy who hot-rodded Eddie Van Halen's Marshalls -- and when it came time to do my guitar leads, I just plugged into that. I had maybe four or five days to do all my leads. I remember thinking, There's 10 or 12 songs on this album, so that means two a day. I had to throw down a solo, not think much about it, and move on.
I had my trusty old Ibanez Tubescreamer, my trusty wah pedal, and my black Gibson Flying V that I used on the first four albums -- it was either a '74 or a '78, I'm not sure. I didn't have much really worked out; I knew how I wanted to open the initial part of the solo after the break, so I just went for it two or three times. And then the producer said, 'That's fine! We'll use it!' There were no frills, no contemplation, no overintellectualizing -- we weren't going over the finer points. On a couple of notes in that solo, I bend the notes out of pitch; for 18 years, every time I've heard that guitar solo, those sour notes come back to haunt me! [laughs] I remember on that tour, whenever it came time to do that guitar solo, I was always like, Okay, I'm gonna play this so much better than the way I recorded it!
"I had been taking lessons from Joe Satriani for, like, six months prior to joining the band, so his influence was pretty heavy in my mind and in my playing. He passed down so much information to me, I was still processing a lot of it. When it came time to do the solo, I was thinking, I hope Joe likes this. I hope this isn't something he'll just pick apart, like he has in the past." [laughs]
"THE CALL OF KTULU"
Ride the Lightning (1984)
''Again, we were using Marshalls; I tracked the whole album with Marshall amps and my Gibson Flying V. For that song, I knew that I wanted to come up with something really melodic at the beginning of the solo. At that point in the song, there's just a lot of riffing, a lot of heavy dynamics. I was thinking, Wouldn't it be nice if we had something somewhat melodic to lead into it? Hence that little melody I played. I can remember thinking, Fuckin' hell, man, these guys want me to play an awful-long fucking guitar solo! It was our first instrumental, and it was an incredibly long guitar solo. It was like, 'How can I keep this solo going without making it sound like I'm just playing a bunch of notes?' So I thought that I would break it up into sections rather than play one long spew of notes.
I used a modal approach, and there's also arpeggios that I play in the solo -- they're actually 'broken arpeggios,' a term that I got from Yngwie Malmsteen. At that time, 1984, Yngwie was big in the guitar world; he influenced me in that he was using all these different scales and different arpeggios, and really got me thinking about that kind of sound. I was also thinking chromatically: there's that one part at the top of the next cycle where I play a chromatic lick that goes all the way down the high E string with the wah pedal.
"I actually wrote out the entire solo on pieces of paper, using my own notes and my own pet names for the individual licks. I would say that 80 percent of it was composed beforehand and 20 percent of it was improvised. When we revisited that song with the symphony on S&M, it was a lot of fun; it felt like I was visiting my guitar technique from, like, 15 years ago or something. I just don't play like that now -- I'm a lot bluesier -- so it was pretty trippy."
“MASTER OF PUPPETS"
Master of Puppets (1986)
"I used my Jackson Randy Rhoads V for this solo. When you listen to the solo, there's this weird sound right after the mellow part where it sounds like I'm hitting a superhigh note in the midst of my phrasing, like I'm fretting the string against the pickup. Well, what happened was, I had accidentally pulled the string off the fretboard! You know how you take an E string, you pull it down toward the floor away from the neck? I accidentally pulled down on the string, and it fretted out on the side of the fretboard. We heard it back, and I was like, 'That's brilliant! We've gotta keep that!' Of course, I've never been able to reproduce that since; it was like a magic moment that was captured on tape. That was one of my most favorite things about that guitar solo. I thought I had screwed the solo up by accidentally pulling on the string, but once I heard it back, I thought it sounded great. That was definitely a keeper!