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Kirk Hammett & Adam Jones: Bad Religion

Kirk Hammett & Adam Jones: Bad Religion

Originally published in Guitar World, April 2009

They both started as cult heroes—Metallica’s Kirk Hammett was a man of
the people, and Tool’s Adam Jones was a man of mystery. Join them as
they compare notes on how they transformed their heavy metal into a
worldwide religion.

 

It’s only 5 P.M. when I arrive at the Forum in Inglewood, California, but the parking lot of this classic 18,000-plus arena is already crowded with metalheads of every age, shape, color and gender, all eating and drinking in anticipation of tonight’s show. Above the din, a familiar metal refrain blasts from a stereo:

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On leather steeds they ride
They come to take your life.
 
And what better soundtrack to prepare for the four bringers of tonight’s metal apocalypse—Metallica’s James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo—than their own ripping ode to Armageddon, “The Four Horsemen.” Although Metallica won’t hit the stage for hours, the excitement is palpable among this hometown crowd of old thrashers, young longhairs, weekend warriors and metal chicks, all of whom have come to see Metallica kick out a fiery set of old and new favorites pulled from a quarter-century of classic metal—from their 1983 debut, Kill ’Em All to last year’s epic Death Magnetic.
 
Since the release of 1991’s chart-crushing “Black Album,” Metallica have enjoyed full-fledged global domination of the metal market. Yet, as expansive as their empire has become, there was a time back in the early Eighties when the SoCal four-piece was championed almost exclusively by a cult of adolescent males disaffected by mainstream music—a grassroots, tape-trading clique that related to Metallica’s fast-as-hell riffs, boundless energy and boozy, kick-ass older brother persona.
 
Counted among those headbangers was Tool guitarist Adam Jones, who has followed the band ever since Kill ’Em All.
 
“They’re still the ‘older brothers,’ ” says Jones, who has accepted Guitar World’s offer to watch the sold-out show and catch up with his old friend Kirk Hammett. “The reason I like Metallica is because they’re very complex, mature men who at the same time have the enthusiasm of little kids. There’s nothing better than meeting your heroes and finding that they’re real, down-to-earth people. You can go out and have a beer with them and talk about something besides, ‘Oh, you’re great. I love your band. I love that song.’ You can forget all that and just have a really inspiring conversation.”
 
Like Metallica, Tool insist on creating the music they want to hear, a progressively heady and utterly heavy sound that, as it turns out, many others want to hear. What’s more, their willingness to challenge industry models and expectations has earned them the respect and devotion of fans, critics and artists alike. “I’m a big Tool fan. How could I not be?” Hammett announces when we sit down for our interview on the evening of the Forum show. “They have everything: riffs, arrangements and subject matter. They just kick ass, and they are definitely one of the best bands to come out in a long time.”
 
As a testament to the loyalty of Tool fans, when the band released 2006’s 10,000 Days after a five-year gap between the previous album, Lateralus, the record immediately shot to Number One and eventually went Platinum. Tool are the rare band that can go up the mountain, disappear for years and return—with 10 (or so) commanding tracks—to an even stronger reception.
 
Intriguingly, Tool and Metallica took opposite attitudes toward building recognition when their popularity started to grow: Hammett and his bandmates became increasingly more visible; Tool obscured their faces in photo shoots and stopped appearing in videos. “When we first started out here in Hollywoodland,” Jones explains, “we saw that everyone had to have a look. We decided that people would be more serious about listening to everything we did if they didn’t know what we looked like. Early on Metallica had a bit of the Tool thing going in the fact that they weren’t overly pumping their image. But because of their success, Metallica found themselves in the spotlight more than we were, to the point where they’ve now become iconic. But to me the music is what comes first. I remember hearing those first three Metallica albums. They were so good I didn’t care what the band looked like!”
 
Given their similar experiences and mutual admiration for each other’s bands, it’s not surprising that Hammett and Jones connected when they first met in the Nineties. “We opened for Metallica in Korea and decided to hit Hawaii on our way back to do a couple shows,” explains Jones. “Kirk was heading to Hawaii, too, but I didn’t see him on our plane. After we landed, I was getting my luggage and I felt this tap on my shoulder. It was Kirk, and he said, ‘Are you the guitarist in Tool? I love your band. Would you like to come to dinner?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ ”
 
In the years since that first meeting, the two have cultivated a friendship built on a shared belief in art for art’s sake—not to mention a love of seriously thrashing guitar work, classic prog-rock, esoteric subjects, comic books and surfing.

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