Kirk Hammet: And Justice For All
The advent of Hammett’s signature model Randall amp coincided neatly with the birth of Metallica’s forthcoming new album, their first studio recording since 2003’s St. Anger (see sidebar on page 58). It is also their first project with überproducer and musicbiz “guru” Rick Rubin (Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers Tom Petty, Danzig, AC/DC).
“In comparison with St. Anger, this album is a lot more riffy, a lot more dynamic, a lot tighter in arrangement and a lot more to the point,” Hammett says. “It’s more traditional Metallica. And there are a lot more guitar solos on it, I have to say. One song cycles through so many changes, it feels like I’m soloing for a full minute.”
Hammett and the band had completed tracking the drums and were focused on recording rhythm guitar and bass tracks when Guitar World caught up with the guitarist. The album was still very much in the formative stages, with goofy working titles like “Casper” and “Grass Cow” still in place for most of the tracks. But when the final project is released, you can be sure that Kirk’s new Randall amp will be in the mix.
GUITAR WORLD What was the genesis of your collaboration with Randall on your new signature model amp?
HAMMETT It goes back at least two or three years. I was hanging out with [Anthrax guitarist] Scott Ian. We’ve known each other a long time; we go back to 1983. And it was Scott, ironically enough, who turned me on to ESP 20 years ago, and they make my signature model guitar. So Scott and I were joking around one night, playing acoustic guitar in my backyard in Hawaii. And I said to him, “How’s your guitar sound these days?” He thought I was joking around, but when he realized I wasn’t, he said, “Well, I’m on these Randall amps now.” And I said, “Randall?” ’Cause when I think of amps I tend to think more of the classics like Marshall, Fender, Boogie and Hiwatt. But apparently Scott was jamming with Dimebag a few years back, and he plugged into one of Dime’s spare Randalls and instantly got a sound that was an improvement on his normal sound.
I’m always searching for new sounds. I love my Boogies. They totally deliver what I’m looking for. But I use my Boogies in my rack, and it’s hard for me to just haul my rack anywhere. So I thought, Well, I’ll check out these Randalls. Scott put me in touch with the Randall guy, Dave Karon, and Dave instantly sent a bunch of Randalls down to the studio. I plugged into one and I was amazed at how much power and response it had. It seemed ideal because, over the years, I’ve been slowly adding midrange to my sound—getting less scooped, more filled out. I have a tendency to blend amps, too, and the Randall blended really well with my rack and with this other Marshall that I had. I was just completely blown away.
GW So what was your initial brief to the Randall guys? What did you tell them you wanted?
HAMMETT I told them I was looking for a sound that had a lot of midrange thud. And then what happened is Doug Reynolds and the Randall technicians showed up with all these scopes, meters and other test equipment. They analyze the tonal spectrum of any amps you have that you like, and they figure out how to recreate it. I’m very fussy about midrange. You know how midrange can sometimes soften and muddy the attack? Well, the midrange on these modules don’t do that at all. And you also have the option of just rolling out all the midrange KH-2 module in particular and it sounds really scooped. And when you turn down the volume on your guitar, it cleans up really well.
GW I noticed the controls on the module, which are written in your handwriting, right? And there’s of course high, mid and low.
HAMMETT Yeah, they’re in my handwriting. And I kept telling the Randall guys, “The less knobs the better. So make those knobs really count.” So the sweeps on the knobs are really super sensitive, especially between three and five o’clock. But yes, it’s just your standard bass, treble, mid and volume controls. I get intimidated when I see amps with 32 knobs and all these push-pull buttons. I like simplicity. I have a short attention span.
There’s also a knob for the two effect loops on the back. And on the main amp chassis, to the far right of the modules, there are two controls: presence and density. The presence control does what all presence controls do on amps, but density dials in more low end. And what that does in conjunction with the midrange is add a little more low mid to the sound, which is really the midrange I’m looking for: the low mids rather than the mid or high mids. And those two knobs, density and presence, work in conjunction with every single module.
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