Kirk Hammet: And Justice For All
GW And the speaker cabinets can really handle all the low end, apparently.
HAMMETT Definitely. In Metallica, we’ve used Celestion Vintage 30s in all our cabinets ever since 1988 or ’89. But the addition of those 75-watt Celestions has given me more of that midrange punch without having to dial too much into the actual tone on the amp. And the cabinets with those four 100-watt Celestions are super, super loud, but super tight. You can really push the cabinet. You know how certain amps don’t sound good until you turn them up to a certain volume and both the amp and cabinet start to work hard? Well, these amps go to 11. And because they’re 100-watt speakers, the low end is tight, not farty. It doesn’t sound like the cabinet’s about to fall apart. I hate that squeakiness certain cabinets get when you turn them up.
GW Are you just as obsessive about clean tones?
HAMMETT Of course! The clean module, the KH-1, is based on my very favorite Fender amp that I own. It’s this Fender Twin from 1959. I got it as a fluke as part of a package deal—a bunch of Fender and Marshall amps that I bought from this one guy. First of all, I was blown away by the sound of this amp: super punchy, really good for jazz and blues—a really warm sound. And when you turn it up, it breaks up nicely. It kind of sounds like a Bassman: it has just as much punch but it’s not over the top like a Bassman.
When I researched it, I found out that this amp is super rare. There were only four or five of them made. It’s Keith Richards’ favorite Fender amp. Eric Clapton uses one, too. And it turned out to be my favorite Fender amp as well. So the Randall guys came down, brought their spectrum analyzers and other devices and were able to get a reading on the amp. So the KH-1 module is based on that Fender. It has aspects of a really clean Roland amp, but it has that high end like an old Fender. It really shines when you play a Strat through it, or a jazz box like a [Gibson] Super 400 or even a 335.
GW What were your goals with the high-gain lead module, the KH-3?
HAMMETT I didn’t want that static, crunchy distortion, like when you turn on a fuzz box or something. I wanted more of a genuinely distorted tone, rather than just distortion on top of your tone. And this module does it.
GW And you’re using your Randall amp on the new Metallica album?
HAMMETT Oh yeah. So far I’ve used the prototype for the KH-1, the initial module I picked out from all the other modules they sent over. At the time, we were calling it the Bone-J, for want of a better name. We didn’t know what to call it, so Dave at Randall said, “Oh, let’s name it after some champagne.” So we called it the Bone-J, which is kind of a play on Bollinger [pronounced Bollin-zhay]. And that module is all over the album. At this point, I’m still doing rhythm guitar tracks. I know I’ll be using the other Randall stuff once it’s time to get a lead sound. But, again, I really like blending amps, so not only is there the Randall amp—there’s also an early Eighties Marshall, there’s my rack which consists of a bunch of Boogie stuff and there’s also a Boogie Stiletto that my friend John Marshall modified for me. I’m also using a lot of this one amp I like, a Snyder. It’s super clean. It’s there just to add a little bit of shimmer to the clean sound. And I’m playing my old standard ESP guitars that I use on every album, and some vintage guitars here and there.
GW So that would include your ESP Skully guitar and all of those?
HAMMETT Yeah, the Skully guitar, the Mummy guitar and the 20th Anniversary guitar are all on there. One of my old Les Pauls is on there. But a lot of the older vintage guitars I tend to break out only when it’s time for solos. I tend to stick with my older ESPs for rhythm stuff, only because they’re workhorses and I know the sound is there.
GW Have you continued adding to your vintage guitar and amp collection?
HAMMETT Unfortunately, the vintage market isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Everything’s too expensive. It’s being cranked out of musicians’ hands. I feel lucky that I’m fortunate enough still to be able to afford the stuff. But for your regular working musician, getting just an old Strat these days is crazy.
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