Kirk Hammet: And Justice For All
GW It’s the new economy of global greed. There’s the rich and then there’s the ultra-insanely-obscenely rich. And unfortunately that’s mainly CEOs. It used to be rock stars.
HAMMETT Yeah, and what bothers me is that a lot of these guys put these guitars up on walls and in warehouses. My thinking is that this stuff was built to be played. Built to make music on and not be put on a pedestal. I have a vintage Les Paul Standard. I love the thing to death, but I also play the hell out of it. I think that ultimately the more you play a guitar the better it sounds over the years. I just wish that this stuff was more accessible to your standard working musicians. I just saw an article in a British guitar magazine about Keith Richards’ sunburst Les Paul that he had in the mid Sixties. The going price for it is now something like two million dollars. That’s what a Stradivarius goes for, isn’t it? Has the electric guitar finally reached that status? That apogee? It’s crazy to hear about.
GW The positive side is that it validates rock as an art form [no wonder rock is dead—GW Ed.]. It’s an acknowledgement that, okay, these instruments are just as important as the instruments that created Mozart and Beethoven’s music.
HAMMETT That’s certainly true. I see the electric guitar as one of the great modern American inventions that totally changed popular culture. And it is thoroughly an American invention, just as American as baseball and apple pie. In my mind, it’s such a wonderful thing. It continues to make a big impact on popular culture. It changes so many people’s lives in so many ways. I just owe so much to the electric guitar. It makes me misty eyed. And I’m really aware of the next generation of guitar players, how influential young people are. These kids who are learning guitar right now are the music of the next five, 10, 20 years. And I’m always waiting for that next Jimi Hendrix or that next Van Halen.
GW Seems like it’s been a while, a long time between drinks.
HAMMETT Well, Eddie Van Halen really was one in a million, like Hendrix was before him and Django Reinhardt was before him, and Beethoven, Bach and Mozart before them. It’s just astounding to see.
GW Is there anyone since Van Halen who you’d put in that category?
HAMMETT I’d definitely put Yngwie in that category, although Yngwie has a completely different thing going altogether. I would also put somebody like Muddy Waters in that realm, too. And Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin… I could just go on and on.
GW In the right hands, a great electric guitar and a great amp are an unbeatable combination. And now you’ve got your own signature models of both.
HAMMETT Having a signature guitar was such a big thing when ESP made their first KH model in 1987. I thought, Oh my God, this means as much to me as putting out an album. Reaching the 20th anniversary of that guitar this year was a milestone for me. And to finally have a signature amp as well really means a lot, too. These initial three modules are just the beginning. Hopefully we’ll be able to put out a module or two a year. And I also have an idea of blossoming out and maybe doing some effects with Randall. Maybe we’ll do a more effect-based module. The possibilities are endless with the technology they have these days.
But here’s the important thing: these amps were designed to be able to appeal to your standard working musician, from the total professional who’s playing arenas way down to the kid who’s first starting out on a cheap guitar and a practice amp. I love practice amps. I’m really aware of the fact that if there’s a Kirk Hammett practice amp out there and kids can buy it at an affordable price, plug into it and get a sound like mine instantly, it will help them on the road to becoming musicians or expressing themselves in a musical way. If that happens, I feel like I’ve done my job.
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