Prime Cuts: Metallica
Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield look back on some of Metallica’s brightest moments.
"…And Justice for All," …And Justice for All (1988)
HETFIELD: That song is pretty long, like all the songs on that album. We wanted to write shorter material, but it never happened. We were into packing songs with riffs. The whole riff is very percussive; it goes right along with the drums. The singing on that song is a lot lower than usual.
HAMMETT: I worked out an opening lick for the solo but it wasn’t really happening, so I plugged in the wah-wah pedal, which I always do when all else fails. As soon as I plugged in, we were done. A lot of people give me shit about how I hide behind the wah pedal, but something about it brings out a lot of aggression. It just tailors the sound to match the mood and emotion I’m trying to convey. It’s purely an aesthetic thing and not a crutch or anything like that. The riff where I utilize the open string hammer-ons developed from a Gary Moore lick that I’d been studying. I figured it would sound really good combined with the heavy E-chord progression
"One," …And Justice for All (1988)
HETFIELD: I had been fiddling around with that A-G modulation for a long time. The idea for the opening came from a Venom song called “Buried Alive.” The kick drum machine-gun part near the end wasn’t written with the war lyrics in mind, it just came out that way. We started that album with Mike Clink as producer. He didn’t work out too well, so we got Flemming to come over and save our asses.
HAMMETT: I lost a lot of sleep over that set of guitar solos! [laughs] The main guitar solo at the end, with the right-hand, Eddie Van Halen–type tapping came almost immediately. That guitar solo was just a breeze; what was going on with the rhythm section in that part of the song was just very, very exciting for me to solo over. The first solo was a little bit more worked out. I heard James playing some really melodic stuff over the intro, just doodling around, and I thought, That’s pretty cool, I’m gonna use part of that. So I have to give credit to James for subliminally pushing me in that melodic direction. I think the first two licks at the top of the first solo are his, and the rest of the solo just sort of fell into place. That little chord comp thing in that first solo came from a major-chord exercise that I do all the time. I thought it would sound really good in the solo if I just staccato-picked it and resolved it right there. I thought the solo needed something to perk people’s ears up!
The middle guitar solo in that song, I must have recorded and rerecorded it about 15 million times. I wanted a middle ground between the really melodic solo at the beginning and the fiery solo at the end. I wanted that to sit very confidently within the song, but it sounded very unconfident, and I was never happy with it.
Finally, it came down to the wire: we were mixing the album while simultaneously touring on the Monsters of Rock tour. One night, I flew from Philadelphia to New York City, and while everyone else was on their way to Washington, D.C., I went to the Hit Factory and rerecorded the solo again. I brought my guitar, I had one of my main amps sent to the studio, and I redid the solo there and finally nailed it. I was very, very happy about that! The next day, we played a show in Washington, D.C. It got panned by the critics, because we’d all only had about three hours of sleep and were exhausted. But I got a good solo the night before, so it was worth it!
We wanted a clean guitar sound for “One.” I think at that point I was using the ESP neck-through-body KH-1 guitar, with the skulls on the fingerboard. I’d gotten that guitar in ’88 and used it pretty prominently in the studio. I used an ADA preamp and an ADA MP-1—it was a programmable digital amp that had tubes in it, with a separate rack-mounted Aphex parametric EQ. I remember blending that thing with the Boogies for lead sounds and clean sounds. The clean sound on ‘One’ was done almost exclusively with the ADA MP-1.
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