Kirk Hammett: “The 300 Riffs I Lost on My Cellphone Probably Weren’t That Good After All”

(Image credit: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)

Kirk Hammett says the hundreds of riff ideas he lost when he forgot his cellphone in a cab probably weren’t that good after all.

As many fans will recall, Hammett had recorded, by his estimate, between 250 and 300 riff ideas onto his cell phone when he accidentally left the device in a cab while in Denmark. Back in early December, Hammett described the loss in the strongest terms yet, saying the consequences “have been immense”—most likely because losing the riffs meant his sole contribution to Metallica’s latest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, would be as a guitarist, not as a writer.

Now, however, he’s singing a different tune. Having perhaps moved to the final stage of grief—acceptance—Hammett concedes his riffs probably weren’t that good if he couldn’t remember any of them.

As a result of the experience, he’s adopted a new attitude toward his writing.

“What I do now when I write something, if I can’t actually remember it just by picking up my guitar, it’s probably not that good,” Hammett tells Mike on Much.

“I’m saying this after a lot of thought about how music used to be composed before we had things like tape recorders, you know, digital recorders, whatever. It was all written and remembered. And they could only remember the best stuff. When they sat down back in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties, Fifties, Sixties, up until the Seventies, they had to remember whatever they played. They couldn’t just turn on a recorder.

“And so I’ve kind of adopted that sort of attitude. If I can’t remember it at any point, then maybe it just wasn’t good enough. And so that’s kind of the approach I’ve taken now, which is a healthier approach because I’m not so dependent on recording the stuff. And it also tells me that the stuff I’m writing that I can remember is of a higher quality because it’s instantly accessible and I can remember it easily.”

Check out the interview yourself below. The segment about the cellphone begins at 24:35.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.