Kirk Hammett: “What Lars Ulrich Taught Me About Jazz”

(Image credit: C Brandon/Getty Images)

Guitarist Kirk Hammett has been giving props to his Metallica bandmate Lars Ulrich for the drummer’s help crafting his guitar solos on the group’s latest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct.

In a new interview with Bravewords, Hammett specifically credits Ulrich for turning him onto a concept that’s popular among jazz and blues artists: playing through the measures—that is, playing phrases that are not confined by the beginning or end of a measure.

“One thing [Lars] has been doing more of for like 10 or 12 years—and he’s actually turned me onto the concept—is playing through the bars, playing through the measures,” Hammett says.

“So typically, my guitar solos on our first two albums, every four beats or eight bars, I would change the lick. Pretty much on the beat, you know? That’s a very organized sort of thing that musicians do to organize their ideas.

“But some musicians, and particularly jazz musicians and sometimes blues musicians, will play on the beat but play through the bar, or start early, play into the bar, or play through the bar and go out in the middle of the next bar.

“And he started doing that with his drums, and when he kind of like latched onto that concept, he said to me, ‘You know, I notice that when you play your guitar solos, you’re doing it bar by bar, riff by riff. Beat by beat. Why don’t you try playing through it?’

“And I thought, That’s kind of cool, kind of John Coltrane-ish… Say goodbye to phrasing on the downbeat, say goodbye to phrasing on the upbeat. Phrase in between, get into that space that is somewhere in between. And I think that’s what Lars is doing a lot of on this album.”

Hammett had previously revealed that Ulrich helped him build his solos for the album by “coaching” him—specifically, suggesting ideas and offering advice based on what had been originally been envisioned when the songs were written.

“I would play about 25 or 30 solos, all different, in two or three hours, and then Lars would come in and say, ‘How are things going?’ [Producer] Greg [Fidelman] and I would give him a progress report. And then, I’d start playing some other stuff… that’s when Lars would come up with suggestions, coaching me on, maybe going into this direction or to that direction, or [talking about] when he and James were getting the song together [how] they might’ve heard the solo sounding.”

Hardwired…to Self-Destruct was released November 18.

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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.