Kirk Hammett remembers his last encounter with Dimebag Darrell: "I still regret not taking the time to have a full conversation with him"

Kirk Hammett (left) and Dimebag Darrell
(Image credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images, Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Metallica's headlining set at the 2004 Download Festival is most famous for not featuring the band's drummer and co-founder, Lars Ulrich, who was hospitalized the day of the show.

In a newly-published oral history of the Download Festival, though, Metallica lead electric guitar player Kirk Hammett revealed that that fateful day also proved to be the last time he ever saw Pantera guitar legend Dimebag Darrell, who was tragically murdered onstage in Columbus, Ohio – while performing with his post-Pantera group, Damageplan – just months later.

Hammett – who spent the last hours before the band's Download set frantically speaking to potential replacements for Ulrich – expressed regret at not taking the time to have a full conversation with his fellow metal guitar hero.

“I couldn’t do anything for the next three hours except talk to drummers,” Hammett told The Guardian. “I remember seeing Dimebag wave at me from a distance backstage – I looked at him and mouthed, ‘We are completely fucked.’ 

“He came over laughing and just said: ‘You guys have got this.’ And that was the last time I saw Dime. I still regret not taking the time to have a full conversation with him.”

Ulrich's spot that evening would ultimately be taken by Slayer sticksman Dave Lombardo, and – primarily – the late Joey Jordison from Slipknot.

“Joey could play all sorts of things,” Hammett recalled. “I remember saying to him: 'Bro, you’re gonna have to play a bunch of these tunes tonight' – he was beside himself, he was so happy. 

”At the end of the set, I turned to Joey onstage, and I asked him if he could play Enter Sandman. And I saw through his mask [from Slipknot's stage show] that he had tears in both of his eyes. He was crying because it meant so much for him to be playing Sandman with us at Download. I’ll never forget that.”

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.