For all the things Metallica’s boundary-pushing Black Album brought to the table, one of its most notable offerings from an electric guitar perspective is its handling of the wah pedal, representing the period when Kirk Hammett fully embraced the effect as a stalwart of his sound.
Given his evergreen affinity for the effect thereafter, you’d be forgiven for assuming that each of his solos originated from writing sessions that made ample use of his favored wah pedal. Such an assumption, however, would be wrong.
As it turns out, Hammett doesn't actually dabble with the wah while writing, and instead only uses the pedal as a secondary tool to merely complement his pre-written lead lines – an approach that he adopts to add “more intensity and more emotion” to his sound.
Speaking in this month’s issue of Guitar World alongside Metallica bandmate James Hetfield, Hammett made the revelation after being quizzed about the forces behind his musical relationship with the wah.
“I think a lot of that was just a culmination of having been on tour for ...And Justice for All and just having fun on stage,” he began, “stepping on my wah for a lead break, or in between songs, or whatever.
“But when I really think about the solos on the Black Album, I came up with all of them within about a week,” he continued. “Enter Sandman, I had that one complete by the second or third time we played it.
“Because when the songs are strong, the solos come easy. And back then, I’d compose a solo and then, if it felt appropriate in the studio, I’d bring in the wah and see if it brought anything more out.
“I’ve never really written a guitar solo with a wah pedal. It’s always been after the fact.”
Hammett also went on to discuss his approach to employing the pedal, reflecting that he's not from “the Eric Clapton school of wah where I step on it every down-beat… It’s only been to get more intensity and more emotion out of the sound.”
Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest copy of Guitar World, which includes the full extended interview with Hammett and Hetfield, a comprehensive mini-pedal round-up and an exploration of Eddie Van Halen’s legendary Frankenstein guitar.