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Kirk Hammett Talks Metallica's 'No Life 'til Leather' Cassette Reissue

Last month, Metallica announced they'd be offering a unique, limited-edition reissue for Record Store Day on April 18: a remastered cassette version of their 1982 demo, No Life ‘til Leather.

That seven-song demo, which was recorded July 6 of that year, and which spread like wildfire through the thriving underground tape-trading scene, featured the original Metallica lineup of James Hetfield (vocals/guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), Dave Mustaine (lead guitar) and Ron McGovney (bass).

It contains many of the band’s now-classic songs, including “Hit the Lights,” “Motorbreath,” “Seek & Destroy” and “Jump in the Fire,” all of which eventually found their way onto Metallica’s stunning 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All.

Although Hammett didn’t play on the demo (he left Exodus to replace Mustaine in early 1983 prior to the recording of Kill ‘Em All), we recently caught up with him to discuss his unique relationship with No Life ‘til Leather, as well as Metallica’s plans to release deluxe reissues of their entire back catalog.

“We’re gonna reissue everything,” Hammett says. “We’re in the process of finding artifacts. Me, I didn’t hardly save anything. [laughs] But Lars, on the other hand, is an archivist and [is] obsessive-compulsive about it. He has all that stuff.

"When the idea was floated around about releasing the No Life ‘til Leather demo as a cassette, I thought they were joking. Then the next thing you know I’m holding a fucking cassette! [laughs]

“Then I started to remember that even though I didn’t play on this cassette, it was so monumental to my connection to the band. It was the cassette Metallica’s sound guy, Mark Whitaker, who was also Exodus’ manager, sent me so I could learn the songs for my audition.

"I still have my copy of No Life ‘til Leather. It came with a cassette slip case that said, ‘Metallica Is: James Hetfield, vocals/guitar, Lars Ulrich, drums, Ron McGovney, bass, Dave Mustaine, guitar.’ But [on my copy] someone scratched out Dave Mustaine’s name and put “Kirk Hammett”!

"I thought it was a pretty funny joke back in the day in ’83. But when I look at it now there’s an irony and poignancy to it that kinda brings a tear to my eye. But I’m glad the No Life 'til Leather demo is out in its original cassette form.”

Photo: Jimmy Hubbard

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Brad is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and video producer. He is the former content director of Revolver magazine and executive editor of Guitar World. His work has appeared in Vice, Guitar Aficionado, Inked and more. He’s also a die-hard Les Paul player who wishes he never sold his 1987 Marshall Silver Jubilee half stack.