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In our latest addition to the Rockstars In Cars (visiting Cosmo Music) series, we talk to Kirk Hammett on his way to his unprecedented gig with The Wedding Band. Find out how Rob Trujillo, Joey Castillo, Whit Crane, and Doc Coyle came together with Kirk Hammett and more in this series.
Over the course of 13 weeks, we released a new Rockstars In Cars episode with Kirk Hammett. Check them all out below.
Kirk Hammett talks about still caring “so f-ing much” about Metallica despite the band’s obstacles, and how guitar playing fills a hole in his soul.
[Kirk] The Wedding Band is just kind of like a cool fun recreational thing that we don't really take seriously and no one else really should either. We just like to go out there have fun, jam, improvise, and if people dig it, cool, if they don't, you know, that's cool too, it's not a big deal. We're not trying to be like Led Zeppelin or Cream or you know, whatever.
[Neil] It's really interesting to me to hear you say “Oh we don't take it seriously” and that stuff, and I mean that in a good way because, you know, you're in the biggest metal band of all time, you know!
[Kirk] Yeah. But when I say we don't take it seriously, my level of “not serious” is probably much higher than others’ level of serious.
[Kirk] So you know, my OCD just like, makes it so that my seriousness is off the charts!
[Neil] Well I mean Metallica, is a production, you guys take your work very seriously.
[Kirk] Well we look to each other to follow through, and when, you know, we always want to be there to follow through for each other. Right and that's what it's always been about, you know, like holding up your part of the f***in corner. You know, holding up your corner. And you know, because we've been around so much, there's been times when we haven't been able to do that, and you know we've run into obstacles that have prevented us from from being the best band that we can, or best band members that we can, but we've powered through it and we've figured it out, we're still here, or still together, and we still f***ing care. I care immensely, I care so f***ing much that I probably like, drive other people around me crazy!
[Neil] It's amazing, and you know, you see it from the way you engage with the fans, like you know these thank you videos that you guys put out are awesome, with “Nothing Else Matters” in the background. I love those thank you videos.
[Kirk] Well it’s important, you know, super important. And like, you know, I make it a point now after every show to thank that city through my Instagram account, because you know as much as they’re thankful for us coming to their town, we’re thankful too for them even f***ing being there. At least I am, and I always want them to know that, so I say thank you Moscow! F***in thank you Finland! Thank You Amsterdam! F*** yeah!
[Neil] And it's amazing that you never lose that sense of you know, the appreciation for fans.
[Kirk] Well, you know, when I was a kid, even now, but when I was a kid, you know, I was such a outsider and just so clumsy and just like, not very good socially, I still am like that now. And so you know, for me to be able to go out there and just like f***in just, act like a madman and express myself to the fullest extent, and not have to worry about all the things that I usually worry about in a social situation, it's amazingly healthy it is for me, you know.
[Kirk] Therapeutic for me, yeah. And I have a huge hole in my soul, and so you know, guitar playing and playing music, just kind of helps me accept that fact that there's a huge hole in my soul. But you know, I can go deep into that hole and pull out a lot of really intense emotions when I need to when I'm playing my guitar, and so it's just all a part of what makes me, me, and you know that's just how it is.
Kirk Hammett talks about the moment he realized Whitfield Crane was the right “anti-frontman” for The Wedding Band.
[Neil] How is it playing with Whit, as opposed to James in terms of working with a singer/
[Kirk] Well you know the thing is with Whit, I mean he is a frontman, frontman in the classical sense, whereas James you know, always has his guitar. So I mean the big difference is when James stops singing, he plays guitar. When Whit stops singing, you know, he kind of you know has something to do, and you know it's just interesting in that Whit, he's an amazing character. He is so selfless you know, and so you see… “Okay, I knew he was the right guy to be in The Wedding Band when I saw him give his vocal monitor to Jon Theodore to use as a drum monitor. I've never seen that ever in my life! The singer giving the monitor to the drummer, that just doesn't happen! And I was like “Whoa, whoa!”
[Paul] He cares!
[Kirk] I said “Rob, did you see what just happened? Wow” And like Jon Theater is just sitting there with a smile, and Whit’s sitting there with a big old grin saying “It’s cool, I can handle it”, and I love that, you know. I love that he's just, he's so much like the anti-frontman, you know, Whit. Even though when you see him, he's fully engaged in being a frontman, you know. Offstage, he doesn't have that frontman kind of persona. You know, he's not like a David Lee Roth who carries that frontman persona with him all the time, or used to do that you know, he used to do that. I mean you hear about a lot of these singers carrying their frontman persona with them 24 hours a day you know. It's like f***ing turn it off.
[Paul] Must be exhausting!
[Kirk] Ah, yeah, but you know some people are just into it. You know some people believe that that's what they're expected to do. But you know, Whit, he's not of that caliber. I mean, he’s above all that stuff, and you know he has a great voice, and he has a real sincere love for the music like we all do. We just sit around, just talk about music you know, it’s the greatest thing.
[Mark] He had kids up on stage, you saw the kids were engaged yesterday. He was right before you arrived, rehearsing “Iron Man” and the kids were going crazy, and so he called the kids up on stage and gave them a chance to do that “Iron Man” part, right at the beginning, and the kids were just beside themselves.
[Kirk] Right? See! See!
[Mark] And you can see, I mean he was smiling, happy. It just made the whole thing a lot better place.
[Kirk] He's the right guy for it, for this kind of band because you know Rob and I, we’re super, super, super into the music, but we're nice guys. I'd like to think that we’re nice, and you know we want more nice guys around us. And so Whit, he definitely qualifies, you know. Jon Theodore definitely qualifies. Joey Castillo definitely qualifies. And I have to say, Joey does a great job filling in for Jon Theodore and you know as far as I'm concerned, f***in-
[Paul] He was killing it last night!
[Kirk] It's just like you know, and I was always, always intrigued by the Allman Brothers and mid-nineties King Crimson, because both those bands had two drummers, and you know the concept of two drummers, it’s always been like, kind of mystifying to me you know.
[Paul] Can't forget the Doobies as well.
[Kirk] Oh, yeah yeah, the Doobies had two drummers as well! You know the concept with King Crimson when they had two drummers is they had two bass players and it was really interesting to hear Robert Fripp talk about it, and the way he talked about it was having two power trios on stage. I thought “Wow, that’s a heavy, heavy, heavy concept”. And so you know, I'm just, I'm curious to explore other things with The Wedding Band, you know, things that might not be really, really that significant, but things that you know, that I'm just kind of just curious about myself. Like what would it feel like to play with two drummers? I've never done that and I've always been curious. And so you know, maybe one day we can get both Joey Castillo and Jon Theodore to play in The Wedding Band and that would be f***in incredible. [Neil] That would be nuts.
[Paul] I see a brass section in this band’s future, I’m just saying.
[Kirk] Brass and woodwinds can be heavy if they're used right, used correctly. They can be super mega heavy.
[Paul] Well I mean, if you're doing a whole bunch of fun stuff, it just makes sense to have a nice horn section.
[Kirk] Yeah absolutely, absolutely yeah. And yeah, I just recorded the piece of music that I wrote with my wife, Lonnie in Paris, with the bass player who plays in this French progressive band called Magma. And this guy was just a freakin monster. He could play the song better than I could, I was a little embarrassed. But he was great, he's a great guy to play with, and Rob turned me on to him because Rob couldn't actually play on the track himself, and my wife and I, we also wanted to bring in a cello player for the track, so we got in a cello player and you know as as we were recording, I was looking at the bass player and I was looking at the cello player, and I was hearing things and I was thinking “Wow, this is kind of similar to what it might be like having two bass players”, but you know one of them has a completely different timbre, you know, tonal space. But you know, I thought “Oh wow, it's full”, and it just kind of like brought me a little bit closer to that concept of like, having two power trios on stage.
[Neil] How did Doc Coyle get involved?
[Kirk] Well we've known Doc for a while he was in God Forbid, and he, you know, he's a great auxiliary guitar player. He's great and he's not
[Paul] Oh yeah, he’s got it, the vocals and everything.
[Neil] Yeah, I like the fact that he knows his chords. He's out of the sandbox in terms of chords. A lot of rock guitar players never make it out of the sandbox in terms of chords, you know. you tell them to f***in play a 13th chord, they’re like “Huh?”. You know for me, it's important to know all as many chords as possible. I've always been that way, always! And chords to me are a freaking incredible mystery, I mean, you know, a grip can hold so much emotion, so much tonal quality, and suggest so much melody, just like one freakin chord! You know, it's amazing to me. But like, Doc he knows, you know if I tell him “Give me a diminished chord or augmented”, he’ll f***in play it, which is great. And he's really great at adding, kind of like a certain kind of spice to all this stuff that we're playing. And this is his first show with The Wedding Band. We brought him in as kind of like an auxiliary player.
[Paul] He did a great job.
[Neil] Sound check sounded good!
[Kirk] Yeah he's the right guy for, again, for this sort of situation. He's a nice guy, he cares about the music, you know, and he goes deep in it, he's not afraid to go deep in it, and you know, just f***in just go for it!
[Neil] What are you guys, what style are you looking for, or what covers are you looking forward to the most in terms of playing?
[Kirk] I love to just start jamming and just see where it goes, and these funk songs are good vehicles for that. It's just you know, just start jamming and see where it goes, because a lot of a lot of the funk structures are kind of open for just like, jamming and improvising. And yeah, I mean, we have other songs we've played too, but you know the songs we're playing tonight are just like, they're kind of like the songs we get together for a shorter set. What I really would like to do is just like turn it into something that Rob and I can do when we're bored, and we feel like we need to work. Because you know, Metallica only really plays 55 shows a year, and we only record on certain periods of time so there is downtime. And you know because, it's just the person I am, the musician I am, and I crave playing with other people, and Rob's not that much different you know. That's why we were playing together which is we need and crave jamming and so it's a good vehicle for us to jam with other people you know, f***in just improvise, play stuff that we don't usually play, you know, and use it to explore. You know if something comes up, and Rob needs a band for an event, you know, I'm there for him, you know, I needed a band for this event and you know these guys are here for me, it's a great thing.
[Neil] Is there anyone who you have in mind that you call upon that you were thinking of in the near future? Or just anyone?
[Kirk] Well I want, you know, I would like to find someone who is a multi-instrumentalist, who can play keyboards, violin, cello, and flute. That would be incredible if we can find - where's that wave pool! Where is it? Where is it? Seriously, I didn't know there's a wave pool here.
[Kirk] Serious, have you guys been there? I haven’t surfed in like eight weeks! I’ll go there right now and f***in start surfing!
[Neil] Just start surfing, amazing [Laughing]
[Kirk] Serious, f***!
[Paul] Shorts shopping, let's go!
[Neil] Yeah, it’s the right weather for it too.
[Kirk] I'll f***in surf naked, I don’t care!
[Neil] [Laughing] Actually, let's shift onto that topic, surfing!
[Kirk] I can't believe you guys have a wave pool!
[Paul] Yeah we actually have a few.
[Kirk] Really? Okay well…
[Paul] Let's do it! Part two!
[Kirk] I may be coming back here a lot! They want me to come back in like, November, December, but it might be a lot sooner.
[Paul] Playing today at the wave pool!
[Neil] Live at the wave pool!
[Kirk] You know there are, so Kelly Slater has a wave pool down in Fresno and it has a stage there, so that fans can play.
[Neil] Yeah that's cool!
[Kirk] So yeah, I’ll try to get something going there.
Warriors fan Kirk Hammett gets reminded of Raptors win in the NBA Finals.
[Neil] At the recent NBA Finals, you played the Star-Spangled Banner. We loved your solo, we also loved the results of that game.
[Kirk] Yeah, I know, I know. I was torn!
[Neil] I had to do it!
[Kirk] I was really torn! I was like “Go Warriors! But oh man, I'm gonna be in Toronto! And my collection is living over there right now” [Laughing] You know I mean I better like, cool it. I don’t want people to like, rush the museum and burn down my stuff! [Laughing] And it was funny, I was at the game, right. Yeah, at the game, and then I got a message from The ROM, the Royal Ontario Museum, saying “If you have the chance, please mention us. I'm like, okay yeah I'll do that!” But you know, when I did an interview, all they wanted to ask me about is like the Warriors and the Raptors and you know I had to negotiate that.
[Neil] [Laughing] I'll leave you alone with that.
[Kirk] Yeah, but thank you for acknowledging the plight that I went through! [Laughing]
Kirk Hammett tells us all about the guitar amps he prefers live and in the studio.
[Paul] Let’s talk amps. What are you currently using?
[Kirk] I'm using a Randall Fortin amp built by Mike Fortin, the amp wizard of the world. I use that and I blend it with a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier and that's pretty much what my sound is. Now I take that a further step and I model that sound through a Fractal. It does it for consistency, and then once it's in the Fractal it doesn't matter where I'm at, rehearsal, stadium, club, bedroom, backstage, it always sounds the same. Because that's the beauty of a fractal, it's super consistent.
[Paul] What about in the studio? Do you break out some of the old amps?
[Kirk] Yeah, yeah, I have this one Marshall that I just love to death. It's like, I would say maybe a late seventies, early eighties Marshall. I'm not sure what the year is, but it had been modded and it's just a great sounding amp and I love using it.
[Paul] Like a Pre JCM-800?
[Kirk] Yeah, probably, yeah probably. And I have a bunch of old Marshalls I just love. I have an 18 watt Marshall that is just so incredibly great sounding, and I love Voxes. I have a bunch of old Voxes. I have a bunch of old Fenders as well. I had this one Fender, I think it's a Princeton. It doesn't matter in what guitar you plug into it, it makes all guitars sound good. And it's crazy, I never had an amp like that! You know, and it’s like literally, I can grab any guitar and plug it in and it'll just sound amazing! Yeah, I just found out that I used to have a Dumble, and Bob Rock and I would just kind of like, we would wonder why this Dumble didn't sound as kick-ass as we thought Dumbles would sound, and you know I was agonizing over it for the longest time and we you know, it was not good enough to be a standalone amp. I mean we were always blending it with other amps and I just could never understand why it didn't sound good. And I thought maybe it's because I don't get Dumbles. Maybe this is the sound people like, but then just only a couple of days ago, I met someone here in Toronto who knows about Dumbles and actually knew about the amp that I had and told me that it used to be owned by this guy named Jesse Cohen Young, singer-songwriter from the 70s, and his truck got in an accident and it rolled and the amp was inside the truck when it rolled. So I have a feeling that the amp was damaged ever so slightly, just enough to change the sound. And yeah, it’s interesting. And then I told him “Look, I sold that amp for like a crazy amount of money cuz someone wanted it and offered me a crazy amount of money, I just had to say yes because I wasn't that attached to it because I didn't think it sounded that great” and he goes “Wow, that's amazing because you know how much someone is asking for that very same amp now?” I said “No, how much?” He said “$750,000”, I said “Goodnight, nice knowing you!” That much money for an amp? No way, no way! That guy must have been f***ing with me.
[Paul] I mean they've teetered on $100,000. Six digits for a while but that’s crazy.
[Kirk] Yeah, but nothing like that! I mean, maybe if it was like, you know, Jimi Hendrix's Sunn amp that he used to like, you know-
[Paul] Yeah, the original one!
[Kirk] Yeah, but no! It's like, it's crazy and again, the amp doesn't sound that good. But the guy said “But the cool thing about it is it has your name right over the standby switch!” I’m like, looking at the picture of my amp over the standby switch and I'm thinking “Still, no 750k!”
Kirk Hammett has a ton of “kickass” material ready for the next Metallica album.
[Neil] You guys have been you know, touring the WorldWired tour for quite some time. You guys played, I think you guys played Moscow on Sunday
[Kirk] Yeah, Sunday, Sunday night.
[Neil] Right, and then you played Finland before, and yeah and apparently 1% of Finland came out, came out to the show! How hard are you guys gonna go for this specific tour and are you guys gonna get back in the studio anytime soon? Well the plan is to go back in the studio at some point next year, but we're also still on tour, so we'll see how that all phases out. But you know we're going to go into next year playing shows as well, where there's a bunch of shows that are slated for next year. And you know though, the one really exciting thing that I'm looking forward to is September in San Francisco where we play with the symphony again. I'd be playing two songs or two shows at the symphony, and you know as I said, big classical fan, so I cannot wait. I have the craziest guitar, I have a cello guitar. Yeah it's insane! The neck is totally contoured like a cello but has frets. You play it with a bow, and I've been playing it for a while. It is hard to play! And I realized that it's better to to play this way [gestures] than to play this way [gestures] because if you play this way [gestures] the bowing gets kind of difficult and you need to be really just precise, but if you play this way [gestures] along you know, up and down single strings, you get a lot more out of it and a lot better intonation, a lot better sound. But it's hard to play. But my point is you know, if I'm able to conquer that cello guitar, maybe I'll bring it out and play it in some sort of context with S&M.
[Neil] Any kind of idea of the direction of the songs that you know you would want to take into the next album?
[Kirk] Just like, kick-ass heavy metal.
[Neil] Amen, give the people what they want!
[Kirk] Yeah you know, I like kick-ass heavy metal. That's heavy and fast and energetic and fun to listen to, and like, different. I have a lot of stuff written that I put aside for the band. I have a lot of stuff, because last album, I didn't have any stuff because I lost most of my ideas, you know, when I lost my phone, over 500 musical ideas.
[Neil] Yes, that's something that was a huge story!
[Kirk] Yeah it took me a long time to recover from that. And it got into my head that I had to produce twice as much, because you know, I basically overcompensated. So as it stands, as we speak, I just have a lot of material. Really kick-ass, great material that I can't wait to show the other guys and turn in some music, record, get the album out, and have more kick-ass metal!
Kirk Hammett reflects on Metallica’s timeless legacy across generations.
[Neil] Metallica is, when I was a teen, I picked up the guitar after I heard Fade to Black and that was that was my thing that made me want to pick up a guitar and actually learn the guitar and you know, many years later I work in a music store and I hear these kids, they come in and they're trying to play Master of Puppets, they're trying to you know, trying to do the licks, and you know those kind of things, and it seems like it's this thing that transcends generations, the young teen that's trying to learn their first Metallica riffs. What do you think about that and that enduring legacy?
[Kirk] Well I have to say that I will be eternally thankful that our music is somewhat timeless and that it appeals to multiple generations. I mean that in itself is great because you know, you can't sit down and just say “Oh I'm gonna write something timeless” you know, it just doesn't happen. It's just like, it just doesn't happen, it's like “Okay I'm gonna sit down and create a unicorn” like this doesn't happen!
[Neil] So you didn't know those solos were gonna be you know-
[Kirk] Well we were just trying our best you know, the hardest that we possibly could to be the best band and be best at everything a band does, and that has always been our thing. Just f***in do the best that you possibly can! And even if it means f***in like, you know, tearing your guts out you know, not sleeping being away for f***in months, whatever! Just do the best that you possibly can and that's all we ever did and somehow, in some way, we managed to make these songs that speak to people young and old alike. And you know there are a few bands like that.
[Mark] I think it's very evident. Like the last concert I went to, they pointed out a 96 year-old woman in the balcony area, and then I had my 6 and 8 year old boys there too, so it went from old to young.
[Kirk] Yeah it appeals to everybody, Yeah absolutely, and you know I feel very fortunate because that's where you want to be. I mean that what The Beatles are. They're multi-generational, you know. That's what The Rolling Stones are, they’re multi-generational. Black Sabbath is multi-generational. So I mean, that's a good place to be.
[Neil] Is it a full circle moment for you, because I'd imagine that you started off, just like any other you know, teenager, or you know-
[Kirk] In a cover band?
[Neil] Yeah, you know, so is it a full circle moment?
[Kirk] Yeah, because one of the songs we’re playing, “Live Wire”, I played in Exodus when Exodus didn't have that many songs and we needed cover songs, and that was one of the songs that we played. So you know, when Rob goes “Do you remember, Rob? Live Wire?” I'm looking at him, I'm going “Do I remember it? It’s part of my f***in DNA!” Somewhere in my spine, deep down. Same “Highway To Hell”, with “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”, you know those are songs that I've been playing ever since I was a kid, a teenager, you know that those songs are just part of my DNA. And so I love playing those songs, and it's great to still play those songs nowadays because they're just as fun to play now as they were when I was 15 years old in Exodus, you know, and could barely play them!
Kirk Hammett calls his legendary “Greeny” Les Paul a “guitar of the people”.
[Paul] With ESP, did they come to you, you went to them?
[Kirk] I went to them. Back in 1987, Scott Ian said “Hey man, there's this company and they'll give you free guitars and put anything you want on them”. I'm like “Really?” He goes “Yeah, I'll take you there”. We went to the ESP office in New York, right there on 48th Avenue and I met you know, the guy at the time, this guy named Stefan Kauffman, who was like the CEO at the time, and he said “Yeah, I'll give you a guitar” and I said to him “Okay, can I like, just wander through your neck section, you know, cuz they had like the neck section, nothing but necks, and I literally just picked up all these necks, started feeling them, and Scott was like “What are you doing?” I’m like “Oh my god, I’m feeling the necks, man”, and I was feeling the necks until I found one that was really good, and then you know, I found a body that looked like it would work for me, but it had single coil pickups in it, and I said “Okay, I want you to take this guitar, and I want you to put these special pickups in it that I put in all my guitars, EMGs, and they’re in my Jackson and they're in my Flying V”. And so they took that neck, they took that body, and reappropriated it so that they could have two EMG pickups in it, with you know a Floyd and two volumes in one tone, because who needs two tones? No one ever needs two tones, give me a break, okay! No one ever needs two tones, and there it was there it was, the very first KH1, and for me it's it's been the guitar that's f***in you know, just powered my career. And ESP is amazing. They will make me literally anything I want, and I've asked them to make me some crazy things, and they've made it for me. I said make me a neck-through body and that was like my second one, and when I got that one that was it. I mean, I was like, “You guys are incredible”. I keep their custom shop pretty busy, in fact, Matt some time, well last time, I had a conversation about new guitar ideas he said “Okay we just have to stop here at this point because you're gonna back up the custom shop!” ESP has really been my only real guitar endorser and there's no real reason for me to go anywhere else.
[Mark] There seem to be a lot of artists who are creating their own brand of guitars, is that something you would ever consider?
[Kirk] Yeah, but you know, guitars, I mean there’s so much that goes into them, you know, and they're just, it’s a major production, producing guitars. It is major, it is major! And you know, there's always like issues with certain types of wood these days, you know. You can use this wood, but you can't use that wood. Use this wood, can't use that wood, blah blah blah. And so it just seems like a big, just like, quagmire, though I like the idea, and you know it will be actually very very cool. I’m actually very satisfied with the guitar situation I'm in. ESP will make me about anything that I want and my Mummy guitar that they made me in 1995 gets better and better every freaking year, sound wise. I mean, it's amazing, I mean I have actually compared it in the studio to other recordings and think “Wow, it's just like, it's getting better and better, warmer and warmer”. And then I have Greeny and Greeny just kind of like, fills in all the gaps that the ESP guitars can't fill in. You know playing real traditional rock, real traditional blues, you know having a fat syrupy neck pickup sound, having that out of phase sound in the middle, I mean that's all stuff that I can't get from ESP guitars. And so you know Greeny and my ESP guitars means I get to cover, I can cover a lot of ground tonally sound wise.
[Mark] Your Highway To Hell last night with Whit singing was like “Oh my goodness”, just the people in that room were just melting, it was just unbelievable.
[Kirk] Well you know what's pretty amazing too, is Greeny. When I play that riff, it sounds like Angus’ guitar, you know, even though yeah he's using probably an SG, it’s still f***in really similar. I mean you know, just those humbuckers that are not active, you know, through an amp that has a pretty full sound, oh my god, it's just like, it sounds so good.
[Paul] Greeny’s no slouch, that's like the understatement of the year!
[Kirk] Yeah, when I play Sabbath with Greeny I mean, Greeny’s tone just falls right into place! [Paul] It's amazing that you're actually touring and playing that guitar as much as you are and I love to see you play it.
[Kirk] Bro, I bring it everywhere with me.
[Paul] Which is unbelievable
[Kirk] It’s in a car behind us right now!
[Paul] Yeah you know, you got these collectors that have these things in cases and I'm like, and I'm seeing you yesterday I'm like, “Man, that thing's getting played like crazy!” and I mean kudos to you that it’s getting the love that it deserves!
[Kirk] People want to hear it!
[Kirk] You know and when you come to see Metallica, you get an opportunity to hear a friggin’ historical guitar. And you know it's a cool thing for a lot of people, it's a cool thing for me, and you know that guitar doesn't deserve to be in the darkness. No, not at all. It belongs among the living, doing what it does the best. Sing, you know, sing like hell!
[Paul] Does it ever!
[Kirk] Yeah and you know for all of us, I mean it really feels like it's a guitar of the people. I say that a lot because so many people love it, and like, so many amazing songs have been played on it and written on it, and you know it's had such an illustrious life of its own, you know, independently of me. It's just a blessed piece of wood and I feel so fortunate to be able to play it. I feel that I'm the like, the luckiest mother-
[Mark] The guitar has chosen you!
[Kirk] Yeah! Because it came to me! It actually came to me, I didn't go chasing it. I got a phone call one day in London and someone said “Well, I have this guitar and I'm like no way, I ain't touching it, not for that price!” Because you know the rumor was that it was two million dollars, and the guy said “Merely a rumor”. I'm like “Bring it over”. Yeah, I'll let anyone play it. Because it's been played by so many other people-
[Paul] Challenge accepted.
[Kirkl Yeah yeah, you can play it when we get to the store. Jimi Hendrix played that guitar, Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, you know, just so many people have played that guitar. Jimmy Page told me to buy it! And so you know, when Jimmy says “I know about that guitar, it’s probably a good idea”
[Paul] I think you need to get on that!
[Kirk] Yeah exactly!
[Paul] Do you remember the first riff you played when you got it?
[Kirk] I just started riffing out! Yeah and you know I switched to on onto the neck pickup, I was like “Yes!” and then switched on to the the bridge pickup I was like “Yeah!”, and then switched to the middle, and that's what blew me away, because that inverted pickup, neck pickup, when you put it in the middle or causes an out of phase sound that sounds like a Strat through Marshalls, and it's so insanely great and it's unique too. That middle setting is not on any other Les Paul because the neck pickup is inverted. And you know I've seen articles on how to get that inverted out of phase sound, but I keep on thinking to myself, you know, well the reason Greeny even has that sound is because of an accident, and so for someone to try and recreate that sound purposely? Good luck.
Kirk Hammett is going to put another classic Dracula poster on a guitar.
[Neil] One thing about your exhibit is you know, the massive collection of posters and old-school stuff. What really struck me is that all these posters, back in the day is, like, it had to be a piece of art itself, instead of a way to sort of-it's almost like a way to not just sell the movie but be a piece of art on its own.
[Kirk] Well that's what people expected back then, you know. I don't think that there was much advertisement, that was just kind of skimpy back then. Back then if you look at how everything was done, I mean almost everything was illustrated. There weren’t photographs for a lot of products yet, and so a lot of products, everything was illustrated, you know, artwork. And so yes, you're absolutely 100% correct. It had to be art, it had to be artful. Now the problem though was that you know, people took it for granted and said “Oh, cool poster!” and just tore it down and threw it away or whatever, you know, or plastered another poster on top of it or whatever, and that's why it's part of the reason why these posters are so rare today. There weren't any people who were forward-thinking enough to realize that someone might think that these posters might be worth something to someone, right? In future generations, you know, people like me.
[Paul] Do you have a few that stick out to you, like your baby so to speak?
[Kirk] Oh yeah, yeah, I really like The Mummy three-sheet. It’s amazing, yeah it's an amazing poster. That image is on my guitar. Yeah that poster came from Sweden, and when I unrolled it, it looked like it had just been printed yesterday. It still looks like it is printed yesterday, the colours are so vivid and fresh and vibrant, it's hard to believe that you know, that poster is 90 years old, because it looks brand new!
[Neil] It looks so vivid, I think was like the type of process used, the lithography.
[Kirk] Yeah stone litho, yeah to get that effect. That in itself is a lost art. Some people are starting to bring it back, there's a couple people in the states that are starting to do it, and it's interesting because for a long time it was dead and when I heard someone was actually interested enough to like, start to pick it up, I thought “Wow, that is very cool”.
[Paul] Any others come to mind?
[Kirk] Oh yeah, yeah. I just got a Dracula one-sheet and the first time I got to see it was at the exhibit. I mean I just got it a couple years ago and it stayed in storage until this exhibit, and so when it came out and I was actually able to see it, in the last few days, I have to say, I love that poster! It is rockin’! And I'm putting that image on a guitar.
Kirk Hammett intends to direct a horror movie with his own music as the soundtrack.
[Paul] Going back to the classic horror if you wanted to, I mean you've been really bringing out a renewed interest in the classic horror movies. If you were to give somebody, a younger person you know, a Kirk's three picks, what would it be? Like, you must see these three.
[Kirk] Well I mean it's just really obvious, I mean the first Frankenstein movie is incredible and holds up into this day in terms of like, atmosphere and story, and just like you know, just pure creepiness. The first Dracula movie holds up in terms of, again, story, and Bela Lugosi is the Count Dracula. His performance of Dracula, I mean, there's nothing around that ever topped it. There are people who’ve played Dracula since Lugosi like Christopher Lee and did a really, really, really great job, you know, an A+ plus job, but Bela Lugosi will always be THE guy.
[Neil] I mean, he saw it as like, Shakespearean.
[Kirk] Well his life is like a Shakespearean drama, for sure, but you know I would also say watch The Mummy because yeah that movie is just, it's great, it has like a subplot of reincarnation and then another subplot of romance... I can do without the romance part... but it's amazing in that it's shot really, really well. Karl Freund, the director who shot The Mummy, went on to do a bunch of other really great movies, a lot of stuff with like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and what not and so The Mummy as a film, like the first 10 minutes are amazing in terms of like, black and white cinematography, and then Karloff's portrayal of Imhotep, who's like the reincarnated version of The Mummy. So evil and so creepy! I mean really, it's just it's amazing
[Paul] What about present day horror?
[Kirk] Oh there's so much, so much good stuff.
[Paul] You got any specific ones?
[Kirk] Well okay, so one of the best horror movies I saw was last year on Netflix and it was called The Ritual, and I thought it was just one of the greatest horror films. It had everything in it that I would want from a horror film. There's The Witch, which came out recently, well in the last three years, and that's a great, great film. It's so creepy and the dialogue that's used is the actual dialogue from the Salem witch trials.
[Neil] Oh wow!
[Kirk] Yeah it's really, really great. One of the most unique films to come out recently is this film called The Border. It's a Norwegian film and you don't really know where it's gonna go. You're kind of like, thinking “Oh, I think I know what's gonna happen” but then it takes a left turn, you know, you're like “What!? Did that just really happen?” And then it takes another left turn you know, going “Okay, now I'm in a totally completely different place than I ever expected to be”, and I love movies like that where they're just so unpredictable and halfway through you just scratch your head going “What the? What is going on here?”
[Neil] You’ve seen any of Jordan Peele’s movies? What do you think of those?
[Kirk] Oh yes, I think Us is a great, great flick. Super creepy, you know, I think some of the best horror films kind of elicit a kind of, like, curiosity while you're watching them. You’re like “Why is this happening? I need to find out more! “What's going on?” and that factors in that movie a lot.
[Paul] Do you ever see yourself in a director's role or executive producer’s role?
[Kirk] Yes, absolutely, absolutely.
[Paul] I think you’d be the perfect candidate for that.
[Kirk] You know I just got to get my s*it together and like, you know, I did get it together, I mean, I had to prioritize, and at this time you know, music means so much to me and you know, is it like obvious strength for me, but I know I I think I could make a really, really incredible horror film. It's just that you know, one - I need to find the time, two - I need to find someone else's money. [Laughing]
[Paul] You’ve got the soundtrack stuff already!
[Kirk] I already have! Yeah, I mean part of the work’s already done
[Neil] Would you score it?
[Kirk] Absolutely, absolutely, yeah absolutely, and that would be a huge pleasure for me, that would be.
[Neil] I think I can speak on behalf of many fans to say that would be a treat.
[Paul] Yeah, that’s gotta happen.
[Kirk] But you know, I just got to get it together and you know, find a script, you know start doing all the groundwork, and that's a lot of work. I mean, that is a lot of work. Ask Slash, ask Rob Zombie, it's a lot of work.
[Neil] Would it be like a monster kind of flick?
[Kirk] It would be a horror film, whatever it would be, it would probably be a horror film, you know, for sure. And if I decided that I wanted to like, remake a film, I would not water it down like so many other people do these days. I mean the new Pet Sematary is so watered down. The Evil Dead remake was so watered down, you know Halloween... ehh…
[Paul] Okay well let me ask you this - a favourite remake?
[Kirk] You know, that's a hard one, because-
[Neil] Well a few that come to mind.
[Kirk] Well, you know some of the Godzilla remakes are great because you can always improve on Godzilla with special effects. Whatever the current special effects are of the day, Godzilla's gonna look better.
[Neil] The thing about Godzilla is, I think it's all about how they do the reveal of the monster. It could be totally bad if they do it too early, show too much…
[Kirk] Yeah, yeah, and lighting too! And atmosphere, I mean, I've seen horror movies where they've totally blown that kind of thing. You know, the creature will come out like in a spaceship and there's like no atmosphere, you know, bright light, like no smoke or mist or anything you know, just like no music to really make it dramatic, and it just falls flat. It just looks like “Oh there's a guy in a monster suit walking out onto the set now” You really start to think that if it's not shot well and the reveal isn't appropriate.
[Neil] And those old-school ones, there's a lot of like, hard hits, like “DUN!” you know with the reveal.
[Kirk] Oh, yeah yeah, absolutely, absolutely. You know the thing about those Godzilla movies too is that ever since I was a kid, you know, watching Godzilla rampage through Toronto-or… Toronto [Laughing]
[Paul] That could be fun! Wait a second, that could be the movie!
[Kirk] That would be MY movie! Where’s that needle? [Laughing] Yeah you know the thing that always kind of bothered me a little bit about Godzilla movies ever since I was a kid and now is, while Godzilla's trampling through Tokyo, what happens to all the people who were still caught in Tokyo who can't get out - massive fatalities! But you know, they never breached that, you know they never really go there with that. Actually there was one Godzilla movie that did and I was actually surprised. I mean they showed, there's this one scene where they had this woman, she was like doing something in the kitchen and she looks up and there's Godzilla's tail like swinging her way. But the problem with that is, if Godzilla's in town, what's she doing in her kitchen making coffee!? [Laughter]
Kirk Hammett gets “piano fatigue” when listening to piano concertos.
[Neil] Do you ever really draw from classical music?
[Kirk] Bro, I am consumed by classical music. Totally consumed by a bunch of different composers. My favourite right now is this guy named Modest Mussorgsky. He did a symphony called “Pictures at an Exhibition”, which is a very very famous piece and an amazing accomplishment of music. Emerson Lake & Palmer actually covered the entire album back in the 70s. It's just like, you know for me it's about what I'm obsessed with right now. But yeah Vivaldi, Bach, Albinoni, Scarlatti... I can just go on and on and on about classical music and how much it means to me and how rich it is in terms of like, musical ideas and theory and formulation, and execution and just tonality.
[Neil] Do you think people maybe under appreciate that?
[Kirk] Oh yeah well you have to have a certain sort of patience first, and it's also I think very important to find the classical music that you like, because there are all sorts of different types of classical music. I mean personally I get piano fatigue if I'm listening to acoustic piano for too long. I'm like “Ahhh, turn it off!” So I cannot listen to piano concertos for too long, okay, give me a symphony with strings and a horn section, you know woodwinds and that kind of thing and I can listen to it forever.
Kirk Hammett on Metallica’s horror influence: “I am a product of minor scale darkness”.
[Neil] You're here in Toronto for your horror exhibit “It's Alive!” and you know it's really really fascinating to me to see your passion for horror movies and your collection come to life. Yeah you know, by the way, I watched Day of the Triffids. [Laughing]
[Kirk] I left out the part where everyone's blind. Isn’t that crazy? Everyone’s blind! [Laughing]
[Paul] I gotta ask you, how long did it take you to get back into a garden or anything green after seeing that movie?
[Kirk] You know what I did? No, it's interesting you say that because like, I remember the next day going out into the garden with some scissors and just like, looking for anything that looks like a Triffid and cutting it and bringing it inside with me and pretending it was a Triffid
[Neil] You go ahead and get some sea water too [Laughing].
[Kirk] I know it’s gonna spew!
[Neil] Gotta dissolve those things! It's just funny to see, you know the creation because you know, I haven't watched a lot of the really old school kind of horror stuff but you know, the whole idea of like the monster, and the reveal, and you know there's no CGI, obviously, it's all the sort of-I think at one point in Day of The Triffids, it must have been a guy with a glove. I saw the glove for sure!
[Kirk] Yeah, yeah definitely! I mean the Triffids were just guys in big monster suits. You really have to as they say suspend your disbelief and when you see all these older movies because they are laughable and for sure. But if you get really, really into it and really, really into the mood, you can really have a better experience. You know, if you look at that funny looking creature and just imagine it scary then you'll have that much richer of an experience.
[Neil] Yeah and I think you know, people were able to suspend their disbelief you know-
[Kirk] Well even back in the day people were laughing! [Laughing]
[Neil] True I mean that's part of it. I mean that's part of the camp I guess of it. And I wanted to ask you I guess about how this sort of idea of like, almost campy or that classic horror that you grew up with - how does it influence your composing and your creation of heavy metal music?
[Kirk] Well it's real general, I mean, yeah I wish I could say that you know, this movie is responsible for this song, or this riff or whatever, but I mean seeing these movies engulfed me in an overall emotion that's the same sort of emotion you know, I get when I'm playing my guitar and I'm composing. I am just a product of you know, minor scale darkness.
[Kirk] Yeah and so when I write songs, when I write music, some of it sounds like the stuff of nightmares, really. You know, cuz I write a lot of that mysterious stuff. I write a lot of stuff that could be in soundtracks, yeah and stored away just in case I need to use it for a soundtrack sometime.
[Neil] I did want to ask you about that.
[Kirk] Yeah I mean I do in fact have like, tons of music that I've just set it aside for soundtracks. But it is the thing of nightmares. It comes out of a really deep black hole in my soul and you know, I'm totally fine with it because it gives me comfort, you know. I like flatted fifths, I like minor scales, diminished scales, augmented scales like minor sevenths and sixes and nines. I get tired of playing power chords and open chords. You know, I’m all about suspensions, I think it's a better mirror of my life and just how I am inside. I went on an experiment one time to try to write something happy without being obviously happy, right? And it just, it just didn't happen. It didn’t happen. I listened to it and even though it was in a major key, it still sounded somewhat like, sorrowful and like, you know there was still tension to it. And I really, really tried to like, write something uplifting, like you know how Bach can uplift someone in a minor key, you know? He has a way of like, writing stuff in minor keys but it's still, you're like “Oooh, ah, beautiful!” I can't do that. It's just all, like I said, it all sounds like the end of the world.
Loretta Lynn saw Kirk Hammett’s country cover and said she may cover a Metallica song.
[Neil] On stage when you do those doodles with Rob, it’s got to be such a fun sort of distraction or or a little side yeah thing from on the show.
[Kirk] Yeah absolutely, and the crazy thing is we never really know what the response is gonna be because you have to understand, we're going into a country, we're picking like, some song that's seemingly random and abstract to us, right, and we're learning this song that we've never heard before from this artist that we've never heard before and we're taking a chance of playing it in the stadium in front of 60,000 people and we're hoping that we made the right choice. And so, and the last like, I would say three legs, we've been hitting it out of the park, but you know before that there was some growing pains, and there have been a few times where we've gone to it into a place and pick the wrong song, and play it, and people are going “Huh?”
[Paul] Which one?
[Kirk] Well you know, it's more so in the case in places like the States, you know we'll go into a place like Minneapolis and we'll play a song by an obscure punk band called the Zero Boys, you know because we think they're cool, Rob and I, and we don't want to, you know, play any other of the Minneapolis options that we have like freaking Blister in the Sun or something crazy like that, that drives me crazy, but you know, we went out there, we played this Zero Boys song, we played the hell out of it, and it was really cool, but we looked out in the audience, they were just like “Huh?”
[Neil] That's funny!
[Kirk] But you know the thing is, and I always, Rob and I always tell each other that if we pick a song and people don't recognize it, it's not the end of the world as long as we play it well and are entertaining it in the way we play it, so I mean we have that to fall back on, thank god.
[Mark] Or maybe you’re introducing people to something they haven’t heard before.
[Kirk] Exactly, absolutely. I mean we played a Johnny Hallyday song in Paris and oh my god, I mean we thought we had that the whole stadium singing because Johnny Hallyday, who's the biggest, he's like the Elvis of France, he had died the year before and so when we played that song, and it wasn't long ago, was only about three months ago, the entire stadium just was singing along with it and afterwards it made the news, the evening news, and they even interviewed Tony Hallyday’s widow to see, you know, what she thought about it.
[Neil] What did she think about it?
[Kirk] She thought it was wonderful!
[Neil] That's awesome!
[Kirk] Yeah and that's the cool thing you know, when you hear stuff like that coming back to you, you can tell that you know, you kind of touched someone in a deeper way, that's really cool. We were in Nashville, and we played a Loretta Lynn song, we played this one song “I'm talking about country” in Nashville, a country song... you know, yeah it was like playing country licks, the whole thing, and it was pretty funny for me and Rob.
[Neil] It’s a little bit of a departure!
[Kirk] Yeah but when we played it, you know, people recognized it. Not everyone, but enough people, but the important thing is the next day I got a message from Loretta Lynn who said she was actually at the show with her family, and was so tickled when we broke into her song! And she said that you know, she might think about covering one of our songs sometimes, but in the meantime, we should do more of her songs! And sometimes it just gets downright abstract. I mean we were in Stockholm, and... yes we did the final countdown because we had to, you know played this song and then afterwards I actually saw the keyboard player, and I said to him “Hey bro, what did you think of our version?” and he goes “Oh I loved it!” and then I realized I was playing his keyboard line on guitar and I thought “So what did you think of my little guitar thing of your keyboard part and he said “It actually sounded better!” And I was like “Whoa, thank you, you actually think so?” he goes “Yeah well you know, keyboards are wimpy”. He actually said that to me.
Kirk Hammett tells the story of how The Wedding Band was formed.
[Neil] Pretty awesome yesterday.
[Kirk] Oh, it was great, you know I I was really looking forward to playing my guitar nice and loud. It was nice to do it again last night and you know I'm really looking forward to playing with the guys in The Wedding Band because Joey Castillo, the drummer, he's just an excellent drummer.
[Neil] Of course, yeah he’s a beast!
[Kirk] Yeah and you know everyone knows how much of a beast Rob is, and then wait it's just like, a great frontman and a great singer and just a great overall person and you know, it's just really fun jamming with these guys, it’s something different and for Rob and I, it's cool because we get to indulge our love of funk and punk,
[Neil] Yeah you guys are playing some Chic a little bit.
[Kirk] Yeah, most other stuff. Yeah it's really funny because I was listening to all sorts of crazy music in the 70s. You know a lot of funk, R&B, and so I've always had a real appreciation of that music of that time, and when I found out that Rob did, we started playing our favourite songs. Funk from the 70s is so unique and it's almost a lost art because, you know, no one is writing songs like that anymore. You know, hip-hop kind of rules today, yeah and so it almost feels like Rob and I are keeping that whole funk thing alive, you know, even though we're not really… but you know, but I mean we were keeping it alive in ourselves.
[Neil] Yeah, that's so important! Yeah, so how did you get in touch with, like how did this wedding band form?
[Kirk] Yeah well it all happened when my friend, this pro surfer friend of mine, told me he was getting married and I said “Hey, I'll play your wedding”, just kind of like, impulsively, and then five or six months later he said, “Hey bro, what's up man, you play you're gonna play my wedding, right?”, and I'm like, “Uhhh… yeah... I guess so!”, and he goes “Alright, great. Great, man, because it's in like a month or so”. I was like, “Oh man...” so I thought about it and I thought “Well Rob knows Benji, maybe I can get Rob” so I called Rob up and I said “Hey man, wanna just like, jam, just you and me, you know, for a friend's wedding? It'll be cool”. He goes “Okay, yeah, I’ll do it” but you know, then the next day he called me up and said “Hey man, we should get a drummer, we should, like, you know, making it like a BAND band”. I'm like “Okay”, so we got our friend Jon Theodore, amazing drummer as well, and then we were kind of stuck for a vocalist, and I kept on saying to Rob “Are you ready to sing the songs we're gonna jam on? Because, you know, he sings the duets a lot of the time. He's like “AWW MAN!” That's exactly what he said. And so I said “Well we gotta look for a singer, cuz I ain't singing that stuff” or a singer guitar player, and he goes “Okay”, so the next day he said “Hey, let’s get Whit!” and I've known Whit for a long freaking time, like 30 years I've known that guy, seriously, I've known that guy almost 30 years, and I said “Of course! Why didn't I think of Whit, let's get Whit!” and then all of a sudden we had a band, and we got together and started jamming out tunes and and it sounded amazingly good, and then we started to just jam, improvise, and it sounded amazingly good, and so you know, we became The Wedding Band. We played at my friend Benji's wedding. Turnout was great, and at that wedding was a guy named Joel Parkinson, who was a pro surfer and some of the guys from Billabong, you know the surf company Billabong, and so we got approached to play Joel Parkinson’s retirement party by Billabong, and they said “Yeah, we want The Wedding Band”, so we were like “Okay, we're there!” And so we played that, and it was incredible too. And so, this opportunity came up, of course I called Rob up and I said “Feel like playing in Toronto with The Wedding Band? He said, of course, you know, so I called up everyone, everyone said “Yeah”, but then Jon Theodore said “Man, I'm on tour with his band right now who was opening for Muse in Europe, and I won't be able to make it” and I was like “Aww”, so we ended up getting Joey Castillo who is probably like, the best person to play in Jon Theodore's place. Yeah, probably, I mean, it's funny because Jon Theodore replaced Joey in Queens of the Stone Age, but you know, that has no no bearing on us, but still, I mean, that's pretty much how The Wedding Band came together. And you know, it's primarily a way for Rob and I to just jam out, because we love to jam, we love playing with people, we love to play funk, and so it's become a bit of an outlet for us. But I mean you know, it's nothing really serious or anything like that, and we're really open to, like, you know anyone coming and playing with us, and I even asked the other guys in the band if they want to come by and jam, you know, always open, always open. This is not a closed border sort of a band situation, you know anyone could come in and play… as long as they’re good.
[Neil] I’m sure you have access to those musicians! And it's really funny to me because, you know, even just watching your your soundcheck, and all that kind of stuff, and you know you're in the biggest, you're one of the biggest metal musicians of all time and you know, you guys play stadiums every other day and you just wanted to, you know, jam out, almost like just a group of guys, that even I can relate to.
[Kirk] It's so recreational, bro, it is so recreational. But you know, musicians need recreational music as well. I mean they need to like, play stuff that they don't really have to worry too much about, and you know there's, that we don't, you know, have too much accountability over, you know what I mean? And so, it's just a light cool fun thing for us, and you know, Rob and I need that, because a lot of times you put so much into our performance, you know, there's so much intensity, so much riding on you know, having to execute this song and play the s*it out of it, yeah you know you just got to put a lot of love and care and into our band’s music and that's fine too, and I love it, I'm super passionate about it, but it's also fun to just like, you know, go to Disneyland and just play some tunes. They're just fun for you to play, inspired you, you know, make you smile, make you sweat, make you go “Ah man, I needed that”, and you know, I think everyone needs something like that.
[Neil] It's just so interesting to see you jam with this group of people and this gig, I mean you've played another gig before and this is I believe it's your second official gig as the wedding band.
[Kirk] It's the third, yeah this is our third gig, and you know, it's just so fun I mean we're just you know, something that's not to be taken too seriously, because none of us would want to take it that seriously.
[Neil] We're so happy to have you at our store.
[Kirk] Oh, bro, Cosmo Music, my favorite Canadian music store in the world!