In the latest issue of Guitar World, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of METALLICA's landmark "Master of Puppets" album, METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett gets quizzed by the magazine readers and a host of metal luminaries, including MASTODON, LAMB OF GOD, EXODUS, EVERY TIME I DIE and AVENGED SEVENFOLD. A few excerpts from the question-and-answer session follow:
Mark Morton (LAMB OF GOD): When "Master of Puppets" was finished, did the band realize it had created such an important piece of heavy metal history?
Kirk Hammett: "'Master of Puppets' wasn't written with that intention; we just wanted to make the best album we could. For us, it was just another METALLICA album. We had put out 'Kill 'Em All' and it was a great album. We put out 'Ride the Lightning' and it seemed to have all the elements of 'Kill 'Em All' and then some. Then we put out 'Master' and we were very proud of it. It was like having another feather in our cap.
"At that point, we were firing on all cylinders and the songs just kept coming, so we really seized the moment. After we finished the album, we wetn straight out on tour. We were very intent on getting the music out to the people and touring as much as humanly possible. But Cliff's death changed all of that.
"None of us had any idea 'Master of Puppets' would still sound fresh after 20 years. I mean, I put it on the other day and the albbum' sound, songs and concepts are just as relevant today as they were back then."
Doc Coyle (GOD FORBID): Can you pinpoint a time when you feel METALLICA was at its creative peak, or do you feel that time has yet to come?
Kirk Hammett: "That's hard to answer. Maybe if you ask me that question in 20 years, I can give you a better answer. At this point in time, I can see many different creative peaks in our career. 'Master of Puppets' and the Black Album were definitely peaks. The symphony album ['S&M'] was a different kind of peak, while 'St. Anger' was yet another completely different peak. We've peaked in so many different ways. Some people would also say we have had a lot of valleys, too… which is a fair statement. [laughs]
"I think METALLICA have a lot more to say. We're the type of band that likes to experiment. We don't like to stay in one spot for too long; all the albums after the Black Album prove that. We're not afraid to take artistc risks, even at the cost of pissing off our audience and our friends."
Zacky Vengeance (AVENGED SEVENFOLD): I fucking loved "St. Anger". It seemed like you went back to your roots, said "Fuck you!" and did something totally different. And though I can see that dropping the solos was part of that attitude, I do miss them. When you record your next album, are you gonna throw some solos back on it?
Kirk Hammett: "For the next album, Lars is going to be sitting there with his snare drum, and I'm going to come in and play a 78-minute guitar solo. Then James is going to scream over it while Rob puts his low end on there. [laughs] Just kidding, man.
"To be quite honest, I think the band misses solos just as much as the fans do. I mean, I play guitar solos every day! We've all expressed the fact that we think guitar solos are fun. They're dynamic, expressive and another distinct aspect of METALLICA's music. And we miss that aspect."
Harry Meyers: Have you ever considered recording a solo album?
Kirk Hammett: "Yeah. Eventually I'll record one, but right now my loyalties remain with METALLICA. I've been writing music for METALLICA for over 20 years, but obviously there are certain things I've written that don't belong on METALLICA albums. As a result, I have a small surplus of music.
"But you know, if I put out a solo album, don't expect it to be a super-duty heavy metal shred album; it's gonna be something that you've never heard before, or at least something you'd never expect from me. Recently, I played with a contemporary classical string quartet in San Francisco named FLUX. It was a collaborative piece, with two violins, viola, cello, cello, classical guitar and me on electric guitar. I gotta say, I don't think I've ever heard anything like the stuff we were doing. I thought, 'Well, if I ever do a solo album, maybe I'll do it with some classical players.' But really, I'm only using this as an example to show that, if I put out a solo album, it'll be something very eclectic. I'd like to share that side of my playing with people someday, but now is not the right time. My loyalty is to maintain the METALLICA legacy."