METALLICA's HAMMETT: 'DAVE MUSTAINE Played Fast All The Time. I Play Melodically'

June 6, 2008

David Fricke of recently conducted an interview with METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow. You have been working on the new METALLICA album for almost three years. How do you know which riffs and solos to keep and which to throw out?

Kirk: I know whether I'm cutting it or not. And I always try to make a solo the best it can be. I recorded over 100 solos for one track on this album and the solo is only 25 seconds long [laughs]. But it's apparent when the solo works that it's all there. It's either "Wow!" or it's not good enough. It's that black-and-white. How would you describe your role in METALLICA's two-guitar sound?

Kirk: James [Hetfield] and I have always been complementary. We've never gotten into guitar squabbles, like a lot of bands with two guitar players do. His approach is primal rhythmic and percussive. Mine is more technical and fluid. I see the guitar as a bunch of scales and tones. I write riffs and arrange chords to make sure they fit tight harmonically. On a lot of the albums we did in the Nineties, I was doing orchestration, looking for something that fit over a certain part to make it more exciting a texture, a chord, a little lick here, a chug there. We've strayed from that. We've gotten back to the one-voice guitar thing we did in the Eighties. The album we're working on now is about METALLICA as a single thing a locomotive coming to mow you down. Is there a solo on the early albums that was a breakthrough in your playing?

Kirk: When the other guys heard the solos on "Creeping Death" and "Ride the Lightning" [both on 1984's "Ride the Lightning"], it was a different aspect of soloing than they were used to. [Original lead guitarist] Dave Mustaine played fast all the time. I play melodically. And I play parts, different sections that make the solo as hooky as possible. Although I've always been very flashy. I admit it. How did you write the riff in "Enter Sandman" [on 1991's "Metallica"]? It's up there in instant recognition with "Smoke on the Water" and "Whole Lotta Love".

Kirk: My friend has a guitar store, and there is a big sign in there that says "No Enter Sandman" [laughs]. SOUNDGARDEN had just put out "Louder Than Love". I was trying to capture their attitude toward big, heavy riffs. It was two o'clock in the morning. I put it on tape and didn't think about it. When [drummer] Lars [Ulrich] heard the riff, he said, "That's really great. But repeat the first part four times." It was that suggestion that made it even more hooky.

Read the entire interview at

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