METALLICA's Kirk Hammett discussed his long-professed love of the wah-wah pedal in a recent interview with Guitar World, telling the magazine: "The wah enables me to mirror the inner voice in my head and in my heart. That's what I'm hearing. All these manipulated notes and tones, because that's what the human voice is like. We cycle through all these different tones and frequencies when we speak. When I step on that wah pedal and hear that click... well, I'm hearing that clicking in my brain and in my heart at the same time."
Admitting that he "can't think of anybody who uses the wah pedal as much as I do," Hammett dismissed persistent online criticism of his reliance on the effect, saying: "I don't care what anyone fuckin' says. If I feel like stepping on the wah pedal, I step on the fuckin' wah pedal, because it brings me closer to what I'm hearing internally. And that's the whole point of gear — to help bring the thing you hear internally out into the external world."
In a 2018 interview with Metal Hammer, Hammett said that his inspiration to use the wah-wah came from THIN LIZZY.
"To me, the wah-wah is a lot like the human voice," he said. "It isn't so much about the 'wah-wah' sound, it's being able to manipulate the tone however I feel it in that moment. It actually creates a better connection to the deeper part of me. And [Jimi] Hendrix wasn't actually the first person I heard use a wah-wah pedal — that was Brian Robertson from THIN LIZZY." Recalling that life-changing moment, he went on: "The first time I became aware of it was the song 'Warriors' on 'Jailbreak'. He comes in with this totally wah-ed out two-three notes, and I said to my friend, 'What is that?!' He said, 'That's a wah-wah pedal.' 'Wow, fantastic!' I made a mental note of that…"
Earlier this month, in a separate interview with U.K.'s Total Guitar magazine, Hammett dismissed the idea that his solo on "Lux Æterna" is bad because it isn't hard to play. "Yeah, my fucking friends down the street could probably play a better solo than 'Lux Æterna' — but what's the point?" he said. "For me, what's appropriate is playing for the song and playing in the moment."
Kirk's "Lux Æterna" solo was criticized by some as his "worst solo", while some YouTubers even performed their own "improved" versions. Hammett acknowledged that he saw some of the online hate, saying: "I was just laughing the whole time. I could string together like six or seven three-octave arpeggios in 16th notes, sit there every day and practice it and go, 'Hey, look what I can do!' but where am I gonna put it? That won't work in any METALLICA song. Arpeggios? Come on! In a guitar solo, mapped out like a lot of people do, four or five chords with a different arpeggio over each one? It sounds like an exercise. I don't want to listen to exercises and warm-ups every time I hear a song."
Hammett added: "The only guys out there who I think convincingly play arpeggios as a means of expression are Joe Satriani, Yngwie [Malmsteen] and Paul Gilbert."
Kirk went on to say that he soloing style has changed as METALLICA's music has evolved.
"I know my modes, Hungarian scales, symmetrical scales, I know all that shit. Is it appropriate? Maybe earlier in our time, but not now," he said. "What's more appropriate is coming up with melodies that are more like vocal melodies. And guess what? The best scale for mimicking vocal melodies is the pentatonic."
Hammett also pushed back against the suggestion that he does not appreciate technique, saying: "I love from-the-heart playing, and I've heard real technical playing that's from the heart. Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Yngwie — they all play from the heart, but for a lot of guys it's just like sports or the Olympics. Music is to reflect beauty, creativity, feeling, life. There is a place and there's an audience for all that stuff, but I feel there comes a time when people just get tired of that.
"Today, you know, people are doing really interesting stuff with technique," Hammett concluded. "Technique is reaching new boundaries and I love that, but I have to stress it's important to play for the song. If you do that, your music will have that much more integrity and lasting power."
"Lux Æterna" is the lead single from METALLICA's latest album, "72 Seasons", which was released on April 14 via METALLICA's own Blackened Recordings.