KIRK HAMMETT: If We Stray Too Far From Signature METALLICA Sound, Our Fans Get Impatient

Guitar World magazine conducted an interview with METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett for its December 2008 issue. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Guitar World: One of your thrash metal contemporaries, Alex Skolnick of TESTAMENT, has recorded a couple of straight-up jazz albums as the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO. Have you heard them?

Hammett: Love them. I love his work. What Alex is doing by putting heavy metal songs in a jazz context is completely refreshing. His take on "Detroit Rock City" blew me away; that song has never sounded better to me. And when you think about, the old jazz standards were the pop music of their time. So Alex has updated the notion of what a standard is, and it's opened up all the current music to interpretation. The idea of playing KISS or the SCORPIONS in the style of Dave Brubeck is great and quite radical. There are tons of people at Julliard who are playing "Straight No Chaser" for probably the 50 millionth time, so it's about time somebody tried something new.

Guitar World: What do you think you learned from [METALLICA's much-maligned 2003 album] "St. Anger"?

Hammett: I was shocked by how much people missed guitar solos and my playing on "St. Anger". I just thought it would be water off their backs, and it wouldn't be that big of a difference. On tour, however, at least five people would ask me every single day why there weren't guitar solos on the album and if there were going to be guitar solos on the next album. To tell you the truth, I had no idea that people considered that aspect, or that ingredient, to be such a large part of our overall sound. I always saw myself more as icing on the cake. But goddamn it, man, those people really like that icing! I've learned that there's a signature METALLICA sound, and if we stray too far from that, our fans get impatient, or they just don't understand, or they miss the point. And I'm not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing; it's just something we have to contend with.

Guitar World: It's a sound they can't get from anyone else.

Hammett: There is some truth there. In the Nineties, we probably spent too much time deconstructing that sound. We did it intentionally, but we oversimplified. Along with that oversimplification came whatever was influencing us at the moment. But I agree with you. You can't really get METALLICA anywhere else but from us, and I think people go the impression that we were just holding back.


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