METALLICA Guitarist KIRK HAMMETT: 'Everything We Play Is Great'

The February 2008 issue of Guitar World magazine features an extensive interview with METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett about the group's forthcoming album — the band's first collaboration with producer Rick Rubin (SYSTEM OF A DOWN, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, AUDIOSLAVE, SLAYER) following a split with longtime collaborator Bob Rock. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:

Guitar World: After 16 years and six albums with Bob Rock as your producer, how did you select Rick Rubin to produce this one?

Kirk: We knew that we needed to go down a different avenue. And it seemed like whenever I mentioned to people that we'd started writing another album, they would say, "You gotta get Rick Rubin." And we'd been considering that ourselves anyway. We've known Rick since 1986 when [SLAYER's] "Reign in Blood" came out. I can remember Rick showing up backstage at a "Master of Puppets" show and he had the master tape to "Reign in Blood". We were thinking, "Oh, wow, he has the new SLAYER album. We gotta hear it." And I remember once we heard it, we were just like, "Holy crap, that's the best thing we've ever heard."

Guitar World: Was the basic songwriting process different from the past? Or is that always kind of the same?

Kirk: We used an approach that was the same as "St. Anger", in the sense that we'd all show up and jam on songs. The seeds for the songs on this new album came out of jams that we would have on the road, before we'd go onstage. We have this thing called "the tune-up room" at our shows. It's usually a really small room with a drum kit, two guitar amps, a bass amp, a P.A. that's never loud enough and ProTools set-up. One of us would come in with a riff and we'd jam on it. James [Hetfield, guitar/vocals] was always the first one in the tuning room, so often he'd be fiddling with a riff when the rest of us came in.

And we would do this every time we had a show. So at the end of the tour we had over 50 hours of music. It was insane. We went through all of it, trying to narrow it down, which was a horrible process for me, because I think everything we play is great. So I wasn't any help. I let the other guys pick the riffs. Once all the major riffs were picked, we started jamming on them and turning them into songs. After about a year's time, we had 22 songs. We just refined it from there.

Guitar World: At what point did Rick enter the process?

Kirk: Right around the point where we had 22 songs. We had a lot of meetings with him. He listened to the songs we had written up to then, and he liked what he heard. "Yeah, keep working on those songs. Keep making them better." Eventually we had a vote on the 14 strongest songs. From there, we pretty much focused on those songs and worked on them with Rick. We were constantly tweaking the songs on this album. Even when we were recording the drum tracks, we were still tweaking.

To read the entire interview, pick up the February 2008 issue of Guitar World magazine, available on newsstands now.


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