METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett has issued the following message via METALLICA's official web site at www.metallica.com as a tribute to his former bandmate Paul Baloff of EXODUS, who passed away this past weekend after suffering a massive stroke:PAUL BALOFF...MEMORIES BY KIRK HAMMETT Well, when I was about 18 years old I was looking to form a band based on all my favorite hard rock bands, 'cuz back then heavy metal was something that wasn't exactly heavy metal. Back then it was called hard rock, 'cuz there weren't really many bands collection bands who were known as heavy metal bands, back then they were known as hard rock bands. I was looking to form a band based on my favorite band UFO, and I was trying to find musicians who were into the same stuff I was UFO, IRON MAIDEN, MOTORHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, VENOM. So one night I was at a party in Berkeley and I saw this guy, and he had an IRON MAIDEN button on, and I came up to him and I said, 'Hey man! Are you into IRON MAIDEN?' He goes, 'Oh they rule!' I go, 'What's your name?' He goes, 'My name's Paul Baloff.' I go, 'Ever heard of UFO?' He goes, 'Yeah, I've heard of UFO,' and started singing 'Rock Bottom' to me. And 'Rock Bottom' was one of the songs I was interested in covering in my band. So I said, 'Well hey man, give me your number and we'll jam.' And so he gave me his number and the next day he came down and he sang with the early version of EXODUS, and yes, sang 'Rock Bottom'. And you know, he didn't have the best voice in the world but he had tons of charisma, was the funniest guy in the world, he knew the music and he knew what we were shooting for and that was good enough for me. The great thing about Paul was when we played our first show, a Metal Monday at the Old Waldorf, it was actually the first time we had played with METALLICA, too. I was just so blown away by how well he worked the stage, I mean, for someone who had very little band or stage experience, he really knew what he was doing and felt very comfortable on stage. He was just a great frontman, and like I said, you know, for all the short-comings he had in the vocal department, he made up for it in pure charisma. He said the funniest things on stage and was just one of the funniest guys I knew. I think one of the best memories I have of Paul was one night when we were sitting around in his car drinking vodka, straight from the bottle, listening to VENOM and MERCYFUL FATE and we were drunk and we were just saying how much we loved each other and how great it was to finally have a band playing the type of music we wanted to play. And we all of a sudden decided that we should just immortalize it, and so someone whipped out a razor blade and we started cutting up our hands. In fact, there's my scar right there if you can see it (points to scar -ed). Can you see that scar? Anyway, I cut my hand, Gary Holt cut his hand, Tom Hunting cut his hand and Paul Baloff cut his hand and we all rubbed the blood together and we were all bonded by bloodand shortly after that came the song 'Bonded By Blood'. But yeah, that scar right there is in memory of Paul Baloff now. He was just a great guy, a great person, and he was one of the most extreme frontmen I knew, or I should say he grew to be one of the most extreme frontmen in metal, I think. If you weren't totally metal you would be ostracized by Paul from the stage. He would point people out and say, 'You're a fag, get the hell out of here,' or 'That guy's not banging. Kick his ass.' He kind of fostered that whole attitude of being just really extreme and he lived for metal. Last Friday I got a call from my brother in law saying that he was in the hospital, so I called the hospital. Actually I got a hold of Rick Hunolt, who was the other guitar player in EXODUS along with Gary (Holt) and he told me that Paul just went for a bike ride, came back, his girlfriend went down to lock up the bikes and by the time she came back up he was already in the throws of a seizure. So they called 911, they brought him to the hospital and he was already deep in it and by the time I spoke to Rick he said there was no brain activity. So I pretty much knew that when that happens there's no turning back, there's only one way to go. And you know it's a big loss, at least in my life it is, because Paul set me on my way to a certain extent. He was the one missing link in my first metal band and when I had found him, I thought to myself, 'All we can go is up from here.' He was just an amazingly funny guy, very intelligent, very loyal, he would do anything for his friends. It's just a shame and I'll miss him, but at least we have the first EXODUS album, thank God for that! One of my favorite Paul Baloff lines was, when he was introducing an EXODUS song on their last live album the line went 'This song is older than shit, heavier than time.' I thought that was such a great line. That's the way I like to think of himheavier than time. See ya, Paul. To view a video clip of the entire spoken-word version of the above message, go to METALLICA's official web site at this location.