Austria's Krone.at recently conducted an interview with METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett. A rough English-language translation of the interview (which was published in German on the Krone.at web site) follows:
Krone.at: We are looking forward to METALLICA's "Sick Of The Studio '07" tour. Has the itching in your fingers started, yet?
Kirk Hammett: Oh yeah, summer time is always a good time to get out and do some shows. It's the time of the festivals and the weater is nice and warm, everyone's in a good mood. It's really fun for us and really convenient to go out and do some shows in the summer. It isn't so much that we're sick of the studio as it is, we just wanna go out and play and have some fun. And not lose touch of what we are, being a live band. It seems we were in the studio for the last two years. Although we did play some shows last year, but it still seems like we've been in the studio forever.
Krone.at: So it's kind of a withdrawal symptom…
Kirk Hammett: Yes, exactly. We need treatment!
Krone.at: I got the pleasure to see the show of yours on last year's Novarock festival. The one were you had Lemmy Kilmister and that guy from ALICE IN CHAINS on stage…
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, I remember. That was fun…
Krone.at: You know, people still talk about that concert here. Was is that terrific from your point of view as well?
Kirk Hammett: Well, whenever we can get Lemmy on stage and play a couple of songs with him, that's always a terrific thing. 'Cause Lemmy, he's the guy, one of the grandfathers of heavy metal.
Krone.at: Do you remember some other things about Austria or from that day?
Kirk Hammett: Let's see. Well, we played a series of songs from the "Masters of Puppets" album, we played with Lemmy and then we left. (laugh) But Austria is just a beautiful place, Vienna's a beautiful city with a lot of history and beautiful museums I must say. I always love coming here for sure…
Krone.at: I can hardly imagine you strolling through a Viennese museum…
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, I've been to a couple of them. I am the museum kind of guy, believe it or not!
Krone.at: Okay, got me convinced. Why "Sick Of The Studio" anyway? Would you say that you're addicted to cheering crowds?
Kirk Hammett: Totally! If I played my guitar and I looked up, do I wanna see the other three guys of the band or do I wanna see 30,000 cheering people? (laugh) It depends on what mood I am in. If I am in the mood to do some creative things, write some songs, record an album, then I'd rather look into the rest of the band. But if I'm in the mood to just rock out and really have fun and play our best material, I'd rather look up and see a 30,000 fans out there.
Krone.at: You're taking a lot of bands on you tour, most of them are American but all the concerts take place in Europe. So, is our continent a better place to rock your ass off?
Kirk Hammett: Absolutely! You know, Europe in general is a lot more appreciative of heavy metal than other regions. Heavy metal never really went away in Europe, it took kind'a step aside though. Whereas heavy metal in America was popular fifteen years ago, then it ran out of popularity and now it's just popular again. I mean, you go where people appreciate your music. I don't wanna say there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate the music in the states — I'd just say that there are more people in Europa appreciating our music and heavy metal itself.
Krone.at: Is there a difference in the temper of the people as well?
Kirk Hammett: When we come over to Europe the audiences usually go nuts! (laughs) They are very passionate about our music. We can tell — it's very obvious to us, when we play songs how the audience reacts to our music — the Europeans just go nuts! They are a lot more informed about the band, they know more about the band and its history. Also about the music and the lyrics. It's more than just popularity, in Europe they really go out and try to get to know the band.
Krone.at: Can you tell me some things about the new album you're working on?
Kirk Hammett: I think it's the best album we've put out in, say, fifteen years.
Krone.at: Oh, but that rules out quite a lot of work you've done in the past!
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, it's our eleventh studio album, but it feels like our sixth. It's just a really spectacular range of songs. This time we're not afraid to refer to our past music in order to create future music. People will see that we've kind of embraced our old vocabulary again and are using that vocabulary to express new things. I'm super excited to make this album, finish it and release it — 'cause then we can go out and play it to the people. We might have stretched our cores a little too much in the last fifteen years, but we've always came back to what we originally are and have been. I think with this album we're definitely going a little more back into our roots.
Krone.at: Does this mean, you're heading from "St. Anger" as a start further into, let's say, the raw meat!?
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, it's super raw! There are some songs on that album that are so fast, that James and I kinda look at each other and go, "Ouch! Our wrist are gonna fall off." There are a lot of really, really fast songs, a whole lot of really heavy stuff. We changed our approach to writing the songs, all of us were working on the material this time. We also changed our tuning. With "St. Anger" we had the guitars really low. This time, we tuned the guitars back up to what they originally were for the first five albums. Because we've done that, James' voice sounds more like it did in the '80s than it did in the '90s. There's a lot of changes that we've made, but I believe that they are all for the better.
Krone.at: Was there a need to go back to the roots and avoid melodies and slow stuff because of the rise of bands like 30 SECONDS TO MARS, for example, or some other emo, nu metal, whatever you may call it band?
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, you know. I don't really understand what emo, the description means…
Krone.at: Well, me neither…
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, every time when I ask my friends about those things, they give me answer that simply doesn't explain anything. (laugh) I'll tell you, there are some melodic songs that we've written, that do have a lot of melody. I myself would like to see this songs go on the album. But wheter they do or not remains to be seen. We do have a lot of songs, but only nine or ten will make it on the actual album. But there definitely are some songs that are in some ways slower and melodic — but they do get heavy at some point during the song.
Krone.at: Your music often deals with anger, rage and feelings — regarding the emotional side, it probably does more often than a classic opera. Do you think, especially yours, is a good way to express rage, deal with anger and just lose it?
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, right. I totally agree. I know that when I am just really mad, really pissed of and I wanna take it out on something, I know that playing this music just makes me feel so much better, because I can just listen to music and scream and yell an thrash around — and afterwards I feel much better. I feel much better than going to Wal-Mart, picking up a gun and going to a high school shooting thirdy people. You know what I mean? The thereapeutic side of music is so tremendous and valuable, because it keeps people from doing drastic things and drawing measures. You know, if all people would go to a heavy metal concert from time to time, there would be a lot off less crime in the world. People will always have to get rid of their anger, and there will always be heavy metal living with them.
Krone.at: We're looking forward to you eleventh studio album, like you said. METALLICA turns 26 this year; what is it that still drives you to take on the challenge of pushing the limits, your career and the heavy metal genre itself? What's the competition?
Kirk Hammett: I think the comepetition is trying to compete with what you've done in the past. Competing with yourself. We've been doing this for so long, like you said, twenty-five, twenty-six years — I lost count. But I can't fix a toilet, Lars can't fix a vehicle — James probably can. (laugh) We make music and we wanna make the best music out there. We wanna make music that holds on his own and is creativly stimulating. To me that's the challenge, coming up with something new and creative. Creating great music and then go out there and have fun with. To me, that's the real competition to see if we can do it better than we did last time. In the past, I'll be the first one to admit, we haven't done a few times not as good as we used to. At least, we hadn't done it as good as the previous time. But the fact that we still wanna do it is really important. We still wanna be able to go on tour and make albums and just do the best that we possibly can.
Krone.at: But from this point of view, it's a neverending story, isn't it? Can you imagine, just imagine, putting an end to it at some time in the future?
Kirk Hammett: Well, that's a good question and I don't know if I can answer that!? THE ROLLING STONES — Keith Richards is sixty years old and is still doing it, and I can tell that he loves doing it. Mick Jagger, Ron Wood — those guys are still having a lot of fund. As long as they can do it — they are pushing the age-limit to do this sort of things. If Keith Richards is sixty years old and still doing it — why can't I just do when I am sixty years old? It might be kind of funny playing "Seek and Destroy" when you're sixty. But if people still wanna see us playing "Seek and Destroy" when we're sixty years old — I'll do it in a heartbeat!
Krone.at: When was the last day you can think of, when you didn't touch any guitar?
Kirk Hammett: Mmh… probably last week. And the reason for that was, my baby-son. I was doing baby stuff all day…
Krone.at: At least it's a good excuse…
Kirk Hammett: Yeah! (laugh) I still try to play as much guitar as I possibly as much as I can. Now that we're in the studio, I try even harder.
Krone.at: I was standing right in the middle of the crowd during that concert of yours last year on Novarock festival. What I noticed was, that people began to ball up their fist, as soon as you conquered the stage. Before, with all the other acts, people just did this yeah-thing with the two fingers stretched away. Do you have an explanation for this?
Kirk Hammett: They believe in us. That's the only explanation I can give. They believe in the power of the music, in the fact that we can deliver it. They believe in what he have to say musically and lyrically. I think that's it. Either that, or they were really mad at us. (laugh) No, I'm joking. They really believe in us and what we have to say. And that's good, because we're working really hard and it's good, seeing other people recognizing what we believe in and at the same time taking on this believe. It's like the most beautiful and — not only is it beautiful, it has such integritiy. It's a great and powerful thing. I feel very fortunate to be in a space were complete strangers show you their belief in what you're doing.
Krone.at: Heavy metal associated or combined with a distinctive style of clothing, of behaviour and appearance. You know, the leather trousers, the band-t-shirts, and so on; what do you think is most fascinating about the genre, the music and the people in heavy metal?
Kirk Hammett: Again, people believe in it. It's because people are outcasts. There are lot of outcasts, a lot of disaffected people, a lot of people who don't really fit in for whatever reason or another. You know, becoming a part of a movement or a musical movement like heavy metal gives people who never really fitted in a tense to fit in. Heavy metal provides a look, an attitude, a way of thinking and a way of drinking (laughs) for people who don't fit into the normal patterns of life. That's why heavy metal attracts so many different kinds of people. That's why I think heavy metal is truly understood all over the world. Unlike Latin music, for example, which can hardly be understood if you don't belong to that culture or at least know it very well. Heavy metal is not attached to any sort of ethnic idea or some sort of tradition; although it is a tradition in itself, but it's not traditional. You can come from anywhere, Africa, Australia or Argentina and hear heavy metal and unterstand it. Again, that's the most powerful thing about heavy metal. It's just an incredible thing for me to watch, to go travel the world and see all these different kinds of people, rushing into one kind of music and one kind of attitude. It's amazing. Heavy metal is a very human type of music. Human! I just love it!
Krone.at: Since we talked about looks and feel… Last question: How long are you having that haircut of yours? Fifteen years, twenty years?
Kirk Hammett: Are you saying, when am I gonna cut it? No, you mean, if I wanna maintain this look, is that what you're saying?
Krone.at: Yeah, basically…
Kirk Hammett: Well, I'm wearing long hair since the first day I can think of. No, I'm not gonna cut it! But it starts to fall out…
Krone.at: So, with sixty, you're gonna play bald — but loud…
Kirk Hammett: Yes, (laugh) bald and loud, loud and bald….
Krone.at: Thank you for the interview, Kirk.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah, see you in Austria!
(Thanks: The 4 Horsemen)