Hammett of the Gods
Dek: Metallica’s "quiet one" chats up a storm on drinking, downloading, and working at Burger King
Tue, Mar 23
Sometimes, when you’re really pissed at someone, the best thing to do is just TALK to them. As a rabid and longtime fan of Metallica, one who stuck with them from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All to as late as 1997’s Reload, I felt betrayed–even vengeful–about their increasing bottom-dollar, evolution-halting litigiousness, especially against music-file swappers (this on the busted heels of exhausted "orchestral remixes" of their hits). For this fan, Metallica became a huge, screaming, bankrupt carcass–something their once-prominent house artist, the macabre Pushead, might scheme up. Frankly, the band’s public threats to sue their fans–just as the group began to physically splinter–were disgusting. But despite this, I still cared about their music and gave 2003’s St. Anger a listen–and liked it! It ain’t perfect, but it sure had the rawest energy since the ’80s, like some born-again punk band. James Hetfield sounds attractively desperate again (and the thrashy playing is fierce). And so, especially after talking to guitarist Kirk Hammett, I realized these are just dudes who made some mistakes and will again, just like all of us. Except when we do, the world thankfully ain’t watching as closely.
FISH: I must say it’s a special honour to talk to one of the less vocal members of Metallica.
KIRK HAMMETT: [Laughs] That’s me.
FISH: Do you ever get jealous of all the airtime James and Lars got during the Napster fiasco?
KIRK: You know what? It’s not a question of being jealous just because someone else gets more airtime at all. For me it’s all about just the music. And I could give a fuck. To me, I only do interviews to forward the cause of the band–not to feed my own ego or anything.
FISH: I liked lots of St. Anger. I thought you guys captured kind of a raw, punk-rock energy that had gone away from the band for a while.
KIRK: I totally agree. For me, it’s like listening to a real extreme demo. I love the sound of it. I know the sound can be challenging for people who are used to a lot more polished production. But, by the same token, how many debut albums or demos have you heard that sounded similar? Or even worse? I think a lot of people are missing out on the songs because they don’t understand the sound of the album.
FISH: What do you think accounted for this revitalization?
KIRK: It just felt good doing what we were doing at that particular point in the studio. We felt like just kicking it out again and turning up the intensity again and not really worrying about singles or anything. And we had a lot of purging to do as well; this album was a good way to purge all the emotions and frustrations and anxieties we experienced over the last couple years. It was a very therapeutic, cathartic experience for us.
FISH: There was some major rehab involved in Metallica; what were your own personal demons during that dark time that you got over?
KIRK: Well, you know, I, uh, we all kind of went to therapy collectively, and within the first two or three weeks of being in therapy I decided that I needed to do some cleaning up in my life. I stopped doing drugs, and I pretty much stopped drinking, occasionally I have a cocktail now and then. And this had nothing to do with James’s rehab. In fact, he announced he would be checking himself in about two weeks after I had made my own personal decision. So, I mean, we were heading in that direction anyway. And as you get older you come to a point where you have to reprioritize. Things that were working for you earlier in life don’t necessarily work for you later in life. We were kind of finding that out the hard way.
FISH: Yeah, I just quit drinking, myself, man. It was really fucking up my life and everything, you know, so power to you, good for you.
KIRK: Bro, same deal here, man. I would go through, like, depression... all sorts of unpredictable situations, and it was all geared around drugs and alcohol. And I didn’t think that they would be intertwined like that, but you know...
FISH: Well, it’s weird ‘cause you feel like shit and then you get drunk and feel great, but that’s a fakeout. You shouldn’t do that. You’re kind of lying to yourself...
KIRK: It’s one extreme to the other, isn’t it?
FISH: For sure.
KIRK: Now that I quit all that stuff, my relationship with my wife and with the band is just so much stronger.
FISH: How does the new lineup affect you as a player? Robert’s [Trujillo, bass] pretty solid. He looks like a gorilla.
KIRK: Oh, he pushes us, man. He pushes us so much. He’s inspiring to be with, he’s inspiring to play with. We’re a better band now. It’s remarkable because 21 years into it... bands touring together 20, 21 years, they start to experience a real decline, but I feel we’re getting better... again. With Rob. And it’s pretty surprising. Just the other night we played a set list that was just so intense, so ambitious, and by the end of it we had pulled it off and everyone was like, "Whoa." The next day, Lars went on the Internet to check the boards, and the buzz from that set list we played was just outrageous. And it just feels good, ad
‘cause with Rob in the band we feel that we can get a little more ambitious with the set list and the songs. The future looks really good. I can’t wait to go to the studio with him.
FISH: I interviewed [former bassist Jason] Newsted right after he walked away from Metallica. He said that one of the things that bothered him was that you guys got to a point where you spent more time talking about songs than playing. Do you agree this was a problem, and is it fixed?
KIRK: He said part of his complaint was we were talking about songs rather than doing them? Huh. That’s interesting. Um, you know that might have been the case back then, but as far as that’s concerned we pretty much put our money where our mouths are. We’re definitely walking the walk. A couple nights ago we played "Dyer’s Eve," and that’s a song we never play live, ever. We played it in L.A., we played it in San Francisco, and man it was tight.
FISH: I’m a fan from way back, and I’ve always been impressed that you alone kept your hair long. Is this a point of pride for you?
KIRK: Thanks. It’s amazing I still have some.
FISH: Metallica is also very famous for suing the pants off anyone who fucks with them. You guys sued for a better record deal. Do you think the labels have too much power over new bands?
KIRK: It’s not really set up towards nurturing artists, nurturing the creative aspect. It’s all about profits and the bottom line, which is a shame because if you’re a new band and you put out an album, if you don’t sell X amount of hit singles, they drop you like a fucking turd. And that sucks. It hasn’t always been that way. That tide started to turn about 12, 15 years ago, and now the big corporations tend to look at bands as commodities rather than artistic entities, and it sucks. But, now that the Internet is around, and there’s a viable source of distributing your music or getting the word out there, I think the record companies are kind of freaking out.
FISH: Well, you guys freaked out pretty notably, too. And they’re suffering for sure, but...
KIRK: I am still against online piracy, and I will be till the day I die. I still think that there’s a lot of positive things that come out of having your music online.
FISH: Well, the downloading thing is forcing artists to come out of hiding. You can’t download a concert experience, so fans are winning. It’s evolution.
KIRK: The situation is a lot of bands aren’t really making money off record sales. That’s a resource bands rely on to go out on tour–to continue going into the studio and making even more albums. Once that dries up, it’s the situation we were in 100 years ago, where you have to become more of a troubadour or minstrel and hit the road and make your money that way.
FISH: But isn’t that good? Fans can connect and you can sell more $50 T-shirts...
KIRK: That’s fine and all, but it still takes money to do that. There’s all these costs and expenses that a lot of bands have trouble accruing. It just makes things more difficult. Up front, it might seem great–the music’s getting out there. But, at the back end, it really hurts the artist or the band.
FISH: Especially if they have an atypically good record deal, huh?
KIRK: Well, in the big picture, the bands are ultimately the ones...
FISH: Who end up suffering? I guess time will tell. Hey, I don’t know if you remember, but there was a band here in Edmonton who called themselves Metallica. Your lawyers got involved pretty quick; you didn’t find that very funny, I guess.
KIRK: I thought it was hilarious. It was a fucking brilliant idea [laughs]. It was a great idea to draw attention to yourself. They could have also called themselves Adolf Hitler, and it probably wouldn’t have gotten as much attention. But then, you know, changing their name to Metallica certainly did grab the media’s attention.
FISH: They were a pretty hot band, actually. So if you found it funny, why did you litigate? Do you anything to say to them directly?
KIRK: I just thought it was a brilliant idea, hats off too them. But there’s only room for one Metallica in this world, guys.
FISH: Do you remember much about working at Burger King?
KIRK: Yeah, eating greasy goddamn fries all day, coming home with a face loaded with fucking zits, grease all over the place. Not to mention the fact they made me wear a hairnet ’cause I had long, greasy hair back then. I did work the cash register at one point, but I would always start stuttering, so they took me off the cash and put me back on the fry station. I only worked there long enough to get enough money to buy an amplifier, and then I was OUTTA there.
FISH: What are some of the latest tricks planned for your arena shows? Last time I saw you, you had the collapsing tower and that dude caught on fire and there was some kind of stripper wearing only backstage passes on her bazongas...
KIRK: [Laughs.] We’re playing in the round this time, and the stage is in the middle of the coliseum. It’s kind of like a giant turntable; it turns very, very, very slightly. We have a bunch of production stuff, nothing quite as grandiose as that one tour where we had the whole destruction scene and the burning guy, but it’s still a good show. We’re changing the set list every night, too, and we’re playing just that much more dynamically on the stage. The stage kind of forces us to run around a lot more. It’s a great show, and it works out really, really well, I feel. And, we haven’t given up our pyro addiction yet.
@EL_FAKIR:Nein ich werde es nicht übersetzen,aber ich schreibe die wichtigen dinge(falls vorhanden)raus...
die wichtigsten Fakten übersetzt:
-Kirk hat zur selben Zeit wie James aufgehört Drogen zu nehmen,und trinkt auch nur noch eingeschränkt alkohol(ich weiß das Alkohol auch ne Droge ist...SAGT DAS KIRK )
-Metallica haben St.Anger als eine Art Therapy genutzt,um die Emotionen,Frustrationen und Ängste der letzten Jahre zu verarbeiten.
-was ich ganz interessant finde:Lars guckt ab und zu nach Konzerten auf metallica.com vorbei um sich die Reaktionen der Fans anzugucken!
-Durch Rob ist die ganze Band auf Konzerten motivierter und mehr bei der Sache,er spornt sie an.
-Zum Schluss regt er sich noch über die momentane Situation kleinerer Bands auf,die schon mit dem ersten Album einen gewissen Erfolg haben müssen,sonst werden sie von den Labels knallhart fallengelassen.Es scheint als würde es NUR noch um Profit gehen,und dabei der kreative Aspekt völlig verloren gehen.
EDIT:Hier noch ein Kommentar von Kirk zu den Beatles(guitar world),lohnt kein neuer Thread für:
"The Beatles? Your readers are going to hate me for saying this, but I fucking loathe those candy-assed little girls! I was into the Stones much more because they sounded more real and aggressive to my prepubescent ears."