My Cart

0 items in your order

Kirk Hammett

Metallica

"It's something that helps define myself to myself. It gives me a real sort of foundation as to what I feel--I believe--that I was put on this earth to do, which is to make music." In this episode, Ernie Ball artist and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett discusses his love of guitar, influences, and choice of strings and gauges.

Transcript

Kirk Hammett:
Guitar playing to me is such a large part of my life. I mean, I can safely say that the guitar, it's beyond just playing it. It's become a behavior of mine. It's something that helps define myself to myself. It gives me a real sort of foundation as to what I feel and believe I'm put on this earth to do, which is to make music and the guitar is like the foundation of that.

Kirk Hammett:
If I'm bummed out, I'll go to my guitar. A lot of times when I'm like really stressed out or I'm dealing with anxiety, I'll just play until I just calm down. When I'm feeling like I have this feeling inside that just needs to get out, guitar helps that feeling. It's a creative tool, but on the other hand it's also a rehabilitative, emotional, spiritual tool that I use as well. You know, to feed my inner self.

Kirk Hammett:
My household when I was growing up, ever since I could remember, ever since I was a toddler, there was always a radio going on and a lot of that had to do with the fact I had older brother who's 11 years older than me, and so there was always music going on. When I was in seventh grade, a friend came over and said, "Look at this band, look how cool they are." And he showed me the album cover and I was looking at it and I thought, "Wow, what a strange looking band. What are they called?" And my friend said, "Kiss", I'm thinking, Hmm." and so we put the album on and all of a sudden it was exactly what I wanted to hear strangely enough, and this friend came over with other albums. We started listening to Kiss, Skinner, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top.

Kirk Hammett:
The very first guitar player to really have a huge impact on me was probably Jimmy Hendrix. I think I was about 13 or 14 years old when I saw the documentary called, A Film About Jimmy Hendrix." It's the one where he's sitting on a stool playing a 12 string guitar. When I saw Hendrix up on the screen, I was just blown away because I was seeing a complete package. I was seeing a guy who could play guitar amazingly, who looked so different and so unique, you know, he was just so much of a dynamic performer. It was everything and it was everything that I wanted to be. And at one point I thought, "This guy, he's the ultimate in guitar playing and I want to be just like him. I want to play just as well as him. I wanted to be Jimmy Hendrix."

Kirk Hammett:
All the traditional guitar players up to that point were a huge influence on me too. You know, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and then, you know, American guitar players like Eddie van Halen, Joe Perry and Brad Woodford, Pat Travers, Thin Lizzy. And then I discovered UFO. When I first heard UFO and first heard Michael Schenker, my whole attitude changed. And to this day, I mean Michael Schenker and Jimmy Hendrix are some of my main influences.

Kirk Hammett:
My first decent guitar was a Fender Strat and I ratted out the pickup, put a humbucker in there because that's what everyone else was doing right at the bridge position. After getting bored with that, I moved on to a Gibson Flying V, which I still have. And then I realized I needed a second backup guitar. So I bought a Kramer and this is when Floyd Roses had just come out. I go to rehearsal, Exodus, start playing, go for the whammy bars, you know? Start doing this and pop. And I go, "Dang." Okay, what was that pack of strings?

Kirk Hammett:
And I read it and I go, "Okay, I'm not going to use those." Go to the store and buy a different pack of strings, play rehearsal, use the whammy bar, pop. Look at the bag of strings, "Okay, I'm not going to use those." Third pack, you know, third try, go to rehearsal. Whammy bar. All right. It's all right. You know, check my tuning, it's staying in tune. End of rehearsal, "I didn't break any strings. What was the name of those those strings?" Ernie Ball Super Slinky. "Okay, Ernie Ball Super Slinky, these are the ones we need." I was 18 years old. I started using Ernie Ball Super Slinkies because they didn't break.

Kirk Hammett:
My attack is just heavy handed. So I need strings that can take that heavy handedness, stay in tune and still sound clean and shimmery and shiny. The only strings I've ever found to do that were Ernie Ball's, I mean end of story.

Kirk Hammett:
So what I use is the three top strings are from a 10 set and then the bottom three strings are from a 48 set. And the reason for that is, you know, as a lead guitar player, I need to be able to like bend out the light strings. And if I have 11s on, I notice that over the course of a tour, my hand gets fatigued. But if I go to 10 it's okay over the course of a tour, it's bizarre and it only took me like 10 years to realize that. Obviously, you know, the bass strings, I want a heavier gauge. So that it sounds heavier. You know it sounds fuller when I play.

Kirk Hammett:
You need a solid musical idea. You know the solid musical idea can come out anywhere, anything. Now you know that can come out of an acoustic guitar, can come out of an electric guitar. It can come out of like me just messing around with a recorder, singing something into my phone. What I do is I ask myself, is this something that I'm going to be playing quietly or heavy? You know, tons of distortion or a minimal distortion, lead sound, rhythm sound, clean sound, echo, effects? I go down a mental list of the obvious possibilities for this musical idea, all this stuff, gear wise, equipment wise is added after I have a solid musical idea. It's very rare that the equipment will dictate any sort of music idea for myself. Nothing beats just having a good solid basis for your idea and then taking it through the equipment rather than the other way around.

Kirk Hammett:
We've been around for over three decades. We're in our fourth decade and you know, we've been around so long and people have seen the Metallica name for so long that, you know, through pure osmosis we've become part of American culture, our social culture. Now we have fans who have been born and have always had Metallica. Metallica has always been in the background. To those people, we are something more than just a band. We're part of the cultural landscape. I like to see it as doing my job as far as furthering the course of music you know? I just hope that the job I'm doing is good enough so that people can say, "That's pretty good. I like what he's doing. I can do that." And like they pick up a guitar and like try and do what I do.

Kirk Hammett:
I've been inspired so much from my idols that it just, you know, it took over my life and thank God it did. Thank God it did. And I'm hoping that there are people out there who I can inspire to do the same and become good, honest musicians who play with a lot of sincerity, integrity and emotion and create good music for me to listen to 20 years from now.

Kirk Hammett:
For me, you know, it's all about just having fun and being creative and doing things that are different and new and exciting and also checking out what other discoveries and explorations other people have done and seeing what new and cool different things they've done and hope that that stuff inspires me. I'm a guitar player, but I'm still player in all of this too. You know, in that I'm still checking people out. I'm still looking at equipment. I'm still looking for something that I've never heard before. I'm still curious about music and other musicians and other techniques and approaches and perspectives. If I can further that sort of musical curiosity along and inspire that in other people, man, I think I've done my job.

We use technologies, such as cookies, to customize content and advertising, to provide social media features and to analyze traffic to the site. We also share information about your use of our site with our trusted social media, advertising, and analytics partners. You indicate your consent to this use by clicking “I Agree” or by continuing to use this website. View details.