May 01, 2023

Kirk Hammett: The 72 Seasons Interview

When Kirk Hammett walks into HQ – tan glowing, hair flowing – he is carrying a small acoustic guitar. This Benjamin Button mofo (just look at Kirk from the early ’90s, then the gleaming vision of health and timelessness we see today) plants his tote bag down, drops into a chair, and starts playing immediately. His clothes are adorned with a proliferation of monsters. He is smiling. A cappuccino is delivered. This is all the foundation of what will be an expansive, eye-opening, and ultimately fun chat. And to my mind, we see Kirk assert himself for himself as confidently as I’ve witnessed.

I feel people sometimes forget what a catalyst Kirk Hammett is in the world of rock. ’Tis Kirk who seems to connect with everyone from Cobain to Bowie to Elton. ’Tis Kirk who is basically the Kevin Bacon of Bay Area thrash, albeit the degrees of separation are more like two than six. And ’tis Kirk who finds the likes of Pete Townshend wandering over for a chat now and then. Oftentimes, it’s felt as though Kirk has allowed seeds of insecurity to clip his confidence-wings, but not in 2022.

This fella is radiant!

It is something to behold – a pleasure, actually – the positive energy flowing from an optimistic Kirk Hammett. It’s wholly infectious, as you’ll read (and later see via Brett Murray’s video work) for yourselves…

Photo of Metallica's Kirk Hammett by Tim Saccenti

Photo Credit: Tim Saccenti

Steffan Chirazi: So… March 2020. The band has been on a forced hiatus because of James being in rehab, and then the pandemic is declared. Where’s your head at that moment? What do you feel in relation to the band?

Kirk Hammett: Well, you know, in all honesty, it felt like where we were at Some Kind of Monster. Because whenever someone experiences something that’s life-changing, life-moving, you have to just accept the fact that you don’t know what’s going to happen once the person returns. You don’t know how the process might change them. So, when James went off to rehab, and then Covid hit, I mean, that was a double whammy! And it looked like the future was very, very bleak.

I didn’t want to just sit there and wonder about the unknown or succumb to something that was so freaking unpredictable. I wasn’t going to just sit there, ruminate, and ask questions that I knew there were no answers for. So, I turned to my partner in crime, Rob Trujillo. My musical partner in crime and my soul brother. We had a long discussion, and we decided, whatever happens… him and I, we’re going to just fucking stay connected to all this. We connect on a lot of different levels; musically, personally, surfing, it’s a lot of different levels. We had a long conversation, about 45 minutes or so, and at the end of that conversation, he said, “Kirk, this is what I’m going to do. I’m just going to stay positive and stay creative, and that’s what you should do too!” I thought to myself, that sounds so simple yet so beautiful, and that’s what I’m going to do. And I stayed positive, you know? For me, being positive is picking up my guitar every day. Playing guitar with an eye to writing music for the future. That’s a very, very positive sort of practice that I can rely on to bring me to a good place pretty much every time because that’s what I used to do when I was a kid. [When] I just didn’t know how to deal with certain things, I’d pick up my guitar, and all of a sudden, I was brought to a better place.

So, I sat there, and I did that. I wrote a ton of music. A lot of it ended up on this album. A lot of it ended up on my solo album. And a lot of it, you know, I still have… and I’m thinking, “What do I do with all this music?!” But I do have a ton of ideas. I know Rob has a ton of ideas too, and some of the music that Rob Trujillo has written in the last couple years has been really frigging great. I’ve witnessed him writing the stuff right in front of me, and I’m going, “Rob, this is brilliant stuff!”

SC: Let’s talk about your work and how much the jams you worked on during the European stadium tour must’ve helped foster the faith to be optimistic and follow Rob’s advice. Do you feel that all the work you did back then helped form the platform of trust for you to instantly think, “This is my man! I trust him.”

KH: Yes. The level that I connect with Rob musically goes really, really deep because he and I come from basically the same musical place. We grew up around funk, R&B, soul, jazz, classical music, Latin music. And I was exposed to this type of music from the time I was five or six years old. Growing up in the early ’70s, there was so much of that music everywhere in the Bay Area and on the radio. And I know there was a lot of it down in SoCal, too, on the radio. And [so when] we jam, there’s no limits on the types of music that we can play. We play jazz, blues, country, polka, weird Gypsy jazz, weird Eastern European folk stuff, French pop, Dutch pop, top ten, new wave, punk… We’ve played it all, him and I. And you know, it’s amazing because we’ve done it in a way that we feel has been convincing. We’ve brought our musicianship to it, played it convincingly, and from the heart. Just being put in a weird musical situation and saying, “Okay, I’m in a difficult musical situation, and I’m really comfortable, now play from the heart…” That is a big, that’s a tall order. It’s asking a lot, but it’s doable.

Sometimes he and I would commit to a song that we’d be playing in 24 hours, and it’d be really, really complicated in terms of jazz chords and the arrangement. But we would sit there and play it 30 times over the course of two hours, and then go into our hotel rooms and work on it, and then come back together again and work on it more until we really felt like we had it. And we’d work on those duets literally up to an hour before we’d go onstage. We grew a lot musically from those duets. A lot.

SC: An early doors thing that’s a two-part question. On the question of trust, first and foremost, did you feel more trusted in the process of working on this album? And if so, how much of that do you think was down to the other two guys seeing what you and Rob did on those jams?

KH: I don’t know if it’s so much trust [that] comes into it. When it’s time to start coming up with songs and music, it’s really if you show up with music or not. And come hell or high water, it doesn’t matter how you come up with that music. It’s just whether you fucking show up to the table with music or not.

SC: So let me ask you from another angle. Do you feel that as you were developing those early riffs, coming up with those ideas, starting to send the stuff to everyone… on the other side of that “line,” maybe people’s ears were slightly more open to hearing what you were sending than before?

KH: You know, I think my pervading feeling and attitude is when I write a certain piece of music, and I’m confident about it, and I’m confident about its potential and its ability and the possibilities behind it, that piece of music speaks for itself. I can act like a fucking irresponsible, immature jerk asshole, but if I’m holding the fucking riff for “Enter Sandman,” that riff is going to be the fucking priority. It isn’t “how I’m acting.” We’ll deal with how I’m acting later. It’s this fucking riff that’s a priority right now. So having said that, if I have a piece of music or a riff that I’m super confident in, I don’t care what anyone fucking says about it. And I don’t need anyone to validate that music because I just know. I know from my heart, from my head, from my gut. It’s really instinctual. I just know. And I think that could be said for James, Lars, and Rob. Whenever you just fucking know that a piece of music… “There’s something here, and we can take this,” you put it on the train and see where the train goes.

SC: Let me ask you about the riff writing process on this album. Was it easier to write knowing that you wouldn’t have to physically sit in front of Greg Fidelman or Lars or whomever? I know you. And I agree with you about the importance of physical energy. For example, we’re in the same room feeding off each other, so this interview is by nature different than it would be if we were on Zoom.

KH: There’s an energy that comes along with just being present with another person. I always believe that [when] you take two minds and put them together, it doesn’t equal two minds. It actually equals four minds. You add another mind in there, and you’re now up to nine minds. You add another mind in there, and you’re up to 18, 24 possibly. Seriously! I seriously think that. There’s something that happens when you get two people together in collaboration. It’s bigger than the both of you. And then it just grows exponentially from there. That’s something that we’ve known about and recognized for a long time. We know the importance of all of us being in the same room doing what we need to do together, whether it’s writing, rehearsing, recording, performing, or whatever. It all comes together when the four of us are in the same room. We can do a lot of work individually, and it works out. But the crowning achievement is always when we’re all in that room together, all the work is done, and then we’re playing the songs and executing in real-time, in the moment. That’s when we look at each other, shake our heads, and it’s like, “Yeah, this is right,” the recognition is there.

SC: Do you think with everything that the pandemic brought, it’s made everyone appreciate that chemistry more?

KH: Yeah.

SC: And appreciate the differences you each bring? Maybe try not to look at the differences but look at the commonalities?

KH: Yes. That’s something we’ve been telling each other for a long time. It’s the differences that actually make us interesting as a whole. I’ll tell you one thing that Covid did that I think was pretty important. It came to the point when we were making Covid bubbles, it was maybe our third or fourth bubble, and it was time to start tracking drums for the album. I remember all of us arriving. Band arrived. Our techs arrived, back line guys arrived, and the prevailing mood was, “Oh, it’s so good to see you, so good to be with everyone, so good to be working.” And having had that held back from us, and wanting to do that, it just built up that feeling of wanting to play together. It was building and building. So, when it came to actually doing the drum tracks, all of us playing together, vibing together, I think there was a new level of appreciation there for each other and a new level of appreciation for what we were doing.

I sincerely feel we’re just that much more into it because we had no way of knowing whether or not that was our last fucking [time playing]. And no way of knowing if we were going to be here in the same sort of situation next year. Because people were dying! Things are changing, and the culture is in some weird, chaotic sort of place. And so yeah, we were taking advantage of the fact that we were together, and I know that when we were playing together, I could feel the commitment. I could feel how loyal we all were to the music. And really feel like during that time, every fucking note and every beat we were playing meant something. Because, at that point, it really did! And when I came in to do my leads, same sort of thing. I had all this pent-up creative energy, frustration, anger, and confusion, all the same stuff that everyone else had.

Photo of Metallica's Kirk Hammett by Brett Murray

Photo Credit: Brett Murray

SC: It’s interesting you bring up your leads because I think they’re the best solos you’ve put on a record in probably 20 years. The last solo on “Inamorata” is stunning. I was told that you played it, and then that was that.

KH: Yeah. I mean, that’s pretty much how all the leads were done. I went in there and improvised. But leading up to that, I had to really make sure that my chops were together and I was playing at a level that I felt confident with. I had a vision of what scales to play, what guitar licks to play. I had a whole vocabulary of licks that I was going to bring to this album. I repeat myself quite a bit, but that’s intentional because I wanted there to be a vocabulary, my vocabulary I’m going to use for this album and this album alone. I just had a lot of pent-up energy and emotions from the lockdown. I needed to get it all out, and I got it out in one of the few ways I know. And that’s just by fucking playing guitar.

SC: I love that word “vocabulary,” and I love the fact that you say it was your vocabulary for this record. I have to ask you, right before the pandemic, when you were warming up for the Peter Green show (at London’s Royal Albert Hall on February 25, 2020), there’s David Gilmour and Pete Townshend popping over to your stack to say, “Hello mate, how are you?” … does that shift your vocabulary a little bit?

KH: Oh, absolutely!

SC: Talk about what that does. You’re a guitar player who’s already respected within the genre, but now you’ve got these titans coming up and sharing their admiration. Talk about that and what that does to your vocabulary.

KH: I’ve spent literally years getting into these people’s guitar styles, their playing, and trying to get into their musical heads. I absorb it all, I do what I do, but in doing what I’m doing, little do I know that they are listening! It never occurred to me that these guys, who mean so much to me, are listening. Because I’m just playing for our fan base, that’s all I ever care about. I don’t really think about whether Dave Gilmour is listening or not. But it just so happens that he’s listening a lot more than I ever realized. And for these guys to come up to me and go, “Hey, how’s it going? What are you doing?” It’s huge, bro. It is a huge acknowledgment. It’s a vindication. It tells me that I’m on the right track. And it also tells me that, “you must be doing the right thing,” because these guys are people who inspired me. And if they’re coming to me and saying “good job” or whatever, that’s great. Because I want to turn around and inspire people too. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing this. I want to inspire people to make great music that has nothing to do with us. Because inspiration’s the future of music. If I can contribute to the future growth of contemporary music and affect it in a way where I raise the quality of it, fuck yeah! Fuck yeah! I think these guys have that same feeling, and they recognize that’s what I’m doing too.

SC: Find a couple of words that can encapsulate what that “vocabulary” was. What was the emotional intention behind the solos and behind the playing?

KH: Frustration. Anger, frustration, and wanting to, you know, just say “fuck you” to that anger and to that frustration. I would show up to the studio, not knowing what to play. Listen to the song, listen to the emotion of the song, the pulse of the song, and just feel these emotions well up and just channel it. Just like, “Uaaa, aah, aah, AAAH!” And then afterward, go, “Aaah, God, I feel so much better now.”

SC: The guitarists in Metallica are (I think) probably the two most emotionally expressive people in the band.

KH: [Grinning] We’re both basket cases!

SC: One of them sifts emotions through his lyrics, and the other through his guitar. Talk a little about your guitar partner’s lyrics, reading where he was going with those, and taking in his journey. And, if you can, reflect that off the man you’ve spent three-quarters of your life with? How did it make you feel? Did you relate to what he was writing about? Do you relate to what he’s writing about? How much does that influence your channeling of the music when you sit down to play?

KH: When it comes to James’ lyrics, I try not to single out any song or any individual lyric. I take in the overall sentiment. And I pick up on that sentiment. It’s really consistent because usually, the sentiment is very close to something I’ve experienced or am experiencing. When it comes to James and I, mentally, we’re both challenged and sometimes we’re challenged in a similar way. So sometimes, when he’s going through stuff, I can totally relate. And I feel like sometimes, when I’m going through stuff, he can relate to me. So, we have this weird emotional connection. We connect in a place that is not comfortable. It’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s actually a scary place and a place that’s super challenging and dark. I distill it differently. He distills it differently, but that place is very, very similar. So, it’s very easy for me to relate to James pretty much all the time on those issues, and I feel like he can relate to me a lot of times with my issues. And those issues are ongoing, continuous, and consistent because it’s life for us, just life. And the recognition of it is important.

So, when I hear him singing about certain things, I get the sentiment. I get a gut feeling. I try not to dissect it, or categorize it, or compartmentalize it. I see it as a certain raw emotion, and I go from there. And for me, doing that is pure. It feels honest, and it feels right, rather than picking up certain things here and there. No, I want to take it all in, get a global view of the raw emotion and the sentiment, connect it to what I feel, and then take it to a different place through my guitar playing. That’s something I’ve done for a long time now.

SC: It feels like you’re doing it more confidently than ever on this project. Even talking now as we are, I’ve never heard you speak with the fluidity and assuredness to express it as you are now. Do you feel that’s something that has happened in the last few months?

KH: Well, I’ve gotten better in just expressing myself, talking about my feelings, not being shy about my feelings… my biggest thing is withdrawal. I will just withdraw from everyone and everything. I have the capacity to do that. And it’s not disassociation. It’s really just wanting to withdraw from people because it’s too much. So, I’ve recognized that I have that, and I’ve also recognized that it’s just better for me to express what I really, truly feel all the time.

I’m going on nine years sober pretty soon. I [attribute] so much of my own personal growth to getting sober. And I wish I would’ve gotten sober a long time ago, but it just wasn’t in the cards, you know? But since getting sober, everything is improved in my life, pretty much everything is improved. I have focus, and I put myself in situations now that I know are positive and win-win situations, where it contributes to everyone else’s well-being. And the best thing that I can do nowadays is to find ways just to contribute to other people’s well-being, whether it’s through art, music, just hanging out with people, doing cool creative stuff, connecting with people, being positive, and just working toward the well-being of everyone. That’s what I want to do these days.

SC: It’s interesting because – and we’ve talked about this – this band is made up of immovable pillars and fluid rivers. And for many years, I think you probably put yourself in the position of being a river when Jason was in the band, being the “I’ll step in and buffer.” Now you and Rob seem to share that load together, but more than anything, am I right in saying that you’re not particularly interested in being a buffer anymore? Is that a case of almost saying, “Hey, this is who I fucking am. And if you want me to be something else, it won’t happen”?

KH: Well, I know that I’m not as chaotic as I used to be. And I know that I’m not as unpredictable as I used to be. When I was younger, I had this thing; I always had this feeling that I needed adventure. I was mischievous. So, I would get myself into trouble all the time, only because that was the energy that was in me. But I don’t have that anymore. I feel like I’m very well grounded. I also feel that I am my own person, and I will always be my own person. And everything that has anything to do with me begins with me and ends with me. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else. And having that realization? It’s changed me. It’s changed my approach to just about everything. It’s given me an awareness so that I’m less reactive and more responsive to almost every situation. Whereas back in the day, I was a reactionary, emotional animal who would just lash out all the time without even thinking because I was conditioned. That was the situation around me as I was growing up. Those are my “72 seasons,” you know? Being in a totally reactive mode all the time because I had to be that way because that’s what people need to be for survival. You know, during those 72 seasons, most of it was spent in survival mode for me. And you know, it gets tiring being in that mode. I’ve found a way to just write myself out of that narrative and be my own person. And I realize that’s all I can do, so that’s what I do now.

Photo of Metallica's Kirk Hammett by Brett Murray

Photo Credit: Brett Murray

SC: When you came in, you said, “I play guitar all the time. I love playing guitar.” It sounds like playing guitar has dragged you through all of it and has been the consistent element to carry you through all the emotional waves.

KH: Yes. The great thing about being me at this time is I recognize things that I never recognized in the past. And it’s important to recognize certain things in your life and give them respect, give them compassion, and give them credit. Because I think people don’t give themselves enough credit for a lot of the things they do.

SC: Give me a couple of examples if you would.

KH: Of recognition?

SC: Yes. Of what you were just talking about.

KH: Well, I recognize that whatever happens in my life, I will always be playing guitar. I will always be making music because that’s my calling. I recognize that this is my universal calling: to play music, with or without anyone. This is what I do. And to me, the realization – I realized maybe 10-15 years ago that this really was the only option I have in my life – was great! There’s no questions about why I’m doing this. Because to play music, to be in this industry, to be in a band, you have to commit. You have to make so much personal sacrifice, there’s no guarantee of success, and you might get killed in the process. That’s what being in this business is like, and I can only say that now looking back. Because 40 years ago, what I saw was a bunch of kids who were hungry, innocent, had something to say, and had energy. We all started off on the same page. But because of the industry, because of the music, because of popularity, status, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, not all of us made it to this point. [Kirk is speaking about the music business in general, not specifically Metallica. - ED] Some people got fucking devoured and spat out. Some people just got devoured and never came back. I got extremely affected by it. Other people in the band got extremely affected by it. I feel like I’m a fucking survivor, and I think that every one of us in this band is a survivor because, man, it’s a screwed-up industry.

My kids are really sensitive and shy, like me. I wouldn’t push them into this. I don’t push my kids into music or going into this career because… yes, it’s been amazing. This side [of the struggle toward success] is amazing. Everyone always sees this side, but you have got to frigging be aware of “this” [other] side too… and “this” side almost frigging killed me. If I push my kids into this, there’s no guarantee they’re going to have the same success. So, I don’t want my kids to be subject to that. The other guys’ kids are different from my kids. Rob’s kids, and Tye in general, he’s a perfect example of a kid who’s grown up in this business and already knows what he wants.

SC: Yeah, he is definitely very unique. They are a unique family of creative, artistic… that’s what all of them do, Chloe, Lullah. They’re very unique.

KH: Yes, and he has full support of his family, and that’s great. When I started off [as a child - ED], I didn’t have the full support of my family, and I doubt if any of the rest of us did. In fact, my mom hated it when she found out I was thinking of becoming a musician. Literally, she yelled at me for two or three hours, saying, “What are you doing? Are you nuts?”

So, it’s also the recognition that culturally, I represent something. Every one of us represents something. And people need to have that person mean something in their lives. That is super, super important too, and that’s another reason why I think that we should just never stop because we bring meaning to people’s lives. UFO, Michael Schenker, brought so much meaning to my life, and it was just a band. It was just music. It was just entertainment, but it was like a lifeline to me.

SC: It sounds to me like your balance with all of it is probably in the most comfortable place for you to also get the maximum amount of personal and musical satisfaction.

KH: Yes, but for me to even get to that place, I had to take a step back, like, “What am I doing in all this?” Take a step back, and think, “Yeah, what I have is really, really wonderful, and I do it voluntarily!”

SC: This is crucial for people to remember; nobody forces the four of you to come together and keep on doing it.

KH: We all are doing this voluntarily. No one’s forcing us, no one’s threatening us. But I had to ask myself, if all of a sudden, I was just by myself and had to do this, what would that be like? Would I still be doing this, and would my heart still be in it? And the answer is yes. It’s as simple as that. Just the realization of that gave me immense freedom in the band. And I didn’t need to talk to the three other guys. I arrived at this [through] my own deduction.

I’ve recognized my own space in this band, recognized that it’s all voluntary, and then recognized that this is something that I want to do, and I love doing it. No matter the situation, I’m just going to continue doing it because no one can stop me. It’s my decision in life.

Photo of Metallica's Kirk Hammett by Brett Murray

Photo Credit: Brett Murray

SC: You’ve got several pretty strong riffs on 72 Seasons. Do you think that’s all the result of what you’re talking about? This underpinned strength that has helped you put out stuff that is just easier for the others to access?

KH: Yes. I’ve just got better at just doing what I do. I still feel like I’m growing on my instrument, I still feel like I’m climbing the creative mountain, and I haven’t reached the peak yet. Still writing stuff, still creating, still curious about my instrument. It’s still going on. I feel that momentum behind me that’s pushing me is stronger than ever now.

SC: What have you learned in the last year about your playing – and playing in general – that’s been a self-revelation? If you can pick one or two things…

KH: I spend a lot of time thinking about spiritual stuff. I’m a very spiritual person. I meditate at least an hour a day. I spend a lot of time reading philosophy. I’m also into science, too, and where science and religion meet [is] a really interesting precipice. And after years of really reading philosophy, I’ve come to a few conclusions, and my conclusion is that all the music that has ever been written exists inside me. All the music that is ever going to be written exists inside me. And if I believe that, [it] means that I can access all the music that has ever been written in the past, [and] all the music that is going to be written in the future. If I can find a place and access that, and I believe I can, then in the moment, the possibilities are endless… and that’s my approach. I sit, and I read my intense awareness of the present moment, I open myself up, and something happens.

SC: What would you say in terms of your playing right now? This might be an unfair question, but it sprang to mind. What balance of being in that spiritual moment versus being in that emotionally reactive moment is influencing, or has, influenced what you’ve been writing recently on 72 Seasons?

KH: The best thing is perspective. I can say, “Okay, I can connect this music to this thread, and this piece of music came from this thread of emotion and energy that I was feeling. This piece of music came from that time when I just came out of meditation, and I was just staring at some light. Then all of a sudden, something tells me to grab my guitar, and I grab my guitar, then all of a sudden, something comes out! That happens so much for me all the time. So, I have more perspective on where things are coming from because music comes from all sorts of directions. It doesn’t always just come from one corner, one space. It comes from everywhere.

SC: Let’s flip to live for a second and stay on this track. When you’re playing, for example, the song “72 Seasons” live. As you’re playing the leads, as you’re playing that riff, will you draw off what created that riff, or will you draw off what the air’s like in Amsterdam, what the air’s like in Paris, how you’re feeling in Hamburg?

KH: When I was younger, I would always pull from the past. I’d remember that thing that I did or that one recording off that one album. When I pull from the past, it doesn’t work. I need to be present, in the future – come up with something. And that usually fits. The process of creating always involves being in the “now,” and creating something in the moment pushes you farther down the line and frees you up from the past.

No one wants to be chained to the past. It’s a bummer. The most exciting moment that I can ever experience is right now. I don’t want to live in the past… I don’t even know what the future is. It kind of sucks because you go online, and you’ll find three million people who claim to know what the future is. “Tomorrow, this is what’s going to happen. Next week we’ve got to do this because…” I mean, really? What’s [their] line of information? Because that’s not a line of information I know about. It’s just all about being in the moment, man.

SC: That’s pretty exciting for people coming to these shows because they’re going to get what you’re feeling at that moment.

KH: Absolutely.

SC: Which is huge.

KH: Yes. The leads on this album are just — and I know this pisses [some people] off — mostly markers for where the solos should be. I went in and improvised all these leads. I still need to figure out the solos because I can’t remember what I played. I’ll go in, and I’ll learn the solos, but I’m going to change stuff all over the place according to how I feel in Amsterdam. I’m going to be jet-lagged. I’m going to be looking at this enormous fucking stage and enormous crowd of fucking faces who are just going, “Fuck yeah, fuck yeah!” And the combination of being jet-lagged, which makes me loopy, and that energy of being in front of our audience, that injection of fresh song energy… Man, I could end up anywhere.

SC: Very exciting to hear.

KH: Yeah, and you know what? I won’t know until we get to Amsterdam, I come to that point, and I play whatever I play. It’s going to be a surprise to me, and I think that’s a beautiful thing, rather than getting a pre-packaged thing that you just know what’s going happen. You’ve heard it 40,000 times before and, “Okay, yeah, that sounds just like the album, yay.” People are into it, but I’m not that into it these days.

SC: That’s fantastic. I know we’ve, unfortunately, got to tie off for rehearsal in two minutes. So I want to get a little lighter. When I look at you play live – actually, when I see you walk around, you look like you’re really enjoying being a lead guitarist. You’re enjoying being a rock star. Like not in a stupid, wanky, prima donna way, but very naturally. You always show up with some fineries on, you walk it, you’ve got the tan, you’ve got the glow. It looks like you’re having fun! (And again, looking damn fine doing so.)

Photo of Metallica at HQ by Brett Murray

Photo Credit: Brett Murray

KH: Okay, can I let you in on a little secret?

SC: Please.

KH: [Smiles broadly] I love what I do. I love what I fucking do, okay? There’s been times when the negative aspects have totally taken over me, and I’ve spent a lot of time highlighting those negative aspects, but don’t get me wrong. The positives still outweigh the negatives, and I love what I do. Basically, it’s getting up there, playing guitar for people, and showing them a good time. Because when I’m up there, I’m having a really good time. And ever since I was a kid, I have thought, “If I’m up there having a good time and people see me having a good time, they’re going to pick up on that good time and have a good time too.”

I learned that when I was 17 years old and first started playing shows in Exodus. I believed it then, and I believe it now, and yes, I’m having a great time up there because I’m playing guitar. I’m playing good songs that are fun to play. We write songs that are fun to play because that’s what we want to do. We don’t want to write songs that are a bummer to play. Fuck that! I’d get bored. I’d probably fall asleep or walk off stage or just start soloing in an inappropriate manner (and I’m good at that).

But we have killer songs. I’m playing with killer musicians. They’re my bros. We have an amazing fan base who understands us and then some. I still love it. And I love the fact that we can get into a big room – 50,000 people – and everyone, everyone, when we play a song, is in the same focus and the same awareness and the same presence of mind on the same thing. And we feel connected. To feel connected, all of us – 50,000 people – in a song… That feeling of community? That’s what you’re really feeling when you go to a rock show. It’s elation from celebrating the fact that we’re all together, seeing something that we all love, and experiencing something that we all want to do together.

Huge, huge, powerful stuff, man. And to be in that situation – to be at the forefront of it, guiding it, supplying it, and steering it – is magic, man. It’s pure love. L-O-V-E. People laugh, but I challenge anyone who might think that’s corny: go to the core of it. Go to the core of what is really motivating you to be entertained.

With that, Kirk picks up his guitar and heads to the jam room for rehearsal. It’s been emotional… in the best possible way.

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