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An Interview with Kirk Hammett of Metallica

An Interview with Kirk Hammett of Metallica

Part of our Day With Metallica

By Ryan Cooper,

Kirk Hammett

© Nicole Lucas

Metallica doesn’t do anything halfway, and their visit to SXSW was no exception. From being the most-talked about “secret performers” of SXSW to their performance promoting the release of Guitar Hero Metallica, to the press event, everything they do is a large production.

We arrived at the press event, where we waited for Metallica to arrive from the airport. They rolled in for a brief photo shoot and then disappeared into the 4 Seasons. When it was time for the interview, I was taken to the elevator by an assistant and dropped off on a floor, where I was then greeted by another assistant who escorted me to a room, where I was greeted by yet another assistant, who escorted me into the room, where Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammet was seated, in front of a Guitar Hero backdrop.

This is where our time with Metallica at SXSW begins.

RC: So obviously, the big thing you guys have going right now is promoting the game. What went into the production of the game that would be different from making a record?

KH: It’s a completely different deal all together. The first thing we did in production was a motion capture, or ‘mocap’ as they say. And what they had us do is put on these velour suits with these little balls stuck on them with Velcro, and we would wear these glasses with little balls on them, and the little balls had sensors so that if we waved our hands, the cameras would capture the motion and it would show up on the computer screen.

We would put on these suits with the balls all over our limbs, and we would basically lip sync through the songs, and just pretend that we were playing the songs live. And they would capture the motion of us moving the way we would move while playing.

We did that and then we sat down and discussed settings and locations, and we’d say ‘OK, we want this part of the game set at the Great Western Forum, a venue in L.A., and they would create the venue, or this place that we played in Russia in 1991, they would actually create that and plop us down into that setting.

It was a pretty different experience, because it really had nothing to do with music at all, or playing our instruments. It was all just motion. It was sort of like a Frankenstein monster thing; they were creating us in a virtual world. It was a pretty different experience.

A lot different from making an album, for sure.

RC: Do you like how you look on screen?

KH: Yeah, sure! (Laughs) I mean, it’s kind of weird, looking at a virtual version of yourself, but you get used to it after a while.

RC: Did you get to choose all the ‘extra’ songs on the game? The non-Metallica songs?

KH: Yeah. Totally.

RC: What influenced your choices?

KH: There are a lot of bands on here for various reasons. We’ve toured with a lot of these bands, and a lot are inspirations. It’s what we listen to nowadays. Like Judas Priest, huge inspiration. System of a Down, we think they’re cool, we’ve toured with them. Alice in Chains, the same thing. Lynyrd Skynyrd is a huge inspiration, Mercyful fate is a huge inspiration, and so for us it was a sort of a way to acknowledge their existence in the world of Metallica, so to speak.

RC: But, I saw there’s no Misfits. I saw Samhain, but no Misfits.

KH: Yeah, legal issues. I can’t really get into it, but it’s the same reason there’s no UFO, but there’s Michael Schenker Group. Legal problems.

RC: Yeah there are so many hands in the Misfits thing right now.

KH: Yeah, it’s crazy. But Danzig was a hero of mine.

RC: I saw the game graphics. Is that Pushead graphics in the game?

KH: Yeah.

RC: Just seeing that goes back to old school, and skateboarding.

KH: Yeah, the great thing with that is that we’re trying to make it as much a Metallica experience as possible, and Pushead is a part of the Metallica experience, so it was really cool that he signed on and did some artwork for it.

RC: And we just solicited a couple questions from our readers, if that’s cool.

Have you decided who’ll induct you into the Rock Hall of Fame?

KH: Yes we did. I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about it or not. F**k it. Flea.

RC: Is Jason Newstead going to be there?

KH: Jason will be there, as a matter of fact. He put 14 years into Metallica, so there’s no reason for him not to be there.

RC: Will you guys play together?

KH: With Jason? Most Likely.

RC: Have you seen the Cliff Burton book yet?

KH: I have not. Is it out?

RC: It’s not out yet; I believe it’s not out until June.

KH: I actually talked to the author a couple of months ago, and he wanted to talk to me about things about Cliff, and my discussion with, I think, is going to be used as the forward.

RC: Everybody loves the way Death Magnetic is reaching for an older sound. Do you guys have plans to work with Rick Rubin again?

KH: You know it’s pretty early still, but I have no qualms about working with him again, but it’s still too early to say. We might be in a totally different headspace by then. It will be a while though; we still have another year and a half of touring to get through, and hopefully we’ll get through that and still have our marbles. Then we’ll start thinking about the new album.

RC: You have worked with a ton of great musicians, collaborating over the years. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with, but would like to?

KH: I would love to work with a lot of different people; the only problem is, some of them are dead. But we’re pretty open to a lot of different things when it comes to collaborations, so who knows?

RC: The video game is pretty cutting edge. What’s the next place, for Metallica to stay on the forefront?

KH: I don’t know. Technology moves so quickly these days, there might be something completely different in two years that everyone is raging about, so it’s hard to say.

RC: And this is my last question, feel free to take the fifth on it.

OK (Laughs)

RC: In retrospect, was Napster really that bad?

KH: It’s one of those situations. You have to ask yourself, ‘would it have been bad if we’d not gotten involved? I don’t know.

We did get involved, did it make it worse, or not? It’s just one of those questions that you just have to take it for what it is, really.

After the interview, I left the hotel, where it was off to Stubb’s, where Metallica’s ‘secret show’ took place…


March 29, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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