Heavy Metal Master
Kirk Hammett (right) is living the dream of every kid who has strapped on an electric guitar and strummed a power chord. As lead guitarist for Metallica for the past 25 years, the El Sobrante native has rocked arenas all over the world and enjoyed the success of the band’s 100 million records sold. The band will play Oakland’s Oracle Arena on December 20.
I’ve read that you bought your first guitar for $10. Seems like it was a good investment.
I traded a KISS album and $10 for that first guitar. As soon as I got that guitar in my hand, it felt like I was saying good-bye to my life at that point and saying hello to a new life, a new road.
Rolling Stone recently listed you at number 11 of the greatest 100 rock guitarists, between Keith Richards and Kurt Cobain.
What did I do wrong to not make the top 10? (Laughs.) Seriously, I don’t pay too much attention to that kind of thing. I just play as well as I can and try to get better.
Do you have any favorite memories of playing gigs in the East Bay?
There have been so many great shows in the Bay Area. I remember doing impromptu shows at Ruthie’s Inn (a tiny club in Berkeley). We just got up on stage and started playing, right after recording (1984’s) Ride the Lightning—but it wasn’t out yet. People were going crazy left and right.
What should fans coming to your Oakland Arena show in December expect to see?
This is the very first time we’ve played that arena, so it should be fun. The stage is in the round. We’re going to try and play as many new songs as we can. Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much, bro. I don’t want to ruin any surprises.
Fair enough. What’s the most rock star thing about you?
We travel in a chartered jet everywhere we go.
Still get up in the middle of the night to tend to my kids—I have a two-year-old and a four-month-old. Changing my baby’s diapers isn’t very rock star, but I’m happy to do it.
Speaking of kids, I’m curious how you feel about Guitar Hero, the video game that’s so popular.
I think its great. It’s wonderful that all this great music, all this classic rock, is getting to a new generation of kids. They have this pseudo guitar thing in their hands, and it gives them a feel for what playing an instrument, what playing in a band is like. I think that game is going to make a lot of kids want to learn to play an instrument.