Kirk Hammett has certainly had a memorable 37-year career in Metallica, with the band still going strong. However, his first meeting with longtime bandmates James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich apparently wasn’t memorable for them.
The guitarist reflected on his entire Metallica run in a new 80-minute interview for Gibson Guitars’ “Icons” series. One of the stories he told was the time he first met Hetfield and Ulrich. At the time, Hammett was a member of the band Exodus while Metallica were getting buzz as a rising thrash band in the Bay Area.
“I remember we were just sitting around one day, and the singer of Exodus, a guy named Paul Baloff, who was an absolute maniac, he walked into the rehearsal and said, ‘Metallica. So heavy. They’re so heavy.’ And I was, like, ‘Metallica.’ And I thought, ‘What a great name. It’s like the best name in the world’,” began Hammett, “[Baloff] said, ‘Yeah, they’re playing The Stone tonight. We’ve gotta go check ’em out.’ And so we went down there. And literally, there was, like, 15 people there. And I remember being at the front of the stage going, ‘Wow, these guys are pretty goddamn good.'”
Hammett added, “A few months later, we got booked to play a ‘Metal Monday’, and it was Exodus’ first show at ‘Metal Monday’ at the Old Waldorf. We got booked on that show because we were friends with the headlining band, which was a band called Laaz Rockit, and the band in the middle was Metallica. And we were, like, ‘Oh, this is cool. We’re gonna be playing with Metallica. That’s great.’ And I remember when we played that show, there was maybe about a hundred people in the club. And then Metallica went on, and the place was packed. I don’t know where the people came from, but all of a sudden, they just showed up.”
The guitarist continued, “The next night was a benefit for Metal Mania magazine, and we got asked to play with Metallica again. And it was a better situation, because it was just us and Metallica. I met those guys for the first time in the dressing of the Mabuhay Gardens, which wasn’t much of a dressing room at all; it was like an indoor alley. That was the beginning of my relationship with them. And it’s really funny, because years after that, people would ask me, ‘When was the first time you ever talked to those guys?’ And I would say, ‘I first met ’em at the Mab.’ And Lars was, like, ‘Really? I don’t remember that.’ And James was, like, ‘Huh? Really?’ They don’t even remember.”
Hammett replaced Dave Mustaine in Metallica in April 1983, just in time to record the band’s legendary first album, Kill ‘Em All, and has remained in the iconic metal act ever since.
Elsewhere in the interview, Hammett addressed the massive success of “The Black Album” and its monster single “Enter Sandman”, saying, “[‘Enter Sandman’] never struck me as being a hit song. None of those songs ever struck me as being hit songs. They struck me as being just really good, concise songs with great periods of heaviness and great periods of melody.”
The guitarist went on to say, “When the album just started selling the way it did, I could not believe it. And I even had a bet with our tour manager. He said, ‘It’s gonna sell 6 million by this date.’ And I was, like, ‘I’ll give you my Porsche 911 Carrera if that happens.’ And guess what? It happened. And guess what? I had to give him my Porsche 911 Carrera.”
“The Black Album” has since been certified 16-times platinum, making it the highest-selling album of the SoundScan era.
Hammett’s career-spanning Gibson “Icons” interview, in which he also talked about the tragic death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton and several other topics, can be seen below. His custom Gibson Flying V guitars are available here.