Until I heard Metallica, I thought thrashing was something sharks did (how fitting that I also discovered Accept around this time). Meaner, faster and uglier than everything that came before, Metallica took the hierarchy of heaviness to impossible new extremes. I mean, the band debuted with an album/mission statement called “Kill ‘Em All!” Any questions?
Obviously, it’s been a pleasure to interview the Metallicats over the years. It also was a thrill to see the band live during a three-night stand at the Cameo Theater in San Antonio on the “Ride the Lightning” tour (Armored Saint opened). Following are excerpts from a 1997 conversation I had with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, who like myself and a lot of other guys, credits KISS for his lifelong love of metal.
On the album that changed his life:
“‘KISS Alive!’ was a really cool album. I couldn’t believe guys could look like that and be that loud and crazy and energetic. I thought everyone was as theatrical as KISS and then I saw Peter Frampton on TV and said, ‘Nope! I was wrong!'”
On the tragic 1986 death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton who was killed in a tour bus accident:
“We had a really hard time coping with out grief and it put a dark cloud over us for a year. We had to pick up the pieces, put it back together and move on. To this day, I speculate endlessly about what things would be like if Cliff was still around.”
On leaving Exodus to replace Dave Mustaine in Metallica:
“Metallica just took the musicianship and songwriting to a higher lever (than Exodus). It just felt complete from Day One. Also (Metallica) were getting ready to sign to a record label, and everyone wants to sign to a label — especially when you’re 20 years old.”
On the band’s blasphemous haircuts and image makeover, circa the “Load/Reload” era
“People don’t like that we cut our hair and don’t play at 800 miles an hour, but you can’t please everyone all the time. As you progress as a person, you progress in the way you express yourself musically. You instantly limit your possibilities if you try to appeal to a certain segment of people. It’s all about growth.”