Apart from being one of the most influential guitar players of all time, Joe Satriani was also a famous guitar teacher. What’s interesting is that a lot of his students eventually became incredibly proficient and influential themselves. Among them was none other than young Kirk Hammett, who eventually struck gold after joining Metallica in their early years.
Speaking to Howard Stern in a recent interview, Satriani reflected on what made Kirk so special back then. This was the very beginning of the 1980s, and Kirk was just one of the young, enthusiastic musicians who was incredibly ambitious to start a revolution. It would eventually start a whole new movement that we now know as “thrash metal.”
Recalling what Hammett was really like as a guitar student, Satriani commented (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):
“What I noticed – even though I was still maybe [in my] early mid-20s at the time – there was already a movement with his age group that I could see, that was something new and fresh. And it was thrash metal. And they were at the center of it, and they were creating it.”
“It was actually pretty exciting to see young, totally motivated players come up with a new idea,” added Joe while reflecting on that particular era. However, what made these young musicians at the time so motivated is partly due to their anger towards the status quo in rock music.
“And they were sufficiently angry at all the classic rock that had come before them,” he pointed out. “And they wanted to turn everything upside down.”
“So, as a teacher, it was important just to give them the information but not to influence them in any way – to let them interpret it the way they want. And that’s what Kirk did.”
Of course, now famous for changing the game in rock and metal music, these thrash metal musicians were still inspired by a lot of the classic rock bands. But the point still stands — rebelling against those who came before you yields great results if you do it constructively.
For Kirk, it was first Exodus where he was one of the founding members. And then he went over to Metallica, replacing Dave Mustaine and recording guitars on the band’s debut album “Kill ‘Em All.”
“Among all the students, we all felt the same way — like we’re part of a team,” said Joe. “And when someone got a good gig, it was like someone scoring a goal — it’s good for the team.”
“At least I felt that way. I was proud of him because I know how hard he worked. He was tireless and totally motivated.”
Kirk’s talent and hard work sure paid off. Although “Kill ‘Em All” was a success, much bigger things were in store for Metallica. One thing led to another and they were soon touring as support for Ozzy Osbourne, one of the musicians they looked up to.
Speaking of Hammett and Metallica’s early days, the guitarist also recently looked back on what it was really like for them back in the day. In a recent interview, Hammett pointed out that the band was doing it purely out of love for music and performing and that the massive success that they’re enjoying these days is not what they expected to happen.
“We were all pretty much just obsessed with the music,” Hammett said, “with the band being well rehearsed for whatever we’re doing, and making it to the next city, the next show, next gig. That’s all we really, really cared about back then.”
“Sure, it would have been great if we had some inkling that it would go really well for us. But back then, it was hard to see that when you’re like sitting there, and you got like $3 in your pocket, and you’re deciding, ‘Should I buy a six-pack of Schlitz Malt Liquor or should I buy a sandwich or something?'”
The times were also rough on the young lads in Metallica. In particular, Kirk remembered the fun times he and late bassist Cliff Burton had while sorting out their meals:
“We had a toaster oven, and Cliff and I would take a Campbell’s Chunky soup and take the labels off and put them into toaster oven and just hope it wouldn’t explode. [Laughs]”
Nonetheless, despite everything, they were really happy and motivated to be doing what they were doing with Kirk explaining:
“When I look back at it, we were extremely motivated to do the best we could every single moment of the day as far as the music was concerned — whether we were writing music, playing music, recording music, rehearsing music…”
“And we always had an eye toward getting the best riffs together, best little nuggets of things we can come up with, and making sure it was, ultimately, the best of the best. Stuff that other bands would say, ‘Oh, this is a great riff, we’ll turn this into a song,’ it wouldn’t be good enough for us. I mean, it had to be, like, the best sort of riff.”