Kirk Hammett Opens Up on How Music Industry Affected Metallica, Reflects on Musicians Who Were ’Devoured’ By It

Recently, Metallica fanzine “So What!” published a new interview with the band’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. Among other things, the musician looked back on the ruthless nature of the music industry and how life with it can be much tougher than fans might think.

Kirk addressed the issue while discussing his fondness for the guitar as an instrument. Asked about the guitar being “the consistent element to carry you through all the emotional waves,” he replied:

“Yes. The great thing about being me at this time is I recognize things that I never recognized in the past. And it’s important to recognize certain things in your life and give them respect, give them compassion, and give them credit. Because I think people don’t give themselves enough credit for a lot of the things they do.

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Asked to give some examples of this recognition, Kirk replied:

“Well, I recognize that whatever happens in my life, I will always be playing guitar. I will always be making music because that’s my calling. I recognize that this is my universal calling: to play music, with or without anyone. This is what I do.

“And to me, the *realization* – I realized maybe 10-15 years ago that this really was the only option I have in my life – was great! There’s no questions about why I’m doing this. Because to play music, to be in this industry, to be in a band, you have to commit.

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Going more into the issue of the music industry, he said:

“You have to make so much personal sacrifice, there’s no guarantee of success, and you might get killed in the process. *That’s* what being in this business is like, and I can only say that now looking back. Because 40 years ago, what I saw was a bunch of kids who were hungry, innocent, had something to say, and had energy.

With the editorial noting that “Kirk is speaking about the music business in general, not specifically Metallica,” the guitarist continued:

“We all started off on the same page. But because of the industry, because of the music, because of popularity, status, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, not all of us made it to this point.

“Some people got fucking devoured and spat out. Some people just got devoured and never came back. I got extremely affected by it. Other people in the band got extremely affected by it. I feel like I’m a fucking survivor, and I think that every one of us in this band is a survivor because, man, it’s a screwed-up industry.

“My kids are really sensitive and shy, like me. I wouldn’t push them into this. I don’t push my kids into music or going into this career because… yes, it’s been amazing. *This* side [of the struggle toward success] is amazing. Everyone always sees this side, but you have got to frigging be aware of ‘this‘ [other] side too… and ‘this‘ side almost frigging killed me. If I push my kids into this, there’s no guarantee they’re going to have the same success.

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“So, I don’t want my kids to be subject to that. The other guys’ kids are different from my kids. Rob’s kids, and Tye in general, he’s a perfect example of a kid who’s grown up in this business and already knows what he wants.

Further down the interview, Kirk was also reminded of how “nobody forces the four of you to come together and keep doing it” to which he replied:

“We all are doing this voluntarily. No one’s forcing us, no one’s threatening us. But I had to ask myself, if all of a sudden, I was just by myself and had to do this, what would that be like? Would I still be doing this, and would my heart still be in it? And the answer is yes.

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“It’s as simple as that. Just the realization of that gave me immense freedom in the band. And I didn’t need to talk to the three other guys. I arrived at this [through] my own deduction

“I’ve recognized my own space in this band, recognized that it’s all voluntary, and then recognized that this is something that I *want* to do, and I *love* doing it. No matter the situation, I’m just going to continue doing it because no one can stop me. It’s my decision in life.

In an interview published last month, Kirk discussed one of the things that he’s really famous for — wah pedal use. Asked about it, he said:

“The wah enables me to mirror the inner voice in my head and in my heart. That’s what I’m hearing. All these manipulated notes and tones, because that’s what the human voice is like.”

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“We cycle through all these different tones and frequencies when we speak. When I step on that wah pedal and hear that click… Well, I’m hearing that clicking in my brain and in my heart at the same time.”

Discussing this further, Kirk also said that he doesn’t know anyone who uses the effect as much as he does and added:

“I don’t care what anyone fuckin’ says. If I feel like stepping on the wah pedal, I step on the fuckin’ wah pedal, because it brings me closer to what I’m hearing internally. And that’s the whole point of gear – to help bring the thing you hear internally out into the external world.”

Photo: Raph_PH (Metallica – The O2 – Sunday 22nd October 2017 MetallicaO2221017-7 (37187900564))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.