Metallica’s Kirk Hammett Says He Was Allowed to Be Himself on Solo EP Without Lars Ulrich Micromanaging Everything

It was both a shock and a pleasant surprise to find out that an active Metallica member is finally allowed to do a side project. In early February this year, Kirk Hammett announced the release of his debut solo EP. Titled ‘Portals,’ it’s coming out on April 23 and it features four original instrumental songs. So far, we have gotten the chance to hear a piece called “High Plains Drifter” which you can check out below.

High Plains Drifter

In a recent chat with Ultimate Classic Rock, Hammett shared some info about the EP, giving us a closer look into his solo works. When asked about all his guitar solos on the release, Kirk responded:

“Yeah, you know, there’s no real limitations put on me. When I was working on this stuff, I didn’t want to labor over any of it. So I said to myself, ‘If I can’t nail these solos in three or four takes, then I’ll just hang it up and wait until the next day, and then try and nail it in three or four takes.’ You know, that’s what I did.”

As Kirk further explained, “these solos have no limitations on them.” After all, he finally had the freedom to do things on his own and not obey the rules of a band. As he says, “a lot of times when I’m coming up with solos for Metallica, I have to play for the song.” He offered:

“I have to play within the context of the song. I have to make the solo somewhat accessible – and what I mean by that is, it needs to have hooky parts. It needs to have something that’s dynamic that catches your attention. You know, it needs to be somewhat commercial.”

Kirk also kind of confirms what we all knew – that Lars Ulrich controls pretty much the entire creative process. He said:

“That’s always kind of shaped my guitar solos, as well as working with whoever the producer is on that particular album – and also, with Lars [Ulrich] because Lars likes to micromanage everything. So when I’m in there doing a solo, he gives me input. That shapes the solos. It’s not 100% me. I’ve always kind of alluded to that. On this LP, it’s 100% me with no limitations and stream of consciousness. They’re all fuckin’ first or second or third takes because I just didn’t want to be caught up in the slog of, ‘I’m changing the solo because I don’t like this part or I don’t like that part.’ Or it’s not shred-y enough or anything. I didn’t give a fuck about any of that stuff. I just walked up, I played the solo and if I felt it was an honest moment that we captured, [we kept it].”

“I didn’t try to fuckin’ outdo it or anything. If I felt like it fit the feeling and the emotion of the song, I said, ‘Great, I’m not going to second guess it; that’s what it is.’ That’s what you get. You listen to the solos, and they’re not composed. You won’t see any weird cuts or weird edits. You know, sometimes you can hear weird cuts or weird edits in guitar solos. You won’t hear any of that. The last guitar solo on ‘Maiden and the Monster’ was actually a first take that I did for the demo in a hotel room at two o’clock in the morning in Miami. [Laughs.] When we were recording the track for real and it came time to do that guitar solo, everything I did was not as good as that demo solo, so I just said, ‘Fuck it. I’m going to fuckin’ take the guitar solo from the demo and fly it in.’ That’s what we did.”

As far as guitars go, Kirk reveals that he used three guitars on this EP:

“I used Greeny, I used the wood-colored Ouija guitar and I used a Teuffel Tesla guitar, which is a German [guitar]. This guy named Ulrich Teuffel makes these amazing guitars. I love his guitars. The Teuffel Tesla was the perfect guitar for ‘The Incantation.’ There was a drop tuning – and it has all of these little controls, it was just perfect for that song – but almost everything else was on Greeny [and] an ESP guitar. Oh, and there also was a Gretsch guitar on there as well, for ‘High Plains Drifter’ for some of the more twangy guitar parts. I played a friend of mine’s Gretsch guitar.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons