Kirk Hammett Is “Blown Away” at Metallica’s Early Days [Interview]
Few bands have managed to endure four decades of shifting trends and breakneck performances in the way that Metallica has. Even fewer have solidified their legacy while at the height of their career. They’re still selling out stadium double-headers while seeping into the consciousness of Gen Z via Stranger Things and TikTok virality, connecting their past to their future. Forty years after their debut album Kill ‘Em All and the sophomore success of Ride The Lightning, even Kirk Hammett seems overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.
“The fact that we got so much done at such a young age just blows me away, because it seems like we had something on our sides,” he says. “We had some sort of energy, or God was smiling down on us, or the universe was pushing us… Those two albums, Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning, when they came out, there was nothing like it. And I’m really proud of that.”
It’s staggering to think about how far Metallica has come – almost as staggering is the size of the stage for the M72 World Tour. Kirk was preparing for the kickoff of the North American leg backstage at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ when speaking with Radio Sara of WMMR. To illustrate the size of this in-the-round production: the stage from their previous tour can actually fit inside the “snake pit” of their current setup.
“We get lost a lot on that,” Kirk quips.
He – along with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo – stay focused as best they can on the performance despite the multiple laps on this heavy metal donut each night. The setlist boasts “No Repeats” each weekend, and includes plenty of cuts from their latest effort 72 Seasons. Nearly every song in the set contains a dizzying solo, expertly delivered by Hammett’s hand, with thousands in their seats mimicking in air guitar unison.
Metallica are giants of the genre, but they’ve been known to scale down for special occasions. One such show was their Webster Hall NYC gig in 2016 – capacity 1,500, compared to MetLife’s 82,500 – which became a mythical “you had to be there” moment: all killer, no filler, with little production to hide behind. (That night also marked thirty years since the band lost their beloved bassist Cliff Burton.)
Kirk remembered it with a grin: “Webster Hall’s a really, really cool place to play… it was just like, yeah, this reminds me of being somewhere out on the Ride the Lightning tour.”
That tour came to Philadelphia in 1985, and Kirk recalls that the night was a wild one: “I’ll never forget that Tower Theater show, during the Ride the Lightning tour, ’cause it was radical. We busted the place up, and I remember that show was so crazy… We were talking about that show for years afterwards. Legendary. And this is how much of an impression they made on me, ’cause I still remember it.”
Is there a chance for Round 2 of Upper Darby decimation? “We should play it just for old time’s sake. You know? That would be actually very, very cool.”
A lot has changed since those pre-Puppet days. Their music soundtracks the zeitgeist that is ’80s Bay Area thrash. The band’s catalog has racked up billions of streams and sales. Their philanthropic ventures have helped thousands of people in need. Their cultural impact is multi-generational: you’re showing your age when you associate Metallica with Napster over the Hellfire club. Even with all that they’ve accomplished, Kirk seems most in awe of what they achieved when they had nothing.
“We were all so young, but we had a very clear vision of what we wanted to do, what we wanted to sound like, how we wanted to execute things, the type of songs we wanted to write,” he says about their formative years. “When we were making those albums and touring behind them, we just kind of took it for granted. It was just like, ‘All right, we did that. Let’s go on to the next thing.’ We never sat down and really thought about the accomplishment that we made, right? And so, 40 years later, I’m able to do that and go, man, we really pulled something off.”
Many thanks to Kirk Hammett for speaking with WMMR Philadelphia. The full interview covers aliens, vinyl and more – watch the video or stream the podcast below.
Metallica M72 World Tour at MetLife Stadium [GALLERY]