Talk to Metallica? Every once in a while I run into the great big geek in my head who gets honestly star struck at the thought of meeting someone. The chance to sit with Kirk Hammett in support of , Metallica: Through The Never was worth missing one of my coveted screenings at Fantastic Fest this year. I already knew that Kirk Hammett and I had something in common. We're both big horror memorabilia collectors, and part of the monster generation.
ScreenAnarchy: One of the reasons I was so excited to talk to you is that we're both monster kids.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah! Forrest J. Ackerman!
Yup. Went to Forrest's house before the collection was split up, went to Bob Burns house the same day. I will never forget it. It was about 12 years ago.
Forry was such a big influence in my life man. Just as much as a lot of my musical heroes. If it wasn't for him I don't know what the hell I'd be doing. Being a horror fan was what led me to my brother's record collection and all that amazing album art imagery. Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. I didn't actually listen to any of that stuff. I was six or seven at that time. But when I rediscovered it I think it was Famous Monsters of Filmland that laid the ground work for me to appreciate it. I got the same exhilaration from hard rock and heavy metal that I did from watching horror films. I get the same feeling from surfing now. Surfing can scare the living shit out of me.
Yeah society leaves us alone to figure out why we like things, especially when we're young.
Yeah our culture is about putting everything into square boxes and compartmentalizing. We get no contextualization. It's definitely not recommended to be a free thinker. Our culture is so full of traps that can lead you to end up settling for mediocrity.
It's one thing to be the best at what you do. It's another to try your best. That isn't being lost in your culture. Mediocrity is when you define yourself in easy ways. Owning the right stuff, looking a certain way.
I've been doing this for thirty something years now. I have learned I need my connection to humanity. No matter how much I need to withdraw I still crave that real connection to people, art, culture. Maybe that means seeing the next latest blockbuster movie everybody else wants to see but it's because it looks interesting to me. I'm very aware, especially now, how easy it is to go with the flow. Metallica doesn't do that. We're always trying to swim upstream, picking up rocks that look dirty and disgusting that less adventurous people wouldn't even look at. One of the things I really love about the band is that we feed that to each other.
That's what's so interesting to me as a middle-aged man. There are choices I've made that seem really safe to others but they take a lot of courage and they've launched me on adventures I couldn't have imagined. It has to do with
Yeah, when we're together there's an energy that transcends us. There's a synergy. Metallica isn't just bigger than all of us it requires all of us. When we make the choice to give ourselves to that creative process it stops being about us.
Lose yourself to find yourself.
We're the receptors. For all the ups and downs of being together so long the creative process has never really been ego driven for us. That's a big reason for the shift. We respond to what happens at any moment in time. Heavy metal isn't just one thing for us. But our musical vision is as pure.
It's just like your book, Too Much Horror Business. I was reading it last night and realized there were references to all these non-horror things and films in this book about a horror memorabilia collection. I thought to myself, this guy gets it. He understands the magic isn't all in one place, or in some subculture we think we've invented. It's the human journey and wherever we feel the magic all we can do is try to share it with one another.
Absolutely. That's the human condition. I believe that's how you move forward. That's where good wisdom comes from and good knowledge comes from. Our mythologies give our struggles a context where we can wrestle, work it out. Why shouldn't art do that.
We seek to limit art in weird ways. We don't want it to be violent or sexual. But that's the heroes journey is having to contend with those things. In the film you guys show this young man whose big problem is all these things that would keep him from even realizing he's on the heroes journey.
There are any number of moments where Trip has to make a choice whether to be just part of the mob and the problem with being part of the mob is that while you're trying to decide which side is good and evil the rider comes and pretty soon the mob just swallows you. It's a metaphor for life. There are a lot of times you don't know who's your friend and who's your enemy. You have to own your choices.
Being your own person and still being connected to others can be really hard. I know when I come to Fantastic Fest, which is like a home away from home for me, I still feel out of place. There are all these creative people walking around that I really respect and I wonder if I belong. But lo and behold if I can just be myself and give that to people I find that I do belong.
I've always felt like an outsider. It's nice to have an image but what people really want is substance. They might not even know it. But when they get around it they just crave it. Art is like that. Bands come and go for lots of reasons but if it's all just image and gloss and stuff people have heard before they'll get bored with it. Trying new things, or at least things that are new to you, isn't safe.