35 Years Ago: Kirk Hammett Makes a Difficult Decision to Join Metallica
Unfortunately for guitarist Dave Mustaine, that meant he was out of a job — and on April 1, the band welcomed his replacement, Kirk Hammett. As Hammett later told Music Radar, while the call to join Metallica may have come as a surprise, he'd already met the guys in the band. In fact, as a member of fellow Bay Area metal band Exodus, he'd shared stages with the group on more than one occasion.
"I was familiar with their music before I joined the band. Exodus played with Metallica quite a bit, so I knew the songs," explained Hammett. "I had the No Life 'Til Leather demo and listened to it quite a bit. It was what everyone in the San Francisco underground metal scene was listening to in 1982."
During his Exodus tenure, Hammett spent time on a personal level with Metallica singer-guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, and recalled memorable experiences with both men: Hetfield as "a really cool guy, really clever" who just happened to like wrestling when he got drunk, and Ulrich as someone whose post-show routine included casually disrobing during their first conversation.
"They had just finished their set and as I was talking to him, he started taking his stage clothes off, and before I knew it he was completely naked in front of me. I was just shocked," Hammett admitted. "I said to myself, 'Oh, he's European. Europeans do stuff like this.' But my eyes never left his eyes."
When Hammett received his invitation to replace Mustaine, Metallica were in New York, which meant he needed to buy a quick plane ticket from California — reportedly the first time he'd ever left his home state — and it also meant quitting Exodus. As he later told Billboard, while there weren't really any hard feelings, the experience was still definitely bittersweet.
"That was a ship that I was steering. I pretty much jumped ship. I pretty much bailed on them, and I'll admit that," said Hammett. "I remember they threw me a going-away party, and at the end of the party [singer Paul Baloff] said, 'Hey, come over here,' and I came over there, and he dumped a beer on me. [Guitarist Gary Holt] saw Paul dump a beer on me, so he walked over and dumped his beer on me too, and I just took it. I was just going, 'Yeah, I know, okay. Whatever.'"
Beer bath aside, the move worked out pretty well for Hammett, who's been a crucial component of Metallica's sound for more than three decades — and in 2014, he was finally able to properly record with Exodus, contributing a solo to one of the songs on his former band's 10th studio LP, Blood In, Blood Out.
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