How Kirk Hammett Played His Way Out of ‘Hair-Raising’ Blues Moment
Kirk Hammett recalled the “hair-raising” experience of trying to prove he could play blues in a room full of legends as he prepared to take part in the Peter Green tribute concert earlier this year.
The Metallica guitarist was aware he was regarded as the “heavy-metal guy” among players including Billy Gibbons, Dave Gilmour and John Mayall, and knew he had to demonstrate he understood the blues genre when he rehearsed with the house band for the show.
“I’m sitting there with people like Billy Gibbons and Dave Gilmour," Hammett told Metallica fan club publication So What! in a new interview. “Then all of a sudden John Mayall walks into the room. Bill Wyman is there, then Steven Tyler walks in … all these people are gonna watch me rehearse ‘The Green Manalishi’ with the core band. You talk about pressure and feeling eyeballs on you? That was probably one of the most hair-raising experiences I ever had, but at the same time, incredibly inspiring as well.”
Hammett noted that he was "the heavy-metal guy. ... I show up and the guys who really didn’t know me were a little hesitant, and so you know what I started doing? I started playing a bunch of blues licks. I started playing Stevie Ray Vaughan stuff. I started playing a bunch of songs off the John Mayall’s Blues Breakers album. … Two or three minutes after they see that I knew the blues, all of a sudden it was like I was a beautiful woman or something! They all came toward me, they started talking to me, asking me questions, and it was a totally unexpected icebreaker. … And then I hear over the next couple days, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s a blues guy, he can play the blues, he knows what he’s doing.’ It was amazing. I could not believe it.”
The guitarist described the moment as “validation from a bunch of musicians who were the first part of my inspiration ... In that first two or three years of my guitar playing, I was just totally into British blues-based hard rock. And I learned how to play the blues; blues has always been a part of my technique. I played blues licks and heavy-metal songs. The guitar solo on ‘Hardwired’ is just the culmination of Robert Johnson licks played fast and with distortion.”