Bloody-Disgusting is thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Kirk Hammett, the legendary lead guitarist of Metallica! We got the opportunity to ask Kirk a few questions about Metallica before we dove into the world of horror and his book Too Much Horror Business (Amazon). We also get to hear stories of Kirk’s childhood as well as a bit about Cliff Burton and his love of horror. You can read this exclusive interview below!
Bloody-Disgusting: How are you doing?
Kirk Hammett: Hey Jonathan! Alright man! How are you? I know about Bloody-Disgusting and I think it’s a great website!
BD: Oh, thank you! I’m doing very well, thanks! So, I’ve only got two Metallica-related questions and then we dive into the wonderful world of horror. First one is probably what you’ve been asked nonstop: what’s the status on the next Metallica album?
KH: We’re gonna start working on it next month and we have a lot of musical ideas. We’re gonna throw them out there and see what sticks. We’re giving ourselves a lot of time to write the album and were giving ourselves a lot of time to record the album, so hopefully at the end of two years we’ll have something to hold in my hands and to listen to. We’ll see though! [laughs]
BD: Metallica has always been a band where you guys did things in your own way. You explored new sounds and new directions because it felt right or it felt like the necessary thing to do. So, I guess now, at this point, I’m curious what else do you think Metallica has to say or to offer?
KH: Y’know, it’s not like we sit around and say, “Ok, what are we going to do? What are we going to say that we haven’t said?” I mean, it’s never been that complicated for us. What we do is we just let things, kind of, organically grow and form into its own thing. It’s as if it just flows through us and we’re the ones that are just shaping it into something more recognizable for the general public.
Every single album is like this. We just start writing and when we start seeing a common thread, and it can come from anywhere and be from anything, we just kind of nurture that thread until it’s something a little more distinct. Then we’ll just follow it very instinctively until a musical concept starts to show itself. And from there, we check the tone of the music and we think and talk about what does it sound like? What is this the sound of? Then we take it from there.
But it’s never anything that it too thought out in advance.
BD: Okay, into the world of horror! You’re clearly a big fan of the genre. What was your first horror related memory?
KH: [Laughs] It’s very easy for me! I was five years old and I was fighting with my sister. I went to go lunge at her and my older brother grabbed my arm and somehow my arm got twisted and I sprained it. Next thing I know, I went to the hospital, I came back home and my arm is in a sling. My parents tell me I can’t go outside and play with my friends, that I have to stay inside. And so, okay, I though “Great, let’s turn on the TV and see what’s on.” And there it was, the first horror movie I ever saw: Day Of The Triffids. And I was transfixed. Up to that point, it was all about Walt Disney films and cartoons. It was all I was ever exposed to and, of the sudden, I was exposed to this sci-fi horror movie.
And from that point on, I was hooked. I remember a few days later, it was the weekend and Creature Features was on. My dad was making a big noise about how, “Conventional Frankenstein is gonna be on Creature Features at nine o’clock!” And I remember watching it with him and I was just blown away by it.
My father was really into science fiction. When he was a kid, he read the pulp magazines. He read a lot of science-fiction books and the science magazines of the 60’s, like Analog, which was the Reader’s Digest of science fiction stories. And he was into the fantasy aspect too. Maybe not so much the horror but definitely the science fiction part. Those are some of my earlier memories of watching horror movies.
Then I had an older brother and I remember one day he had gotten home and he had bought an Aurora Frightening Lightning Frankenstein model. And him and my cousin were just so into painting it but they were painting it all wrong! They were painting green and orange and yellow swirls all over Frankenstein’s face and body. And I kept on telling them, “You’re not painting it right! Frankenstein doesn’t look like that!” He just said, “Get out of here! You’re a little kid, what do you know?” But years later I realized why there were painting Frankenstein so weird. They were frying on acid! [laughs] They just painted their own psychedelic version of Frankenstein!
BD: What is it about the genre that draws you in?
KH: It’s exhilarating to see a really good horror movie. I always felt like an outsider. It’s a feeling I’ve always had since I can remember. It’s an internal feeling. It’s was never a feeling I’ve brought about externally. And so, when I used to watch these horror movies, and I saw these monsters of the main protagonist of the films, they always seemed, to me, to be the outsiders and I could relate to that aspect. I connected with that. And, through my imagination, these characters became my playmates. They became my friends.
And it became something that I came to look forward to every weekend. Creature Features would come on and there would be two horror movies that just catered to my weird feeling of being an outsider. That’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to horror.
It’s also great entertainment and it stimulates my imagination. And, a lot of the times, it’s exhilarating to sit down and watch a great horror movie. I just sat down and watched a great horror movie not too long ago, a few days ago, Insidious, and I was glad to see that horror movies still have an affect on me.
BD: I love that movie! I don’t know if you know this but a cool little fact about the movie is that the composer of the film, Joseph Bishara, is also the Lipstick Demon.
KH: That’s very cool! I loved the scene where he’s in his lair and he’s sharpening his claws and listening to Tiny Tim. That was so appropriate. There are some great scenes in that film and I was really impressed with how good it was.
Another good movie that I enjoyed recently was Troll Hunter. It was really great. It was a good, fun horror movie!
BD: You’re going to be releasing Too Much Horror Business that showcases your collection of horror memorabilia. When did you start collecting these items and what was the first major thing you remember getting?
KH: Well, I started collecting the stuff when I was six years old. A lot of the magazines, comic books and toys that I have now I actually had when I was a kid, though not the same actual copies or editions. Throughout my entire childhood, I was a comic book kid and a monster kid but when I turned 13 or 14, I totally got washed up in all this rock and roll business and buying albums and listening to music and I just discovered hard rock and then I bought a guitar and the next thing you knew, I was just obsessed with music and playing guitar eight hours a day. The whole collecting thing fell by the wayside. But through all of that, up until I was about 21 or 22, I was still actively watching horror movies and keeping track of what was going on in the horror world, just not collecting. Once I started making a bit of money with the band, I started to buy a lot of the stuff I had wanted to buy when I was younger but didn’t have the money. It came to the point where I was thinking, “Okay, collecting comic books and monster magazines and monster toys is a lot of fun.” But there was this whole genre of horror collecting that I hadn’t done yet, which was vintage horror movie posters.
And so I had an opportunity to start collecting them, but it was more money than I’d ever spent. But what was in the package were absolutely beautiful. For instance, one of them was a Bride of Frankenstein original half sheet. Another one was a Werewolf of London insert. Another was a Dracula lobby card.
This was all next level stuff for me and I just went for it. I was like this stuff is easily the most beautiful, breathtaking stuff in my collection. I bought that stuff and, from that point on, the vintage horror movie posters became my main collecting focus. I actively collect everything else but the movie posters are the funnest for me to collect because they’re so freaking rare! A lot of the movie posters you see in my book are one of a kind.
I actually have a Nosferatu movie poster. Any movie material from Nosferatu is hard to find because, back in the 20’s, when F. W. Murnau made Nosferatu, Bram Stoker’s widow said this was an infringement on her husband’s story Dracula. She took him to court and, of course, won and F. W. Murnau had to destroy all prints of the film and all movie related paper. Just anything that had Nosferatu on it. As a result of that, movie posters for Nosferatu are extremely rare. There is only a handful of stuff that has survived. One of them was the movie poster that is in my book. The only reason it survived was because it wasn’t a German issue poster. It was a poster issued for the Spanish release. That’s why it survived.
And there are aspects to the vintage horror movie toys that I’m still learning about, which is very, very cool for myself. In the 60’s, you had this whole horror toy craze that started in the late 50’s and went throughout the late 70’s. But the 60’s were definitely the apex. And every few months or, actually, every couple of years, a monster toy would show up that no one had ever seen before and that’s just like, “Oh my god, look at this cool thing that someone found!” It just so happens that it’s a bin toy, a blow mold toy from Mexico of Frankenstein and when something like that shows up, everyone else wants their own copy [laughs]. And then the search is on to find more copies of this rare example.
That happens from time to time, year to year. From the time that I started writing the book to the time that I finished writing it, I have learned about more vintage monster toys than I even knew existed. That aspect of the vintage monster toys, for me, is super cool. We’re still, the collectors, are still cataloging and categorizing as things show up because no one ever did back in the day when they were actually being manufactured. A lot of people didn’t take the time to document.
BD: What items do you own that have a special place in your heart?
KH: Oh yeah. Oh, oh yeah yeah. There’s a lot of pieces that I feel that way about. One of the coolest things that I just got, and this isn’t exactly horror related but it’s kind of cool, I got the pair of nunchucks that Bruce Lee used in Enter The Dragon. Really proud of that.
Another piece that is more relevant to the story is I got this thing called the Nebularium. It’s a piece of Victor von Frankenstein’s laboratory. It’s a concave mirror, made by Bausch & Lomb, and you can see it in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Mask Of Fu-Manchu, various other movies. It showed up again in Young Frankenstein. It’s super cool. It’s a concave mirror and in the movie Frankenstein, when Dr. Frankenstein starts up all the equipment, you’ll see this one tesla coil shoot out a lightning bolt into a mirror. Well, the mirror is the Nebularium and it’s just very, very cool to have. I just love it. It’s prominent in all those films and now it’s sitting in my basement. You can almost say it’s an integral ingredient in a lot of those movies.
That one I got when the book was already pretty much finished but that thing is going into my next book.
BD: Oh, so there’s going to be a next book?
KH: Yeah, but first thing’s first! [laughs] It’s only in the beginning stages.
BD: Gotcha! So, since you’re also a musician, I’m wondering what some of your favorite horror soundtracks are?
KH: I like the soundtrack to Hellraiser. Obviously I love the soundtrack to Psycho. That kind of set the tone for future horror soundtracks.
But what I really love are old recordings of Swan Lake. It’s in both Dracula and The Mummy. So, whenever I hear that piece, I think of those movies.
But I really love The Hunger. There are moments of beauty and there’s moments of pure terror and I just love that. I love that juxtaposition.
BD: Let’s top this off with the golden question: what are some of your favorite horror movies?
KH: Well, I think that classic Universal Horror Movies are always in my Top 10. I love those movies. More modern stuff? I love Re-Animator. I love the Hellraiser series. John Carpenter’s The Thing, An American Werewolf In London, Event Horizon, Insidious, the Evil Dead movies. Let’s see, what else? Whenever someone asks me this question, I always draw a blank! [laughs]
I tend to gravitate more towards horror movies that have a supernatural, fantasy, or paranormal aspect rather than slasher movies. I’m not so much into violence. I know that there is a whole genre based around that but I’m just not into it. That being said, I really dig the original Halloween movie. I like some of the Jason movies. In the 70’s, there were a lot of movies in that genre that were really great, like Motel Hell and My Bloody Valentine, Funhouse, y’know? I like late 70’s stuff because those were the movies that maintained my interest in horror even though I was just really more preoccupied with playing guitar eight hours a day and hanging out with whatever band I was in at the time.
The Evil Dead will always have a special place in my heart because when I first joined Metallica, I was in it for maybe three weeks, someone said, “Hey! Let’s check out this new movie at the drive-in down the street!” And we so all piled into two cars and bought a bunch of beer and vodka and that movie was The Evil Dead. I can remember all four of us watching it and loving it, hooting and hollering and having such a great time.
Cliff Burton was a big horror movie fan. His favorite movie was Dawn of the Dead and he was way into H.P. Lovecraft. Him and I bonded almost immediately on that whole horror aspect. So, yeah, there you have it!
BD: Kirk, it’s been a pleasure talking. I can’t wait too check out the book and I’m very much looking forward to the next Metallica album!
KH: Thank you Jonathan! Take care!