Not many bands have been as influential as Metallica, one just has to ask any heavy metal fan, or even just a music enthusiast to know that Metallica have been the reason for many kids wanting to be rock stars. From Simpson cameos and having an insane amount of tribute albums, Metallica really have proven their power.
Besides a tumultuous lineup change (resulting in the formation of Megadeth) and James Hetfield’s seemingly constant boozing, Kirk Hammett has remained one heck of a lead guitarist. So much so that Rolling Stone placed him at 11 in their list, The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time as well as having his own guitar range, the ESP Kirk Hammett (or just ESP KH).
Hammett was born at the St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco at about 3am on Sunday, the 18th of November in 1962 to a Filipino mother and an Irish American father. His mother worked for the U.S government while his father was a Merchant Marine. Kirk has an older brother, Rick and a sister named Tracy. When Hammett was just 11 years old he tried to play piano but quit after only three lessons because he disliked the teacher so much.
As a young child, Kirk showed a lot of interest in his brother, Rick’s large collection of guitars, Rickenbacker bass guitars and hard rock records such as Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, UFO, Led Zeppelin, Status Quo and Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix was in fact one of Hammett’s biggest influences.
Kirk started playing guitar at the age of fifteen, starting with a Montgomery Ward catalog special and no more than a shoe box with a four-inch speaker as an amplifier. Talk about a shoestring budget.
After playing a 1978 Fender Stratocaster, Kirk tried his hand at customizing his sound with different guitar parts, eventually settling for a 1974 Gibson Flying V. Hammett spent so much on equipment that he started working at Burger King to pay for a Marshall Amplifier
In 1982 Kirk Hammett formed a band called Exodus with friends Tom Hunting and Gary Holt. Exodus is widely known as one of the main pioneers of Thrash metal, especially in the Bay Area Thrash movement. Hammett played on a demo of Exodus’ in 1982.
In 1983, on the first of April, Hammett was offered the position of lead guitarist in Metallica, replacing Dave Mustaine. Kirk at first thought this was an April fool’s joke. After accepting he caught a flight to New York to begin recording with the band.
Although Hammett is primarily Metallica’s lead guitarist, he has also written and added riffs for Metallica tracks since the middle of the 1980’s, especially during the 1990’s Load and ReLoad period. One of the above mentioned riffs was used in Enter Sandman, one of Metallica’s most well-known and loved songs. Enter Sandman was the first single off Metallica’s self-titled album, also known as the Black Album, and was ranked by Rolling Stone at 399 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Kirk and his first wife settled for divorce at the end of 1990, during the recording of the Black Album. Hammett now lives with his second wife, Lani, in San Francisco. On the 29th of September in 2006 became the father to a baby boy called Angel Ray Keala Hammett.
Kirk Hammett has been behind some of the best Heavy Metal tracks of all-time. Personally, I don’t think there is anyone who can dispute the fact that he is one of the best guitarists to come out of the last century. The Grammy’s say it all!