During a recent conversation on Gibson TV’s ‘Icons’ show, the lead guitarist of Metallica, Kirk Hammett, talked about how he decided to switch from Fender Strat to a Gibson in order to sound more like the European hard rock bands that he enjoyed listening to.
There is no doubt that Kirk Hammett is one of the most famous guitarists of all time and he even ranked number 11 on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.’ Thus, his views on guitars and the way that he improved his playing skills to the point of creating a sound as distinctive as his, is of great importance.
As he had mentioned in previous interviews, Kirk Hammett’s family struggled financially when he was growing up and he didn’t enjoy a financially comfortable life up until Metallica’s release of their third album ‘Master of Puppets‘ in 1986. So, buying a guitar or upgrading his equipment was not as easy as it is for him today.
During his recent interview, Kirk Hammett said that his first real guitar was a Strat which he liked playing but did make him feel the fulfillment he was seeking as it couldn’t get all the frequencies that he wanted. After listening to Van Halen’s first album ‘Van Halen I,’ which was released in 1978, he bought ‘a DiMarzio Super 2 pickup and put it in the bridge position’ but he was still not satisfied with the sound.
Listening to both European and American hard rock bands, he realized preferred ‘a more aggressive hard-rock sound‘ which he could only spot in European bands such as Van Halen. So, he decided to work for a while and save enough money to trade his Strat, pay the extra and get a Gibson Flying V. This turned out to be a great idea as Hammett finally produced the sound that he was looking for.
His then bandmates also observed the transformation in his sound, music, and style, which eventually led the band to sound different, in a positive way. Hammett had managed to take the ‘more aggressive hard-rock sound’ and apply it to the music he was making with his bandmates, and that band was soon named Exodus, one of the first thrash metal bands of the late ’70s.
Here’s what Kirk Hammett said in the interview:
“My first real guitar was a Strat. When I plugged the Strat into the amp I had, I didn’t get the fullness, I didn’t get all the frequencies that I wanted to hear. And so I remember, because this is after the first Van Halen album, I remember getting a humbucker pickup, I think a DiMarzio Super 2 pickup and put it in the bridge position, and not being quite satisfied with the sound.
I remember that I had a plan; I was going to work for six months, get enough money to trade in my Strat and an amount of money for a Gibson Flying V because I really liked Michael Schanker, I really liked his sound. And I realized that Gibson was probably what I was hearing on all those albums.
I decided that I need to get a Gibson to get that sound. And so I remember showing up at the music store, pick out a 1979 Gibson Flying V that was brand new, and doing the trade-in.
And from that point on, I was in heaven. All of a sudden, my sound was fuller-sounding, and it made me realize that the sound that I was looking for was based around humbucking pickups and that sound. And even though I was totally into Jimi Hendrix and that kind of sound, and later on Stevie Ray Vaughan – humbucking pickups were just my thing. It fit my style of playing.”
He went on to say:
“And I remember the band that I was in at the time. The other guys in the band, they were seeing this transformation and sound, and then all of a sudden, the band I was in – we sounded different.
We sounded more full and it sounded closer to the sound that I was trying to get, which was this like a more aggressive hard-rock sound that I wasn’t hearing in a lot of American bands at all but I was hearing a lot in European bands.
And I wanted that sound, and I wanted to take that sound and just grab it and apply it to the music that I was playing with these other guys in the band, that eventually was called Exodus.”
Click here for the source and you can watch the interview below.