Kirk Hammett

Kirk Hammett

Kirk Hammett
Kirk Hammett at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival held in Toronto, November 3, 2013
Background information
Birth name Kirk Lee Hammett
Born (1962-11-18) November 18, 1962
San Francisco
Genres Heavy metal, thrash metal, hard rock, speed metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, author
Instruments Guitar, sitar, bass, piano, vocals
Years active 1979–present
Labels Warner Bros., Elektra, Vertigo, Megaforce
Associated acts Metallica, Exodus, Spastik Children
Website .commetallica
Notable instruments
ESP KH-2 and KH-3 Signature models
Gibson Les Paul Jr.
Gibson Flying V
Jackson King V
Gibson Les Paul

Kirk Lee Hammett (born November 18, 1962) is the lead guitarist and a songwriter in the heavy metal band Metallica and has been a member of the band since 1983. Before joining Metallica he formed and named the band Exodus. In 2003, Hammett was ranked 11th on Rolling Stone's list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.[1] In 2009, Hammett was ranked number 5 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Exodus (1980–1983) 2.1
    • Metallica (1983–present) 2.2
    • Other appearances 2.3
  • Book 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Equipment and techniques 5
    • Guitars 5.1
    • Amplifiers and cabinets 5.2
    • Effects 5.3
    • Accessories 5.4
  • Discography 6
    • Death Angel 6.1
    • Headbanged 6.2
    • Exodus 6.3
    • Metallica 6.4
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Hammett was born on November 18, 1962 in San Francisco, California, the son of Teofila "Chefela" (née Oyao) and Dennis L. Hammett, a Merchant Marine.[3] His mother is of Filipino descent and his father was of part Irish ancestry.[4] He attended De Anza High School in Richmond, California. While attending De Anza High School, he met Les Claypool of Primus, and they remain close friends.

After purchasing a 1978 Fender Stratocaster copy, Hammett attempted to customize his sound with various guitar parts, eventually buying a 1974 Gibson Flying V. Hammett also took a job at Burger King as a youth before quitting once he saved enough money to purchase a Marshall amplifier.


Exodus (1980–1983)

Hammett's musical interests eventually drew him into the fledgling thrash metal genre. In 1980, he formed the band Exodus with vocalist Paul Baloff, guitarist Gary Holt, bassist Geoff Andrews, and drummer Tom Hunting. He played on Exodus' 1982 Demo. Exodus was an influential band in the Bay Area thrash movement.

Metallica (1983–present)

In 1983 Hammett was invited to join Metallica following the dismissal of the band's original lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who went on to form the band Megadeth. This was prior to the recording of Kill 'Em All. At the time Hammett was taking private lessons from guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.

Hammett has written and contributed riffs for Metallica songs since the band's second album . One of these riffs, used in "Enter Sandman" became one of Metallica's most popular songs. It was the first track and first single on Metallica's self-titled Black Album and was ranked 399th on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[5] The bridge for "Creeping Death" was originally an Exodus riff that Hammett took with him to Metallica.

In 1986, during the band's European leg of their tour to support "Master of Puppets", Hammett, and bassist Cliff Burton had a dispute over sleeping arrangements on the band's tour bus and it was decided by a card draw, which Burton won by picking the Ace of Spades. Once the draw was completed, Burton looked at Hammett, and stated "I want your bunk," to which Hammett agreed, saying that he might be able to sleep better in the front of the bus anyway. Early the following morning the tour bus slid off the road and overturned, throwing Burton out of the window – subsequently killing Burton. Hammett has stated in an interview that he once thought that it easily could've been him who was killed instead, since Burton was sleeping in what was considered Hammett's bunk.

Hammett initially wanted to have guitar solos on Metallica's 2003 album, St. Anger, but drummer Lars Ulrich and producer Bob Rock thought that the solos did not sound right in the songs. He later admitted himself, "We tried to put in solos but they sounded like an afterthought so we left them out".

On April 4, 2009, Hammett, along with Metallica bandmates Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, and Robert Trujillo and former Metallica bandmates Jason Newsted and the deceased Cliff Burton, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2009, Hammett provided the foreword to British author Joel McIver's book To Live Is to Die: The Life and Death of Metallica's Cliff Burton.[6]

Other appearances

In 2005, Hammett was featured playing the guitar roles on the Carlos Santana track "Trinity" alongside steel-pedal guitarist, Robert Randolph.

In 2006, Hammett voiced himself on The Simpsons ("The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer"). He also provided various voices on the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse, including a two fingered fan ("The Curse of Dethklok"), The Queen of Denmark ("Happy Dethday"), and a Finnish barkeep ("Dethtroll"). He also appeared as a guest in an episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast titled "Jacksonville", alongside fellow Metallica member James Hetfield.

In 2010, Hammett played with Nicolas Abou Chedid on Nico's solo album.

Hammett played guitar on the track "Satan" with Orbital for the Spawn: The Album soundtrack released in July 1997.

After performing a set with Metallica at Bonnaroo in June 2008, Hammett played one song with My Morning Jacket and a couple songs with the annual Superjam collaboration, which also included Les Claypool and members of Gogol Bordello playing primarily Tom Waits songs.

He also appeared on the "Kichigai" E.P. by punk band Septic Death. He played additional lead guitar on the title track.

He appeared as a guest guitarist on K'Naan's "If Rap Gets Jealous" off of the Troubadour album.[7]

Hammett is one of the main characters in Guitar Hero: Metallica, along with the rest of the current line-up of Metallica.

Hammett can be seen in the background in Primus' "John the Fisherman" video fishing off of Les Claypool's boat.

Hammett appeared in an episode of Jon Benjamin Has a Van as an actor and guitarist.


On October 1, 2012, Hammett released his first book, Too Much Horror Business, a collection of photos detailing Hammett's lifelong love of monster movies and horror memorabilia.[8]

Personal life

Kirk Hammett live in Mexico in 2010.
Hammett has been married twice. His first marriage to ex-wife Rebecca lasted 3 years, having ended in 1990, during the recording of The Black Album. Hammett has been married to his second wife Lani since 1998. They have two sons, Angel (b. September 29, 2006), and Vincenzo (b. June 28, 2008). He and his family reside in San Francisco.

Between the end of touring promoting the Black Album and the start of touring in promotion of Load, he studied at San Francisco State University, focusing on Film and Asian arts.[9]

Equipment and techniques

Hammett is known for always having his picking hand taped to protect his skin due to his habit of palm muting and fast picking during lengthy tours.[10]

Hammett's playing style is noted for his extensive use of the


In 2007, ESP Guitar Company announced the release of a 20th Anniversary Limited KH-20 Guitar to celebrate 20 years of relationship with Kirk Hammett (based on the KH-2 guitar with some modification). Only 41 guitars were in production, with the price at US$9,999 a piece.

In January 2009, ESP also announced the rare release of Hammett's famous "ouija" guitar, which was very limited and for 2009 only.[11]

Kirk Hammett in 2010

Kirk Hammett's current tour guitars:

  • ESP M-II "Zorlac" – This was the starting line for the whole KH series. It features a vertical skull & crossbones as opposed to the horizontal ones featured on today's KH's, and an upside down Jackson Guitars style headstock which is what Hammett originally intended. However, Jackson Guitars threatened lawsuits if this model was ever sold. As a result, the headstock was changed to the typical ESP style, but flipped upside down.[12][13]
  • ESP M-II Standard – EMG and Seymour Duncan, Kirk used this a lot in the studio and live.
  • ESP KH-2 "Bride of Frankenstein" – New for 2009.[14]
  • ESP KH-4 Chrome – New for 2009. A remake of his former KH-4 guitar, with a chrome pickguard, chrome hardware, and chrome EMG pickups.[15]
  • ESP MII-NT – New for 2009. It is custom finished with Occult-themed graphics.
  • ESP KH-2 "Skully" – Hammett's main touring guitar. This signature model is based upon the modifications he made to his M-II.[16]
  • ESP KH-2 M-II "Boris Karloff Mummy" #I – This has been Hammett's favourite guitar for many years. It features the Boris Karloff Mummy I graphic of which Hammett owns the rights to. It will not be released by ESP. Hammett has 2 of these guitars, one with Eye of Horus inlays and the other with hieroglyphics inlays.[17]
  • ESP KH-2 M-II "Ouija" – This guitar contains 2 spelling errors. It sports the words "WILLIAM FUED TALKING BAARD SET" but it in fact should say "WILLIAM FULD TALKING BOARD SET". Hammett also now plays a White Version of this guitar on tour.[18][19]
  • ESP KH-2 M-II "Greenburst" A standard KH-2 with a custom green sunburst finish, green inlays, and green logo.
  • ESP KH-3 EclipsePushead Spider graphic. It is taken from a classic Les Paul Jr. shape with a Floyd Rose vibrato and EMG pickups.[20]
  • ESP Flying V copy – Cherry Red with white pickguard and gold hardware. Kirk uses this live mostly for the song Seek & Destroy.[21]
  • ESP Michael Schenker Flying V[22]
  • ESP VIPER Baritone;; Used for performances of The Unnamed Feeling
  • Gibson 1968 Les Paul Custom – Mostly on ballads such as "Fade to Black" and "Welcome Home".[23]
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard – Used on songs from St. Anger.[24]
  • Ibanez RG – Used during the Wherever We May Roam American and European tour. It was used as a stunt guitar and for Deep Purple covers.
  • Jackson Randy Rhoads Model RR1T – Custom-Made specifically for Hammett. It is usually tuned one step down from standard tuning, and used for songs like "Sad but True" and "The Memory Remains".[25]
  • TC Customs Death Magnetic Flying V – Used in the "World Magnetic Tour."[26]
  • Teuffel Birdfish – Designed and produced by German guitar designer/builder, Ulrich Teuffel. The model is limited (500 made) and is made to amplify sound using various pickups. This guitar is used live for "The Judas Kiss".[27]
  • Teuffel Tulsa

On the 25th anniversary of Metallica's debut album Kill 'Em All,Hammett appears on the cover of Feb. 2008's Guitar World sporting his new custom ESP. This model is the KH20, the 20th anniversary model from ESP.Guitar World – Covers Archive

In the video for "One", Hammett is seen using what is most likely an ESP Vintage Plus. It appears however to be modified; it has a Floyd Rose tremolo, which could have been Hammett's own work or a custom model.[28]

Amplifiers and cabinets

Throughout Metallica's career, Hammett has used a range of different amplifiers. For the first two albums, he used Marshall amplifiers and cabinets, with occasional effects. For the recording of Metallica's third album, Master of Puppets (1986), he and James Hetfield bought a Mesa/Boogie MarkIIC+ amplifier, and used Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier heads. Even when he made his move Randall Amplifiers in 2007, he still used Mesa/Boogie amps in his setup, and still does to this day. He currently uses 2 rackmounted Dual Rectifier 2-channel heads in tandem with his Randalls.

In September 2007, Randall Amplifiers announced a partnership with Hammett to design a line of signature amps, heads, combos and preamp modules.[29]

In December 2011, it was announced by Fortin Amps that they would team up with Randall to start a new line of tube amps based on the Fortin Meathead amplifier. Hammett is currently using a prototype of the amp that he used for the Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium and for all of the shows in India and Asia, and was recently sent a second prototype.[30]


To avoid problems with pedals being damaged during live performances, Hammett keeps his effect pedals in a rack along with his amplifiers and his tech controls them through a pedalboard sidestage. The pedal controller allows him to change between different effect pedals and amplifiers.

In 2008, Jim Dunlop started working in partnership with Hammett to create a signature Wah-wah pedal, the KH95. It is now available to buy in stores.



Death Angel

  • Kill as One (Demo) (Producer)


  • Metal Militia (Demo)


  • 1982 Demo (1982)


See also


  1. ^ Hammett ranked at number 11 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
  2. ^ I’m Over My Metallica Demons,' Says Dave Mustaine"'". August 25, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Biography for Kirk Hammett at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ 500 greatest songs of all time
  6. ^ BLABBERMOUTH.NET – METALLICA Guitarist Provides Foreword To First-Ever CLIFF BURTON Biography. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  7. ^ "Kirk Hammett appearing on "If Rap Gets Jealous" on K'naan's album ''Troubadour''". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  8. ^ Florino, Rick (September 11, 2012). "Kirk Hammett of Metallica Talks His Book 'Too Much Horror Business'". Artistdirect
  9. ^ "Metallica". Behind the Music. Season 2. Episode 9.
  10. ^ "Kirk Hammett: Why the taped hand?". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  11. ^ The ESP Guitar Company :: Kirk Hammett Signature Series. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  12. ^ "Photo of Hammett". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Guitar photo". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  14. ^ Image of Hammett at
  15. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  22. ^ Image
  23. ^ 1968 les paul custom kirk image by Stryke-Azrael on Photobucket. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  24. ^ Image
  25. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Image". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  27. ^ birdfish. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  28. ^ YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  29. ^ Randall Amplifiers Announces Partnership With Kirk Hammett of Metallica
  30. ^ "Rig-Talk • View topic – Announcement: Fortin – Randall – Metallica & more". Retrieved March 23, 2012. 

External links

  • Kirk Hammett at the Internet Movie Database
  • Metallica's Gear
  • Encyclopedia Metallica
  • USA Today article on the documentary Some Kind of Monster
  • FuseTVRock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame: Metallica
Preceded by
Dave Mustaine
Metallica lead guitarist
Succeeded by