From the Archive: Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett Discuss Their 1996 Album, 'Load'
Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett discuss the making of 1996's Load.
Was it decided before you began recording that both of you would play rhythm guitar on this album?
HAMMETT: No. It was never really something that we spoke about. The first mention of it came while we were recording the drum tracks. When we do that, we all play the songs together in a single room, but the only thing that goes onto the multi-track is the drums -- everything else just gets taped. Some of the songs were sounding so good on those tapes that James was like, "Well, maybe Kirk should play on the final version of some of these."
Later on, on a day when James happened to be away on a hunting trip, I was laying down a couple of solos, and when I finished the lead on one of the tunes our producer, Bob Rock, said, "Okay, tune up and we'll do the rhythm for this song now." I was like, "What?"
HETFIELD: By the time I came back, Kirk had put down rhythm tracks on four songs.
HAMMETT: I specifically went out of my way to come up with a second guitar part that would complement James's, not ape it. Not that the riffs weren't interesting. The riffs are the riffs -- they're the most important part of the song. Our parts have a really good sense of interplay. And you can actually separate the two guitars and tell who's playing what. James is on the left side, and I'm on the right.
James, was it difficult for you to surrender control?
HAMMETT: I don't think it's a control issue as much as it used to be. It's more that we're all here to accomplish a common goal.
HETFIELD: It was what was needed for the record. The looseness just wasn't coming across. No matter how many fucking martinis I had, I could never get the guitar tracks to sound different enough. It was the same guitar player playing it fucked up. It wasn't a fucked-up guitar player trying to play it right. [laughs]
Basically, no matter how close Kirk plays the riff to the way I did, it won't sound the same because it's his fingers, his style and his attitude. I would lay a basic scratch track of what I thought the other guitar should be, and Kirk would come in, listen to the track and then do his own thing with it, which was cool.
In the past, was the fact that Kirk didn’t get to play rhythm guitar on the records a source of tension within the band?
HAMMETT: Not really. In fact, on this album we argued more about the solos than anything else. But we're always arguing about something, so it was just par for the course.
HETFIELD: I often have a pretty specific idea of what the solo to a particular song should sound like, so it throws me for a loop when Kirk comes in with something else. But then everyone sits down, we talk it out and work out a middle ground that everyone can be happy with. You don't want to have something on a record that someone in the band is going to go insane over and hate.
HAMMETT: We try and resolve things right away, so that two years from now no one will say something sarcastic to the other person about it.
HETFIELD: Well, they probably will anyway. But at least there won't be too much fuel behind it.
What were the bones of contention?
HETFIELD: "Is that in key? Are you sure that's in key?" [laughs]
HAMMETT: I had to sit down and explain my approach. I probably have the most open mind of anyone in Metallica, as far as music is concerned. I like a lot of different stuff, and so, occasionally, I'll take an idea inspired by something sort of "out" and bring it to the band. I won't bring it to the band unless I think that there's a chance that they'll like it, and 90 percent of the time they do. But there 's that 10 percent of the time where they question it.
On this album, there was one song -- which will remain nameless to protect the innocent -- where the solo that I played had such a different type of feel that it changed that entire piece of the song. We spent hours debating it, and I literally had to walk James through every single note. There was something about it that he just didn't like, which he thought might have been a harmonic thing. But then we realized that it was just the general sound of the solo. Then James came up with something -- like five notes -- that colored what I had played sufficiently to make it work for him too.
Your solos on this album are very textured.
HAMMETT: I would hate to say that I'm bored with the standard rock guitar solo, but I've done it for five albums now, and this time I wanted to go in a completely different direction. I wasn't interested in showing off any more. I wanted to play something that fit the song more like a part than a solo per se, something that had the power to establish a completely different mood in the section of the song that was allocated to me.
When I play at home, I have a Lexicon Jam Man sampling delay with which I can create a loops on which to layer guitar textures. That's why things like the Roland VG-8 and the guitar synth, both of which I used on "Mouldy," are so interesting to me -- they put so many sounds at my disposal.
Don't get me wrong, though -- I still listen to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew. I'm still way into that type of guitar playing. I just don't feel the need to play that way within the context of Metallica any more.
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