Kirk Hammett: The Song That Made Me Want to Play Guitar

Metallica’s Kirk Hammett sat down with bandmate Lars Ulrich and discussed the very beginnings of his musical journey on the drummer’s Beats 1 Radio show, saying (transcribed by UG):

“[Jimi Hendrix is] pretty much [the reason why I picked up the guitar].

“The story with me and ‘Purple Haze‘ is – when that album [1967 Hendrix debut ‘Are You Experienced’] came out, my brother would play it at the house and that song always stood out for me ’cause it was dirtier and uglier and more gritty and more like what it was like when I stepped outside my front door.

“Once my brother moved out, he took his record collection with him – that was when I was about 8 or 9 years old. So for me, it was back to the radio.

“I didn’t hear things like ‘Purple Haze’ or any of the less radio-friendly stuff that he was playing at the house until later on when I was 13 or 14. I started seeking out my own music and going into record stores, buying stuff like Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy.

“I remember I went to see Led Zeppelin on Day on the Green in 1977 and Judas Priest opened that show. I don’t remember anything about it except for KK Downing’s Flying V guitar.

“But in between sets, they played music over the PA, and they played ‘Purple Haze’! It’s been five years since I heard that, and it hit me so heavily! It was more impactful that it’s ever been because I heard it through a big live PA.

“Pretty much next day I went to buy some Hendrix albums and the only one I could find was the Woodstock album.

“It had ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and it was Hendrix playing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ that made me want to play the guitar. Just constantly playing that track over.

“The very first song I ever learned was ‘Purple Haze.’

“I learned it and then two weeks later I rallied some friends – me, a bass player, a drummer, and a singer – I was plugged into an amp, the bassist was plugged into the same amp, and the vocalist was plugged into the same amp. [Laughs]

“We played ‘Purple Haze’ and that was all we played for 15 minutes. [Laughs] Make racket, stop, play again.”

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