Metallica's Kirk Hammett

We speak to legendary band's guitarist ahead of UAE gig Discuss this article

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Had you never been to the Middle East at all?
I had; I’d been to Cairo, and a few other places.

But not played there?
No, we haven’t played much in the Middle East. Turkey doesn’t really count does it? I’ve visited Cairo, but this would be our first Middle East show, I guess.

How come? Why has the Middle East never attracted you before?
Well, it’s hard to play in places that are a bit more isolated, like in the case of the Middle East, because of the resources: finding a place to play, whether or not the place is able to take on a big production like ours, you know, sometimes the power, even the electricity or energy is not enough. We have to bring in power, bring in lights, bring in our own production crew. Sometimes the security isn’t great, and the conditions themselves aren’t great. These are all factors that we rely on to have a good show, and when all those factors are in place we can come in and do the type of show we want to do. And you know, this is kind of a trailblazing gig – the thinking was if we could pull this off, play a gig here, then maybe we could play in other places in the area.

So why was it the right time now, and the right place?
Well, the promoter proved to us that they could come in and take on a production of this size. They assured us there would be a good show.

It was a fantastic show, we’ve had friends fly in from all over the place just to see it; Jordan, Syria, Saudi, Lebanon..
I know, I met a lot of Lebanese people in the meet and greets. I’d really like to go to Lebanon some day; I’d like to see Baalbek.

Baalbek’s pretty amazing. Well, have you ever worked with any Middle Eastern artist before? Or do any show up on your radar?
I haven’t, no. These days it’s hard to find out about new bands – even in my own country. You see a lot of music around, and a lot of it doesn’t mean anything until you download it and listen to it. And there’s just so much music around, it’s hard to digest it all. I don’t even bother turning on the radio, because it’s pretty bad these days. So it’s really difficult for me to find new artists in general; and that’s that question. Do you know any good Middle Eastern artists?

The rock scene is relatively young, but yes we’ve got quite a bit of talent around. You’ll find plenty if you look for it, although not many pull off any big productions.
Yeah, I’d assume that the Middle East would be very musical in general. You’ve been playing music for thousands of years, and it’s ingrained in your culture.

Well, Metallica’s certainly been a massive influence on the local scene; plenty of people start off playing your covers, or trying to mimic your music.
Well, you gotta start somewhere! And what better place? They often try to tailor their stuff to the region. In fact, plenty of the big names that come to Abu Dhabi try to change their music or style a bit to suit the local audience, but not you...The audience wanted full-on Metallica, full-on 100 per cent Metallica.

Speaking of which, you know how massive bands sort of diminish over time? How is it that Metallica have managed to remain fresh and relevant even after all these years in the business?
A lot of energy. You know, for us, we’re just totally the type of band personality where we want to try new things, different things. We’re very curious in a creative way, and all of us share an intellectual curiosity to see what lies just right over that hill, you know, on the other side of the hill, creatively speaking. I think it’s really important for our own satisfaction, and for our creative gratification, that we explore different things, and go down different avenues, and try different things musically. We want to experience it all, we want to taste it all, you know? I mean we don’t want to be stuck in some corner when there’s a huge playing field of things to try, you know what I mean? We don’t want to be stuck, I think. Stuck how?

I mean, we’re very aware that we can get stuck, playing the same kind of music and, you know, it’s a very easy and comfortable place to be, in your little corner. But I think for us, we’ve always been about searching and actually rebelling. It’s kind of like we’re rebelling against the boundaries that are being put upon us. I totally see it that way, our fans would just like to keep us in our cage, but we refuse.

Well you haven’t lost any fans, that’s for sure.
Yeah, I think the large part of our fans understand that we need to be creatively unhinged and unbounded. There’s no grand plan with our albums, we don’t sit down and say ‘OK, we’re now going to play Indian ragas.’ It’s not like that, it’s largely just instinct. We just follow our gut and our instinct, and go where they take us.

And after all this time, it still doesn’t get tiring?
No, I’m not tired. Well, you know we could always use a little more sleep! But I’m not tired of it, it’s always challenging. I’m never tired of playing my guitar, because my guitar offers me such a great opportunity to experience so many other things. I love music; there’s no way I can really get tired of it.

There’s no way we can get tired of it either; and we loved your set!
We chose a pretty comprehensive show spanning our entire career. We like doing that, it’s fun, especially for the person who’s never seen us because, I mean, you’ll have the fan that’s saying ‘Oh they didn’t play anything from Ride the Lightning!’ Well, nowadays we make sure we play from Ride the Lightning.

Incidentally, a lot of the local fans are Filipino; and some people don’t know this, but you’re half Filipino yourself...
I heard yeah, they’re mostly in the working and service class. I mean, the driver that picked me up, I said ‘You’re Pinoy huh?’ and he’s like yeah yeah! And I said ‘I’m mistiso’ which means I’m part Filipino. I mean, my grandmother was full-on Filipino; bless her soul. She lived till a hundred and four. I love it. I’m wondering if I can actually find some good Filipino food here, or in Dubai. Probably, right?

Plenty of it in Abu Dhabi and Dubai!
Great! Any of them 24-hours?

By Karl Baz
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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