Kirk Hammett of Metallica Talks His Book "Too Much Horror Business"
Tue, 11 Sep 2012 06:42:50
"I put a lot of time and effort into the book," admits Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett of Too Much Horror Business - The Kirk Hammett Collection. "I thought it would only take me a few months, but it ended up taking a few years. A lot of times, we'll go into recording an album, and we'll say to each other, 'Let's try to bang this out in a couple of months'. Two years later, we're still in the studio laughing, 'How did that happen'?"
Anything timeless takes time though, and his work is no exception.
Hammett's forthcoming book Too Much Horror Business examines his lifelong passion thoroughly and with as much fervor as he speaks on the subject. The legendary guitarist's understanding of horror is inspiring and thought-provoking as he offers a guided tour of his impressive collection of genre artifacts. He tells the story in captivating fashion, matching the rhythm with which he plays guitar. He remains one of history's best guitarists, and one reason is his diverse knowledge of all art forms—including horror.
This isn't only the best way to get to know Hammett, it's one of the year's best books.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Kirk Hammett of Metallica opens up about his horror fascination, talks Too Much Horror Business, reveals why Insidious scared him, and so much more…
Get the book on Kirk's site here!
When did you first start collecting horror artifacts?
Well, I've been into the horror genre ever since I was five-years-old. You can say I actually started collecting at six-years-old. That's when I bought my first monster magazine and started buying monster toys in the late '60s, early '70s. I got a lot of comic books and magazines. That was a constant throughout my childhood. Then, when I was about 13-years-old, I got into rock 'n' roll, particularly hard rock. That led me away from horror. Once I started listening to the music, buying albums, and going to record stores by myself, I turned a corner, and I was doing things that were a bit more "grownup". For a brief while, I thought all of my comic books and horror books were kid's stuff. I got engulfed in music, bought a guitar, and started playing obsessively. I made a conscious pact to become a musician. That dominated my focus for the next eight or nine years. Once I started making a little bit of money with Metallica, I thought, "Wow, I'm still really into horror movies". Throughout that time, I was watching a lot of horror films. I just wasn't buying comic books, magazines, or toys. I was remotely connected to the genre though. When I started getting a little bit of money, I began buying comic books, horror magazines, and a lot of horror toys from the '60s. I wasn't able to get them before. I was really into the toys from the early part of that decade when I was still an infant. In my early twenties, I realized there was this network of people that was way into this stuff. I fell into this network, and it spanned across the country. One thing led to another and I was collecting everything again. I found myself going full bore once more. I started at six. There was a time rock 'n' roll drew me away from being a monster kid, but I was able to get back into it. I totally delved into it and never stopped.
Was the rhythm to compiling the book similar to making an album? Do they come from the same creative place for you?
There's a portion of it that can come from the same place. When you're visually laying out the book and trying to figure out how it unfolds, you want to be dynamic about it. It's just like music. You want to set certain things up so when you turn the page, "Bam," there's an image. You want that image to have the maximum effect. It's the same as writing a song. You setup a riff. Four measures down the line when the main part of the riff kicks in, you want it to hit. A good comparison would be the intro to "Enter Sandman". It starts off mellow. Then, the drums come in. It's bubbling. It comes to the point of the big crescendo. Finally, there's the main riff that hooks everyone. It's like that with a book too. You write your intro. You lead the viewer in, and you hit them with a real potent visual and witty remark. It's very similar in that you want the book to hit all of the right parts in all of the right places like a song.
What's the rarest horror artifact you have?
I have this outfit Boris Karloff wore in this 1934 movie called The Black Cat. It's one of my favorite all-time movies. It's in my top three. About four years ago, I was thumbing through an auction catalog. In the small corner of the page, there was this little blurb that said, "The Black Cat outfit Boris Karloff wore in 1934". I was totally blown away. I was speechless. I thought, "How could this outfit have survived all this time?" That's seventy-seven years. I had to get it. I bid on it, and I can't believe I have it. The first thing I did was try the outfit on. I had to [Laughs]. Now, it's in my collection and figures prominently in my book. The great thing about this book is it enables me to create a side venture called Kirk Von Hammett Toys. We're creating a line of toys. One of the first figures that's going to be available is Boris Karloff as that character in The Black Cat. I'm really very excited about that.
Are you a fan of The Old Dark House with Boris Karloff?
That's a great one! I love that movie! No qualms about it, that's a great movie.
Karloff was menacing, but he exuded this tangible vulnerability as well.
Totally! There was an aspect to Karloff where he evoked sympathy towards a lot of his characters. There was a pathos he brought to his performances. I have to say he was a master of underplaying a part. He wasn't like Bela Lugosi, who was over-the-top a lot of times. I think that's part of Bela Lugosi's charm though.
What still scares you?
I saw Insidious the other day, and it gave me shivers multiple times. I couldn't believe how much it moved me and how scary it was. There were a lot of different, cool plot twists. It's great! I love endings like that. That's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time.
Horror and heavy metal provide a similar catharsis. Dark emotions are exorcised through a story or song.
A good metal performance is like a good horror movie. You should walk out of that venue charged up and somewhat exhilarated. That's how I felt when I saw Insidious, and it's how I feel when I see a really great band that inspires me. The two emotions aren't that different.
Would you want to write your own fictitious story?
Maybe…If I had the time to do it and I was motivated, sure! Those are two factors that come into play. I don't have a lot of time to do things these days so I have to prioritize, but I do have a few ideas. Perhaps one day, I'd like to try it just for the experience.
Do you play guitar while you're watching horror films?
It depends! If a movie gets particularly intense, I'll grab my guitar like a security blanket [Laughs]. I'll start riffing out. The suspense get to me sometimes, and I go for my guitar to help me channel that suspenseful energy or trauma.
Is there an art to displaying everything you collect?
Once you're a collector of anything and you take the time to acknowledge the fact you're a collector, it's all downhill from there, man [Laughs].It doesn't matter what you collect. You're just on a mission. For me, part of the journey is looking for the stuff. Once the stuff is found, another part of the journey is figuring out how you want to display it, where you want to display it, and the story and history behind it. It's more than just holding something. It's endemic for a whole range of memories, connections, and stories. It's similar to your basic heavy metal fan. Once you make the decision to be a heavy metal fan, you're pretty much a heavy metal fan for life—even if you stray away and start listening to '70s disco or whatever [Laughs]. If someone's playing Motörhead CD, you're going to say, "I know that" and start banging your head because the inner heavy metal fan never goes away. If you're a collector, that collector bug never goes away. There's no taming the beast [Laughs].
Will you be getting Too Much Horror Business on October 1?
Get the book on Kirk's site (including a shirt/book bundle) here!
See Kirk's favorite books listed here!
See our feature on the Obey Your Master Art Tribute to Metallica here!
Check out our review of Metallica's Beyond Magnetic here!
See what Slash, Korn, Slayer, Slipknot, Anthrax, Hollywood Undead, Asking Alexandria, Five Finger Death Punch, Michelle Rodriguez, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and More have to say about Metallica here!