I've done a few interviews now, but Capone is the regular guy for this sort of thing. When the opportunity to interview Kirk Hammett for METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER came up at Fantastic Fest, presented to me by Harry, I felt immediately intimidated, but I couldn't say no. How could I? Metallica is one of my favorite bands. Kirk Hammett is one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. I can't play a lick myself, but I admire technique and artistry, and I've dug Metallica all the way back to my high school years, smoking weed and banging my head at the Monsters of Rock tour in 1987 when they came to Rice Stadium here in Houston.
So, if you read this interview and wonder why I may be really brief or nervous, it's because I was holding everything in not to just geek out on the guy. I still haven't gotten this interviewing thing down yet. It helped that I was interviewing him for a movie I really liked, METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER, a terrific concert film and one that any Metallica fan should see as soon as possible. It's a lot of fun, uses 3D well, and if there's any movie that encapsulates everything we love about the band, it's this one. I have interviews with Nimrod Antal and Rob Trujillo coming as well, and hopefully barring some technical glitches those will be up very soon (this one would have been up sooner if those glitches hadn't happened). METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER is in theaters now.
Nordling: My boss is Harry Knowles and he says he’s quite envious of your horror movie poster collection.
Kirk Hammett: Cool! I take it he’s seen the book?
Nordling: Yeah. He collects posters. He’s big on that. Is there a holy grail poster you’re still trying to grab?
Kirk Hammett: Yeah. There’s actually a few of them. One of them is Murders in the Rue Morgue one-sheet from 1932. There’s only one in existence and another one is the American release one-sheet from Metropolis.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah. That’s another one I just … I was just thinking about and thinking no one’s ever seen that in one-sheet. No one knows what it really looks like in person. It would just be amazing to find one of those.
Nordling: That would be cool.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah.
Nordling: I liked your movie a lot. I thought it was really good. I loved how basically it’s the entire Metallica philosophy crammed in one film. One of the things about Metallica through the years I’ve always noticed is that like a shark you’re always moving forward. You have to find a new thing try to keep everything interesting and new. What was the decision behind making a narrative film out of a concert?
Kirk Hammett: I think we just wanted to make something really unique and different. We all love concert films. The Zeppelin movie THE SONE REMAINS THE SAME was a big influence on me as a kid growing up and learning how to play guitar. I used to watch that movie as much as I can, as much as I could. This is before video. After seeing the majority, or what seems the majority of concert films over the years, there’s a certain formula that goes along with it. It usually starts with concert footage and backstage footage, maybe interviews with the band, maybe like footage of- (Hammett is handed a glass of water, along with a water bottle) Righteous. Now I have two sparkling waters. Great. That’s sparkling water not vodka. Past footage of the band and we didn’t want to go down that route. We wanted something that was different and interesting and provocative. We decided that it should have a story line. What made SOME KIND OF MONSTER a great film? There was a storyline there, and so we thought let’s explore the possibilities of putting in a storyline in the middle of our concert film and see if we can make it flow through it and become a part of the concert footage.That was an idea that we all kind of like, had a realization of that collectively. We put it out there and when we were looking for directors, kind of four or five treatments came back. Four of them were science fiction concepts and then there were Nimrod’s concept which from the outset I thought was perfect for us. It was very Metallica. It was very much us against the world, triumph over adversity that sort of a thing. I really related to Nimrod’s treatment. I thought it was very cool. It was loose and open enough and in the early stages, when he came up with it and he brought it to us in the early stages, and that we were able to put in our own sort of ideas and put the Metallica stamp and identity into it. Everything just really fell into place. It’s amazing.
Nordling: Yeah. The best concerts are the ones that … Concerts like story are builders. It’s like telling a story and from the beginning to the end you’re building towards something. You definitely see that in the concert not just in the narrative as well.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah. Like our songs there’s a dynamic that we gravitate toward. Building things up and having there being like a climax. Our songs are like that, our sets are like that. That’s my philosophy when I’m writing guitar solos. That’s just a part of our DNA. That’s a part of our method. It’s interesting that you can recognize that we’re able to apply this as a movie. Also Nimrod worked very carefully with going back from … Going from concert footage to narrative and back. We wanted to make sure all the transitions flowed really well and weren’t jarring or anything like that.
Nordling: Right. There’s some visual cues in the narrative. You don’t quite know what song’s coming next but there’s the visual cues in the narrative that kind of key in to what’s happening next which I really liked about that.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah. There’s edited songs in the movie but it works. It totally works.
Nordling: The concert footage is in Vancouver, is that correct, in that venue?
Kirk Hammett: It’s a combination of footage from Edmonton and Vancouver. The three shows in Edmonton and then the two in Vancouver, but maybe it was two in Edmonton, three in Vancouver.
Nordling: They flow well, you can really tell.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah.
Nordling: I also appreciate the White Zombie Guitar.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah. I love that movie. It has nothing to do with the band, everything to do with the movie. We did Howard Stern a couple nights ago or a couple days ago and he asked me he said, “What’s with the Rob Zombie tribute?” I’m like, “No, it has nothing to do with Rob Zombie, Howard.” It’s the movie White Zombie from 1932 featuring Bela Lugosi.
Nordling: How long have you all been planning to do a concert from like this?
Kirk Hammett: For a while. The initial idea to do an IMAX film first came up around the late 90’s and for one reason that we can’t get around to doing it, and then it came up again about 5 years later but we’re just … I don’t know. It was too absorbed of whatever at the moment. Then it came up again 3 years ago and this time our manager pitched it to us in a way that actually made sense. He said to us, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to be in a huge stage. We’ll incorporate all the best production pieces from previous tours, and we’re going to build it all into one show and then it’s going to be the biggest show ever and we should do it in IMAX.” That sounded pretty good. Somewhere down the line it became known that it should be done in IMAX 3D and we got a lot more excited about it and went for it.
Nordling: The camera work is amazing. Were the cameras very intrusive to the show?
Kirk Hammett: We were aware of the cameras. There are a lot of them there, I think only three cameras and there were like six or seven 3D cameras on stage. You just had an awareness of where they were. The stage is so big. We could have easily fit six more cameras on there and everyone will have their own space easily because the thing's like … It’s like an aircraft carrier.
Nordling: The personality of the band shines through in the film. That’s for sure.
Kirk Hammett: Cool.
Nordling: How long was it for song selection and everything, was it meticulous of what songs you wanted and how the songs actually helped draw the narrative too?
Kirk Hammett: We knew that we wanted to play our best toe tapping favorites. We’d be able to furnish something out of that. Credit really needs to go Nimrod because he crafted the narrative around our music in such a way that was … The way the music unfolds in the film is totally different from the way we would play it in the set. It’s somewhat similar but there are a few songs that were moved around here and there, particularly in the middle. Nimrod worked closely with his editor and made sure that, again, it flowed well between the songs and the narrative.
Nordling: I like how there’s a build up like miles of technical glitches until the very end when the whole thing blows up.
Kirk Hammett: Yeah.
Nordling: By the way just prepare you for this crowd. Fantastic Fest isn't really like any other film festival. It’s like a big family kind of thing. They're going to eat this shit up.
Kirk Hammett: All right. I’m looking forward to it. Texas has always been our kind of place ever since the beginning. I’ll never forget the Kill ’Em All Tour. When we first came here we were blown away by how many people were at our shows and how many people knew our music.
Nordling: It’s kind of not appropriate to sing along in a movie theater but you want to with this.
Kirk Hammett: I say do it.