Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 104

Gary Moore's car got rear-ended while it was
in the trunk. The second time, it might've
just fallen or whatever. But it stays in tune
and sounds killer. And you know, so what
if it was broken twice? It still is what it is.

JAMES
HETFIELD
How did you get into the guitar?
My brothers. I have two older halfbrothers and there were always instruments around the house. One was messing
around with the guitar and the other was
playing drums in a band. They were doing
cover stuff from the early '70s, late '60s -
Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, "Born to Be
Wild." I'd hang out when they practiced in
the garage, and just loved the sounds and
the smell of amplifiers when they got hot.
There was also the fact they were sneaking into the garage after our parents told
them, "While we're away, do not practice in
the garage." But of course they did. There
was an attraction with the rebelliousness.
It just felt cool.
Outside of the garage, what were you
listening to?

I'd constantly raid my brother's record
collection. There was Beatles, Jethro Tull,
Black Sabbath, Love, and things like that.
But I gravitated to Sabbath. I'd sit and look
at album covers, and the riffs would scare
me a little. It was awesome... the sound. I
liked the heavier, riff-based stuff.

Do you remember the first time you
picked up a guitar and tried to play
something?
Hammett onstage with Greeny.

But check this out, though; I'd wanted a
korina V back in 1978, when I'd only been
playing for six months. That price tag of
$2,500 was unreachable then. But now...
oh, boy.
Has James always been into gear?

Yeah, he's always had an interest in vintage
guitars and recognized how cool they are. It's
hard not to be when you're a dedicated player.
Were you with him when he got the
'58 Explorer?

Yeah, the guy brought it to a gig, and
usually when people bring guitars to gigs,
him and I go off in the corner and have a
discussion to see what angles we can use to
work a deal.
How does his collection compare to
yours?

He collects different Fenders; I collect

more Strats, he's more into Teles and
whatnot. But we both love Les Pauls, Flying
Vs, Explorers. I love '60s Explorers. I think
they're amazing-sounding instruments. I
love the nickel parts on 'em; they remind
me of my friends hot-rod toys growing up.
When I look at that Flying V, it takes me back.
I love Medallion Vs and I have a Medallion
Firebird, which is pretty rare.
So, you've been taking Greeny out on
the road, but how much do you use it?
It's led an interesting life...

Yeah, its neck has been broken twice and
the repair was brutal. I was looking at it
one day and asked a friend, "Should I do
anything about this?" They were like, "No,
don't touch it! It's part of the allure, part of
the legend."
Where is the break?

Right at the head. It was broken first when

104

Yes. My buddy in junior high had an
acoustic, too, and we started learning
around the same time. We'd show up
with new knowledge; "Hey look at this."
We were learning from and trying to be
better than each other, which was a very
good, healthy competition.
What was your first electric guitar?

Just for special songs.

VINTAGE GUITAR

Did you start learning riffs on it?

March 2018

I had a swap-meet special - five bucks
for this off-brand with a log neck and
action that was half an inch high. It was
near impossible to play, and I painted it
probably 10 times; at some point it even
had Van Halen stripes. But the shape just
wasn't cool, so I convinced my mom to
buy a '68 SG being sold by a guy in the
Downey High jazz band. I'd gotten into

Kirk Hammett: Jeff Yeager.

You know how ridiculous that sounds,
right?

I do. It was a terrible acoustic that sat
around the house. I'd pluck on it even
before I knew to press on the fretboard
to make a note; "How do they do this?"
But watching my brother's band or seeing
a picture of someone with a guitar, it was
like, "Oh, he's making shapes..."


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Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - IFC
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