Kirk Hammett: “What Lars Ulrich Taught Me About Jazz”

Publish date:
Image placeholder title

PHOTO: Metallica | Getty Images

Guitarist Kirk Hammett has been giving props to his Metallica bandmate Lars Ulrich for the drummer’s help crafting his guitar solos on the group’s latest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct.

In a new interview with Bravewords, Hammett specifically credits Ulrich for turning him onto a concept that’s popular among jazz and blues artists: playing through the measures—that is, playing phrases that are not confined by the beginning or end of a measure.

“One thing [Lars] has been doing more of for like 10 or 12 years—and he’s actually turned me onto the concept—is playing through the bars, playing through the measures,” Hammett says.

“So typically, my guitar solos on our first two albums, every four beats or eight bars, I would change the lick. Pretty much on the beat, you know? That’s a very organized sort of thing that musicians do to organize their ideas.

“But some musicians, and particularly jazz musicians and sometimes blues musicians, will play on the beat but play through the bar, or start early, play into the bar, or play through the bar and go out in the middle of the next bar.

“And he started doing that with his drums, and when he kind of like latched onto that concept, he said to me, ‘You know, I notice that when you play your guitar solos, you’re doing it bar by bar, riff by riff. Beat by beat. Why don’t you try playing through it?’

“And I thought, That’s kind of cool, kind of John Coltrane-ish… Say goodbye to phrasing on the downbeat, say goodbye to phrasing on the upbeat. Phrase in between, get into that space that is somewhere in between. And I think that’s what Lars is doing a lot of on this album.”

Hammett had previously revealed that Ulrich helped him build his solos for the album by “coaching” him—specifically, suggesting ideas and offering advice based on what had been originally been envisioned when the songs were written.

“I would play about 25 or 30 solos, all different, in two or three hours, and then Lars would come in and say, ‘How are things going?’ [Producer] Greg [Fidelman] and I would give him a progress report. And then, I’d start playing some other stuff… that’s when Lars would come up with suggestions, coaching me on, maybe going into this direction or to that direction, or [talking about] when he and James were getting the song together [how] they might’ve heard the solo sounding.”

Hardwired…to Self-Destruct was released on November 18.



Fryette Power Load

When it comes to recording guitars, amp-modeling software has come a long way, but there’s still nothing like the sound of your favorite amp turned up to the point where it starts to sing.


Reverend Pete Anderson Eastsider Baritone

In 1986, Pete Anderson’s guitar work with Dwight Yoakam, together with Richard Bennett’s playing on Steve Earle’s Guitar Town record, was ground zero for the twang revival that followed.


New Beginnings

Abandoning California and his prized Dumble amp, Robben Ford finds inspiration in Nashville, where he cut his new album, Purple House


Fender Princeton Reverb Amp

In the estimation of many great guitarists, the blackface Fender Princeton Reverb is the finest club and studio amp ever created.


Fender Albert Hammond Jr Stratocaster

In last month’s issue, we spoke with Strokes guitarist/vocalist and solo artist Albert Hammond Jr. about the genesis of his new signature model Strat, which is based on a 1985 reissue of a 1972 model that he purchased when he was 18.