We Blacked Out at Kirk Hammett's Horror Festival
We also asked Kirk if he liked Skrillex. Weirdly, he said yes.
Photos by Demian Becerra
The first CD I ever bought was Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time in the third grade, and pretty much ever since then I’ve been chasing the sounds I heard growing up during the Bubblegum Pop era of the late ‘90s. In middle school I remember this weird gothy kid named Jesse, who wore this Hot Topic t-shirt with the words “SPEAR BRITNEY” on it in a very violent typeface. Looking at it, I felt the innocence of my childhood beginning to unravel. I think Jesse could definitely have been one of the metalheads in a band tee in the same font as the Britney Spears one, head-banging with his long hair and throwing up Mallochia, in a dark smokey pit to Carcass playing “Thrasher’s Abbatoir” at Kirk Von Hammet’s Fear FestEvil.
The Regency Ballroom, a massive hundred-year-old masonic hall in Downtown San Francisco, served as the site for this first inaugural Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil, a two-day convention exploring the Metallica guitarist’s fascination with the intersection of horror and metal. During the weekend, I visited the 50 or so vendors in the underground annex of the Ballroom.
The next day I got to meet Kirk. I was hungover from drinking maragritas in the Mission the night before, but managed to maintain my composure. Going into it, I was worried about my status as a relative metal neophyte would work to my disadvantage, but Kirk was relaxed and chill throughout our entire conversation. Maybe he was relieved to finally meet someone who wasn’t completely starstruck by his presence. We laughed a lot, and I’m pretty sure we’re BFFs now. It surprised me how well-maintained Kirk looked at 51, especially considering the dude’s been a rockstar for more years than I’ve been alive. I couldn’t help but appreciate his outfit, and had him talk me through his look: a custom leather jacket with suede detailing and a needlepoint embroidered back piece of Satan and a serpent, his favorite jeans from Japan he had duplicated, snakeskin boots from Paris. Even his iPhone case, a miniature antique looking leather-bound book cover, exuded an effortless sartorial flare.
While talking to Kirk on the couch in his green room, it struck me that Metallica represents a type of authenticity of the past that allows former artists and bands to live on through the legacies they’ve built for themselves through time and hard work. As Kirk laments, the Internet marked a radical paradigm shift, killing the record industry and dividing the music community forever. I certainly had seen and felt more of a sense of community at this Horror festival that I knew nothing about than I ever did at any other show I’d been to. Suddenly, I longed for the musical past Kirk reminisced and talked so highly about, but was thankful that buying Britney Spears Baby One More Time was my way to be part of it. Here
Noisey: Your. Hair. I just want to touch it. *soft caress* How have you been able to maintain such luxurious curly hair over the years?
Kirk Hammett: Biotin. It’s an herbal vitamin sort of supplement. My friend Johnny Ramone turned me onto it. It’s a little pill, you take it everyday, and it really helps your hair. It’s pretty amazing.
Twitter thinks you should bring back the Puerto Rican teenage girl hair.
I know which picture they’re talking about, and, uh, not that funny.
So, I apologize for me being a bit hungover today—
You’re not the only one.
—but is there a crazy or memorable experience that you have from the Alcoholica Era circa 1985, provided that you weren’t blacked out?
It’s really hard to remember a lot of that, but I remember when we were doing that initial Alcoholica photo session with the big blow-up vodka bottle, we were really really drunk, and then after that, we spilled out onto the street, we were in London, we had beers in our hands, and we just sat there, right on the curb, and just continued to drink, and people were passing by, busses were passing by, and we were just so obviously out of our heads, wasted, just laying right there. Back in those days, we did consume a lot of vodka, and I’m so amazed that we didn’t get killed because all of us were driving back then. All of us were so wild, we were just wilding. I mean, I couldn’t get away with that these days because if I acted like that now, I would get in so much trouble. People would take pictures of me being a total drunken idiot, and all of a sudden, next thing you know, it’s on YouTube, and it’s viral.
Looking back now, what moment do you think could have been perfect to end Metallica?
I would just have to bring it right on to where we are right now, Through the Never. As the last creative endeavor we’ve involved ourselves in, I think it stands well in our overall catalog as something that we really put a lot of time and work and effort into. We made it as close to our initial vision as we could, and I thought we did a really great job, and I think Through the Never is a great piece of work, and if everything went crashing down tomorrow, it’s a good note to end on for sure.
That must be so fulfilling, to have manifested what’s inside your collective conscious into something that’s real and visceral and felt by so many people.
It’s what drives us.
I’ve been lingering your personal horror memorabilia collection here at the festival, what macabre artists have influenced you throughout your life, and how have you incorporated them into your work?
I really like Frank Frazetta. He was an amazing artist, probably the premiere fantasy illustrator of his time. I’ve been staring at his artwork ever since I was five or six years old. His art is so deeply embedded into my psyche, I’m sure it’s influenced me in ways that I’m not even aware of.
Which of his work on display here?
There’s a killer one of an executioner that he did that is just so creepy, I can’t even show it to my kids. They’re like, “Daddy, who’s that!?” I’m like, “Uh, um, nevermind son.”
You’re probably tired of answering this, but how have you adapted your views on piracy since the 90s and the Napster lawsuit?
It’s just become too big of a beast to try to control. The best thing to do is to try to put a positive spin on it and embrace it for what it is because it’s still keeping our music alive and out there, and people are still hearing us and listening to us. We’re just learning how to roll with the changes. The whole piracy thing, the whole Internet thing, really destroyed the record industry, and it ended up changing music and the way it even sounds. Now, it just seems like there’s less of a drive to be the best musician you can be or the best band that you can be because you can record anything, and put it out there, and people will say, “Hey, that’s great!” or, “No, that’s sucks,” whatever. It used to be that you had to really work hard to earn the respect selling albums, competing with all the other great bands making great albums—that just doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone just kinda throws an album out there and it kinda just floats around in the cyber-world. What I miss is, there was a time when people would rally behind bands. When an album came out, it was a huge event that everyone spoke about, and you’d go down to the record store and see other people buying it and other people excited, and, “Have you heard this yet!?” “No, I haven’t!”—all that is gone now because of the Internet. The convenience of it is great but it really put a big fuckin’ kibosh on all that shit. Maybe I’m lamenting that a little bit, but it was a great time to be a musician, or a fan, and now because of this culture of convenience we have, it’s just changed differently. Now, I’m glad that we’re an established band but I’d hate to be a band that was just starting out because it’s so much more difficult and the musical audience seems much more divided these days from person to person, whereas back in the day, it was a musical community thing, and now it’s all divided, and separated, and everyone’s just on their own course.
Yeah, it’s a sad thing but we’re just trying to roll with it and do what we can do to still get the Metallica name out there, and still get our music out there, and we’re constantly trying to think of new ways of getting people our music and experiencing our music, and we’ll see what happens when it comes time to release our next album which will probably be in a couple years or so, three or four.
Do you think you’ve embraced social media given everything that’s happened?
Well personally, I don’t give a fuck about social media. I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Instagram, I’m not on all these other fuckin’ things that I don’t even know about, and I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care. I. Don’t. Fucking. Care. But there are people in our organization who recognize the power of social media and the power of getting the word out there. Social media can be extremely effective for whatever thing you’re doing or whatever cause so I think it’s important, but personally, I don’t give a fuck.
Are there any new artists that you’re listening to?
My wife played me a song by Steepwater Band that I really like. I think Die Antwoord is pretty cool. Nothing really new, I have been listening to The Clash a lot, Big Star, Damian and Stephen Marley.
Have you ever DJed before?
Not in the modern sense, but it’s really interesting to me.
Skrillex is playing shows all week here in San Francisco. Do you have any thoughts about him or EDM in general?
I think what Skrillex is doing is really cool and dynamic, and there’s some musicality to it, but there’s other things I’ve heard out there that are just the opposite, and, people like it. I can understand the appeal of Skrillex or Daft Punk, but some of these other bands, I just don’t hear it at all, I’m just like, “OH MY GOD, GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”
I then proceeded to play ‘Clarity’ by Zedd off my iPhone to see if he would like it. Kirk was decidedly not down, so I took a selfie with him and went on my way.
Other highlights from the festival included:
Monster sculptures from Kirk’s horror memorabilia collection.
Getting ‘zombified’ myself by a team of special effects makeup artists.
The LOOKS at these events. I appreciated this girl’s Sally from Nightmare before Christmas Jugalette on meth hybrid look.
THESE ZOMBIE THOTS I COULD NOT AND STILL AM NOT ABLE TO.
B E E N
Participated in my first rock moshpit while listening to Carcass. Got pushed around by some sweaty shirtless metal burner bros. I was really into it. I have a fetish. Also, notice that no once uses their phones at these things. This was an entirely new concept to me, but I was down. Truly a club photographer’s dream.
“FUCK ALL THESE SHITTY NEW BANDS, WE BEEN HAD SINCE 1985!” The crowd was wiling.
I also waited 72 hours to linger Slash at his meet-and-greet but he simply could not be bothered and decided to cancel but was on one of the speaker panels. Slash is #CUT.
I was furious and tried to steal Slash’s top hat to drink vodka out of so this zombie security guard kicked me out the fest.
Jazper Abellera is constantly looking for a place to charge his phone. He's on Twitter - @BOYTWEETSWORLDX
Like weird shit? Well, we also went to a sex/magic show that we thought was a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute concert and a Kidz Bop show at Six Flags.