When he joined Metallica in 1983, Kirk Hammett imposed a more bluesy and wild style than the surgical precision of his predecessor, Dave Mustaine. In those days, Hammett mostly stuck to one guitar, a 1979 black Flying V that went perfectly with James Hetfield’s white one. This is the instrument that he used to record his flaming solos for the group’s first album, Kill ‘Em All, and he still remains closely associated with this Gibson more than thirty years later.
In order to pay tribute to this inestimable partnership, Gibson decided to measure the original down to the last detail in order to create the most accurate copy possible. So, they took a single piece of mahogany for the whole body, found Schaller M6 machine heads, and modified their Tune-O-Matic as per the specifications of the Star’s Guitars store. They even replicated the slightest scratches from the original (down to the black electrician’s tape at the back to prevent the guitar from slipping against spandex pants) and equipped it with the pickup configuration found on most of the guitars that Hammett uses, namely an EMG 81 bridge pickup and an EMG H in the neck position. These active pickups produce a saturation that is fuzzy and precise at the same time, and the neck pickup is perfectly apt for blues phrasing, as Kirk proved on the Load and Reload albums.
The Kirk Hammett Flying V was released in 2012 with 100 aged copies as well as 50 aged copies signed by the artist. But before starting production, Gibson needed the approval of Metallica’s virtuoso, so they made several Artist Proof versions until both parties felt they had got it just right. This is the fourth of the pre-series, and has therefore been played and approved by Kirk himself!
Group : Metallica
Main guitar : Gibson Flying V
An absolute “must-hear” track : Seek & Destroy
Before joining the biggest heavy metal band in the world, Kirk Hammett was the guitarist and a founding member of Exodus, a very important band in the West Coast thrash scene, the famous Bay Area. And then in 1983 he received the phone call that would change his life: Dave Mustaine had just been fired, so Kirk went to audition for Metallica. He joined the band just in time to record their first album, Kill ‘Em All, and has added his signature sound to the 125 million albums sold since then.
Despite having taken lessons with Joe Satriani, Hammett is not as precise a virtuoso as Alex Skolnick (Testament) or Marty Friedman (Megadeth) can be, but his strength lies elsewhere: he brings the fieriness and bluesy sensibility of a Hendrix into a much colder musical context. That juxtaposition is the band’s greatest strength. Hetfield is surgical, while Hammett is a mad dog constantly on the edge of the abyss. Kirk also had the musical intelligence to adapt his approach to the evolutions of Metallica’s sound: on ... And Justice For All (1988), he is all about speed and technique. On Metallica (1991), he goes from grandiloquent wah wah to nylon strings. On Load (1996), he shows that he is also capable of very beautiful slide strokes. And all that while being able to double up Hetfield’s rhythms on stage…
In terms of equipment, Hammett started off plugging his Gibson Flying V into Marshall JMP stacks. He then moved on to a sharper sound with EMG pickups, which are currently found on his many signature models from ESP. He now uses Mesa Boogie amps and has also been seen playing Jackson and Fender guitars. But the most prized piece in his collection is obviously Greeny, the sunburst Les Paul that Peter Green used to play in Fleetwood Mac and which then became Gary Moore’s main instrument. Despite its colossal value, Hammett takes that guitar on tour and plays it every night in front of thousands of people, among whom only a few guitar nerds understand what they have in front of them.