Metallica’s Kirk Hammett on the KH-V
Metallica’s Kirk Hammett on the KH-V
ESP president and CEO Matt Masciandaro chatted with Metallica guitarist and longtime ESP player Kirk Hammett. Kirk had recently taken delivery of three ESP V-II guitars that were built to his specification by the ESP USA luthiers in Southern California, and are the basis for the new LTD Kirk Hammett Signature Series KH-V guitars.
So, it’s coming up on 35 years with ESP next year. Are there a couple of things that come to mind that might help explain the reason the partnership has lasted so long?
KH: The guitars still sound fuckin’ incredible! They still play well, and that’s a testament to itself. My original Mummy guitar, my original Skully guitar… man… you plug those suckers in and they are as good as the day I got them. No, strike that. They’re even better. Like with the Mummy guitar, there’s something about that one. Every year it just takes on more character and personality. There you have it… dependable until the end. I’m really happy about them and I only see ESP getting better.
What was your first impression when you got that gold one?
KH: I actually got goosebumps! I loved how it seemed to be patterned after that classic gold top look. Cream, plastic parts, gold hardware with a classic gold finish… and when I saw it, was like the perfect hybrid of the reality and my vision. It’s such a beautiful guitar. I strapped it on and played it later that day; just jamming out with friends for four or five hours. It’s an amazing, amazing guitar.
Have you used any of them in the studio recently, and if you have … which one of the three? The gold, the red, or the black?
KH: I've been using the gold one a lot you know, for the more active pick-up driven songs and music that we've been working on. It's great, because it has a completely different sound to my usual ESP's. My monster graphics guitars are great, and I love them, and I know what to expect, but these guitars sound completely different. It’s a different sound altogether
So will we see any of these on the tour?
KH: Absolutely! I intend on playing all of them are on tour, everywhere! I can't wait.
Which one of the three new designs is your favorite?
KH: Well you know… they’re all pretty bad-ass! I like them all for different reasons. The gold one is very elegant looking to me, I appreciate the classy, classic look put on a very modern design. I like joining of two different worlds. I kind of have a soft spot for that one. Then the red one is just bad-ass because the metal flake in the finish is really large and super reflective, which is perfect for playing on stage. You want that thing to just glow on stage. So yeah, I love the red one because it looks like a hot rod, and it sounds killer as well. I don’t know if it’s psychological, but that guitar feels faster than the other two.
Then the black one is very cool, too. I see the black one as kind of being my stand-in for my old Jackson Randy Rhoads, the black one that was literally on tour from the moment I got it. I mean, really, like from 1985 to 2020, so I mean that guitar has been played. It's been around the world. This new black one is going to be its successor. It’s going to assume those responsibilities now, so I’m looking forward to taking it around the world and subjecting it to all the fun and blood and sweat that I subject all of my guitars to.
Why a V shape? ESP has made you a couple of V's but not in many years.
KH: I love V's! Always have. Probably ever since I first saw one. Maybe Paul Stanley around the KISS Alive era… no, wait. Actually, it was on ZZ Top’s Fandango. Billy Gibbons was playing one. Probably same time as KISS, but ZZ Top got to me first. The look and sound just resonated with me. Then when I first heard Michael Schenker and UFO, I think on Force It, I turned the album around and saw Schenker with a V and it was like… there you go!
So maybe it was partly sentimental value, but it all added up in my mind. That was the guitar I wanted. I started off with a Stratocaster because I was way into Jimi Hendrix, but the Strat wasn’t getting me all of the sounds I wanted. I had an idea for something fuller, and I loved the Strat, but needed more than the single coil pickups for certain riffs. I was young, just starting, and didn’t really know how to get the sound I wanted to get. I heard it in my head, but that was it. So I eventually got a better amp, as I didn’t start with the best equipment, it was whatever I could get my hands on, but every piece is important, right?
I got a better amp, a Marshall. And once I got the V… actually before I got it I knew that humbucker sound was closer to the sound I was looking for. You know; big, full, distorted… like Michael Schenker’s sound. Or Jimmy Page. So I put a humbucker in my Strat to try to get that bigger sound once I heard Eddie Van Halen had done it, but then I got the V. That was great. Two humbucker pickups, the shape I liked, easy access from the first to the twenty-first fret, and it was just super cool. I felt good putting it on. Those are the main reasons. I also believe the V's have a pretty original sound too.
Get the details and specs on the newest additions to the Kirk Hammett Signature Series: