Kirk Hammet: Metallica never told me that I joined the band – the audition

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In a recent interview for Gibson Icons, Metallica’s guitarist, Kirk Hammet, talked about his audition with the band.

“It was April 1st so I thought it was an April Fool’s joke. I had to say to the person on the other end, ‘Is this an April Fool’s joke?’ He said, ‘Nope. They heard the Exodus demo and they’re very interested in you flying out and trying out for the band.’”

“I had a week to learn all the songs; and back then, learning eight or 10 songs in a week would have been pretty difficult. I could probably learn eight or 10 songs in like four days now because I’m just better at it. But back then it was a lot.”

“And I remember sitting down with that Metallica demo tape and just learning as much as I could, and then flying out. And I remember when I arrived in New York City, and I arrived at the rehearsal spot in Jamaica, Queens.”
He continued, saying:

“It was like 20 degrees outside, and it was snowing. That was a bit of a shock for me because I’d never left California at that point. I remember getting there, and it was like early evening, and those guys were just getting up. And I thought, ‘Who the gets up at six or seven o’clock at night?!’

“I remember saying hello to them and then 15 minutes later, they’re saying to me, ‘Come on, let’s just play some tunes! Well, what do you want to play?’ And I instantly went for the easiest song to play, which is ‘Seek and Destroy.’ And I remember playing ‘Seek and Destroy’ with them, and I couldn’t understand why Lars and James kept on looking at each other and smiling.”

“And I thought, ‘Wow, they must really enjoy this song… Or maybe there’s something else going on that I don’t know about.’ I later found out that it was because they were just so happy that it sounded so good right from the start.

“I just started playing shows with them. And then the next thing, I’m in the studio with them and recording [the 1983 Metallica debut] ‘Kill ‘Em All.’ So I thought, ‘Well, I must be in the band if I’m recording an album with it now.’ Because they never sat me down and said, ‘You’re officially in the band’ – they never did that!
Kirk continued:

“We only had three weeks, and we had to rush through a lot of stuff, and there are all sorts of mistakes on that album but we couldn’t really do anything about it. Everything was pretty much scheduled – this time for drums – drums and bass; this time for rhythm guitars; now this time for lead guitars; this time for vocals…”

“Wherever you were at the end of that period of time, that’s where you were at… It was fun, we got drunk every night, kind of like just celebrating. And we didn’t really know what the engineer was supposed to do, we had no idea what the producer was supposed to do.”