Kirk Lee Hammett (born on November 18, 1962) is the lead guitarist and songwriter in the band Metallica and has been a member of the band since 1983. Respected among his peers for his guitar style, in 2003 he was ranked 11th in Rolling Stone's list - The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Born in San Francisco to a Filipino mother and an Irish Merchant Marine father, he later attended De Anza High School in El Sobrante, California when his family moved to the East Bay where he met Les Claypool from Primus. As a child and teenager, he showed great interest in his older brother Rick's extensive collection of guitars, Rickenbacker Basses and hard rock records, including material by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Status Quo, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and UFO. One of his biggest influences was Jimi Hendrix, and Hammett was quoted as saying he wanted to be Jimi. He has also performed parts of Hendrix's songs during his guitar solos. He took up the guitar for the first time at the age of fifteen, beginning with a Montgomery Ward catalog special and little more than a shoebox with a four inch speaker for an amplifier. After picking up a 1978 Fender Stratocaster, Hammett attempted to customize his sound with various guitar parts, eventually falling for a 1974 Gibson Flying V. He also took a job at Burger King to raise money for a Marshall amplifier.
Hammett's musical interests eventually drew him into the fledgling thrash metal genre. In 1980, he formed the group Exodus with vocalist Paul Baloff, guitarist Gary Holt, bassist Geoff Andrews, and drummer Tom Hunting. He played on Exodus' 1982 Demo. Exodus was a crucial early player in the Bay Area thrash movement.
Hammett was invited to join Metallica following the dismissal of the band's original lead guitarist Dave Mustaine in 1983. This was prior to the release of Kill 'Em All. At the time Hammett was taking private guitar lessons from the now-famous Joe Satriani. In 2002, he became the first inductee into Guitar World magazine's "Hall of Fame". Though he is primarily Metallica's lead guitarist, Hammett has written and contributed riffs for Metallica songs since the mid-1980s (particularly in the 1990s during the Load era). One of these riffs, used in "Enter Sandman", was written in a hotel room at 3:00 am, and became one of Metallica's most popular songs. It was the first track and first single on Metallica's self-titled "Black Album" and was ranked 399th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Also the riff for "Creeping Death" was originally an Exodus riff that Kirk took with him to Metallica. Kirk has often been criticised for his extensive use of the wah-wah pedal in his solos, but he insists, "The wah-wah is an extension of my personality". He also once said, "They'll have to cut off my leg if they want me to stop using the wah-wah pedal". Kirk wanted to have guitar solos on Metallica's 2003 album, St. Anger, but drummer Lars Ulrich and producer Bob Rock thought that the solos did not sound right in the songs. He later himself admitted, "We tried to put in solos but they sounded like an afterthought so we left them out".
Kirk Hammett has been married twice. His first marriage to ex-wife Rebecca ended in 1990, during the recording of the Black Album, which consumed the band members' lives for almost an entire year. He now resides in San Francisco with Lani, his second wife, whom he married in 1998. On September 29th, 2006, Kirk and Lani had a son, named Angel Ray Keala Hammett. He also enjoys surfing. He is a vegetarian.
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