Days after the news came down that guitar great Gary Moore died, Metallica's Kirk Hammett called Rolling Stone from his home in Hawaii to talk about his guitar idol. Here is his remembrance.
Gary Moore is definitely in my list of top five guitar influences, right up with Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Michael Schenker. His influence is strong to the point that the opening lick of the guitar solo of “Master of Puppets” is a variation of a lick that Gary Moore played a lot. I remember the first time hearing his blues album and just getting totally blown away – not only by the playing but by the sound of it too, his tone. And I remember being so inspired that I wrote a couple riffs just based on his sound and his feel. And those riffs ended up in "The Unforgiven" on The Black Album.
I first heard of him in the late 1970s. I was a big Thin Lizzy fan then. I had seen them on the Dangerous tour and not long afterwards I heard there was a new album out called Black Rose. I heard "Waiting For An Alibi" on a college radio station and I was amazed because I instantly knew that they had a different guitar player. That was not Brian Robertson playing or Scott Gorham playing that guitar solo. It was…something else. I went to the record store and picking up Black Rose, looked at the cover, turned it over and saw a guitar player named Gary Moore.
He just blew me away from the first time I heard him. It was like Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. He had a very distinct sound and a very distinct way of approaching his guitar playing. Soon after that he came out with G-Force, which is a heavy rock band. There was this one instrumental track on the [first G-Force] album that just totally blew me away, and at that point I just made a conscious decision to make him a part of my regular listening.
Gary was also a big influence on me visually. Every time I saw a picture of him and he was playing a solo the expression on his face conveyed that he was feeling it deep. I remember seeing a picture of him on stage with Thin Lizzy in a guitar solo, obviously, with him bent back. He’s playing the Gibson Les Paul gold top, and he’s bending the shit out of this one string and he has that expression on his face. I just thought, "Wow." I mean that must have been a really intense moment right there because it looks so rock and roll, and so cool and so lead guitar-ish.
His sound was not over-processed. It was very, very basic. It basically was a guitar, an amp, a fuzz box and his hands. I remember seeing him in Copenhagen in 1984 or 1985. We were recording Master of Puppets. He was playing a Strat, which is known for a clear, somewhat thin sound. But the sound he was getting out of that Strat was so thick and so full and just so raw. This was before you had all these guitar processors that could make the cheapest guitar sound like the most expensive guitar, so I kinda deduced that most of the sound was in his hands.
Gary's technique was very modern, but his guitar style was very blues-based. His phrasing was very, very blues-based. He played long, sustained notes coupled with really super fast-picked notes and he had a great legato style. His approach embodied everything that I was trying to do. I spent a lot of time listening to Gary Moore after playing shows, going back to my hotel room and just putting on Gary Moore albums or watching Gary Moore videos.
The reason why he wasn’t more popular here in America is beyond me because he was incredible. He was peers with like George Harrison, and he was peers with Albert King and he was peers with B.B. King. He was just an amazing player, and he could hang with almost anyone. Let’s say, for instance, he was in Whitesnake. I’m sure he would have gotten a lot more recognition than he did.
I met him for the first time a year and a half ago. I was in a hotel room in Germany and I was going to the gym. I got into the elevator on the fifth floor and the elevator stopped on the fourth floor and in comes Gary Moore. I just couldn't believe it. I introduced myself and had a chance to tell him how much of an influence he was on me. I was a little intimidated because I heard at one point that he was really mad at a contemporary guitar player for ripping him off. He couldn't have been more gracious to me though, and in retrospect I'm very glad I had the opportunity.