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Q&A: Metallica's Kirk Hammett on Horror Fans, Hanging With Kurt Cobain

New book showcases his unique collection

Kirk Hammett of the band Metallica.
Mark Leialoha
October 1, 2012 5:05 PM ET

Almost a decade before he picked up the guitar – and even longer before he joined Metallica – a six-year-old Kirk Hammett started collecting horror memorabilia, inspired by a love of old zombie flicks. Starting today, fans will have an opportunity to peek inside his ghoulish trove with Too Much Horror Business: The Kirk Hammett Collection (Abrams Image), the rocker's new coffee-table book featuring over 300 images of his prized possessions. "I can't be the solitary collector," Hammett tells Rolling Stone. "It's time for me to share it with the world."

Hammett goes in depth with writer Steffan Chirazi throughout the 224-page book, explaining how he built an impressive collection that includes Frankenstein masks, Rodan and Ghidorah models and vintage film posters from The Day of the Triffids, The Mummy and Blacula – among countless other treasures.

Photos: Inside Metallica Guitarist Kirk Hammett's 'Horror Business'

While Hammett is keeping busy with the new book and his very own toyline – KVH, based on his spooky alterego, Kirk Von Hammett – he's still focused on his Metallica duties, from the 3D movie the band shot in Canada last month to mapping out their next LP. "Once we're done with [the movie], we're going to start hunkering down and putting riffs together," Hammett says. "That's all going to happen soon."

You've been collecting for decades. Why did you decide to put out a book now, and how did you go about putting it together?
Everything that's in the book is stuff that is actively in my collection. I've been into horror movies ever since I was five years old. I started collecting horror-related stuff when I was six years old – monster magazines, comic books and whatnot. Over the last five years or so, I started to get a few items that made my collection just that much better. I mean, really raised the overall quality of my collection. I thought, "I can't be the solitary collector. It's time for me to share it with the world." So this book is my gift to all the other monster kids and all the horror nerds out there, who love this stuff as much as I do.

The whole idea was to not just make a book filled with images, but also to interject some of my personality into it, so it made it a little bit more personable. So there's interviews with me discussing collecting in general. There's pictures of me with my collection, and there's also a picture of my horror persona, "Kirk Von Hammett" – which is me in ghoul makeup.

I hope people will not be disappointed with it. I put my heart and soul into this book, and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I should be – I fucking went through every little positioning of all the pictures and every little word and grammatical stuff. Everything from cover to cover. It really has been a labor of love, and I'm just very proud of it.

What can fans expect from your toy line?
The first toy to come out will be a figure based on my Kirk Von Hammett persona. We're also going to make other toys that have a tie-in with the book, or are images from movies that are in my book. It's going to be pretty cool, because I've always wanted to make toys. It's my attempt to have a cool toy line that makes horror-related monster toys.

We recently asked our readers to pick the Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time, and they voted four Metallica albums onto the list, with Master of Puppets claiming the top spot.
Amazing. Totally and completely amazing to me. That album, for me, is my favorite Metallica album.  We had been playing together as a band with that lineup for about three years. We were definitely peaking, and Master of Puppets, in my opinion, was the sound of a band really gelling and really learning how to work well together. At the time, we were just making another album. We had no idea it would have such a range of influence that it went on to have. It was the first time that we could spend time in the studio and work on guitar sounds for a couple of days, really experiment with different sounds and overdubs. It was just a good time for me . . . and I played a lot of poker with [late bassist] Cliff Burton in the studio. We'd just play poker, wait for Lars to finish a track – which would sometimes be days – and we'd be bored.

How was Cliff at poker?
He was a pretty good poker player. But if he lost too much, he'd get pissed and start swearing and get up and walk away. He was a little bit of a sore loser when he wasn't winning.

Lars Ulrich has said that a new Metallica LP probably won't arrive until 2014. What's the status of the album now? Are there any plans to have Rick Rubin produce it?
Right now, we're kind of preoccupied with dealing with this 3D movie that we shot up in Canada last month. So that's kind of taking our time right now – that's the priority, to deal with that. But once we're done with that, we're going to start hunkering down and putting riffs together. That's all going to happen soon. I really don't have an answer about Rick Rubin, although his name certainly comes up.

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the band's debut album, Kill 'Em All. What was a typical day like for you guys during the album's recording?
Get up with a hangover, go down to the studio and try to figure out what song we were going to do next, and try to do it in a very timely fashion. We made that album in, like, three weeks, or something crazy like that. There wasn't a whole lot of time for experimentation or anything like that. It was pretty much a case of go down there, try and play it as best as you can, and then move on to the next song. We didn't have any time to do any fancy production or anything. It was very much just go in there, do it, get out, then buy a bunch of pizza and vodka.

Is it true that the album cut "Whiplash" was Kurt Cobain's favorite Metallica song?
Absolutely. He told me that himself. He came to one of our shows in Seattle, on the Black Album tour. I remember at one point, we were playing "Whiplash," and he looked at me and kept punching the air with his fist, and gave me a big thumbs-up sign. I was like, "Cool. Kurt, I know you love this song. This one's for you!" I knew Kurt kind of well, and I hung out with him quite a bit. He was a pretty big Metallica fan – I was surprised at how much of a Metallica fan he was. He loved Ride the Lightning. He loved that album.

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