Until recently, almost every room in Kirk Hammett‘s home was decorated with ghouls and creatures from the golden age of horror. During the past three decades, the Metallica guitarist has been collecting hundreds of billboards, placards and lobby cards depicting Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy, among countless others, and he always made a habit of displaying them all. “Every room that I had the posters in, I would always make sure I had a guitar and amp in that room for if they inspired me to play,” he says.
Now he’s cleared more than 100 pieces from his walls for display in Salem, Massachusetts’ Peabody Essex Museum for the first-ever museum exhibition of his acquisitions. The show, “It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection,” will be on view from August 12th through November 26th. A folio book – which follows up Hammett’s 2012 tome about his obsession, Too Much Horror Business – that features 90 images of many of the posters on display is also available, but many more items will be on display at the exhibition.
“When the people from the museum came to my house to check out the pieces, it was supposed to originally be 100, but it soon grew to 135,” says Hammett, who has displayed some of his collection previously at Metallica’s Orion festivals and his own Fear FestEvil. “It’s not just horror posters; it’s also artwork, movie props and related things here and there. For the most part, it was pretty obvious which ones were the most graphically beautiful, which were the most culturally significant and which ones just had to go in because they’re just so fucking cool.”
Hammett began collecting horror-movie posters around 1987, picking up displays for the hit scary movies of the day, like Re-Animator and The Evil Dead. When he bought an original Bride of Frankenstein half-sheet, though, his interest became an obsession. “When the thing arrived at my house, it was an eye-opening moment because it truly turned my head around because of how cool it was – the graphics, the smell of it, the patina of age,” he says. “Not to mention that it was also one of my favorite horror movies of all time. I put the poster up on a huge pedestal and I just started buying all the older stuff. Now I have an amazing collection that I want to share with the world.”
In addition to Hammett’s acquisitions, the museum will also feature the debut of a new seven-and-a-half–minute piece of music the guitarist wrote specifically for exhibition called “The Maiden and the Monster.” “It’s something that I composed with my wife and it’s a musical horror novel,” he says. “It plays like a soundtrack. It clearly takes you through a journey that’s very typical of most monster or horror films, where it involves a creature or some sort of protagonist or antagonist who sees a woman and decides to abduct or possess her and then goes through the motions of either seducing her or outright abducting her. It goes through a little bit of an attraction-repulsion sort of thing, a love-hate thing, but then, there’s a definite period where the maiden needs help, tries to get away from the monster, and then the hero comes.
“Hopefully it will answer all the questions on whether this stuff influences me in a musical way or not,” he continues with a laugh. “The big-ass answer is: ‘Fuck yes, it does, and listen to this track so that I can actually have the proof in the pudding that, yes, I am hugely influenced by this stuff.’ I’m so influenced by this stuff that I’m writing a horror story, but with musical notes.”
Most of all, though, Hammett is excited for a large audience to get a chance to see his collection. “Because of the cultural history that lives inside my collection, the world needs to see it,” he says. “I feel like it’s part of the world.”
When speaking with Rolling Stone, he also detailed why he loves 10 of the posters that will be featured in “It’s Alive!,” collected here.