Metallica’s Kirk Hammett: “I Had a Bad Childhood… Guitar Playing and Music Saved My Life”

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It’s easy to make heavy metal out to be a nonstop party of blazing solos and cold beer. But if we’re being honest, a lot of us were drawn to and hopelessly completed by this music because we were terribly unhappy, and needed an outlet that matched the scope and attitude of our negative experiences. Now, in a recent interview, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett talks about his own personal experiences with abuse, and recounts how metal allowed him to overcome his demons.

“I had a bad childhood,” said Kirk in a new episode of the podcast Backstaged: The Devil in Metal. An avowed fan of horror movies, Hammett takes part in the episode discussing how real-life horrors drove metal musicians to love those they saw onscreen. “I experienced a lot of darkness early on in my life that I probably shouldn’t have been exposed to. Unfortunate things happened to me as a child. And so that real life darkness came to me way too early in my life.

“Basically, guitar playing and music saved my life,” he continues. “And it was a type of therapy for me. It made me feel better when I knew that I wasn’t feeling great. And I was so young. I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. And I didn’t know this was because of circumstances and situations. I didn’t put that together. I just knew that guitar playing helped me feel better and calmed me down as an adolescent, as a teenager, as an adult, up to like now. I mean, I have a lot of anxiety and I’m prone to depression like most people. My guitar helps me through all that.

“A good heavy metal song is like a good horror movie. It’s intense, it’s unpredictable. It has a lot of the same feelings of the darker things in life … Your brain just gets that feeling. Like myself, there’s a lot of people out there that when they hear that darkness, that gloom, it’s cathartic. It feels good, you know? It feels like you can get to the darker parts of your life and experience them without really experiencing them.”

Check out the full episode here:


Words by Chris Krovatin