The story behind how Kirk Hammett came to join Metallica is a peculiar but memorable one. As if getting the call on April Fool’s Day wasn’t strange enough, the guitarist revealed was actually on the toilet when the phone rang, per a previously unpublished 2014 interview with Metal Hammer
“It was April 1st, April Fool’s Day, and I was sitting on the toilet,” Hammett confessed, who further recollecting the life-changing 1983 moment, went on, “I got the call from [Metallica sound engineer] Mark Whittaker, and after I hung up, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I just got that phone call. Was that an April Fool’s Day prank?’ A couple of days later I got this tape from them, but I already had the demo and I already knew two thirds of the songs on there.”
Naturally, the offer to join Metallica necessitated Hammet’s exit from Exodus, of which he was one of the founding members. His playing can be heard on the group’s first two demos, released in 1982 and 1983.
But how did Exodus take the news? “I told the guys in Exodus and they were pissed,” said Hammett, “They were pissed. I remember [Exodus singer] Paul Baloff was so pissed that he poured a beer over my head. He said, ‘[angry-hurt voice] I can’t believe you’re doing this Kirk’, then poured his beer over my head. I just took it, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know…’
It’s also worth noting that Metallica had originally intended on titling their debut record Metal Up Your Ass, featuring artwork by Stephen Gorman, which pictured an outstretched arm emerging from a toilet bowl, tightly gripping a sharpened dagger. Distributors were repulsed by it all, however, and with little chance of the record making it on to retail shelves, the band reluctantly agreed to go in another direction, settling on Kill ‘Em All and its now iconic artwork.
After leaving Exodus, Hammett took some of his original riffs with him, repurposing them for Metallica on the Ride the Lightning track “Trapped Under Ice.” The riffs were originally written for the Exodus song “Impaler,” which did not make it on to any studio album until the 2004 comeback effort, Tempo of the Damned.
“[The riffs] came from songs I had written, music I had written. I consider them my parts,” Hammett told Metal Hammer. “I didn’t feel guilty about that,” said the guitarist, “but I did feel guilty about leaving the band I started in high school. I’ve known [Exodus drummer] Tom Hunting since I was 16 years old, I’ve known [Exodus guitarist] Gary Holt since I was 17. We’re all close to this day, but there was a lot of guilt there for a while. A little bit of remorse.”
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