Metallica’s Kirk Hammett & X Games
If you had to describe heavy metal in one word, it would, without a doubt be Metallica. Plain and simple. If you’ve ever even caught a glimpse of a Big Air competition or an X Games athlete throwing a 250-pound machine sideways and bringing it back with style (known as Best Whip), you’d know the most fitting soundtrack to such action could only be created by the men of Metallica.
As one of the biggest names to grace X Games 2015, Metallica kicked off Saturday night with an instrumental version and six-string salute of the National Anthem amidst the dusty Moto X Speed & Style course before their much anticipated two-hour concert later on the Super Stage.
The icons have been going vocal and rocker strong for decades and after their sweat-infested performance at Circuit of the Americas (known as COTA to locals), it’s pretty clear they don’t have plans of quitting the game anytime soon. As Metallica hit the live music capital of the world to co-headline the 20th anniversary of the annual action-sports event (with Nicki Minaj), we had a chance to sit down with Kirk Hammett and talk all things heavy–sports, fears, heat indexes, and more.
Arriving Friday, Hammett got intimate with the Texas heat pretty damn fast. “I got off the plane and instantly felt the heat and humidity–I’m a surfer so my body was saying “where’s the beach, where’s my surfboard?” but my mind was saying we’re in Austin, Texas–we’re land-locked but I’m glad to be here,” Hammett says.
As for connections or favorite X Games athletes or specific sport disciplines, Hammett doesn’t play favorites. At least not this early in, catching the X Games action live for the first time.
“We met Chad Kagy last night and he was super nice. He invited us up onto the ramp, but I think we missed our opportunity–James and I were getting ready for the National Anthem. I’m totally into watching extreme sports–it’s pretty phenomenal. I mean this genre of sports wasn’t around when I was a kid or a teenager, so to see the things that these guys do is just mind-blowing for me. I’m having a great time and it’s a very super cool thing I’m way into,” he says of the events, which took place on 12 different courses, all in the blazing sun.
[Just hours after our interview, Kagy was rushed to the hospital after crashing a Frontflip Flair, breaking both of his heels, which required multiple surgeries. Kagy later shared his x-rays via Facebook, saying he “got screwed at X Games this year.”
Having only enough time to catch a few events, Hammett was quick to give innumerable kudos to the men and women brave enough to throw their bodies off ramps and turn tricks, many of which had never been done before.
“So far it’s been pretty crazy. I don’t know how those guys do that on those motocross bikes–I don’t know how they train for that. I’m sure there’s a whole science behind it–it’s impressive,” he said.
“I saw that super ramp [known as Big Air, where skateboard athletes drop in from either a 50 or 65-foot high roll-in]–that ramp is so so amazing. I saw some guy on the Big Air ramp and just couldn’t believe it, and the speeds they were getting up to and the heights they were getting up to. It’s phenomenal for me to watch something like that and to watch someone pull in off so seamlessly–it’s like ballet man, it’s no different, it’s a discipline for sure,” he says.
Though the guitarist has never done a mid-air flip variation himself, he’s no stranger to his own version of extreme sports and a healthy array of physical activity.
“My sport is surfing–I’m a full on surfer. I surf as much as I can. Every winter I go to North Shore in Hawaii and take advantage of the waves there. I know a bunch of the pro surfers and that’s kind of my deal every winter. That’s kind of my own personal X Games,” he says.
“I do waves–I’m a water guy. I also run, I mountain bike–I’m big into mountain biking when there’s no waves,” he muses, visibly dreaming of Hawaii for a minute.
When asked if he would be ballsy enough to suit up in protective gear and try one of the X Games disciplines,Hammett didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely man–I am a charger. I am in the surfing world, which means if I see waves and you know it’s going, I’ll charge for sure.”
The thing Hammett fears most in life? Not heights or broken bones. Sharks.
“Sometimes I’ll spook myself. In the Bay Area it’s pretty shark-y and if you’re held under it’s completely black–there’s no visibility. At least if you’re held under in Hawaii you have some visibility–at least five-6 feet. Northern California is known for it’s great white shark breeding grounds and there’s a lot of sea lions in that area and great whites love sea lions. Sea lions are like the caviar of great whites,” he explains.
Music and headphones are about as much a part of the X Games as wheels and helmets. Pretty much every one of the athletes has headphones tucked in their ears while performing their stunts and tricks–a way of either staying focused, drowning out the crowd or tapping into their crazy creative side.
As for being dubbed the perfect soundtrack to the X Games (even by Veteran X Gamer Tony Hawk himself), Hammett sees the similarities and digs the parallel.
“Our energy goes into our music and gets amplified to the next level. When people can hear it and tap into it and feel that energy, it’s a motivational sort of feeling that comes up over people if they let themselves be energized by it. Our music has an element of danger in it, and the mood that it evokes. It’s not dangerous but there’s a certain element of danger. I think a lot of these extreme athletes can relate to that. Our music is the type that sees you through–there’s a beginning, middle and an ending. I think extreme athletes want to experience a conclusion and then listen to the next song. I think psychologically it helps them maybe see to the end of whatever they are doing–whether it’s a race or a trials thing or whatever. It helps them see that there’s an end to what they are doing and know they’ll make it through,” he says.
“But I got to tell you, when I’m out there surfing and there’s a !*(%ing wave that’s coming at me that’s maybe 10 foot, the last thing I’m thinking about is music man. I’m just thinking I got to be in the right position, I got to be going a certain speed, I got to catch this wave or else…and so for my own process I don’t really think about any sort of music–that’s just the way I am. When I go running I don’t listen to music, I listen to podcasts,” he says.
A professionally mixed recording of Metallica’s X Games show is available now through July 15th at LiveMetallica.com for just $5, which benefits Central Texas flood victims.
Until next year X Games and Metallica fans, keep it adventurous folks.
This article originally ran on the sport’s page of CBS Man Cave Daily – click here to see the original piece.