Ageing rock stars are often subject to moments of clarity and regret following a youth of excess and hedonism. While it’s very “rock ‘n’ roll” to be young, free and careless, such a lifestyle comes with no shortage of mistakes. Most of us have regrets, big or small, and some seem to have no regrets at all, but even those with more than their fair share of success invariably find themselves asking: “What if?” Metallica’s iconic lead guitarist Kirk Hammett would find it hard to meet regret flicking through his discography, as his fans will attest, but in his personal life, it seems he has a rather big one.
Speaking to Kerrang for a Q&A session in 2020, Hammett explained that the biggest regret of his life was his relationship with alcohol. While the guitarist always enjoyed drinking and fortunately never let alcoholism get to a distinctly serious stage, he wished that he had given up a long time ago. “I would have stopped drinking 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed being a raving alcoholic lunatic, but then everything turned against me.”
He continued: “Every time I had a drink, it worked against me rather than helping me to enjoy myself in a recreational manner. That’s the thing about alcohol: if you’re not paying attention and something happens, it could flip on you and next thing you know, you’re on the downside of things rather than on the upside.”
He revealed that his habitual drinking was accented by binging sessions after concerts. “For fucking decades, I’d go out after a show and carry on all night. I’d go back to the hotel room and play guitar for two or three hours and not remember anything the next day. I’d pick up the recorder and think, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ I did that for fucking decades. I stopped drinking and now I go back to my room and play guitar and remember everything!”
Hammett’s newfound sobriety, as well as being an obvious health kick, has allowed him improved memory retention and musical development. “I can pick it up from the night before. I still feel like I’m growing as a musician, and I like having that clarity of mind and having a really strong relationship with my instrument and the music. I wish I had gotten to this point a lot earlier in my life. But hey, everything’s meant to happen for a reason.”
Check out some of Kirk Hammet’s greatest moments below.