BY KRISTOF G.
Most metalheads always knew there was something wrong even righter about the lead guitarist of the world’s biggest heavy band, Metallica. Kirk Hammett’s T-shirts and guitars often offer clues of his lifelong passion for all things horror, and now he’s letting it hang out—or up—with an exhibit called “It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection.”
Back in 2012, Hammett had his coming-out as a genre überfan (or horror nerd, as he refers to himself) with TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS (RUE MORGUE #127). This gorgeous 224-page hardcover tome offered his fans a sneak peak to his crypt, the man-cave where he keeps his colossal horror collection: film posters, Famous Monsters paintings, Don Post masks, Aurora toys, movie props and much more. Since then, he has brought several of these pieces to conventions (including his very own Fear FestEvil), where he hosted panels with fellow monster-lovin’ rockers like Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Rob Zombie’s John 5. This month, he brings posters (and more) to Salem, MA for “It’s Alive!”, which runs August 12-November 26 at the Peabody Essex Museum. RUE MORGUE met the man last month, during the Montreal stop of Metallica’s HARDWIRED world tour, for a friendly chat about the exhibit.
“I’ve finally been able to accomplish something I’ve been trying to do for the past 25 years.”
You must be excited about “It’s Alive!”…
I’m very excited, because I’ve finally been able to accomplish something I’ve been trying to do for the past 25 years: to get a museum, any museum, to acknowledge the beauty and cultural importance of the horror-movie poster. For me, it’s a very special thing, because I think the best-looking horror posters are those from the ’20s and ’30s. And now, finally, I’ve been able to convince a…
A proper museum!
…Yeah, a proper museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, which is one of the oldest and biggest museums in the country…
Seriously? In Salem?
Yeah, of all places, to put on a show. For me, it’s like, “Yes! I’ve finally accomplished a longstanding goal.” I’m really, really happy, and I believe the show is going to raise the cultural awareness of just how wonderful these posters are.
Did the PEM people approach you first?
Yeah, they saw my book and loved it, and got ahold of me, and I said, “Of course!” It’s going be there for Halloween, which is pretty cool. It’s 150 of my best pieces, and they’re not reproductions, they’re the real posters, like the actual MUMMY three-sheet that I designed my guitar after.
And it’s huge!
Yeah, it’s big. You will see a number of items, like eight or nine that are not in my book, that I acquired since it came out. There’s a book on my exhibition too, which is also called “It’s Alive!” It’s a fantastic book; it’s sort of a scholarly perspective on the movie poster and collecting and the horror film. It’s completely different from my [other] book.
The exhibit will have more than posters, right?
Yeah, it’s gonna have movie props as well as artwork and toys. Technically, it could be called “The Kirk Hammett movie memorabilia collection.”
What’s the coolest thing you’re gonna bring, aside from posters?
I have the box for one of the first merchandised FRANKENSTEIN items, which was a Don Post mask in 1947. I don’t have the mask, but I’ve got the box. Hopefully, I’ll be able to not only provide cool stuff to look at, but also, if everything works well, to offer something for everyone to listen to while they’re looking at my posters.
Then there are plans to get some music into the exhibit as well?
I mean, it depends if I meet the deadline or not [laughs].
So it’ll be original music?
Yeah, that I’ve written. I’m working on it.
Well, you know, when I make music, I make music. Guitars, drums, keyboards, horns, strings, whatever I need to do to create something. I tend not to stay with just the guitar.
Great! I didn’t know you played other instruments.
I’m good at faking things in the studio. And my 9-year-old son plays the violin, and my 10-year-old son plays cello. So I’ve been playing with their instruments a little bit, just kind of fooling around.
What kind of music will it be?
All I would say right now is that it’s gonna be musical accompaniment, and we’ll see if that happens. It will be atmospheric, definitely not loud, heavy metal or anything like that.
It needs to suit the art.
Exactly. It wouldn’t be like Venom [smiles].
Of course! It’s cool that they’d allow that, since you’re supposed to be quiet in a museum.
Yes. But the people at the Peabody are really progressive. I really hope that from there, the exhibit could go to other museums all over the country, kind of a tour. We’re kind of getting to the point where, even before the first one starts, we’re trying to figure out where it can go after December.
Sounds monstrously awesome, right? So plan to bring your bones to Salem before Christmas, fiends. For more information, visit www.pem.org.
Hammett will be in attendance on Saturday, August 19 for an exhibit catalog signing and a public conversation with curator Daniel Finamore; you can find more information at the PEM Facebook page.
“I really hope that the exhibit could go to other museums all over the country.”