Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, like so many other guitarists, was heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Hammett recently told Greg Prato for his new book Avatar Of The Electric Guitar: The Genius Of Jimi Hendrix that Hendrix's "Purple Haze" influenced how he thinks about writing more evil-sounding riffs.
"Theoretically, you can say 'Purple Haze' was one of the first songs I'd ever heard. And I'll tell you, you know what I reacted to most? The tone of the guitar. Just that fuzzed out Strat through a Marshall sound – it really got to me. And also, the intro [sings the opening guitar part]… that's so evil! But when I played it on the guitar – when I first started playing guitar – 'Purple Haze' was the first song I ever learned how to play. But I could never get that octave at the very top right. It never sounded right… until I figured out that I was playing the bass part, and what Jimi Hendrix played was the flatted fifth. You can say that the top of the measure – the A-sharp octave for the bass – Jimi is playing the E note, underneath that A-sharp, which creates a real, real evil sound.
"When I realized that, I thought, 'This is the key to that sound that Black Sabbath uses, that Deep Purple uses, that all these blues bands use…it's that flatted fifth! It's that 'blues note' that's in the pentatonic scale." Some of the first music theory that I had ever been exposed to was from that song. Also, the E7 sharp 9 – the chord that Jimi Hendrix used for 'Purple Haze', 'Foxy Lady', and tons of other songs – that's a really complicated chord for someone who was just starting to learn how to play guitar…but I managed to play it.
"And so, I learned how to play 'Purple Haze' – and I learned it completely wrong. But that's just what happens when you're first learning how to play guitar. I remember going to school the next day and saying to my friends, 'I think I can play 'Purple Haze' now…we should form a band!" And literally, we were like, 'OK. You're going to be the drummer, you're going to be the bass player, you're going to be the singer, and I'm going to be the guitar player.'
"And at the end of the week, we showed up at my friend's house. We borrowed a Vox amp from the high school music class – and we all played through it. It had four inputs, so we could plug in bass, guitar, and vocals. We turned it up…and that amp lasted about three minutes before we blew it up. [Laughs] But you know what? We still kept on playing through it. I played Purple Haze every day for the next three months – trying to get it better and better, and trying to do the solo. Bit by bit, I would get a note here, a phrase there, get some rhythm things here. And I started branching out on other songs on Are You Experienced that were in my skillset – before Jimi started getting more sophisticated in his chords and his structures and his harmonies and his textures. It was just a perfect primer for me."
Grab a copy of Avatar Of The Electric Guitar: The Genius Of Jimi Hendrix here.
[via Classic Rock]