Interview: Kirk Hammett Talks Orion Music + More
When Metallica set out to debut their Orion Music + More festival last summer, they know it would bring a different kind of festival vibe to the United States.
Instead of procuring a strictly heavy metal festival, which many fans expected, the guys hand-picked a diverse lineup, heavy on the indie and alternative-flavored artists, and modeled the event after European festivals that bring together different genres under a single banner.
The show was a hit. Now, Orion Music + More festival is back, moving from last year’s location of Atlantic City, N.J., to the Motor City. The festival, booked for June 8 and 9 on Belle Isle, will feature Metallica headlining June 9, as well as performances from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against, Deftones, BASSNECTAR, Dropkick Murphys, Gogol Bordello, Infectious Grooves, Silversun Pickups, Foals, the Joy Formidable, the Dillinger Escape Plan and many more.
Legendary Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett was kind enough to check in with Gibson.com to talk about this year’s Orion. Check back next week for Part II of our interview, which features plenty of guitar talk with the Flying V player.
For more information on Orion Music + More, visit www.lineup.orionmusicandmore.com.
Tell me about the experience of launching Orion Music + More last year. It was quite an undertaking.
It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun, and it was extremely satisfying. When we committed to playing the Orion festival last year, we know it was going to be a different sort of obligation for us in that it wasn’t just us showing up for festival. It wasn’t us showing up for our own show: It was us showing up for our own festival. We felt obligated to be curators and hosts and MCs and announcers and generally decided to just interact as much as we possibly could with as many aspects of the festival as we could, and as I said, it was a lot of work. It was a lot of startup time that needed to begin months and months before the actual date. But it was all very, very satisfying for us to put this much effort into it and see it through, and we had a good staff of people working with us, and we have a good infrastructure, so we were able to pull it off pretty well last year. We worked a lot, so riding on what we had last year, we’re going to go into it this year and make it that much better.
I think it’s a cool and novel approach to get artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against and BASSNECTAR to play what could have solely been a heavy metal festival.
Yeah, what we want to do is we want to make this look more like your traditional European summer festival. The European summer festival circuit has been around for decades. A lot of the same festivals that were started there in the late-‘60s are still continuing today. . . . They have a very, very healthy approach in that they try to get a crossbreed of different genres together in one festival. That was the thinking in the ‘60s. You didn’t have your blues festival and then your rock festival and your country festival and your jazz festival back then. It was all on one bill, and it was more so to turn people onto different types of music and enlighten people to different cultural music—to show people that there’s light outside of just rock or blues or jazz or whatever. As we played the summer festivals, and we noticed that right off the bad how diversified they were and how much we enjoyed that and how interesting the audiences were for us. For us to play in front of a heavy metal audience, we know that most people would like it, but for us to play in front of a more diversified summer festival crowd is little bit more of a challenge. We have to try a little bit harder and look out and see who we’re winning and who we’re not winning, performance-wise. So, for us, it pushes us to be better players when we’re in front of a more diversified audience.
What’s your hope for Orion, when it comes to bringing bands from different genres together?
The hope is that sure, Orion will attract all these heavy metal fans and all the Red Hot Chili Peppers fans, but we’re hoping that someone that likes BASSNECTOR or Foals or Japandroids might be into the heavy metal bands. And we’re hoping that heavy metal fans might be into Foals and go, ‘Oh my gosh. I had no idea these would people sound like they do. I’m surprised!’ And all of a sudden, there’s a new Foals fan because of the Orion Festival. What we’re trying to do is cross all these different genres and educate ourselves and educate the audience in the process. We’re trying to create a rock hybrid here in the United States. My point is, summer festivals in the United States are a lot more exclusive. They’re exclusively heavy metal, or they’re exclusively jam, or their exclusively alternative. We’re trying to do away with all of that. We want it to be a multicultural, multi-genre experience for everyone, ourselves included.
In addition to the live music, you’ll also have a lifestyle tent. What’s the scoop on that?
Our lifestyle tent is more geared towards our own individual interests-- the guys in Metallica. James (Hetfield) has his car show. Lars (Ulrich) is going to have a film festival. Rob (Trujillo) has his Vans Damage Inc. Stage + Vert Ramp. I’m going to have my crypt, which is going to showcase my horror collection, and we’re actually going to have a special guest there in the crypt signing autographs. What we intend to do is to make it a fun-filled day for everyone. We’re trying to include everyone. We don’t have to be exclusionary or elitist at all. We just want to include everyone in on the day and party.
Performer-wise, is there anyone you’re particularly excited to see play the festival this year?
Oh, yeah! I like Red Hot Chili Peppers. They’re great friends of mine. I’m always excited to see them. I haven’t seen them with their new guitar player yet. I’m interested in seeing Rise Against. I’ve never seen those guys. Deftones are old friends of ours. I’m curious about BASSNECTOR. I don’t really know too much about them. I know Dropkick Murphys; they’re cool. Gogol Bordello we actually jammed with at Bonnaroo five or six years ago. The list goes on. I’m excited about Tomahawk; they’re a great band, and so are the Dillinger Escape Plan. I’m curious about Japandroids. I love Fu Manchu. I love All Shall Perish. Silversun Pickups I think are a great band. It just goes on and on.
Check back next week for Part II of our Gibson.com’s interview with Hammett, chatting about his Kirk Hammett Flying V.
Photo: Ross Halfin