KIRK HAMMETT Says He Wanted ‘Enter Sandman’ To Be The Next ‘Smoke On The Water’

Kirk Hammett

In a new interview with Guitar World, Kirk Hammett recalled the writing of METALLICA’s breakthrough single “Enter Sandman,” revealing that his aim at the time was “to write the next ‘Smoke on the Water’.”

“It was something that literally came to me at three o’clock in the morning,” Hammett said. “I had been listening to the new SOUNDGARDEN album at that time [Louder Than Love] and, you know, this was when grunge was at its earliest stage — we’re talking late 1989 or so. No one was even calling it grunge yet. But I was loving a lot of it, and it was influencing me somewhat. 

“And so I sat down and I said to myself, as I always do, ‘I want to write the next ‘Smoke on the Water’.’ And I just started messing around. I got the swing kind of feel going, and then I was thinking of SOUNDGARDEN and how they were using dropped tunings.

“I wasn’t playing in a drop tuning, but with those tunings it’s often octave work – you get the low D, and then you go to the upper D and it sounds really heavy,” he continued. “I wasn’t in drop D, I was just in E, but I was messing around with the low and high octaves, and then I threw a tritone in there, an A#, went to the A, and that’s the riff that came out. 

“I remember that when the first part of it came to me, I thought, ‘It sounds like it’s asking a question, and now I’ve got to resolve it.’ So that’s where the chunky chord part, with the G and F#, came in. And famously, when I originally wrote the riff [sings the riff in its original form], that chunky thing happened at the end of every line. 

“Then Lars [Ulrich] said, ‘Repeat the first part.’ So we changed it to where we repeat the first part three times and then the chunky chords come in. That made it hookier and bouncier — less heavy metal. It made a good-sounding riff f*cking great. 

“But if you think about the way the riff was originally — chunkier, more metal — you know, maybe it could have ended up on …And Justice for All.”