Kirk Hammett, Adam Jones + John 5 Debate the Future of ‘Guitar Heroes’
Eddie Van Halen's death signified the loss of a true guitar hero who came to fame in an era when guitar heroes ruled the rock and metal worlds. As part of a larger Guitar World panel discussion about the state of guitar in 2021, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Tool's Adam Jones and John 5 joined in a discussion on the state of the "guitar hero" in rock and whether we'll see someone eventually catch the public's eye as a "guitar hero."
Jones first addressed Van Halen's legacy before sharing his hope that future guitar heroes will come forward. “I mean, Eddie Van Halen, he [was] an alien that landed on our planet and showed us how to do it. I don’t really know anyone to compare that to. When I heard him for the first time it was haunting," said the Tool guitarist. "Can we have another guy come in and really make a mark like Eddie Van Halen? I don’t know. I hope so. I look forward to what’s new in music and what’s weird in music."
Hammett offered, "I think the guitar hero is a dying breed. The new generation, there’s so many good players that it’s hard to pick out a hero because they’re all kind of guitar heroes in their own right. But a lot of times it’s just great musical gymnastics."
He did add however, “All guitar heroes are judged by one thing and one thing only – the song they’re playing. You can be the most ripping guitar player, but if your songs fucking suck or are boring or just flat, people are going to be impressed for about 15 minutes. And then they’re going to check their Instagram, see what other guitar players put up."
John 5 was a little more hopeful for what the future brings, stating, ”A hundred percent there will be another guitar hero. It’s up to us, to the people reading this and the people listening to the music to go, 'I can be the next guitar hero.'"
He continued, ”And that doesn’t mean just being able to play the guitar well. It’s someone that can write songs, it’s someone that is inventive. It’s someone that is progressive. There’s a lot that goes into it. But absolutely I think there will be more guitar heroes in the future.”
During the chat, Hammett also held out hope that guitar, while seemingly taking a back seat in some genres, will return to the forefront. “I’m not a musical snob, and I don’t want to talk shit about other genres of music, but I will say that guitar has taken a huge backseat and it’s really not as popular as it used to be," said Hammett. "And that’s fine. I’ve been in this place before – in the early '80s it was all synths and New Wave and whatnot, but then guitar came roaring back with a vengeance."
He added that with today's resources for aspiring guitar players, he feels his hope for the return of guitar music is well placed.
The full panel discussion on the state of guitar in 2021, which also includes St. Vincent, Mateus Asato and Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, can be read via Guitar World.