If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
“Hey, man, is
Maine anywhere near Rhode Island?”
you’re looking at a map of the United States. Why?”
“My band just
finished up a tour, and we played Rhode Island
What’s the name of your band?
So went the
initial phone conversation between yours truly and Kirk Hammett, lead guitarist
for Rock’s premiere metal group, Metallica, during the sweltering summer of
1987. I was running a comic book shop in Waterville, Maine, and Kirk had called
to discuss my Comic Buyer’s Guide (a weekly newspaper circulated to comic shops
and subscribers everywhere) advertisement.
“Nice vintage Aurora models you’re selling,” he commented. “Built-ups
and never-removed-from-the-box. Hmmm.”
“Yes, indeedy,” I replied. “They are rather eclectic. Interested?”
and we did some “horror business” that summery day. Now, 25 years later, he and
I are discussing TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS, his first deluxe “coffee table” book
(224 profusely illustrated pages, co-written with Steffan Chirazi) devoted to
what can only be described as an astonishing collection of horror, sci-fi and
There’s everything here, from movie posters, toys, and Aurora
model kits, to film costumes, masks, comic books, original art and beyond.
Heck, it’s a virtual cornucopia, all with a Baby Boomer bent, and all presented
in blazing color. Are you drooling yet?
chat flowed like the pleasant give and take between two old friends. Actually,
I hesitate to use the word “old,” since Kirk has kept the kid within hale and
hearty (my own inner juvenile monster is permanently frozen at age 12).
Together, we ran down the paths of childhood, oohing and ahhing over toys, mementos,
and cultural touchstones we eagerly spotted along the way. Too Much
Horror Business? No way, it's never enough!
FANGORIA: When last we spoke, it was 1987 and you were on a
quest for collectibles. Do you remember when we negotiated?
KIRK HAMMETT: Refresh my memory, Rod. This sounds vaguely
FANG: You’d answered my Comic Buyer’s Guide ad for model
kits. James had broken his arm skateboarding…
HAMMETT: I do remember!
That was the second time James broke his arm. We did a trade, right? For comics?
FANG: Right! Some early horrors; one with a famous Steve
Ditko electric chair cover.
HAMMETT: STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #19, from 1954. Unforgettable
cover. Ditko’s the man.
FANG: And here we are, decades later, conducting more
business…or should I say, talking about Too Much Horror Business!
HAMMETT: It’s a strange world, isn’t it? I’m always
fascinated by how things turn out. Yep, here we are again!
FANG: What gave you the book idea?
HAMMETT: Well, one day I was walking through my immense
collection, and it is rather immense [laughs], and suddenly, I realized: I’m on
the brink of accomplishing my collecting goals! This might be a good
opportunity to share what I’ve amassed with the world. Hence, TOO MUCH HORROR
FANG: How long have you been navigating your epic collecting
HAMMETT: 30 years or so, pretty much my entire adult life.
FANG: TMHB not only showcases a pop culture collection
anyone would give their fangs for, but each glorious page allows us an intimate
peek at the man himself.
HAMMETT: Cool, you got that! One of my intentions in putting
a book together was to reveal the side of me most people are unaware of: my big
monster kid side. I’d been threatening to do this for ten years, and no one
believed me. Now, I can prove the naysayers wrong!
FANG: Considering the sheer enormity of it all, is one
HAMMETT: I wouldn’t mind doing a sequel, but that depends on
how the first volume’s received.
FANG: Why the interest in Baby Boomer collectibles?
HAMMETT: I’m 50 and right on the fringes of the baby boom. At
5, I became aware of my surroundings and the cultural explosion around me.
FANG: 1967/68. Peak of the 60s monster craze!
HAMMETT: Ah, the late 60s and early 70s. We had all these TV
horror hosts and programs, like CREATURE FEATURE and SHOCK THEATER, and the whole
Aurora monster model craze was in full swing. So many wonders to explore!
FANG: Were you into glow in the dark?
HAMMETT: Loved it; such a blast for me, especially the
FANG: What’s the allure of Aurora, as opposed to other model
HAMMETT: Outside of nostalgia appeal, they had neat
sculpting. Frankenstein looked like Karloff, Dracula looked like Bela, their
bases were simple yet evocative, the instructions easy to follow, and the
scales good. I ended up with multiple copies. As a kid, I’d build them and then
concoct inventive ways of destroying my handiwork--firecrackers, fire, dropping
them from the roof to the ground, you name it.
FANG: All of us were destructive little bastards!
HAMMETT: What we built, we felt compelled to destroy. Kinda
like Dr. Frankenstein.
FANG: And there was plenty to fuel our twisted imaginations.
PLANET OF THE APES, DARK SHADOWS, Vincent Price, Ray Harryhausen…
HAMMETT: The PLANET OF THE APES movies and Harryhausen? Fantastic!
I was lucky to catch the tail end of everything. It slacked off in the late 70s.
Baby boomers were busy shaking their booties at discos and putting quarters
into video game machines. I’d also moved on. I started playing guitar at 15,
and music was my primary focus. But once I had some disposable income, I jumped
right back into the fray!
FANG: Must’ve been a heady time for you, affording to buy
what you could only dream about before.
HAMMETT: Totally. I can still remember looking at the ads in
Famous Monsters for Don Post monster masks. When you’re six and seeing those
masks, it’s an out-of-body experience. Each one cost $36.95, but it might have
well been 500 bucks!
FANG: What other baubles dazzled your youthful eye?
HAMMETT: Comic books! I loved EC comics and pre-code horror,
but those were way out of my price league. I lived in San Francisco, and when I was six,
I found a comic book shop and practically made it my second home from 6-12
years-old. You could find me there every day, reading comics and monster mags;
whatever I could lay my hands on. Remember CRUMB, the movie?
FANG: About Robert Crumb, artist extraordinaire? Yeah. He’s
an underground comics’ legend.
HAMMETT: Oh, my God, I met him at the shop when I was nine
years-old! I met a lot of famous artists there; kind of mind-boggling. The
place was Ground Zero for the entire underground comics’ scene.
FANG: Not many avenues open for collectors, back in the day.
Your little shop offered you a glimpse of the madness to come!
HAMMETT: It did. No eBay or Internet, so I networked like
crazy. I’d track down a dealer and ask, ‘what do you have? Can you get this,
can you get that?’ He’d say, ‘yeah, I know a guy who knows a guy.’ He’d either
give you a phone number or act as middle man. After a while, I’d attend comic
book conventions, which aren’t at all like the ones now. Exclusively male; and everyone was armed with pocket
protectors and calculators. Nerd central [laughs]! And then there were those rare
instances where you’d walk into a second hand or antique store and stumble
across a priceless collectible in some dusty corner.
FANG: I tried the collecting thing for a while, but not on
your grand scale. A bit exhausting.
HAMMETT: Rod, I had this notebook, and the only things I’d ever
write in it were names of dealers and friends. I negotiated with contacts and
collectors over the phone, or I’d send letters. I always felt fortunate when I
met a new collector, and if he lived less than 100 miles away, it was even
better. The first time I met Glen Danzig, we hammered out a few deals. He’s an
FANG: You mentioned Famous Monsters. The monster kid bible!
HAMMETT: Oh, absolutely. My mom would give me a quarter a
day—ten cents for donuts, and the other fifteen would go for a carton of milk.
They’d sell milk and donuts in the morning at school. After about a week or so,
I discovered FM. My first issue was # 58, the Karloff MUMMY cover. What I’d do
is save up my quarters, and then, in four days, I had a whole dollar to spend.
FANG: Starving for your art. I dig it!
HAMMETT: FM was about 60 cents. I could buy one monster mag a
month and a few comic books, too. Did that for only about a three month period,
but it seemed like years.
FANG: Would you agree the 60s was a golden time for monster
HAMMETT: For sure! There’s a small window in the late 50s
when monster stuff was squeaking out, but the deluge didn’t begin until the
early 60s. By then, manufacturers had realized a youth market was waiting to be
FANG: You also fell under the spell of Forrest Ackerman?
HAMMETT: Oh, wow. Of course! Forry was like the uncle I’d
heard about but never met. I would read FM and pour over every word. If there
were pix of the Ackermansion, I’d study them for hours, just sitting and staring
at a single photo! Wonderful.
FANG: Ever meet him face to face?
HAMMETT: Yes, in 1987, and I clammed up; I was completely
awestruck. To this day, I haven’t lost
my sense of childhood awe toward the man.
I’d go down and see Forry once a year; when he came to our LA show in 2004,
I told him beforehand what a huge influence he’d been on me, as much as Jimi
FANG: Forry taught us to embrace our inner Hydes.
HAMMETT: You and me and thousands of other kids who are now
grown-up. He had a nice full ride, living well into his 90s. Still, this is a
sadder world without him.
FANG: He’s alive and well in TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS.
HAMMETT: Without a doubt. My book is a love letter to Uncle Forry,
a heart-felt tribute. The greatest thing about him, besides boundless
enthusiasm, was his kindness. He’d stop anywhere and talk to fans, young and
old. I was so blown away by that aspect of his personality and always try to do
FANG: Did you read Castle of Frankenstein? What a trip. The psychedelic
cover blurb exclaimed, “it’ll blow your mind!”
HAMMETT: Castle of Frankenstein covered movies FM forgot to
or didn’t want to. Forry had a playful sense of humor, with all those puns,
whereas Calvin Beck took things very seriously.
His editorials were more scholarly in tone. I loved Monster Times, too,
though I didn’t care for the newspaper format. It would’ve been better with a
glossy cover. I’d put that in the middle of Castle of Frankenstein and FM.
FANG: Monster Times? Goofy!
HAMMETT: They reflected the free-wheeling 70s moment. Both COF
and MT ran regular comic reviews, a big help to me.
FANG: You grew up on the cusp of AIP and Hammer. A fan?
HAMMETT: I love Hammer, I love AIP, I love horror movies,
even the bad ones. I’ll watch them for hours and hours. If the title intrigues
me, I’ll see it. And you?
FANG: I’m a tad older, so I saw quite a few AIP and Hammer films
on the big screen. DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS sparked my writing career. After
seeing it, I sat down and wrote my first short story; about vampires, natch.
HAMMETT: When was that?
FANG: Early 1966. Around April. I was in the seventh grade.
HAMMETT: There ya go. You were inspired! Horror films are events
for me, even now. One of my guilty faves is DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN. I also loved
THE AMAZING TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT and THE ALIEN FACTOR. So bad, they’re
FANG: 80s horror and sci-fi, Fango led that charge!
HAMMETT: FANGORIA, hell, yeah. Required reading for 80’s
FANG: And now? With horrors like INSIDIOUS and PARANORMAL
ACTIVITY, does the new millennium rock or what?
HAMMETT: It rocks hardcore! INSIDIOUS was kickass! I had goose
bumps all the way through, and when the demon appeared, I just about jumped outta
my skin. Gimme more!
FANG: Here’s the 64,000 dollar question: do you have a holy
grail in your collection?
HAMMETT: About two years ago, I was thumbing through an
auction catalog and found what could qualify as a holy grail: an original
costume worn by Boris Karloff in THE BLACK CAT. I placed a bid and couldn’t
believe my luck when I won! Once I got the thing in my filthy little paws. I
put it on, and it fit me perfectly.
FANG: THE BLACK CAT is prime Universal horror!
HAMMETT: That movie has everything. Satanism, torture,
incest, and an unreal ending: Lugosi flaying Karloff’s skin! What more could you want for quality entertainment?
A gem from Universal’s golden era.
FANG: Anything in the pockets?
HAMMETT: Ha! I wish. A note written by Boris would’ve been
an added treat. Another piece of my collection that’s one of a kind is the Nebularium.
Ever hear of that?
FANG: Nope. Explain!
HAMMETT: Bauche and Lomb made it in either 1929 or ‘30, an
electrified concave mirror part of Kenneth
Strickfadden’s equipment. He’s the guy who ran all the mad scientist laboratories
from the old days of Cinema. You can see it clearly in the creation scenes from
FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and footage from Karloff’s THE MASK OF
FANG: Wait a minute! A concave mirror? I watched Bride last
weekend and remember that! A bolt shoots into the mirror and dances all around inside
HAMMETT: You got it! The Nebularium has some serious screen
time in the first two FRANKENSTEINs. Mel Brooks used it in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
and I think it might’ve even been in THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, another favorite.
FANG: When did the collection go from merely an obsession to
HAMMETT: That happened about three years ago. I was pondering
the book and had just acquired the Nebularium, some classic movie posters, and
a few extraordinary ‘60s monster toys. One’s a blow-mold Frankenstein, approximately
two feet-high, and it’s a bank.
FANG: Made of black plastic?
HAMMETT: Yes, black plastic with a green spray on the face
and hands! What, you’ve seen it?
FANG: I had that thing. We set it on fire! All that cash, up
in smoke. Sigh.
HAMMETT: Kids! And I also have a monster plaque from the
60s, two feet-high, in its original packaging. Really fine-looking. These pieces brought my
collection to a whole new level. I thought, “maybe I can have items in this
book that aren’t instantly available on the Internet.”
FANG: Your selection of FM covers is stunning.
HAMMETT: Thanks. My Famous Monsters cover collection totals 18
in all, the earliest being the iconic Chaney painting, #16. I love Gogos’ 1970 Dracula
Fearbook and his Amazing Colossal Beast from issue #23. They’re both hanging on
my wall. There’s also the cover to #30, an evocative portrait of Bela as
FANG: And #58? Since it’s your first FM?
HAMMETT: I do own #58, and as you might expect, it means the
most to me. The original painting’s on a gold colored background with all these
hieroglyphics. I printed the cover and the painting, so people can
cross-reference the two. Yes, I am the geeky nerd [laughs]!
FANG: You display these treasures, correct?
HAMMETT: My available wall space is limited, which means
circulating, putting up stuff while taking other things down and storing them.
I’m always looking for better ways to display. I wish my place was like the
circus in 7 FACES OF DR. LAO—as small as a port a-potty on the outside, and inside,
it’s like three miles long.
FANG: When you stand back and look at everything, are you
transported to your childhood?
HAMMETT: Am I transported? Instantly! I undergo a whole
range of emotions, including reliving good kid times. I’m also struck by the
characters, their pathos, how they look and acted. Iconic imagery. Hey, ask me
about my posters!
FANG: Ok, tell us about your posters!
HAMMETT: To me, the beauty of horror movie posters from the
20s and 30s is their approach: artists put as much effort into them as they did
romance or cowboy films. I’ve one from FRANKENSTEIN that proclaims, “The
monster is loose!” and it looks almost like an Andy Warhol print. There’s a
particular MUMMY poster that’s also fascinating, made up of these gorgeous
colors and washes.
FANG: The earlier pieces remind me of art deco. So 30s!
HAMMETT: They’re slices of post-modern history. Honestly,
Rod, to me, the true magic of all these collectibles is how they make me feel.
FANG: Speaking of historical significance, they highlighted those
remarkable Jack Pierce make-ups!
HAMMETT: Jack Pierce was brilliant. His design of Frankenstein’s
monster is utter genius. He realized if someone’s going to put together a human
body, it would have a flat head, bolts holding down the top of its skull, and conduits
for electrical currents. Jack’s Bride of Frankenstein is another magnificent
concept. It steals your breath away.
FANG: Are there any autographs peppering the Kirk Hammett
HAMMETT: I collect autographs, yeah. The book features a striking
Boris Karloff signed Mummy Portrait—one marvelous make-up! Boris sat in Jack Pierce’s chair
eight hours a day and still found energy enough to contribute an outstanding
FANG: You devote several chapters to your movie posters...
HAMMETT: That’s because posters give me unbridled joy. It’s
no accident I keep a guitar and amp in the room where my movie posters are. They
inspire me, as a muse inspires. Late at night, I’ll look at them, open myself up
FANG: These are museum pieces and obviously need careful
HAMMETT: It’s important to use archival materials, like special
acid-free backing and mats, and glass that won’t produce glare. Moisture’s a
real problem here in San Francisco. I temperature-control my place at a steady 65-68
dry degrees. The most fragile are the props and masks made out of latex; they degrade
and turn into powder over time. Some are in hermetically-sealed cases.
FANG: You’re big into modern pieces, post-1950--to me, the
grooviest section of TMHB.
HAMMETT: The 50s was a fertile period for monsters! I bought
two heads from Bud Westmore’s estate: REVENGE OF THE CREATURE and THE MOLE
PEOPLE. They’re both exhibiting signs of decay. Remember the bat-like things in
IT CONQUERED THE WORLD? I scooped one up not long ago. Another item I’m extremely proud of is from INVASION
OF THE SAUCER MEN. The aliens wore these weird and beautiful collars, and I found
one. Had to reproduce the head and hands and outfits to display it, but that’s
part of the fun.
FANG: Sum up your book for us, Kirk. What’s it mean, down
HAMMETT: On the surface and down deep, this book captures
the charming, horrific things that color my life. No intellectual or
philosophical statement intended. Instead, I want to emphasize the thrill, the
intense satisfaction of collecting as a hobby or lifelong pursuit. It’s a rewarding journey!
TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS is now available. For more, visit Kirk Hammett's official site.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment