James Hetfield’s Electra 2236 Flying Wedge

James bought this guitar in 1980, and it was his second (or third) electric guitar. He played it on Metallica’s first two albums Kill ‘Em All (1983) and Ride the Lightning (1984)., and kept playing it up until late 1984 when the neck broke after an accident on stage.

James with the guitar in 1983.

And then the next guitar I bought (after the SG) was this V. Somebody sold it to me as a Gibson V, and as a dumb kid I had no idea. Eventually it dawned on me: Oh, it has a bolt-on neck. It can’t be. Hmmm, why does it say “Made in Japan” on it? [laughs]

But I didn’t care. I didn’t have a care in the world. It’s a white V! It’s Michael Schenker, it’s Scorpions. That was metal: black pants, white V, go! I couldn’t care less that it was not a real Gibson.

James Hetfield – source unknown

Specs

According to some sources, the guitar was originally red, or rather it was finished in a transparent cherry color similar to the ones you’d see on a Gibson SG. However, at some point, James repainted it white, because he was influenced by Michael Schenker of the band U.F.O.

I wanted a white one because Michael Schenker of U.F.O. had one, so I needed one, too. The neck snapped on it twice on tour. It’s been glued quite a few times. It’s got Seymour Duncan pickups in it, with a little more output for the crunch than the originals had. The only other thing that’s customized is the artwork [laughs]. That was the first guitar I started scratching stuff into.

James Hetfield

James’ Electra guitar was manufactured by the renowned Matsumoku Factory in Japan, where this particular model was produced from 1977 to 1980.

As far as spec, this is essentially a Gibson Flying V copy, with a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, and chrome hardware.

At some point, James replaced the original pickups with Seymour Duncan Invaders, but it’s hard to tell when exactly this happened, and they were used on both of the albums. If you happen to have any concrete information on this, please leave a comment below.

Death Magnetic

Just prior to recording “Death Magnetic” in 2008 James decided to restore this guitar. He changed a few things on it though, including the pickups which he replaced with an EMG 81/60 set, and he had the headstock repaired, which was broken more than one time in the past.

All of the work was done by the Brawer Guitar Repair shop.

I was inspired by this photographer who wanted to get an iconic picture of me with a somewhat iconic guitar. When I pulled out my early guitars—my old Kill ’em All white Flying V copy and some of the Explorers—I rediscovered how well they played.

[…] When I plugged the V in, I said, “Oh my god, it’s Ride the Lightning!” It felt very comfortable and very familiar.

James Hetfield
James Hetfield photographed using his old Electra guitar during the “Death Magnetic” studio sessions (2007-2008).

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