“Even James Hetfield cheats, and he’s the best out there”: Exodus’s Gary Holt on the one trick everyone uses to cheat at downpicking

“That’s the reset, that’s all you need.”

Exodus guitarist Gary Holt claims that every musician who downpicks “cheats” in one way or another.

Holt makes the comments in a new Q&A session, where he discusses his picking-hand technique, in particular the downpicking technique that helps define thrash metal as a genre.

“Right-hand picking it’s an art form,” he says [via Ultimate Guitar]. “It’s more important to me than anything else, as soloing shit. If someone said you could play rhythm for the rest of your life or leads and be really good at one and terrible at the other — get rid of the solos. I don’t care.”

“You know, it’s all about the riffs and it’s all about learning how to apply maximum velocity with technique still. And as I get older, things are harder for me to do. I’ve suffered through really horrific tennis elbow on both arms, like countless cortisone injections and arthritis and all that.”

Holt explains that even guitarists who are considered the masters of downpicking – like Metallica frontman James Hetfield – “cheat” at those parts, saying: “Everybody cheats, even Hetfield cheats, and he’s the best out there. When you see a guy in the middle of a down pick, baddest riff ever and he throws in one of these… [slides down the fretboard] That’s the reset, that’s all you need.”

“And he’s the best that ever lived to do it. And he sings at the same time, which is fucking ridiculous. I can’t sing and play at all. Not at all. I mean, I’d lose it, one of them’s gotta go.”

Circling back to his own “cheating” with downpicking, Holt says, “But my cheat is like down-up-down-down. And that literal up and down, also live, allows me to rock really hard when I do it. If I want to really just all down pick a part… Sometimes I gotta like, kind of not move too much.”


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