Lars Ulrich: 'There Are People in UK That Look at Hard Rock as Lower Class Music'

Drummer responds to controversy surrounding Metallica's Glasto slot.

Ultimate Guitar

In an interview with BBC 6 Music (via Blabbermouth) Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has once again spoken out about the controversy surrounding the band headlining Glastonbury. As Ulrich notes, he attributes the backlash to snobbery towards hard rock in some sections of the British music press:

"Rock and roll goes back a very long time in England, and there's a tradition with British music journalism that maybe has a little bit more of a need to, sort of, categorize, pigeonhole, label...

"I don't really know what it is about hard rock in England, but there obviously is people that snub their nose a little bit at hard rock and look at hard rock as inferior or lower class, some sort of lower music form or something, and people that listen to hard rock are less educated or than all these people on their indie precious thresholds. I'm certainly not slagging it... I'm observing. [laughs]

"We've been dealing with various versions of this for 30 years. We're faily used to everybody having an opinion about Metallica. For me, the fact that people still talk about Metallica 33 years later, I think, is pretty great.

The drummer went on to note that he takes issue with people categorizing music:

"We're not much for categorizing rock music. We enjoy and engage in and listen to and appreciate all different types of wonderful music. As far as I'm concerned, there's only two kinds of music: there's great music and less great music, and beyond that, I'm not sure it needs to be pigeonholed.

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    Only two kinds of music: great and less great. I like that
    There are people alll over the world that look at hard rock and heavy metal as "lower class" or "not cool" or whatever. It's not just the UK. Who cares? F*ck 'Em! I love hard rock and heavy metal. I love all kinds of music but metal has been my favorite since I was a kid. As a metal fan, I realize that the majority of the world doesn't agree with me... AND I LIKE IT THAT WAY!
    I kind of wish this concert would be over already so we don't have to hear about it anymore.
    For some reason, in modern Britain rock listeners tend to prefer looking "cool", moping around and dressing more technically than their composition. For example, I've had some "musical" friends tell me "all progressive rock is shit" and metal is reacted to with "I can't hear the lyrics" or "it's too much". I think it's a little bit scary to us. It's brilliant. I actually blame punk. Once simplification happened British rock music has just got more and more boring musically, with a few exceptions. Don't get me wrong, there are great punk tunes and great tunes from later forms of rock, but I do feel we've dumbed it down so far in the name of looking cool that we are dribbling on ourselves.
    I don't think too much dumbing down has happened at all, maybe in the mainstream, but not in the underground, plus Punk provided a much needed counter cultural movement to the excesses of the Rock movement, especially the Psych/Prog scene in particular. Punk was more relatable and tackled issues of it's time, which is something that not just Prog/Psych scene dropped the ball on, but a lot of other Rock bands did as well, with a few exceptions. If anything Punk helped to tether Rock music and bring it back down to earth again. This is coming from someone who enjoys complexity as much as simplicity. It's all relative and context sensitive at the end of the day.
    I see what you are saying. I will admit that I am not really a fan of punk, although I am a fan of punk related genres like thrash. But I do get what Lars is saying. Ever since the demise of Prog in the UK, there seems to be a sort of "anti-elite" where (in rock at least) if you dare drop in some lines, a time change, maybe make it a bit heavier, crank the pace, change to a sharp key or riff on anything for more than 24 bars, you are going to get funny looks if you show signs that you can pull off stuff that others bands can't - it just seems to be categorically uncool here. Why?
    I don't think that's really the case, in the UK there's a whole plethora of bands that make complex music, but still win over crowds anyway, we even have a festival called ArcTanGent which is dedicated to these kind of bands. I think it's more to do with the lyrics or the imagery the older bands took and there's newer bands that shed a lot of that, people probably just got tired of the approach a lot of those Prog bands took when it came to that, rather than the music itself. (Piglet is not from the UK, but it's just an example of what I'm seeing is getting more popular in the Alternative/Indie scene over here at the very least)
    That Piglet Ep was awesome. I tried to get myself a CD at the time but I couldn't find one so I gave up. Have they done anything sine? Also, that looks like a great festival - the fact LITE are there is almost worth it alone. I'm just keeping the mainstream in mind and that at a certain time heavier, complex or challenging scenes used to sell massively here (pre late 80's say). Sabbath were shocking at the time, laughed off by stuffy critics, but adopted by the public. Something has been unplugged there. It's been a long time since I've heard something on rock radio that I've thought "Whoa". I remember the first time I heard Sandman come out of my old mans car radio it was exciting. What we seem to have now keeps the status quo, stuck looking cool but sounding a bit stale and to be fair Metallica could now be considered part of that. Whether or not that is down to lack of interest from the public, record execs believing it wouldn't go over who knows. But the fact that like you say, it's here, but largely ignored by mass seems a shame. I would LOVE to see Toe do a Pyramid stage set at night with Toki Asako for example. I'm not saying get rid of what I may consider boring, everyone's got their own tunes. But the media could drop in some variety instead of playing news singles 10 times a day - it would keep me listening.
    They've put everything they've done on Bandcamp, which includes some stuff they recorded both before and after this EP, I think all of their physical copies have sold out, I was fortunate enough to get this EP on CD and Vinyl, and then another EP on CD (which, for some reason also included Lava Land). I agree with you that in the mainstream a lot of more challenging Rock and Metal is flagging at the moment (a lot of music in the charts isn't that great either, so I get your point), I think the staleness is partially coming from peoples lack of willingness to embrace newer bands as well, you see a shocking amount of kids who say they were "born in the wrong generation" or a lot of older people saying that anything past a certain year or decade sucks. Most forms of Rock music are inevitably going to become less and less mainstream, with less and less marketing behind it, so it's going to be up to the average punter to go out there and discover new music, to explore and champion these new bands, Or better yet, start making music themselves. We need more people across the whole board to act like pioneers, not followers if Rock is going to stand a chance of remaining relevant.
    Bad Kharmel
    there definitely is some sort of snobbery from the UK, there's a reason anything with more than simple guitar work gets labeled "wankery"
    If there's even the remotest opportunity for snobbery, 'typical' English people will take it. Particularly the 'rah rah' crowd - you know who you are. Less so in the north of England and the rest of the UK, I find.
    But... but... what's with all those articles that say guitarists are smarter in a way? It's all a lie?
    Rock and Metal in Britain is not lower class, but it does seem to have emanated from a predominately working class background, such as Black Sabbath members working in a steel pressing factory where Tony Iommi lost his finger tips. It doesn't matter who plays it and who listens to it, even if it is mostly the working class, I for one am very proud that we have such a great tradition in heavy rock music.
    whaat? tree-hugging hippies aren't into metal? get out...
    What if it's Tool? lots of hippy types love Tool.
    yeah, I've never figured out that one, when Tool's lyrics shit on the typical American white fell-good liberal hippie type. Especially Aenima and Rosetta Stoned. I guess they are too stoned to actually listen to the lyrics.
    Its because, despite all the intricate time signature games, Tool is largely inoffensive music with lots of rock undertones. I respect them but i think theyre overrated. No surprise they and Opeth are the first and only "metal" bands that those type of people (and mostly chicks) dig. Any actual metal/hardcore with aggressive sound is completely lost on them.
    I don't know whether Ulrich is right or not about England being musically 'archaïc', but I agree with the existance of music snobbery surrounding (not exclusively) metal and other harder forms of rock. Even if it wasn't noticeable at Pinkpop. Not noticeable at all.
    Bloody hell, the UK is NOT the same as England. Bloody twat.
    What's the matter? Don't like the ****ing truth?
    Glastonbury is an English festival, this guy is talking about England's musical outlook. Get a clue. Bloody twat. Edit: Even this guys IRL friends don't like him anymore...
    The article headline clearly states 'the UK', the comment above reads 'England'. Jonagorn is correct, England and the UK encompass different demographics, not the same.
    Although the article itself does read 'The English' specifically and this is what Doku is replying to, so I think that insulting him for reading the article thoroughly is a bit unnecessary.
    Lars has hit this on the head here. Don't agree? Look at how much media coverage Glasto, Leeds and Reading get on the BBC and compare that to how much Download and Sonisphere get. QED.
    The backlash isn't down to snobbery, it's down to the fact that Metallica are metal/hard rock and Glasto traditionally features acts that plays differing music to that. In short, Lars and co don't really fit the bill, much like Jay-Z before them. Still, didn't stop Jay-Z headlining
    Don't understand how they 'don't fit the bill', yet RATM played the festival previously and that (to my knowledge) didn't cause any kind of backlash? All the backlash against Metallica was allegedly down to Hetfield narrating that bear hunting programme. I don't remember anyone saying that it was a musical thing. Or maybe the bear hunting thing was just an excuse for people to avoid having to admit that they didn't think that Metallica were appropriate for Glastonbury?
    link no1
    I see the whole Bear hunting thing as a scapegoat excuse. They can't say they don't want them to play because of Hetfield, it would be hypocritical considering that the guy that 'runs' Glastonbury is 'pro-hunting' himself.If these people were genuinely against hunting and not just an agenda with Metallica, they would boycott the entire festival. As for RatM playing there? Well, they also got Christmas number 1 that one year after the whole 'anti x-factor' thing. I'm pretty sure they played Glasto AFTER that, and I'm going to place a bet that their involvement with that campaign suddenly made them 'awesome' among that crowd. People would have probably watched something like Slayer if they won the Christmas number 1 in that campaign. As for the people that 'look down their noses' at Hard Rock (and to a equal/greater extent, Metal), it doesn't seem to have dawned on him that he is playing to an entire festival full of these people (Glastonbury). As a Metal fan, I can say personally that people are pretty very snobby to it in England. I don't look like an average metal fan these days so I get 'less of it' now but as soon as somebody finds out I'm into that, they usually tend to back away and act as though I've suddenly become stupid within the few seconds where they found out my musical taste.
    Or maybe he do realise that most people at the festival are lower class, in lack of a better word, and he finds it curious. There isn't anything wrong in what he's saying, and he's not really patronising anyone. Just making a pretty valid, pretty obvious observation.
    Well Hetfield did a lot more than just narrate a bear hunting programme. He went on a bear hunt himself at least once. And I think he not only went there, but also enjoyed it. So that is a pretty big deal, because some people believe that hunting animals just for your fun is not right. I'll go further and say this: if you don't have courage to kill an animal like a brave man with your bare hands and instead go hide in bushes and then shoot an animal like a coward with a gun that guarantees you safety and advantage and from a safe distance, then... you're not even a real hunter. You're a wimp in my book.
    the latter i think, i seem to remember people being funny about metallica even before the whole bear hunting open letter thing. i saw an advert on tv with the guy with stupid hair from the 1975 talking about how metallica doesnt fit the bill and how he doesnt want to see them
    The backlash definitely started before Hetfield's bear hunting program came out. Fellow musicians performing at the festival were criticizing Metallica on their music, not just the bear thing. I mean, Ultimate-Guitar even reported some of those comments in news articles here.
    The backlash is down to the snobbery towards heavy rock and metal in the UK. Glasto plays many different types of music from tony bennett to fat boy slim to the white stripes to jay z. Thats sort of the point of glastonbury. Lots of different types of acts who are all the best at what they do. UK is way behind the ball when it comes to mainstream culture embracing heavy rock and metal. Metallica are one of the biggest selling performers in the world but the attitude in middle england is that they are just some silly heavy metal band for those weird looking emos and goths.
    Which is correct. I don't want weird looking emos and goths roaming around my village. Get a haircut kids.
    yeah but not all people who like metal dress like that, that image is just the stereotypical image of someone who like metal music, not all of us are like that. If you were to look at me you'd never guess I was into that kind of music.
    Jay-Z played but his announcement was met with criticism just like Metallica's so does that make middle England a pack of snobs towards rap too? Plus, it's not just middle England that attends Glasto, everyone from all parts of it and beyond come to the festival. I imagine many parts of the UK couldn't give a shite about heavy metal too, just like a lot of the heavy metal crowd can't give a shite about a lot of the music played at Glasto
    RATM, Slash, Coheed and Cambria all stick out as bands that didn't fit the usual rock genre Glasto brings. But I think if RATM played before, why not Metallica.
    You my friend nailed it...The metal community here in the UK is almost like a band of out casts and is quite frowned upon by others. The typical people who attend Glasto are usually middle class kids who go to private schools and have to narrowest tastes in music that's possible, when I went to public school I had to be very careful what I played in my dorm otherwise I would've gotten bullied about it. The fact that Metallica are the only metal band playing there I'll admit seems a bit weird, if there was another hard rock/metal band playing as well then I'd say ok fair enough. I think the middle class folk are worried that with a metal band playing at their "mainstream/indie music festival" will attract the metal heads.
    You are right. Most people here do know who Metallica are (Nothing Else Matters, man!) but I still get the piss taken out of me by peers for wearing my Megadeth shirt and I'm 30. If you asked an average Brit about metal, mostly Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Maiden, Motorhead and Priest might be the first answers, beyond that, they'd struggle. Mustaine once appeared on a TV show called Nevermind the Buzzcocks here in the late 90's, where he was treated as mostly unknown and a bit scary. Brits are just straight up weird around metalheads.
    I think the thing with Glastonbury is that my generation especially remember it as being a hippy festival and all these 'new' bands are ruining that (not my personal opinion). The Eavis' know that for Glastonbury to continue through the generations, it has to evolve. I remember the first time a techno band played there in the early 90's, the hippies were running to the Green Field in their hundreds for new age therapy and calming amulets.
    This is getting so boring. I hope they just go in with a 'screw you, we're a metal band and here's a song called Whiplash' attitude and play the loudest, fast pace, face melting heavy set they can. If you don't like it, go and see if Keane are handing out free t-shirts near the exit.
    I look down at generic hard rock too, and thats what Metallica has mostly produced throughout their career. And i dont live in England. And if by hard rock Lars meant metal, i find it paradoxal that one of teh largest metal/hard rock festivals, Download, is also held in England. I have to agree with one thing though; yes there are "music loving" people that look down on metal, all over the world, and yes, the ones ive met are in major part indie lovers. Those are the people that claim theyre open to anything and have a wide open taste. Those are also the people who listen to, or in case they can play an instrument, write/cover the most bland, same old, boring pentatonic-based pseudo-emotional quasi-psychedelic shit with minimalistic drumming and promiscuous stage antics. Fuck those people and their invalid opinion.
    You had a good point until you got to the end there.
    Cos im tired of talking to and explaining to those people. And whats the problem with my post? My insults or actual faults in the argument?