Welcome back to another installment of Ultimate-Guitar's inteREview, where we (don't actually) sit down with popular artists for a collaborative reviewing process. This week we're (not) with Lars Ulrich, drummer for the legendary Metallica, to talk about their 2008 release, Death Magnetic, and to discuss the band's new album currently in the works.
Ultimate-Guitar: Thanks so much for taking the time from your hectic schedule to chat with us, Lars.
Lars Ulrich: Sure.
UG: I thought we'd start off with a little walkthrough of your most recent, excellent album, "Death Magnetic". In a general sense, how would you describe your drumming on that record?
Lars: Well, technically, our last album was "Lulu".
UG: Yes. Of course. But just in terms of excellent Metallica... I mean, in terms of excellent Metallica albums... your most recent album of strictly Metallica songs was "Death Magnetic". Sorry for the confusion. But how would you describe your drumming on that record?
Lars: Chugging. Propulsive. Driving. Dynamic. Energetic. Punchy. Aggressive. And... pounding.
UG: Don't most of those words mean the same thing?
Lars: I guess that depends on your definition of what same means. To some people, walking into Starbucks every morning and ordering a grande caramel macchiato with an extra shot of espresso might be too much of the same. To me, it's just another opportunity to sign something for the baristas.
UG: Your... credit card receipt?
Lars: No man, like an autograph. Although I honestly wouldn't blame them for photocopying my receipt just to have it as a keepsake. Could you imagine telling your friends that you steamed a cup of milk for the drummer from Metallica?
UG: I don't think I could. Now, many considered Death Magnetic to be a return to form for Metallica, bringing some of that heavy metal thunder back into your songs that seemed...
Lars: Let me stop you right there before you get into this same bullsh-t, cookie cutter storyline about my band that every journalist has been trying to spread for the last two decades. Listen, we've never taken the metal out of Metallica. Ya know? Our realms have always circled around the metal genre, it's just that we don't always feel comfortable scooping it up with both hands and serving it on the same tray over and over. Sometimes you don't just want a black coffee, you know? Sometimes you want a shot of blues in it. Or maybe a light, jazz foam on top. Or a little sprinkle of cinnamon.
UG: I'm sorry, you said cinnamon? Is that a metaphor for something else?
Lars: Oh, no. I just... I missed my morning Starbucks and can't stop thinking about it.
UG: Then let's keep this chugging along. Speaking of similarities, one song I want to discuss from "Death Magnetic" in particular is Unforgiven III. The title alone is a slightly damning suggestion that Metallica has begun repeating itself so much that it's now in its third iteration of the same song. Is there anything more to that?
Lars: Man, the way I see it, Unforgiven is sort of a signpost in the Metallica music catalog. When you see that song on the back of the CD, you know you're in for something special. Besides, I don't buy into that whole theory of 'well this is a sequel to this other thing, so it can't be first-class.' People see that term and they think it has to be a million times worse than that original thing, but look at the f--king Godfather! The second one's even better!
UG: So would you then equate Unforgiven III to The Godfather III?
Lars: I think I'd compare it more to the third "Lord Of The Rings" movie, "The Return Of The King".
UG: So the Unforgiven song was always set up to be part of series of songs?
Lars: No man, because there's so much more fire in that song than in the first two! Unforgiven III is all about fire and brimstone and just spewing flames at everyone who said that these dragons were all smoked out.
UG: And the members of Metallica are the dragons?
Lars: Metallica are the dragons.
UG: Ok. Metallica are the dragons. Well, how did the fire-breathers come upon the decision to include what might be one of the band's most downbeat tracks ever produced, The Day That Never Comes?
Lars: Ya know, it's funny that you call that song downbeat, because to me, that song is the band playing at its most epic. The Day That Never Comes is what happens when you put the best parts of One, Fade To Black, and Until It Sleeps into a cosmic blender, hit f--king frappe, add some hazelnut, a stick of ginger biscotti, and then slowly sip on it until your brain runs awash with this beautiful mixture of mayhem.
UG: Do you want me to send someone out for a coffee? We could certainly arrange...
Lars: No man, I'm just talking metaphors here.
UG: Ah. Gotcha. How about we propel ourselves forward in time just a bit and discuss what's happening with the new album you're working on.
Lars: Well, to be clear, we're not technically working on it yet. It's more like we're working through some concepts, putting together a philosophy for the record.
UG: And what is the philosophy for this record?
Lars: It's kind of a philosophy of not having a philosophy, ya know? Just sort of going wherever the road takes us, so long as that road ultimately ends with about an hour's worth of material that makes you want to grab a bull by the balls and swing it over your head. But, I mean, I'm not a fortune teller, ya know? So I'm not really sure of everything in store for this album.
UG: You're not sure what to expect from the recording process?
Lars: Oh I know exactly what to expect, bro, but that doesn't mean it will meet those expectations. I expected "St. Anger" to blow people away and... yeah, that happened to something like 90 percent of people... but it didn't completely take over the world, either.
UG: Mm. This might sound like I'm getting off track, but do you mind my asking if you've ever had any delusional thoughts?
Lars: You're not the first person to ask me that. But no, I don't get into that kind of headspace. I have thoughts of grandeur, maybe, but they're not delusional. I've been told I'm one of the most rational human beings my sons have ever met.
For example, we've got this 3D concert documentary in the works right now and as much as I'd like to say that it's going to completely change the music bio genre, all I can be absolutely certain of is that it will cement Metallica as a visionary band. We're going to be the first rock band to put out a 3D concert experience, that's a certainty, but everything else is a coin toss into the Grand Canyon.
UG: Actually, U2 put out a 3D concert film in 2008.
Lars: Right. But did it have that insane, Metallica-level of epicness? Did it make you want to leap out of your seat and pummel somebody or did you get done watching it and say, Ok, well that was a movie. Let me put it this way: maybe their movie had three dimensions, but it certainly didn't have that extra something, that fourth dimension that only Metallica can pull off.
UG: Not to be repetitive, but just to be clear: you've never had any delusional thoughts?
Lars: Man, I already answered that. Let's move this thing forward.
UG: Getting back to the new record, do you know what kind of sound you want from it? Will it be a continuation of "Death Magnetic"? Or will it be something else entirely?
Lars: We're going for that old school Metallica sound, for sure.
UG: So this new one will also have a little more of a "Ride The Lightning" feel?
Lars: Better! We're talking "ReLoad" era thrash!
UG: So when you say old school Metallica, you mean, like, post-grad Metallica...
Lars: I mean post-world Metallica. Trust me, you haven't heard anything like what this new thing's gonna be. Granted, we haven't started the recording process yet or put together any demos or hunkered down to build any riffs, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you don't like this new Metallica album, you were never a Metallica fan to begin with.
UG: That's quite a statement. An oddly defiant statement, but...
Lars: Well, some people can't hang with Metallica from album to album. We lose a few fans every time we put out a new album because they're creatures of habit and they don't like any detours on their path of musical fulfillment. It's almost like they have AD...
Do you mind if I cut this a little short to go get a cappuccino? I'm just thinking about those autographs I haven't signed yet. Thanks, I knew you'd understand.
[Barely stands before leaving]
UG: Why do people always leave these interviews before they're finished? Someone find me a musician who can sit still for more than ten minutes!