The drummer looks back on three decades of metal madness
Even though they’re Rock & Roll Hall of Fame newbies, inducted in April at the ceremony in Cleveland, Metallica will play a central role in the star-studded concerts celebrating the Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary this October. The two shows at Madison Square Garden in late October will also feature Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, U2, Aretha Franklin and Eric Clapton. “I’m sure I’ll spend the whole two days walking around backstage, gawking,” says Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. “It’s going to be pretty fucking crazy!” Metallica are still refining their hour-long set, where they’ll act as hard-rock ambassadors, playing their own classics as well as backing as-yet-unannounced paragons of the metal universe. In September, Metallica will embark on the second US leg of their Death Magnetic tour, which will circle the globe until mid-2010 (at least). Ulrich checks in from a festival stop in Scandinavia. “We’re playing some place in Finland that’s not Helsinki,” he says. “The day sheet says the town is called K-I-R-J-U-R-I-N-L-U-O-T-O”¦ Wait, I lost my place.”
There are actually places that Metallica still haven’t played?
This is one of the few remaining. It’s one of those places that for three months it doesn’t get dark, which puts people in a festive spirit. In the last few years, there’s been a lot of love for Metallica in Scandinavia. It’s nutty ”“ people dig the harder shit up here. Kids that are 10 or 11 are coming out and people almost as old as we are.
You just played three shows in Copenhagen. What does it feel like to play your hometown?
It’s everything. It’s every emotion I have. It’s amazing, overwhelming, bewildering. I wake up in the middle of the night trying to remember if I put the guy who I went to third grade with on the guest list for the fourth show.
So do you just move back into Dad’s house and stay in your old room?
The house I grew up in is now a fertility clinic. The basement, where I had my drums and posters of Ritchie Blackmore, Slade and Status Quo, is now where they perform the procedure. Whenever I’m in Denmark, I take the kids and show them the old hood, like the theatre where I saw Deep Purple for the first time. We recorded Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets at a studio called Sweet Silence, but that’s not there anymore.
How was the ceremony in Cleveland this year?
What an incredible 48 hours. We decided to share the experience with 150 or 200 people that played a part in us being there: record-company dudes, tour managers, crew guys”¦ We played the night before in Paris, and when we flew in, we walked into this party, and it was like, “This is your life.” I wish it could have lasted forever. The next day, before the ceremony, we soundchecked with Jason [Newsted], which was effortless, and I played drums on “Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” with Jimmy Page and Ron Wood and Jeff Beck. It was a mindfuck ”“ I kept waiting for the real drummer to show up.
Where do you keep your Hall of Fame trophy?
Next to the Grammys in some Godforsaken box somewhere in the depths of my basement. To me, it’s all in the mind. I don’t want to be disrespectful of the institution, but it’s not sitting on my bedside table. My house is pretty Metallica-free.
I heard you have the Metallica memorabilia market cornered, though. What’s your favourite artefact?
I save everything, and it’s a giant clusterfuck in the basement. But my favourite item is a little green notebook, about five inches tall. It’s a diary from the first few months of the gigs we played. It has all the set lists, the dates, place, crowd and how much money we made ”“ most of the gigs said “zero.”
What about the Hall of Fame concerts this fall are you most excited about?
I think there will be a lot of magical moments. We’re just starting to figure out who’s coming and who’s playing. And the people we get to share a bill with?! Springsteen, Paul Simon, Clapton”¦ it’s nutty. I’m super-excited to be sharing the same evening with U2. I’ve played with all the bands I’ve wanted to play with growing up ”“ Deep Purple, AC/DC ”“ but now I finally get to do that with U2. It’s going to be fuckin’ crazy!
What has kept you guys together for all these years?
When all is said and done, we didn’t want to let each other down. It’s the gang element. The sum of Metallica has always been greater than the individuals, and that’s always been in the back of our minds. And compared to a lot of our peers, none of us have ever gone missing or taken a week in the gutter. There’s a responsibility to the greater good, to the Metallica Way.