Not everyone can brag about going on a date with Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich. Unless you were a teen groupie in the ’80s. But now that the drummer has sobered up and settled down with this third marriage (to Jessica Miller, and as Lars puts it: “you save the best for last”), he is more open to his personal life and the journey that brought him here.
He sat down with Noisey’s Kim Taylor Bennett to talk about everything – from his move to the United States from Denmark, being the outsider kid who listened to heavy metal with long hair, was awkward with girls and how Metallica has grown from being a bunch of ratty, beer-drinking kids to becoming one of the biggest and most recognized acts in the world.
Here are some excerpts from what Lars Ulrich had to say in this no-holds-barred interview –
On his first impressions of the United States after moving from Denmark as a teen –
Size. Everything is big here…Southern California, at that time, was full of 16-year-olds in pink Lacoste shirts. They were all preppies and jocks. I started wearing my Iron Maiden t-shirts and my Motörhead t-shirts, my hair was as long as it would grow: I would pull on it everyday to try and make it grow faster. I was a dorky, disenfranchised, loner teenager. I wasn’t weird or outcast, I was kind of left alone, no one f*cked with me, I lived in my own world.
About the beginnings of Metallica –
We started young. James and I met when I was still seventeen. James and Ron, who was his best friend, lived alone. Dave Mustaine – who was our guitar player for the first year – he was a very magnetic personality, very good looking, he had great hair. James and I were very awkward, Ron was sort of OK, and Dave Mustaine was really cool. There were a lot of people around Dave Mustaine. He had a lot of friends of both sexes. People would look around and go, ‘Who are these guys?’ Dave would introduce us as the members of his band. We started figuring it out slowly, very slowly. Then we met Cliff and he encouraged us to move up to San Francisco.
On bringing up families while being, well, Metallica –
Over the years, when you’re fortunate enough to become successful, when you become successful you can become more financially independent. And so we’ve been able to put parameters on how we tour so we can spend more time at home. We have a two-week rule: we don’t leave home for more than two weeks at a time, 16 days at the most. We did 180 dates on the last album in two week increments. It’s not the most cost-effective way of touring the world, but we believe you can’t put a price on sanity. If you remain somewhat sane, then there’s a better chance of finishing all the shows and not jumping off the deep end in despair and misery.
What he thinks of the bands of yesterday and the bands of today –
Ten years ago, or 30 years ago, it was different. Like, ‘Oh my god, Guns N’ Roses! Oh my god, who are these Nirvana guys? Oasis!’ You were hearing about it, and you wanted to meet them. Nowadays, there aren’t any bands that have had that impact on me. The last time where I was like, ‘Holy f*ck! This really inspires me’, was this band called Sword from Austin, Texas. Stoner rock, kind of a modern Black Sabbath. Super cool. They showed up seven or eight years ago, and I just had to bring these guys on tour. There is a Norwegian band called Kvelertak. These bands are few and far between nowadays. This is not a black and white statement. I know more about film than I do about music because I follow it more. That doesn’t mean if something awesome came and slapped me in the face that I wouldn’t embrace it, it just shows up less and less.
And finally, Lars Ulrich on what turns him OFF –
My deal breaker is [not having a sense of] humor and [grasping] sarcasm and irony. A lot of Danish people poke and like to be a bit provocative – it’s in our DNA. Sometimes with people, especially with people I don’t know I’ll throw a couple of provocative balls out there, just to see how they get handled. If they don’t get handled the right way, that’s a turn off for me. Generally this is how I feel, not just with people that I’m dating. There’s got to be an ability to deal with abstract humor, and more unusual ways of dealing with the world.