Metallica has returned with their first studio album in eight years, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. And when the metal gods go heavy, we go light: EW asked drummer Lars Ulrich to trade his sticks for shtick and play along with a few Stupid Questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me some things about the new album that could be applied to every other album you’ve released.
LARS ULRICH: The new album is the best album we’ve ever done. It’s destined to make lots of people happy — and a few people upset.
Rank these Metallica songs in order of their hopefulness: “Creeping Death,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “To Live Is to Die,” “Broken, Beat & Scarred”
They’re all tied for last… “Creeping Death” is actually partially inspired by the OG Ten Commandments movie, the one with Charlton Heston in it, which somehow, in some perverse way, has some sort of message of hope buried in there somewhere. That’s second-to-last.
In 1981, James Hetfield responded to your ad in the Recycler that was seeking people to jam with. What were the other ads you placed in that issue? Were you selling an Atari?
I did not have anything of that status at the time. I can tell you what I wasn’t selling, which was soap, because Hetfield’s standard story when he describes our first meeting in the wake of the ad was that he thought I smelled very European and hadn’t washed in years.
Has there ever been a moment where you didn’t think, “You know what this song needs? More double bass drum!”?
Yes. Mostly live, at the end of the set, on warm, humid nights. “Why the f— did I step it up here? I should have taken the easier way out in the studio!”
When you’re in the middle of a kickass drum solo, where do your thoughts drift off to?
“I should have taken lessons. I hope the sound man has turned this up so loud that the volume is masking my inability. Every late great drummer is currently turning over in his grave.” And then the last one is: “Since I write the set list, reminder: Don’t put ‘One’ on tomorrow’s set list.”
After playing in Antarctica in 2013, you released the mini-documentary Freeze ’Em All. How on earth did you not call it Chill ’Em All?
Anytime you get a chance to put the letter z in a title instead of c, that’s always a cooler option.
Given that a therapist pitched you guys lyrics for St. Anger in the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, I’d like to pitch you a few right now, if that’s okay: “Lack of light/lack of fight/full of piss/full of fright/I ain’t your seeker/I ain’t your lover/I’m just your anger who likes to smother”…
Um, “smother”? I would keep “smother” out of any attempted rhyming pattern.
If you were to do a documentary about the making of this new album, what would it be called?
Throwing Darts at a Calendar: The Unpredictable and Completely Illogical Metallica Work Patterns.
Metallica has had five consecutive studio albums debut at No. 1 on Billboard 200. What would you do to ensure that this one goes No. 1, too? Would you be willing to, say, give back the Grammy you won for St. Anger?
[Pause] Did we win a Grammy for St. Anger?
You actually did.
Winning a Grammy for St. Anger just sounds wrong.
Since we have more Grammys than No. 1 albums, for the sense of balancing those out, yes, I would give the St. Anger Grammy back, to get those numbers closer together.
You received a lot of flak for the sound of your snare in St. Anger. What was your favorite insult?
There were so many that I can’t remember, but the one that I generally say was right there with the best of them, which was that I forgot to take the snare out of the cardboard box that it came in.
Metallica music was played by American troops in Afghanistan to repel the Taliban. Would the war have been over much faster if they’d used Nickelback?
Forget about Nickelback — the war would have been over even faster if they’d stuck to only St. Anger songs.
You fought what turned out to be a very prescient battle with Napster—
Big word for Entertainment Weekly! Okay, wow! I don’t even know if they use that in The Atlantic!
Thanks! Let’s get you in a fight with another digital company. Your choice: Uber, Bumble, or Airbnb.
My first Uber battle was that I was convinced I could be the first customer that didn’t have to submit my personal phone number. So at the Burbank airport two years ago, I stood and waited for about an hour for my Uber to show up, because I refused to give them my direct phone number. They never came.
So, f— Uber. You’re mad. You’ll see them in court.
I don’t get mad anymore. I’m 52 years old. I have since found a way around this particular issue.
What’s one thing you’ve always wondered about yourself but were too scared to ask?
In no particular order: What’s with the accent? What’s with the big forehead? Do I really look like an olive on a toothpick like Kirk Hammett says? Why am I so stubborn? Why am I so contrary? Why the extra chin? Shall I go on?
Bigger thrill: Acting opposite Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen in HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn or being called a “Danish twat” by Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek?
Getting a chance to put a costume on in the Hemingway period piece has to count a bigger thrill, since there was no Halloween in Denmark when I was growing up.
I’d like to quote you out of context. Go.
Being quoted out of context is not anything new to me. Why should you feel like you have first dibs on that?
You’re an art collector, and you sold the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting “Boxer” for $13.5 million. Let’s use that money to design the most amazing drum set of all time.
The first drum kit that plays itself, not to be confused with a drum machine, but an actual real acoustic drum set that plays itself, double bass and all, and the drummer can be at home, resting his tired and aching body — and on his laurels.
Have you ever tried to play one of your platinum records?
I would like to proudly and officially go on the record — on the record! — and say that I’ve never been that high on anything in my life where I felt that that was necessary. Thanks for asking.