When I saw the movie about Ayrton Senna for the first time in the movie theater, I didn’t know the ending. So I literally sat for 30 minutes after the movie, crying.”
Wikimetal (Rafael Masini): A record that I really enjoy, “Master”, has completed 25 years. Lars, what do you think about that record?
Lars Ulrich: Obviously it’s been a great record to us, I love the songs on there, they’re great. It flows well, I think that whatever we were doing at the time it was obviously working. It’s been a lot of fun, five years ago we played “Master of Puppets”, the whole record, all over Europe. The full, from beginning to end, which was a lot of fun. It’s aged well, I’m proud of it. Each record is a time capsule. And when I think of “Master of Puppets” I think of Copenhagen, 1985, it’s very dark, it’s very cold, we’re staying in the hotel called S.A.S hotel, Clifford is there, Flemming Rasmussen was there. We were drinking a lot of Danish beers, recording, making this record. We had a lot of fun, it was a pretty crazy time. The thing that I most think back to those early records is that I feel that when you’re very young things are very instinctive, you never question what you’re doing. The hardest thing that comes when you get older, as you become better at what you’re doing, you start realizing many different ways. The thing that I wondered the most about those early records is, you know, “today James Hatfield will play a riff or some great part, we can make it fast, we can make it slow, we can make it up, we can slow it down, we can do this, we can do that”. There’s nothing but options, because we’re very good at what we do and in terms of we can take it anywhere. When I think back to 1985, we just did it one way, I wonder what it’s like to only know one way. Because today I know many ways. And that fascinates me. What is it like when you’re 25 years old, when you don’t think, you just do. Why is it that when you’re 45 you think? Why does it come from up here when you’re older? And when you’re younger it comes from in here? What the fuck is that? I don’t know. That I ponder a lot.
W (Daniel Dystyler): Lars, what kind of music have you been listening to lately?
LU: I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’ve been listening to the Lou Reed album in the last couple of weeks. Many different sounds compared to 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Today I’m mostly listening to music while I’m moving. 20 years ago I mostly listened to music when I was sitting down. It’s very interesting how that changes, today I mostly listen to music in cars, or airplanes. 20 years ago I sat down in front of a stereo and listened to music. I think because of Steve Jobs and this wonderful thing. I have ten of these, and I have many ipods and I have many computers, I think I have nine computers in my house that are all made by Steve Jobs. What happens, I think the biggest difference is that, 20 years ago, when I came to Brazil in 1989 for the first time, the music I would bring with me was music that was new at the time. So in 1989 I would have brought the music for the last six months when I came to Brazil. Now when I come to Brazil I have music from the last 40 years, 50 years. So the difference is that because you can carry all music all the time, I spend less time listening to new music and more time listening to all music, where 20 years ago I would listen to old music at home and I would always carry the new music with me. But now I listen to as much old music, or more old music than I did back then. So I would say that the main difference is that I’m probably less adventurous in listening to music than I was 20 years ago, because I spend more time listening to music I already know.
W (RM): What was your participation in Rock in Rio like?
LU: I know you hear this from everybody that comes down, so I don’t want to repeat what everybody else says but it’s also difficult not to say it. The Brazilian audiences are very special. We haven’t played in Rio since 1999 and we played two shows in Sao Paulo last year and one show in Porto Alegre. And they’re very special.
Metallica lives and breathes on being able to do these type of things to keep alive, if you get stuck doing the same thing over and over again, it becomes automatic, auto-pilot. That’s not the band I want Metallica to be.”
W (DD): Lars, we wanted to know what your memories of Brazil are? You’ve been here a few times, what do you remember of our country?
LU: I think it’s the people and how everybody embraces you and let you in and they really welcome you. We had some very very good times here. Back in the 80’s and 90’s were crazy times, but it’s always been fun. The soundtrack to this summer has been this Lou Reed album, has been kind of the sound of when I think of the summer of 2007. I think of the Lou Reed album but when I think of the film, I saw a film in England in July when I was in London which broke my heart. It was an absolutely amazing film, was the Ayrton Senna movie. And it really connected me. So I got in touch with the people that made the movie and I have a copy of it, I’ve seen this movie six or seven times, so when I think of the summer of 2007 I think of Lou Reed and Senna. That’s my summer of 2007. I even got Lou Reed to go see the Ayrton Senna movie. So I have a new connection to Brazil because of Senna and it’s such a wonderful story, not just about him but Brazil, obviously about motor racing but also about spirituality, all these wonderful things. So it made quite a difference for me this year. And it really moved me. When I saw the movie the first time in the movie theater I didn’t know the ending. So I literally sat for 30 minutes after the movie, crying. Because when Ayrton died in 94 it was right at the same time that Kurt Cobain died. And I was away in a place out in the Pacific called Micronesia, where I did not know that Kurt Cobain had died until I came back to the United States, cause I was scuba diving in some islands out in the Pacific Ocean that had no radio, tv, newspaper. I was completely out of touch, so I did not know that Kurt Cobain had died until I came back to the United States. And Ayrton Senna died just a couple of weeks later. So I just didn’t know, I’m not a big Formula 1 guy, but I didn’t know that Ayrton Senna had died. So when I saw the movie it broke my heart. And it was a very crazy, great movie. And it made me fall in love with Brazil all over again.
W (RM): I’m sorry to intrude, but do you think that if Cliff Burton hadn’t died in that tragic bus accident, Metallica’s sound would be different nowadays?
LU: No, no, I can’t answer that. But obviously I don’t know. I’m not very good with the “what if” questions. “What if I walked left instead of right last Tuesday?” I’m not very good with these questions. Obviously Cliff was a huge part of Metallica’s sound and a huge part of shaping the Metallica experience. Not just for the fans but also for the people in Metallica, he brought a lot to the band. He was the first guy, I think, in Metallica talking about Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Peter Gabriel, Misfits. He brought many many different things. But I can’t tell you what Metallica would have sounded like today, I have no idea. Cliff was always interested in experience, Cliff was always in taking chances, Cliff was always into never playing it safe. Maybe the band would have been even more experimental and crazy, I don’t know, I’d like to think that we try to be as unpredictable as possible, I just don’t know.
W (Nando Machado): We’ve noticed, through the concerts and movies of Metallica, that you are the brain behind the band. Can you say that? Do you like being the “decision-maker” in the band?
LU: Do I like? Yeah, I guess, I’ve never known anything else. It’s what I know. You know what? I’m not gonna bullshit you, of course I love it. I’m not doing it because nobody else does it, I like doing it, I’m open about that. I like it, yeah. I feel I have a very good relationship with Metallica. Everybody has a particular thing that they bring, including me, including Pete and Cliff, our managers, including this person or that. So in the end, everybody in the circle of Metallica has a particular thing that they bring that’s unique. And I think the main difference is that we’re all very comfortable with who we are now, where 10 years ago or 20 years ago it was different. I don’t think we’re competitive with each other, I think we’re only competitive with ourselves. About being the best we can be always. But yeah, I like what I do. I Love what I do.
The thing that I most think back to those early records is that I feel that when you’re very young things are very instinctive, you never question what you’re doing.”
W (RM): Changing the subject, let’s talk a little bit about this last record you released. How was the partnership and the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica?
LU: We played together a concert for the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Madison Square Garden, in New York about two years ago. And we really enjoyed playing together, we had a lot of fun. And when we walked out of the building Lou asked if we would consider making a record together. We were parting ways in the garage of Madison Square Garden and I said “Of course we will, it sounds fantastic”. So he called a week later and said “I’m serious”. We said “Ok, we just have to circle the globe a couple of times and finish our Death Magnetic Tour”. And then we did that and then we went to the studio and made… The idea was to make some songs for a record more about Lou Reed’s forgotten songs, he wanted Metallica to play 15 or 20 songs that Lou picked that had been kind of overlooked and we wanted Metallica to amp it up a little bit.
W (NM): Lars, was Lou Reed an inspiration for you at some point? Has he influenced Metallica?
LU: I grew up in a house that was very full of music, generally. So 68, 69, 70, 71, the music that was playing around the house was The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Velvet Undergroud, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, these type of stuff. So Velvet Underground was a part of what was going on, but when I started Metallica Lou Reed was not the reason I wanted to play music, but I had a lot of exposure to Velvet Underground or Lou Reed over the years.
W (DD): Lars, how was working with producer Greg Fidelman?
LU: He enginered and mixed the Magnetic. He’s one of Rick Rubin’s guys, he was involved with us for the whole “Death of Magnetic” experience. Greg Fidelman is very involved with every aspect of Metallica’s recording. And was also with “Death Magnetic” and with this last project.
W (RM): Lars, Metallica’s lyrics and Lou Reed’s lyrics are very different, they’re different styles of lyrics. How was the experience of recording together?
LU: Well, I think Lou Reed and James Hetfield kind of have some simillarities and both of them write from the outside looking in. So they’re both kind of outsiders and they come from a very isolated place. Obviously they use different words. But I think they are both incredible lyricists and they both come from a place of autonomy and being a loner. So I think there are some similarities. But obviously the main difference on this project was that the main lyrics were written before. So when we started James could only worry about writing the music and didn’t have to carry the weight of the words and the idea of having to find melodies. James was much freer and much more about the guitar. So it put kind of a different spin on the thing. I think James was looking to write lyrics a little earlier in the saga, ‘cause the lyrics are always the last thing that happens. I think it was very inspiring for James to have it made first.
W (NM): Lars, tell us: why exactly did you choose Lou Reed to record the álbum with you guys?
LU: I could give you some bullshit answer but I don’t look at things like that. The freedom of being in Metallica, and the success of Metallica forces us to do this type of things. It’s only in interviews, 6 months later when we sit and talk about it, all of a sudden you have to figure out why. I never ask why. So Lou Reed says “wanna make a record together one day?” and I said “ok”. I don’t think it has to be more complicated than that. I would say maybe when the next Metallica record comes out, maybe in a year or two, I’ll have more answers about this thing, I don’t really know yet. I haven’t really had any distance from it yet. There’s a lot of music, it’s very overwhelming, it’s a lot to digest, so I don’t even know the fucking answer at all. But I hope in a couple of years I’ll be able to look back on the experience and maybe I can answer it better. I do think that it’s definitely very unique and whether it’s good in a good way or unique in a not-so-good way, I have no idea yet. I think that the people whose opinion I trust say it’s very good, it feels very good, it’s a lot of fun to do, whether it’s making a new sound or paving a new way, I have no idea.
W (RM): And what did the other guys in the band say when Lou Reed Said “So, let’s do an album together?”
LU: Everybody was very into it. Metallica lives and breathes on being able to do these type of things and I think that 30 years in you have to do these things to keep alive, if you get stuck doing the same thing over and over again, it becomes automatic, auto-pilot. To me, that’s not the band I want Metallica to be. Some people would like Metallica to make the same album every two years. But that’s not the thing I want Metallica to do, I’m not interested in that.
W (RM): Lars, what are your favorite Rock N’ Roll drummers?
LU: Ok, in no particular order Phill Rudd from AC/DC, Charlie Watts, great rock n’ roll drummer, Dred, was the drummer in Rage Against the Machine, fantastic rock N’ roll drummer, very under appreciated. Such a swing and a feel. Ian Pace from Deep Purple, who else? Bonzo?
Unknown: Dave Lombardo.
LU: There you go, now we have a good selection.