METALLICA fan site For Whom Metallica Tolls has posted an interview with the father of METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich, Torben Ulrich. Several excerpts from the interview follow:
FWMT: What are your thoughts on Cliff Burton ... how the band would be had he not died ... what did you think of him as a person and as a musician?
Torben: "Not only as a person but also as a musician and maybe that kind of rock musician, I think Cliff was extremely precious and very difficult to replace, or impossibly so. And I say this also because he seemed to have a side to him that still was not fully unfolded, and quite possibly could have taken the band in quite a different direction from the way it went with Jason [Newsted], which is not at all a critique of Jason and his large skills and ears. But more that there was something in Cliff's background and genes that seemed to suggest that something not so muscular could have come to the fore. Whether that would have taken them away from the kind of physical strength that they have and which has been embodied with Robert [Trujillo] is quite another story. And I don't know about that."
FWMT: What were your thoughts when you heard that Jason had left the band?
Torben: "Generally speaking, I was sad to see the collisions, in particular the collisions between James [Hetfield] and Jason, James maybe wanting a kind of a narrower allegiance to the METALLICA project as such and Jason with his large ears going 360 degrees and being so interested and potentially involved in other things. So obviously for a long time they were on that kind of collision course, and in some sense maybe it was unavoidable, at least at that stage. But, given the broad dispositions of Jason's interests, I think there ought well to be operating room beyond the narrow confines of that kind of band."
FWMT: Musically, what do you think of Rob's bass style, and do you think he will add a new dimension to METALLICA's playing style?
Torben: "I think that Robert was an extremely fortunate choice. In view of what I said above, I think that he's a very strong continuation of the direction that the band had taken after the death of Cliff Burton, and since if one listens closely, I'm wondering if the lack of conflict or shall we call it the new togetherness can be heard in the way that the bottom now plays out in a very sonorous way, so that from the point of view of heavy metal, meaning here sort of heavy bottom played in tune, this may be their strongest moment."
FWMT: Do you think Lars' tennis career would have taken off if you had remained in Denmark instead of moving to America, or was your intention to expose him to new things so he could make a final decision on where he should channel his talents and interests?
Torben: "You're exactly right, you hit the spot there. That was the entire idea, to test whether he would really want to explore that whole tennis scene, because if that was the case, then that would be high time, the way things have to start so early these days. (Maybe that's not quite true, because I started a couple of days after I was born, I think, when I was placed in my cradle at the tennis court while my parents played.) But I think it was absolutely right for him to have that situation really tested so that if he chose to go away from the ballplaying, that he felt that he'd had the chance to explore it and not have to regret it later."
FWMT: In the scene you seem to be asked most about from "Some Kind Of Monster", you recommend deleting a sequence. Lars' response is that Cliff Bernstein said to open the record with it. Do you see yourself as a balancing opinion for Lars when he seeks it, seeing most other people offering opinions on the music would have a vested interest in the outcome?
Torben: "Yeah, it's a good question. I try to tell Lars how I hear it as close as I can call it, given my resources, meaning of course that I come from a certain background that Lars is also familiar with, but which is still different from his. So that's not to say that I see myself as a 'balancing opinion for Lars when he seeks it,' but rather that I let it be up to him if he can use it for anything whatsoever."
FWMT: Did you ever get to know Dave (Mustaine) when he was in the band? What did you think of the manner in which he was asked to leave the band, and what did you think of the scene with Dave and Lars in the movie?
Torben: "Let's tread carefully here. First of all, yes, I remember Dave from the first days he came to our house as someone smiling and always friendly, very courteous and quite articulate, and when I say courteous I think particularly about the way he was always attending to Lars' mother and asking her if she'd had a good day and so on. So when he was around the house he was always very well liked and received. Obviously we (Lars' mother and I) could not know how things were going once the guys left the West Coast and things began to unfold, or unravel, out East. Obviously it cannot be very nice to wake up in the morning and be told that it's over, and 'Here's a ticket to take you back home,' if your whole life is involved with this kind of music and that kind of traveling. But since we were not there, it seems impossible to be able to go further than that, except to give to Dave that kind of sympathetic thought that I think also everybody would give, even given that he of course could not think that that was enough, ever. With regard to the scene with Dave and Lars in the movie, I thought it was quite moving, and I thought that if the film had qualities or any qualities, then that kind of thing that happened there was part of what constituted that kind of insight into the problems, even the lingering problems, of what it means to be a member, or not a member, of a rock 'n' roll band. If Dave Mustaine now feels that maybe it was not quite right or quite fair, then I would say just as we sit here and speak more or less spontaneously, that you always take that kind of risk when you appear before a camera or a computer, and so if you agree to participate, then that's more or less what you can risk, and things can always either take a turn that you did not anticipate or, worse, they can be distorted to a degree that you never imagined. As a ballplayer, I've seen that happening over a lifetime, even to the degree that some sports reporters would ask me, 'Can you say this or that?' and I'd say, 'No, I don't think you can say this or that,' and they would still say it that way."
FWMT: You seem to be quite a renaissance man — you are a successful sportsman, you paint, you create movies, you write books and you play jazz. Have you always had a broad range of interests, or have they come up over the years, for instance, were you interested in Buddhism before your tennis took you to India, or did it arise due to your travels?
Torben: "Yeah, the broader range of interests seemed to have been there from very early on. I remember reading Greek philosophy probably when I was 12 or 13, getting books from the library, but at the same time I was playing soccer, handball, table tennis, tennis, all day long, then beginning to add music. So yeah, it seems to have been there from very early. The Buddhist stuff specifically probably came right after the war ended, in 1945, when the piano player in our band, who was a psychiatrist, was also very interested in different approaches to things Buddhist and Hindu. And he was someone that I respected very much and learned a lot from."
Read the entire interview at ForWhomMetallicaTolls.org.ru.
(Thanks: The 4 Horsemen Website)