METALLICA's ULRICH: Drum Sound On' St. Anger' Sang Back To Me In A Beautiful Way

May 1, 2004

METALLICA's Lars Ulrich recently spoke to the U.K.'s Rhythm magazine about the origins of the "distinctive" drum sound he achieved on the group's new album, "St. Anger". "The famous drum sound everybody is talking about," he said. "One day I forgot to turn the snare on because I wasn't thinking about this stuff. At the playbacks, I decided I was really liking what I was hearing — it had a different ambience. It sang back to me a in a beautiful way. It just felt totally natural. The backlash came when some people heard the album and said, 'You know, heavy metal snares aren't supposed to sound like that.' Well, I guess I must have skipped over Chapter Three in the Heavy Metal Rulebook [laughing]. It's crazy, that kind of closed-mindedness."

Ulrich also spoke about he fact that the drums seem to be the core of the songs on "St. Anger", which wasn't the case with the band's last couple of albums.

"Everything we do is a reaction to something we've done before," he said. "The last couple of records, the drums were mostly in the background, keeping it basic and supporting the guitar riffs. More of the initial sparks for 'St. Anger' came from the drums being the catalyst, as they did in the old days. Hetfield would then start playing along to a drum pattern and we'd go from there. Music from 'Load', and even from the 'Black' album, were more about the guitar riff and keeping the drums as a low profile in the background."

Asked if that was OK with him, Ulrich said, "Oh, yeah, that's what I had wanted to do. I go through all these phases and sometimes I get a little bored by drums and drumming on a whole. There are times when I want to hang more in the background, musically speaking. Other times, I want the drums to color the sound of METALLICA more.

"On this last album, even though the drums are really up front, there are no many drum fills. I got bored playing drum fills. I came to the conclusion that I didn't have any more exciting drum fills to play, so I'd rather not play any at all. So I go through these cycles and different priorities."

With regards to whether he feels proud of the fact that METALLICA have experimented musically over the years despite harsh criticism from core fans at times, Lars said, "Sure I do. I feel incredibly proud that we've always done what we wanted to do. But we have taken criticism for things we are not about. It's not like we're having massive board meetings behind closed doors deciding what we do next. Musically, everything we've ever done has been pure, spontaneous, even innocent in a way. Yet we've been dissed for it at times.

"But I'm 40 years old now, so it's OK with me if people don't get it all the time. We've done things that were creatively successful a lot of times. It's annoying that people won't accept the record when the photo on the back of the album is not something they can relate to. I'm 23 years into this career and I'm more at peace with that. There's five million fans who bought 'St. Anger' and a ton of people who show up at the gigs we play. It seems there are still far more people interested in what we do than the ones who criticize us. I've said a bunch of rubbish over the years and I've spent numerous times being an arrogant rock star — and so has everybody else in this band, by the way. But we try to get it right and come back to earth. It's been a long ride, and one with many ups and downs. The fact that it's not been a straight, linear experience is a great thing. Ultimately, what people respond to about this band is that we pour our hearts and souls into what we do with a high level of emotion. That brings out something in people, both good and bad."

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