METALLICA's LARS ULRICH: 'It Feels Like Hard Rock Is Kind Of Outside Of The Mainstream Again'

October 6, 2023

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Lars Ulrich was asked if feels the mainstream understand heavy music any better now than it did back in 1989 when METALLICA was up for its first Grammy in the metal category but lost to non-metal band JETHRO TULL. Lars responded: "We've probably had the biggest summer we've ever had just in terms of sheer number of tickets sold between our European and American dates. Obviously, that's a complete mindfuck given that it's 42 years into this ride. But at the same time, it feels that hard rock is more of a subculture and less mainstream than it's been.

"Looking back, at the '80s with MTV and AOR radio and magazines from Rolling Stone to Kerrang! … it feels like hard rock was much more a conversation in the mainstream than it is now," he continued. "So while these numbers are crazy — and I know so many other bands are doing crazy numbers, like GUNS N' ROSES, SLIPKNOT, GHOST, DISTURBED — it feels like hard rock is more part of a subculture and kind of outside of the mainstream again like when we started METALLICA.

"I don't know if I have as much knowledge of what's going on around me as I did 20, 30 years ago, and I don't know if I'm interested in being as much a part of that conversation as I was, but when asked, it definitely feels like what we're doing in hard rock in general is connecting with a lot of people," Lars added. "But in terms of the zeitgeist and overall mainstream culture, it doesn't feel like we're as much a part of the mainstream conversation as it has been in the past."

METALLICA was nominated for the very first "Hard Rock/Metal Performance" Grammy in 1989, but famously lost to JETHRO TULL, a band distinguished mainly by its heavy use of flute. Fans — and even some audience members — were rightly outraged, though TULL's record label tried to make light of the faux pas by placing a Billboard ad that read, "The flute is a heavy, metal instrument."

Four and a half years ago, on the 30th anniversary of that fateful day, Ulrich took to his Instagram to reflect on his band's first Grammy loss, writing: "Today 30 years ago, February 22 '89, we played the Grammys for the first time and that was quite a mindfuck!!

"First time we were in front of a mainstream TV audience. First time mainstream America was exposed to whatever the hell it is we do. First time they had a hard rock/metal category on the Grammys. First time we were Grammy losers, since JETHRO TULL, somewhat unexpectedly to most people, walked away with the win.

"But all was not lost. The expressions of disgust from most members of the audience (other than Iggy!) is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. And I was rocking some pretty crazy hair that was edging dangerously close to a mullet! Happy days indeed!!"

After METALLICA lost the 1989 "Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Recording" Grammy to JETHRO TULL, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS),parent company of the Grammys, separated the two genres in 1990 by creating categories for "Best Hard Rock Performance" and "Best Metal Performance". METALLICA won the "Best Metal Performance" award the next year, for "One", and has earned a dozen so far.

When METALLICA's "Black" album won another "Best Metal Performance" Grammy in 1992, Ulrich "thanked" JETHRO TULL for not releasing an album in that year.

METALLICA drew nearly 80,000 fans to Los Angeles's SoFi Stadium August 25 at the first of the band's two shows at the venue. It was the biggest crowd in the history of the SoCal stadium, which opened in September 2020. The San Francisco Bay Area-based metal legends drew a similarly sized capacity crowd on August 27.

Fans purchased more than 156,000 tickets for the two-concert stand, which was part of METALLICA's "M72" world tour.

The "M72" tour features a bold new in-the-round stage design that relocates the famed METALLICA Snake Pit to center stage, allowing promoters to sell more tickets than usual. And since METALLICA's stage is hollow in the center, there is even more space available to accommodate fans.

The "M72" tour launched in late April in Amsterdam.

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