In a new interview with Consequence, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich said that he prides himself on the ability to play what the song calls for, adding that a talented drummer will play what's best for the song and can perform simply, even though they are capable of doing more when needed.
"It's often easier to play fast than it is to play slow," Ulrich explained. "Or it's easier to sit down and figure out how to play 600 notes in a guitar solo than it is to play 20 that are tasty. You can learn the 600 notes from a book, but it's much harder to learn how, like a [Eric] Clapton or [Jimi] Hendrix or [Ritchie] Blackmore, some of these guys weave in and out of time signatures. That's not something that's so easy to write down. That's more feel, and feel is less easily definable in a book than is ability.
"I've said over the years, people like [AC/DC's] Phil Rudd, people like [THE ROLLING STONES'] Charlie Watts, or people like Clive Burr from IRON MAIDEN, guys who are [known for] swing and swagger, is as equal or more important."
He concluded: "I guess for me, I'm just more interested in landing where what the song needs than 'look at what I could do with backwards paradiddles standing on my head, dangling from the ceiling' or whatever."
Lars's latest comments come more than two years after he told METALLICA's So What! fan-club magazine that he is no longer bothered by people's criticism of his drumming abilities. At the time, the Danish-born musician said: "Unlike years ago, I basically don't read any of the interviews that the other guys [in METALLICA] do. 20 or 30 years ago, we would all sit and fucking read every page of Kerrang! and every page of Circus magazine, see what so-and-so's saying and what the other band members were saying, what James [Hetfield, METALLICA guitarist/vocalist] was saying about this and that. Now there's just none of that. I also don't really read what people say about METALLICA.
"I'll say that occasionally, once every six months or something like that, it's kind of fun to go through the trolling section just because of the ridiculousness of all of it, but it's not something that I do regularly anymore," he revealed. "20 years ago, it would've been, 'Oh, my God, somebody said something bad,' or, 'That person said a nasty comment in the comments section,' or whatever. Now, none of that really means anything to me."
Back in 2016, Ulrich, who has gotten a lot of flak over the years from people who accused him of being a poor drummer, told the "Talk Is Jericho" podcast that he went through a period in the mid-1980s "that probably culminated in the 'Justice' album where I felt sort of compelled to try to show ability."
According to Lars, part of the reason for him feeling insecure about his abilities was the increased competition from some of his peers.
"Listen, when you've got Dave Lombardo and Charlie Benante breathing down your back, it was, like, 'Okay, I've gotta…' I tried to step it up a little bit and tried to do my own thing and do all this crazy shit," he said. "I was trying really hard to push the drums kind of into the foreground. And then, after like a year or two of that, I was, like, 'Okay. Seriously? Just do your thing. Chill out. Support the riffs. Do what's best for the song.' So since around I guess the late '80s — so I guess it's been, like, 25 years now — the only thing that's really interested me is just doing the best thing for the song."
Asked in a 2008 interview with U.K.'s Rhythm magazine if he was troubled by the fact that he's gotten a lot of flak over the years from people who accused him of being a poor drummer, Lars said: "It used to, back in the day — and I spent a lot of time overcompensating for that on the early records. But then you wake up one day and you're like, whatever. It hasn't bothered me for [many] years. I'm no Joey Jordison, I'm no Mike Portnoy, and I have nothing but love and respect and admiration for all those guys. When I hear some of the young dudes, they blow my mind with what they can do with their feet and stuff — but it's not something that makes me go, 'I need to feel better about myself so I'm gonna learn how to do what they do with my feet.' I'm not a particularly accomplished drummer but I am very, very, very good at understanding the role of the drums next to James Hetfield's rhythm guitar. I guarantee you I'm the best guy in the world for that, and that's enough for me."
Ulrich stated about his playing ability in a 2012 interview with DRUM! magazine: "I usually feel like I've regressed. [Laughs] I'm like, 'Why can't I do that anymore?'" He continued: "I can't say that I necessarily sit down to practice, like, 'I'm going to play and practice so I can get better.' What happens is that I just sit down and kind of play to just more stay in shape."
Ulrich added: "You know, METALLICA was up to two or three months off [in 2011], and I would sit down, I have an iPod next to my drums so I can play along to all kind of crazy stuff, and try to see if I can land in the same zip code of some of that stuff occasionally. But I can't say that I sit down to necessarily practice to sort of get better. For most of my stuff, it's about listening and about interpreting stuff that I'm listening to. So all the kind of sitting down and, you know, 'Now I'm going to do thirty-second-note paradiddles standing on my head — you know what I mean? I don't do that kind of stuff so much. For me it's more about the regimen of staying in shape, running every day, eating healthy, you know, being on top of that side of it."