Lars Ulrich - the Man Behind the Success of METALLICA?

Lars Ulrich - the Man Behind the Success of METALLICA?
Lars Ulrich - the Man Behind the Success of METALLICA?

The four headed metal monster Metallica is known to many by being led by Hetfield & Ulrich, but since the first days of the biggest metal band ever, drummer Lars Ulrich has been the engine that drove Metallica towards world domination while creating some decades long debate worthy controversies such as his feud with Napster or his snare sound on St.Anger to name a couple. Let’s take a look at the career moves made solely by Lars Ulrich that have changed Metallica and the history of Rock n Roll as we know it.

Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with

From the casual listener to their superfans, anyone who knows a bit about Metallica can immediately notice the energy that Lars Ulrich radiates around, it can even be heard through his drumming, the erratic - energetic beats that are now part of the signature sound that creates the sound of Metallica are probably the best reflections of Lars’ own personality and his role as the person who is behind the wheel of the band, and it’s been like that since the very beginning: Metallica’s origin story is probably the most famous and also some of the most ordinary ones in rock n roll. The band began with young Lars Ulrich, who just got back from London where he attended a Diamond Head concert, placing an ad on a local LA newspaper The Recycler: “Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with," it read, he also gave away some early influences: "Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head and Iron Maiden.”

A friend of James Hetfield called the number on the ad and brought him along to jam with Lars, and the rest is history. Lars was from day one the most active member of the band, it all starts with gathering up some guys to jam in a garage and Lars was the one who did exactly that.

Origins of the most innovative metal band name of all time, METALLICA

Coming up with a band name is probably one of the most important moments of a band’s life. Especially if your band’s name is one of the greatest of all time in the history of band names. But how did a name like ‘Metallica’ come up in the first place? If you guessed “it’s probably Lars”, well, you were right! Lars is often credited with naming the band we all love. The story of the best band name ever goes like this: Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has a friend named Ron Quintana who came up with the name Metallica and Metal Mania for a heavy metal fanzine he was creating at the time, and Lars famously convinced Ron to use Metal Mania, so that he could have Metallica for himself. Years later Ron was asked if he was annoyed that Lars had stolen his name, and his answer was simple : “I was happy to give the name to him. I was a metal fanatic so I chose Metal Mania, actually before he used the name Metallica because I actually did not want to use it. There was already the (name) Encyclopedia Metallica, which is a very good name, but for me Metal Mania was better and when he told me he was going to call his band “Metallica” I told him to make good use of it (laughs) “. Moral of the story: Keep your friends close, and your friends who come up with awesome band names closer.

Metallica vs. Internet: Lars' infamous Napster feud

Fast forward a couple decades, a few megatons of alcohol consumed, millions of faces across the globe melted, hundreds of millions of albums sold, and Lars was leading Metallica in their infamous battle against Napster. He became the spokesperson against copyright infringement and even testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that resulted in banning more than 300,000 users from Napster and an enormous backlash by fans. Even though he later vocalized his regrets about it on multiple occasions, his genius was shadowed by the move in the minds of his fans for years to come. He improved himself on the topic of intellectual property and even helped Beatallica, a parody band known for Metallica infused covers of Beatles songs, to settle disputes with Sony Music.

The drummer that could write-arrange-design

We cannot talk about the achievements of Lars Ulrich without talking about his songwriting credits. Along with Hetfield, Ulrich has songwriting credits on almost all of the songs in Metallica’s grand catalogue, which is a very unique and unusual thing for a drummer to have. History of music is full of singer songwriters but there is only one metalhead who is credited with writing songs while sitting behind a drum kit. Here is a graph to show his songwriting credits - Red is Lars:

Apart from his songwriting credits Lars Ulrich also is the person who arranges most of the songs in Metallica’s discography, perhaps some of the best examples of his arranging abilities are shown on Garage Inc. album, which is full of covers that are arguably way way better than their original versions, even so that those songs now became identified with Metallica, as if they wrote them. There are not too many of us who associate Whiskey in the Jar or Turn the Page with their original performers and that’s mostly because of Metallica, ehm Lars, bringing his own signature arranging approach to those tracks.

Performance that turns concert into a live show

Lars has an amazingly entertaining stage persona. We’ve all seen him doing things like running from drum kit to drum kit, engaging with fans by yelling at them without a microphone, standing while playing and walking around the stage. Those are all things that make an amazing performance that keeps viewers on their toes at all times. Metallica isn’t a band of four players, a Metallica concert is a full blown show with pyrotechnics, visuals, props and performances. That is why when we think of a live Metallica show, we immediately think of an amazing setlist that is full of turns and twists and medleys. Lars Ulrich creates those heartstopping setlists to play in front of masses night after night for the last four decades. He famously said that Metallica started playing then unknown covers of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, so that everyone in United States think that those are their songs. Well, haven’t they came a long long way since then? Check out the first ever setlist of Metallica, in Lars’ own handwriting:

Another crucial part of every Metallica show is their unique stages that usually reflect the album artwork that they tour to promote. Lars Ulrich even designed some of those iconic stages. Who can imagine a Justice-era Metallica without the giant statue of Lady Justice a.k.a Doris, or without the iconic stage in probably the best concert film of all time - Cunning Stunts. These are all the decisions that set Metallica apart from its peers and helped push boundaries to eventually become the biggest, heaviest and loudest band the world has ever seen.

Lars the Pioneer

Like we mentioned before, Lars has a very unique approach to drumming and his drum parts are one of the most easily recognizable features in the signature sound of Metallica. Lars Ulrich’s drumming style paved the way for many metal drummers that came after him. He became known for being a pioneer of fast thrash drum beats from very early on in his career with Metallica and it can be heard in songs like Metal Militia, Fight Fire With Fire and Battery, to name a few. His drumming techniques such as the machine gun double bass drumming in One, cemented him as one of the most influential drummers ever.

My last name wasn't "ULRICH" but "FROM METALLICA"

Anybody who’s been part of a band or a team knows that the most important aspect of being a team player and a band member is to not to hold your own ego and persona above the band. One of the most important features of Lars Ulrich is the fact that he sees the band, the collective, above individual personalities and he voices this in various occasions and interviews, including documentary film Some Kind of Monster, which sheds light on making their controversial album St.Anger, when the band members’ relationship with each other was at an all time low. During that time while James Hetfield was struggling with his personal issues, Lars was trying to keep the band and their collective desires and choices above his own or James’ individual wants or needs, which shows his dedication to the idea of the band being more important than the individuals forming it. In the same documentary we also see Lars willing to put as much time as is necessary and even more to work on finishing the album recording while James was allowing himself to work a 4 hours a day schedule due to his recovery. Sure it’s not his fault, and we all are grateful for James' healing, but Lars’ work ethics and his dedication to music and Metallica is a thing that’s been highly appreciated by the band’s fans across the globe.

Lars’ dedication to holding the collective above the individual personas can be summed by the fact that he says “I was Lars from Metallica, my last name wasn’t ‘Ulrich’ but ‘from Metallica’ for many years, until I was comfortable with my own individual personality”.

St.Anger snare sound: Thrash or Garbage?

Well, if we are talking about St.Anger era Metallica, we can’t ignore and not talk about the elephant in the room, also known as Lars Ulrich’s St.Anger Snare Sound. Aside from his fight against Napster, his snare drum sound on St.Anger album is probably the biggest controversy Lars has ever created that took a lot of hate from almost everyone in the world at the time. Music critics, fellow metal musicians and fans have been criticizing the sound since it emerged in 2003 and it seems like nobody is going to stop debating over it anytime soon. Like it or not, the fact that he created a sound that’s been up for debates for almost two decades is a feat on its own. It’s ugly, it’s irritating and it’s metal. Apparently he forgot to turn the snare on in the heat of the moment when he needed to lay down a beat behind James’ guitar riffs during the recording sessions of St. Anger and later on he decided to keep the snare turned off for the rest of the sessions, knowing well that it’s “different and it’s gonna fk some people up” in his own words. Well, it definitely did fk some people up. Asked in an interview with Eddie Trunk, Lars said that he stands behind the snare sound on St.Anger hundred percent, because at that moment, that was the truth. And that my friends is how you react to criticism, and we respect him for that. Even though he seems like he understands where all the hate comes from, about his snare sound on St.Anger, and he himself even makes fun of it publicly.You can hate his snare sound but gotta love the man!

Metallica without Lars?

Even though members of Metallica was toying with the idea of kicking out Lars after their european tour in 1986 which was ended by the death of their bassist Cliff Burton, as rumored by Scott Ian of Anthrax, we all know that he is an essential, if not the most important part of the success and soul of the band Metallica we all love. “He is at once a loyal, attentive and determined person, one who locks in for the long-haul and one whose skin can achieve great thickness” as the official band biography of Metallica writes about Lars. Without Lars Ulrich neither Metallica nor metal would've been the same and we are extremely grateful and highly appreciate him for being who he is and his contributions to the genre.

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