Oops… he did it again. On the verge of the 15th anniversary of Lars Ulrich filing suit on behalf of Metallica against the band’s own fans, the hothead named by the Village Voice to be “the douchiest drummer of all time” has once more enraged what seems to be the entire human population.
This time, it has to do with the bass on 1988’s …And Justice for All. Next time? Well, there’s no guessing how Lars will next lose still more friends and somehow alienate even more people—it’s just a guarantee that it will happen.
Until then, let’s look back at 10 times everyone alive simultaneously got pissed off at Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.
For as towering an achievement and all the deserved love that fans have felt for Metallica’s 1988 classic LP …And Justice For All, one factor has often kept listeners from ranking it on par with the group’s two-years-earlier landmark, Master of Puppets: the bass guitar on Justice can barely be picked out amongst the sound and fury of the other instruments—in particular, the drums.
As VH1 recently reported, Justice mixer Steve Thompson has spoken out about how the record’s puny bass came at the insistence of Lars Ulrich, stating the drummer said, “I want you to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix.” Some surmise that it was a case of Lars hazing Metallica’s then-new bassist Jason Newsted, others just chalk it up to the legendary Ulrich ego. Either way, what would have been a perfect album was permanently diminished—except for Lars.
As peeved as the general public has been through the years with Justice’s baseless bass sound, for Thompson it’s been a quarter-century of nonstop frustration. Lars, of course, has only added insult to this particular injury.
Thompson reports an incident that occurred at Metallica’s 2009 Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame induction. “They flew us out and I’m sitting with Lars,” Thompson said. “He goes, ‘Hey, what happened to the bass in … Justice?’ He actually asked me that. I wanted to cold cock him right there. It was a shame because I’m the one getting the s–t for the lack of bass.”
Devotees, in fact, have been remixing the album to properly pump up the bass ever since.
Metallica bassist Jason Newsted on the 25th anniversary of “….And Justice For All”
2. Lars Sues Metallica Fans via Napster (2000)
The prospect of a world-famous, multimillionaire rock star snitching on his group’s own fans and then backing it up by using the gunpoint power of the law to crush them is unsavory to say the least.
When Lars Ulrich did just that in April 2000—personally delivering a list of 300,000 Metallica-trading Napster users to the file-sharing service’s office as the first blow in an onslaught of lawsuits—words failed many in attempting to describe how greedy and petty it made him look.
Punk poetess Patti Smith sort of nailed the moment by saying it seemed “like just about the most uncool thing you could do.” Other reactions were more vehement, including Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx who growled, “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered, and I think Metallica’s hogs… I think that it’s not acceptable behavior for an artist to do that to their fans.
The public backlash against Lars and Metallica regarding Napster came swift and mercilessly and, in fact, it’s never entirely gone away.
One of the Internet’s earliest viral videos was “Money Good, Napster Bad,” a savage cartoon send-up of the band. The video even inspired its own online series, “Metallicops,” in which Lars and a Frankenstein-like James Hetfield patrol the world busting anybody who prevents a single cent from making it into the group’s pockets.
“Money Bad, Napster Good”
3. Lars Changes His Mind About File-Sharing All Those Lawsuits Later (2012)
A dozen years after slamming his own fans with legal headaches over Napster, Lars Ulrich announced in 2012 that he was suddenly, vociferously A-OK with online music sharing at a press conference for the streaming service Spotify.
The occasion, of course, was to announce that Metallica would be making its entire catalogue available for commercially sponsored or paid-subscription listening on Spotify.
Standing next to Lars onstage at the press conference was Sean Parker, the creator and CEO of Napster, which Ulrich helped profoundly to run out of business.
“When [Sean Parker and I] saw each other a few months ago,” Lars announced with a beaming smile, “we could see that we had been put as adversaries but we had much more in common and sitting down was long overdue. We were younger, maybe somewhat more ignorant to what was going on in the real world. When we sat down and had a heart to heart.”
Good for them, huh?
Metallica’s Lars Ulrich: “I love Spotify!”
4. Lars Gets All Up in James Hetfield’s Face in Some Kind of Monster (2003)
The 2003 documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster chronicles the band recording their hugely despised St. Anger album at a point of massive personal and professional unrest among the band’s members.
Monster is a masterwork of “warts-and-all” cinema verite filmmaking and, in hindsight, actually won many fans back to the Metallica fold for their sheer bravery and/or insanity in releasing a film that makes two of their members (hint: it’s not Kirk Hammett or any of their bassists) look like spoiled, ridiculous crybabies.
Amidst the numerous clashes between frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, none is more grotesque than Lars’s long rant that culminates with him screaming “F—K!” directly into Hetfield’s face. There’s no doubting the emotion was real but, knowing Lars, there will always be the suspicion that he did it just for the cameras.
Lars to James: “F—K!”
5. Lars Requires Handlers to Put on Socks on His Feet (2012)
He may have been comically exaggerating to make a point, but who isn’t inclined to believe Metallica frontman James Hetfield’s claim that drummer Lars Ulrich requires paid professionals to put socks on his feet?
During an interview for Norwegian television, Hetfield stated: “For high maintenance and demanding it’s a tie for first place between Lars and Kirk. They need what they need, ’Oh, my shoelaces are the wrong color’, or, you know. It’s different. We all operate differently. I feel better when people are away from me and I can get into my own space; then Lars – he likes people plugging in his earphones, putting his socks on, all of this stuff.”
“Master of Sock Puppets” by Lintallica
6. Lars Insists on Pricey Abstract Cover Art for Load and Reload (1996)
The seismic shifts made by Metallica for their 1996-97 co-releases Load and Reload began with the group cutting their signature hesher-length hair, trading in their jeans and t-shirts for designer fashions, and splitting what might have been one album of “Alternica”-sounding Top 40 radio fodder into two unnecessarily separate products. Lars, naturally, has always been pegged as the mastermind behind this transition.
While there’s no direct proof of the mega-buck metamorphosis being exclusively Ulrich-originating, Lars did spearhead the decision to abandon skate-punk artist Pushead, who had created the …And Justice for All cover along with much of the band’s other best-loved imagery, in favor of high-concept, high-dollar concoctions by Andres Serrano, an elite darling of the New York art world.
Like Serrano’s best-known work, “Piss Christ,” the cover images of Load and Reload consist of photos involving the artist’s own body fluids. The first is titled “Blood and Semen III.” The second might be urine. Regardless, James Hetfield maintains he was not into the whole idea.
“Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art,” Hetfield told Classic Rock magazine in July 2009, “pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid crap that they felt they needed to do.”
7. Lars Says Cliff Burton Might Not Be Good Enough to Now Be in Metallica (2003)
The documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster essentially begins with dLars Ulrich, James Hetfield, and, to a lesser degree, guitarist Kirk Hammett informing bass player Jason Newsted that, after fourteen years together, he would be departing from the band. Officially, Newsted quit to pursue other projects, but the feeling that comes across—right or wrong, but unmistakably—is not one of amicability.
Later on, the movie shows multiple word-class bassists trying out to fill Newsted’s slot, including Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, Twiggy Ramirez from Marilyn Manson, Chris Wyse of the Cult, Scott Reeder of Kyuss, and eventual winner Robert Trujillo of Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne’s band.
The other, more cosmically daunting shadow cast over the role of a bassist in Metallica belongs to Cliff Burton, the larger-than-life musical visionary who played on the group’s first four albums before being tragically killed in a tour bus accident. He has long been acknowledged as the most singularly talented figure to ever play in Metallica—oftentimes by his fellow bandmates!
It all prompts Lars to observe, “When we saw Cliff, me and James went, ‘He should be in our band, there’s no question.’ He hit it out of the park. That’s where it sort of gets interesting, because if Cliff Burton showed up today, maybe he wouldn’t be the guy either.”
Some Kind of Monster Bass Auditions
8. Lars Tosses a College Kid’s Book Bag, Lectures Dude at Bar Against Bumming Cigarettes (as Told by Jim Breuer) (2009)
Master comedic storyteller and stand-up metalhead Jim Breuer had quite the answer for Howard Stern in 2009 after the King of All Media asked, “Did you ever meet Lars Ulrich?”
Breuer launched into an epic tale of hanging out with Lars over the course of an uneasy night in Greenwich Village. The first issue arose when Breuer found an NYU student’s knapsack full of books in their cab, and the comedian took it with him, planning to return it to the kid who’d lost it.
Doing a perfect imitation of Lars, Breuer says the drummer flipped out, saying “Why would you hold on to a f——g knapsack, huh? Get rid of the f—–g knapsack, huh?” and so on. Breuer’s attempt at a good deed infuriated Ulrich all night.
Later on, a random youth, who was clearly a Metallica fan, approached Lars to bum a cigarette. The incensed Ulrich responded, “Dude, did it ever f—–g occur to you that some time tonight before you were engaged in this evening that you probably want to have some cigarettes. You might not know it, but I work really f—–g hard for this pack of cigarettes, so why don’t you go buy yourself a pack, huh? F—that!”
Following that encounter, Ulrich asked to see the knapsack, whereupon he hurled it across a busy Manhattan street, scattering books scattering everywhere. “Huh!” he yelled at Breuer, “There’s your f—–g knapsack! Huh! F—k that kid! He’s f—–g irresponsible! Huh!”
Jim Breuer Attempts to Hang With Lars Ulrich
9. Lars Toasts His Own Multimillion-Dollar Art Fortune (2002)
Lars Ulrich collects art. In Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, we see him sell a good chunk of it, too. The 2002 auction in the movie involves Ulrich unloading some original pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat and other painters for a cool $13 million. It’s all well and good, except for the pompous, obnoxious, champagne-popping glee Ulrich seems to take in the haul.
Lars Sells His Paintings
10. Lars Ignores Fatherly Advice, Doesn’t “Delete That!” (2003)
Lars Ulrich is the son of Torben Ulrich, a giant in European pro tennis history, a lifelong jazz aficionado, and a clearly imposing figure. For all of Lars’s gross behavior on display in Some Kind of Monster, one moment proves (temporarily) moving: when we see exactly the source from which the drummer might have picked up some of his more abrasive personality traits.
Upon playing a new St. Anger track for his old man, the wizard-bearded Torben tells Lars, “If you would say, if I were your adviser, what would you say, then I would say, delete that! I mean, I don’t know for you guys, but for me, it doesn’t cut it.”
After Lars replies that other people who heard the song said it should open the record, Torben replies, “Really? I’m pretty sure I really don’t think so! I really don’t think so. For me, that doesn’t sound right or something, unless I’m a guy that’s shouting in some kind of echo chamber.”
Lars laughs, but the burn is palpable. Still, it seems as though Ulrich the Younger has dealt with factors such as Torben’s disapproval by only ever becoming more of an a-hole. When it comes to bad attitudes and fan-alienating activities, Lars, really, take a cue from your pop: “Delete that!”
Torben Ulrich: “Delete That!”
Mike “McBeardo” McPadden is the author of Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever! (Bazillion Points).
[Photo: Getty Images]