The Talks: Back in the ’80s it seems like metal was also not as mainstream as it is today. Do you agree?
Lars: I am not the person to ask that kind of question to, but certainly the world is a smaller place than it was 20 or 30 years ago. When you were going to different corners in the world the local aesthetics were much more prevalent at that time. We just did a run in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and all these places and it is still Starbucks and Burger King and the same sort of thing that it is everywhere else in the world. The first time we were in Japan in 1986 it was like going to a different universe. The first time we went behind the Iron Curtain in 1988 we went to Hungary it was like going to the moon. Nowadays music penetrates on a global basis in a way it probably didn’t do before.
The Talks: How have you learned to deal with the enormous expectations from a band of METALLICA‘s stature?
Lars: I think you just train yourself like anything. You train yourself to block it out and you got to have to train yourself hard because nowadays with the Internet and with everybody having an opinion it is harder, you have to be more careful as you navigate through a lot of that stuff as people say some very, very unpleasant things. 20 years ago you would make a record and somebody would critique the record. Like, “This is a good record, this is not a good record. This is why it is not a good record.” Whatever. Now it is like, “Lars Ulrich must fucking die!” Do you know what I mean? It is like a different thing and it is much more a scathing and there is a whole kind of thing about expectations and people express their viewpoints, both good and bad and so on. If you pay attention to it, you have to learn how to not own it. You have to learn to not take it with you. And I am pretty thick-skinned, so I think we have a fairly good balance.
The Talks: A lot of people argue that METALLICA made a string of shitty records from the mid-’90s until the 2000s and your last record in 2008 was your first return to form in around 20 years. How do you view that?
Lars: The bad thing the Internet is that at some point everything becomes these super short sound bites. Everything is sort of getting shorter and shorter because people have a shorter and shorter attention span and there’s a tendency to define everything. So define METALLICA: “METALLICA had a bunch of pioneering records in the ’80s and then they had a slump in the ’90s and then they figured it all out again in the 2000s.” If our slump was the mid-’90s, I think that’s pretty good. We pushed four records out in four years — ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99 — and if those four records are our not-great records, then I’m pretty happy with that because I think all four of those records are pretty fucking cool.
The Talks: So how would you define METALLICA?
Lars: Listen, each one of those records, each one of those time frames, was always the best it could be at the time, the most it could be, the best we had to offer. The one thing I’ll always hold my head up high about is that 32 years later, it’s been quite a ride — it’s been a pretty pure ride, a pretty honest ride, a pretty straight ride — we haven’t done things for ulterior motives or tried to do things for commercial gains or for this or for that, so I feel pretty proud of all of it. I think I can look myself in the mirror and go, “It’s okay,” because that was what I felt at the moment and I did my best. I’m pretty pleased with the first 32 years, so we’ll see what the next 32 years bring.
Read the entire interview at The Talks.