Saeed Saeed of The National conducted an interview with METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich prior to the band’s return to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on April 19 for a headlining performance at the du Arena, Yas Island. You can now watch the chat below.
The National: It took METALLICA more than two decades to come to Abu Dhabi, and now you’re back just 18 months after your last performance. So did you have a great time during that first show?
Ulrich: When we were here a year and a half ago, it was really magical. And I don’t say that everywhere. Obviously, [there were people there] from the UAE, but there were so many kids that had come in from Iran, from Iraq, from Jordan, from Lebanon, from Syria, from Bahrain, from Saudi, from Kuwait — lots of different kids from lots of different places, lots of different nationalities, [and] it was a great energy and a great shared experience. So when we got the offer to come back three or four months ago, METALLICA would call that a no-brainer. We just jumped on it and said, “Of course. We would love to come back.” We are now slowly talking to people about what other places [we can play]. Potentially, I hear, maybe, we can play in Doha soon. There is so much passion here, and so much love for the type of thing that we do and, obviously, it is somewhat of a new frontier.
The National: Does it feel strange for the band to be visiting new territories so deep into your career?
Ulrich: I don’t know if it feels strange; I think it more feels like it’s a blessing. It’s something that we’re very appreciative of. When we started playing a hundred years ago, there were so many parts of the world where the type of music that we were doing was not really accepted. There were a lot of places where the type of music we were doing was not even really heard of; people didn’t even know what we were doing. There were a lot of places where logistically, and practically, and there was not enough infrastructure to support a visit by a band like us. When we started, you couldn’t go into Eastern Europe, there were a lot of places you could barely play in Latin America, you could barely play in many places in Southeast Asia, not a lot of bands had been to India, I don’t believe anyone had been to the UAE at that time. So it’s opening up, it’s changing, the world is shrinking. Practically, and the infrastructures in many countries are just now getting ready to support this type of stuff and these type of events, so it’s great to be in the frontlines.
The National: It’s been nearly five years since your last album, “Death Magnetic”, was released. Do you feel the album resuscitated the band’s career in a way?
Ulrich: I’ve lived METALLICA every day of my life for 32 years. And so it never goes anywhere for me. Obviously, I am aware of press, I am aware of the sort of perceptions. You say resuscitation… When you’ve been doing this as long as we have, you have ups and downs… There’s so much different stuff that we do. Because METALLICA likes to explore and quench our thirst for diversity and new challenges. We do many different things and not everybody appreciates that. And that’s OK. Obviously, “Death Magnetic” was very positively received all over the world and I’m very thankful for that. We’re now in the middle of making a new record, and so when you make a new record, you have a tendency to revisit the one you made previously, and I’ve heard a little bit of “Death Magnetic” over the last couple of months and it still sounds fantastic, so it will be a difficult record to follow.
The National: METALLICA launched its own label, Blackened Recordings, last year. Any plans to re-release some of the earlier albums?
Ulrich: Now that we own our own records and have our own label, we will probably take each album, remaster them and make them available with the latest technology and find interesting outtakes and additional things that will make it special. You do want to cash in, so if you can put some packages together that are special to the fans, it is worth doing.
The National: You guys are also working on “Through The Never”, a new 3D concert film. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Ulrich: The show was shot in Vancouver and Edmonton, in the west of Canada, in August 2012. The production crew spent three weeks after that shooting the non-concert footage. It is a very unusual film. You’ve never seen anything quite like it. In theaters it will be in 3D and is coming out in America in August. We are probably 75 percent through the editing now.
The National: How is the new album progressing?
Ulrich: We are just writing at the moment; we haven’t started [tracking] the record. These live shows help indirectly. When we are writing at home a lot, we get kind of locked into that, so getting a chance to come to Abu Dhabi and then Cape Town and Johannesburg next week is kind of METALLICA getting out of the house for two weeks. When we come back to write, we are inspired by the energy of playing to 20,000 people each night. The one thing with this band is that when things are the same too long, we want to break free of that. We have horrible attention spans.
METALLICA‘s setlist for the Abu Dhabi concert was as follows:
01. Hit The Lights
02. Master Of Puppets
03. The Shortest Straw
04. Harvester Of Sorrow
05. The Unforgiven
06. The Four Horsemen
07. Broken, Beat Scarred
08. Sad But True
09. Fade To Black
12. For Whom The Bell Tolls
14. Nothing Else Matters
15. Enter Sandman
16. Creeping Death
17. Fight Fire With Fire
18. Seek Destroy