Metallica's Lars Ulrich

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich On Drumming: “I’ve Never Been Interested In Ability”


Metallica were recently announced to receive Sweden’s Polar Music Prize—an international award that is annually given out to musicians for: “significant achievements in music and/or musical activity, or for achievements which are found to be of great potential importance for music or musical activity.”

In addition to the prestige, the winners are given 1 million Swedish krona ($125,000 USD,) which Metallica themselves have already announced they will donate to their charity, the All Within My Hands Foundation. While the band won’t receive the award officially until June 14th, they recently conducted a series of individual interviews for the organization behind it.

During drummer Lars Ulrich‘s chat, he notably spoke on his approach to drumming and technicality—something many generally criticize him for having a lack of. Regarding that, he offered:

“To me, it’s always about the song. The band first—and the drums or the guitars, or whatever else is going on, is just part of the big picture. So what you always have to do is check your ego at the door and do what’s best for the song, for the music, for the overall sound.

And so to me, what’s always the most interesting to me about drumming is how do you fit the drums into what else is going on. How does it work with accents and special hits and kind of things that make it more rhythmic and dynamic and just kind of add a physicality to it.

I’ve never been very interested in ability. ‘Oh, wow! This guy is so great!’ Yeah, he’s so great, but it doesn’t mean that he can make it swing, or it doesn’t mean that he can make it work within a group or a collective.

And so to me, it’s just… For as much as I grew up on people like Ian Paice from Deep Purple—who obviously has a lot of ability; I also love people like Phil Rudd and Charlie Watts, who has… certainly ability—but I think to a lot of purists, maybe not so much because they’re not as technical.

But they have a different kind of ability that to me is as valuable and as precious and as important in that they make it swing, they make it move, it gives it that physicality that it needs.

So I’ve always just looked at drums as more of a group instrument. I’ve never been very interested in playing drums by myself—you know sitting down in the basement and practicing drum solos for hours at a time—that’s not my thing.

So, being in a band, writing songs, making records, being part of a gang, being part of a band. That’s always fascinated me.”