Den News über Lars Schwächeanfall vor dem Donnington 2004 GIG vorangehend, hier das komplette Interview.
Lars Ulrich has had a busy five years. Line-up shuffles, Metallica savaging eachother in Playboy, the abuse he got for taking on Napster. James Hetfield vanishing into rehab for a year, a camera crew following his every move for three years, St.Anger being laid into by critics and fans alike, a massive dose of group therapy, an exhausting world tour and that missed appearance at the 2004 Download festival have all taken their toll. Read on as he tells Joel Melver exactly what it's like to be in Metallica in 2005...
"Fuck me!" exclaims Lars Ulrich in his kitchen in California. "The world tour was awesome! When you've been doing it as trough all the things that we've been trough in the last two or three years, you stop taking it for granted and you start appreciating it more. When you've put in a year on a record and then done 180 dates or whatever, you sit there and go, "That was pretty cool!""
It's a sunny morning in San Fransisco and we have a bunch of penetrating questions to throw at the diminutive sticksman. You'd never know he'd been doing this stuff for the last 20 years: he answers with a cheerful volley of exitable Euro-Californian chatter that makes him sound at times like a 15-year-old schoolboy. Lars is evidently as chuffed as only a man fresh off a $60 million grossing world tour can be.
"We're happy, the fans are happy, we did the best we could - and now I can walk away from it a little." he gushes. "Now we sit around at home, we text eac hother and catch up on the phone from time to time, and chill. Everubody feels good in everything, apart from that one Sunday in June, in your neck of the woods, when things went a little astray, ha ha!"
Which leads us neatly into: What happened at Download 2004, Lars? You didn't show up to Metallica's biggest UK appearance in years, sparking off all kinds of rumours, not helped by the evasive excuses you gave everyone at the time...
"We'd have a heavy touring schedule in Japan, Europe, America and Austrialia." he begins, a little more toughtfully than before. "In the midst of that there were things that had come unravelled in my personal life - my family and my marriage and stuff. I'd had a lot of late nights and early mornings. So I woke up in Copenhagen on the Sunday morning, had a bunch with 14 in-laws and cousins and then I got on the plane I was exhausted."
He pauses before continuing. This clearly isn't an easy subject for him.
"We took off and about halfway over to Midlands Airport...I don't know what the fuck happened, but all of a sudden I just fuckin' lost it. It was pretty fuckin' scary to be in a little fuckin' metal tube at 41,000 feet. I've never had anxiety attacks or any kind of stress attacks ever. It was fuckin' freaky, dude. I'm like: "fuck this!", so we landed in Hamburg and went to the hospital. They took some blood tests and everything was normal physically - it was just everything caught up with me mentally."
Regretfully, he adds: "At about six o'clock I was talking to James and Kirk from my hospital bed and saying, "I'm gonna get on a plane." And they were like, "you're not getting on any fuckin' plane! Stay the fuck in bed and chill out and we'll manage without you." I was saying, "I'm not gonna lay her while you guys are playing the coolest gig in the entire metal universe!" But we all agreed that it was the right thing, and then they told me that they'd talked with some other bands and they were gonna pull it off."
"It was the first Metallica gig I'd ever missed. I was the only one left with a perfect track record! You wanna try lying in a hospital in Germany while [Slayer's] Dave Lombardo - the greatest drummer on the planet - is playing with your band! [Slipknot's] Joey Jordison too! It was a pretty fucked-up day, ha ha! I have a bit with an odd relationship with it - i still haven't looked at the press or the pictures."
Ulrich has always had a flak thrown at him for being not being the best drummer in the world. It can't have been easy having the mighty Lombardo take his place. Does he avoid reading the rewiews because he's worried people will say what a great gig it was?
"No - I fuckin' hope it was a great show!" he chuckles. "If seeing Dave Lombardo and Joey Jordison playing with Metallica isn't a great show, then I don't know what it is! I feel bad for the kids who made the trip, but at the same time I know they got to see something truly unique!"
Ulrich and his band are currently burned out after relentless press and touring, but with the imminent release of the Some Kind Of Monster DVD, Hammer squeezed an interwiew out of him (with the help of the gaggle of the press agents, anyway). But when it comes to the subject of his very own three ours of cinema, he's as enthusiastic as ever.
Did the film save the band, Lars?
"To say that the film saved the band is problably a little too black and white, but it was the big part of the overall picture. The presence of the cameras helped us go to places, you know?"
"There's stuff in there that could be interesting for some people, but not for everybody. With some of the four - or five-hour therapy sessions we went trough - which have been poked fun at, and I appreciate that as well as the next Spinal Tap aficionado - maybe we could do something where we left those things unedited, maybe for a two - or three-hour thing. Who knows? We can do it for the 12 people in the fan club who have insomnia!"
Metallica put seven million dollars into Some Kind Of Monster and then it only made two million at the box office. Is that important to you?
"Please, don't even feel pity for us, heh heh - we're OK!" he snorts. "It depends what your perception is - it's like saying that St.Anger is a failure because it sold five million copies worldwide. Compared to the black album ofcourse it's a failure, but then so is Some Kind Of Monster compared to ET."
Lars comes across as needy of his father Torben Ulrich's approval in the film, I tell him. He shrugs this off. "The way those scenes were edited, I think some of that was exaggerated a little bit. You gotta understand one thing, which is that the day I played him all that music (which Torben advised Lars to delete) was the day after Hetfield left for rehab. Those were testing days on many levels. I've always been proud of my dad and proud of my relationship with him."
Altough the whole film/therapy shebang seemes to have worked out nicely for Metallica - critically and mentally - one person who's less than happy with the results is Dave Mustaine, a long-time-ago 'Tallica band-member and now of Megadeth (like you didn't know that already). Mustaine has spent the last few months slagging Lars off for including in the final Monster edit a scene in which the pair undergo therapy in an attempt to exercise some old demons. "That was the final betrayal," Mustaine told Hammer in the late 2004, "If I ever see Lars again, it'll be too soon."
Have you spoken to Dave since the film came out, Lars?
"No, I haven't," he responds with a sigh, "but over the years I've often felt that I'm in contact with Dave trough the press - it's like - here's Lars and Dave having their conversation. I was surprised it turned out that way. I was obviously saddened, because his contribution is incredibly powerful and moving."
So what happened? Dave says that he initially agreed to the filming, but later requested that those scenes be removed - a request which Metallica refused.
"A while after we recorded it we lost touch," explains Ulrich."He needed to deal with that he needed to deal with, and when he came back from that, things were a little different. I respect that, but we had to make a conscious decision about the stuff involving him - and if we were opening up Metallica to the fans, we felt it was too powerful to omit. But I'm saddened and sorry that it ended up like that."
Unprompted, Ulrich muses: "It's weird, I sometimes feel that I have two relationships with Dave. I have a private relationship with him on the phone and in person, and then there's a different one that gets played out in the public and in the press. Obviously, it makes good copy - "ooh, what's dave saying, what's Lars saying?" and all that bullshit - but it's a little bit sad and there always seems to be a little bit more of that when Megadeth put a new record out."
We think Dave seems to have a good heart, but also to be constantly plagued with resentment...
"Dave's always had a good heart," agrees Lars vehemently. "A great heart. I think stuff just gets in the way sometimes, and I mean, shit, it's not my place to talk much about that. Hopefullt one day it'll settle differently."
The metal world recently witnessed a tragic feud - between the late Dimebag Darrell and his onc great friend Phil Anselmo - which should have been resolved, but never was. In that light, Lars, aren't inter-band feuds such as Mustaine versus Metallica rather meaningless?
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