Lars Ulrich: "I've never been very interested in ability"

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, the target of many a drum purist's gripes despite, or perhaps because of, a hugely successful career, has been speaking about his attitude to pure kit technique. Unsurprisingly, as one of the band's leading songwriters, he's more interested in arrangements than chops.

Metallica, alongside The Afghanistan National Institute of Music, have been announced as winners of the Polar Music Prize 2018, an annual award whose previous 'laureates' include Robert Moog, BB King, Led Zepelin and Quincy Jones. Interviewed by the organisation, Ulrich talked at length about the band's career and his own musical development.

I've never been very interested in playing drums by myself - you know, sitting down in a basement, practicing drum solos for hours at a time

"To me, it's always about the song and the band first," he said. "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 you have to check your ego at the door and do what's best for the song, for the music, for the overall sound.

"What's always the most interesting to me 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 or more dynamic or just add a kind of 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."

"I love people like Phil Rudd and Charlie Watts, who certainly have 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.

"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 a basement, practicing drum solos for hours at a time."

(Image credit: NurPhoto / Getty)

MusicRadar is the number one website for music-makers of all kinds, be they guitarists, drummers, keyboard players, DJs or producers...

  • GEAR: We help musicians find the best gear with top-ranking gear round-ups and high-quality, authoritative reviews by a wide team of highly experienced experts.
  • TIPS: We also provide tuition, from bite-sized tips to advanced work-outs and guidance from recognised musicians and stars.
  • STARS: We talk to musicians and stars about their creative processes, and the nuts and bolts of their gear and technique. We give fans an insight into the craft of music-making that no other music website can.