Mention Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, and you won’t have to wait long before the detractors arrive. Whether it’s regarding his knack for providing barely-filtered opinions, doubts about his ability behind the kit or jibes about that snare drum sound, Lars has taken Ringo-level flak over the years.
So, when the drummer and his bandmates joined shock-jock Howard Stern for an interview promoting new album, 72 Seasons, you might have expected Lars’ playing to come under fire once again.
Instead, Stern took the opportunity to ask Lars about his foot technique, specifically the famous semi-quaver triplet bass drum part from Metallica’s One.
Stern highlights the fact that Lars plays heel-up, prompting Lars to launch into the famous double bass drum part. Hetfield, Hammett and Trujillo join in almost immediately before Stern requests that Lars play it on his own, potentially lighting the touch paper for some Lars-bashing.
Without hesitation, armed (or rather, footed) with two Tama Speed Cobra pedals Lars takes the opportunity to demonstrate not only his pedal technique, but one of his most famous double bass drum parts - one that is a staple beat for metal drummers wanting to learn to use a double pedal.
“I stomp on the kick drum…so I play kind of with the front of my foot.” says Lars, as Stern notes that it’s like “you’re running”.
“It comes from the athletic side of my family,” Lars says of the heel-up technique, commonly-used in rock and metal where more power is required. “Everybody in my family were tennis players or soccer players.”
Stern goes on to ask Lars about the physical aspects of drumming and whether playing double bass drums makes his ankles ache. “No, the worst parts [after live shows] are generally the shoulder and the elbows. They’re the problem areas for me. The feet are not so bad. [The faster tempos] actually flow fairly easy for me.”
When prompted to name the most difficult Metallica song to play on drums, Lars explains that he finds the band’s earlier material more challenging because of the mental aspects rather than the physical parts.
“The ones that are the hardest are the ones where you have to play with your mind. You have to keep thinking about the next part. A lot of the stuff from the earlier, more progressive albums where it’s 5 and then it’s 3, and then there’s a thing coming up with two guys, and you’ve gotta remember that the first time it’s a single tail, then a double tail.” Using the double-time section of One as an example.
“That’s in the head, that’s not in the body, and that’s the harder stuff for me. There are some of those crazy songs from back in the day - The Frayed Ends of Sanity, Eye of the Beholder and The Shortest Straw. Some of those songs we’ve kind of edited along the way to make them a little less heady and a little more physical…"
The interview comes after Lars recently opened up about the level of scrutiny his drumming comes under online, revealing to Metal Hammer that he does read comments about himself. “If you decide to go down into the comment sections, at least for me, you have to prepare yourself for not taking any of it overly personally,”
"You have to kind of remove yourself from it. But I’d like to challenge anybody in a band to say they don’t look at comments." adding, "I mean, I’m not sitting up until four o’clock in the morning scrolling through every one. But when you haven’t put any music out in five or six years and you dump something like Lux Æterna on an unsuspecting world, you’re going to want to see what the feedback is.”
Metallica: 72 Seasons is out now, and the band has a hefty world tour booked throughout 2023. For a full list of dates, click here.