Metallica producer Bob Rock on the St. Anger snare: “It's a snare drum sound, give it a f***ing break”

Lars Ulrich’s snare drum sound on Metallica’s…difficult 2003 album, St. Anger is largely derided for including one of the least popular snare drum sounds in recorded history. But even if you’re open to the suggestion that it’s not really that bad, it is still uncharacteristic for the band and producer that brought us the thundering roomy drum sound of The Black Album.

However, during a recent interview with Tone-Talk with Dave Friedman and Mark Huzansky, producer Bob Rock took the opportunity to explain how the infamous sound came about, and why he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.

"This is interesting, there is a story. While we were doing [St. Anger], we went to their clubhouse. We were in San Francisco, we went to their Oakland place where they rehearsed with Cliff."

"And we had a great time, and Lars told me about his drums, how they were set up in a certain place. We were looking for inspiration, let's put it this way, because James wasn't there, so I said, 'Pull off the drums, the double kick' because we were fooling around with other drums."

"So he set up the drums in the rehearsal room, we were on our way, and Lars just kept staring at the drums. Finally, he sat behind and said, 'Just give me a snare drum.' I had bought a Plexi Ludwig [Vistalite] snare because I wanted to try it, and he put it on the drum kit, and he said, 'That's the sound.'"

"So basically, we did a demo, and I used two [SM] 58s, a 58 on the kick drum and a couple of whatever simple mics were around, and we did a demo, and that was the sound, and he just would not go back."

"I'm not blaming him, this was about, basically, if you can wrap around a concept, this was the sound of the drums when they were rehearsing the album, it's basically the closest to them being in that clubhouse, and no matter what everybody says, it kept the band together, and that inspired them to go on. So I'm ok with all the flak I've taken. It's a fucking snare-drum sound, give it a break!”

Multiple parody videos have poked fun at St. Anger's snare sound including applying the sound to classic Metallica tracks, as well as recreating it with a professionally-mic'd bin lid. Lars Ulrich had a go himself in the video above, referring to the recorded sound as a "complete abortion".

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.