Lars Ulrich – Biography
The legendary Metallica would never have even come into existence if it wasn’t for drummer and co-founder Lars Ulrich. In 1981, Ulrich posted an advertisement in the Los Angeles newspaper ‘The Recycler.’ He was looking for other musicians to jam with. Because of that ad, history was made.
Before that historical advertisement ran in the paper, Ulrich was a young, music-obsessed stickman. Born on Dec. 26, 1963, in Gentofte, Denmark, the first concert he ever attended was Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple at the age of 10, and from there his life goal was set. To further the impact the music made on his life, Ulrich immediately picked up Deep Purple’s ‘Fireball.’ Nearly three years later, he received his first drum kit from his grandmother.
In addition to rock ‘n’ roll, Ulrich had another passion in his life, a passion you might not expect. In 1980, the young Danish rocker moved to Los Angeles to pursue training as a tennis player. It didn’t take long for him to leave the tennis raquet behind and pick up his drumsticks. It was in 1981 that Ulrich discovered the music of England’s Diamond Head. It was like the 10-year-old Deep Purple fan was reborn. Soon after discovering Diamond Head and realizing his love for heavy metal, Ulrich took a trip to London to see them live at the Woolwich Odeon. However, since Ulrich was young and short-sighted, he found himself stuck in London without any place to stay or go after the show. With his passion and enthusiasm for the band, he somehow worked his way backstage and met Diamond Head. Lead guitarist Brian Tatler was impressed with the excitement Ulrich displayed for his band, so he let him crash at his place. For the next few weeks, Ulrich called Tatler’s house his home. After finding his way back to the States, Ulrich decided it was time to find friends to rock out with and placed that renowned ad in ‘The Recycler.’
Once James Hetfield answered the ad, it didn’t take long for the band to take shape. After Ulrich worked out a deal with Metal Blade Records to work on a demo, Metallica recorded ‘Hit The Lights’ for the original Metal Massacre compilation. Ulrich’s drumming style became tighter and tighter with each performance, carving out his own way to blast out killer thrash and metal beats.
When Metallica released their self-titled disc in 1991 (aka The Black Album), Ulrich began to head down a different road as a drummer, focusing on simpler rhythm style. While that style continued through ‘Load’ and ‘ReLoad,’ it abruptly ended when ‘St. Anger’ dropped in 2003. The sound that has become indicative of the love/hate relationship fans have with this album is without a doubt the unique snare sound he created by turning off the snares on his drum. With 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic,’ though, Ulrich returned to the early thrash style that he honed so perfectly. Quick, crazy and complex metal beats came back into the picture for Metallica.
As Ulrich primarily focuses on being the musical backbone and foundation for Metallica, he has been known to get behind the microphone. Although rare to hear his voice, you can hear Ulrich in the opening of ‘Leper Messiah’ on 1986’s ‘Master of Puppets’ and also blasting out the chorus on the band’s cover of The Ramones’ ’53rd & 3rd’ on the tribute album ‘We’re a Happy Family.’ And only once in his career did Ulrich pick up the sticks to record a tune for a different band than his beloved Metallica. Released on June 6, 1993, the special edition of Mercyful Fate’s (fronted by King Diamond) ‘In the Shadows’ includes the bonus track, ‘Return of the Vampire… 1993.’ This track features Ulrich on drums.
When he’s not in the studio, Ulrich is an avid art collector. In fact, on Nov. 12, 2008 at an auction in New York City, Ulrich sold a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting for $13.5 million. In addition to art, Ulrich is a huge fan of cinema. In fact, at Metallica’s inaugural Orion Music + More festival, Ulrich screened several of his favorite flicks including ‘Blue Valentine’ and a documentary that is about a fan’s desire to meet the drummer, ‘Mission to Lars.’
As if those hobbies wouldn’t keep the metal legend busy, Ulrich has also spent his spare time as an outspoken advocate for the music industry with his public disapproval of the music file sharing service known as Napster. Now while Napster today is a completely legal and legitimate operation, that was not the case in 2000. Before Metallica’s ‘I Disappear’ was released on the soundtrack for the second Mission Impossible movie, ‘M:i-2,’ the band discovered an unfinished version floating around Napster.
In April 2000, Metallica filed a lawsuit against Napster, alleging that the file sharing company had committed copyright infringements. In the suit, Ulrich stated, “We take our craft – whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork – very seriously, as do most artists. It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy – taking something that doesn’t belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong.” Nearly a year later, Napster settled the suit, although the settlement came after the company had already been shut down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The stickman behind the signature beat of Metallica endorses Tama Drums, Zildjian Cymbals and Remo Drumheads. All of his pedals and hardware are Tama. In 1994, he began jamming with Easton Ahead aluminum drumsticks.
When he’s not making millions of dollars selling his personal art collection, starring in documentaries or shutting down music pirating operations, Ulrich spends time with his three sons Myles, Layne and Bryce. He is currently dating a fellow Dane, Connie Nielsen.