Lars Ulrich on Drumming: ‘I’ve Never Been Interested in Ability’
A recent interview conducted by the Polar Music Prize – which is referred to as the "Nobel prize for music" and which the band was named 2018 recipients of – finds Ulrich commenting on his "totally unique way of playing drums." "I've never been very interested in ability," he says in the video, which you can watch above. "'Oh, wow! This guy is so great!' Yeah, he's so great, but it doesn't mean that he can make it swing, or it doesn't mean that he can make it work within a group or a collective."
Ulrich explained that putting the pieces together always meant more to him than nailing awesome fills or doing something different or even keeping perfect time. (We're guessing on a couple of these.) "What's always the most interesting to me about drumming is how do you fit the drums into what else is going on?" he said. "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?"
He also said that he's always "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, that's not my thing."
These admissions probably won't shock the many people who've pointed out Ulrich's shortcomings behind the kit over the years. There are dozens of videos out there highlighting his random tempo shifts, his incorrect beats and his missed entrances at Metallica shows.
Even though ability may not be his thing, Ulrich noted that he's a fan of Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, "who obviously has a lot of ability." But he added that he saves his admiration for more workmanlike and less showy musicians like AC/DC's Phil Rudd and the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts. They have a "certainly ability," he said, "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."
Metallica will receive the Polar Music Prize in Sweden this spring. They plan to donate the money awarded with the honor – around $125,000 – to All Within My Hands, an organization the band founded that helps communities with local services like food-bank donations and workforce education.