‘Lars Was Terrible’: James Hetfield Recalls The First Time He Saw Lars Ulrich Drum

Lars Ulrich by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images James Hetfield Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for P+ and MTV
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As much as we like to give Lars Ulrich a hard time every now and again, let’s keep it real here- the guy’s contributions to heavy metal music are kind of unmatched.

His drumming on those first few classic records changed the course of metal music (and metal drumming forever). Sure, Napster. Sure, ‘Some Kind of Monster’. Sure, that “St. Anger” snare drum (and album). But look, everyone has their missteps over the course of a multi-decade-long career, so it’s all love here, baby.

That said, James Hetfield himself once had no reservations about sharing his initial reactions to hearing Lars drum. For context, we think this story he’s telling would’ve likely been around the time that James was still in Leather Charm, his pre-Metallica musical outfit. Per Hetfield:

“Myself and there was another guitar player, Hugh Tanner. him and I went to high school together. We were the next KK Downing and Glen Tipton. I was  Flying V and he had a Strat [laughter]… But, we were looking for a drummer, and we found Lars in the paper and we went and auditioned him.

And it didn’t work out- Lars was terrible. But, he had something. He had this drive that I had. He was going to be in a band, even though he couldn’t play. And that sounds familiar to me.

It was probably 6 to 8 months later he called saying ‘hey, I’ve got a record deal and I need to put a band together’. And by then, he had gotten quite a bit better.

You know, he’s always been the business side of it [Metallica], and I’m the more musical, creative artwork guy.”

Ulrich’s sometimes rocky tenure in the group has been well documented over the years, too.

Tourmate and friend Scott Ian of Anthrax recalled in his autobiography that Metallica was actually toying with the idea of giving Lars the axe during the ‘Master of Puppets’ touring days:

“The story was that [Metallica] had made a plan that they were gonna make a change and get a new drummer. We were all kind of blown away by that, because it was the four of them. It was just, like, ‘Wow! Really?’ And they were, like, ‘Yeah. When we finish this tour, we’re gonna find a new drummer.’

What could I do, just as a guy that’s friends with all of them? That’s a bummer for Lars, that sucks, and at the same time, you hope that your friends can continue on and do what they want to do with themselves. Obviously, history turned out differently for that band, and they went on to become one of arguably the biggest bands on the planet.”

Kirk Hammett would later go on to confirm Scott’s statements. All that said, let’s be honest- Metallica isn’t Metallica without Lars and the band would be nuts for ever trying to carry on without him.

Watch James explain his initial reaction to Lars’ drumming below: