Twenty Years Too Lateby Dylan Muhlenberg / 11.01.2010
Four years ago Metallica played at the Coke Fest and I had the opportunity of going back stage and interviewing founder/drummer Lars Ulrich. What followed was a lovely conversation about how everything that I’d come to believe was just a grab-bag of cliches. Then Stage took a dive and I didn’t get to publish the interview. Fortunately Mahala can now provide a platform, and more importantly pay me (almost as badly as Stage would’ve),for the interview that I had with the rock legend. This is how it went…
Dylan: You’ve been here before, right?
Lars Ulrich: I was here when I was a kid with my dad. My dad was a professional tennis player back in the ‘60’s. To be here with the band, play some shows and do tour stuff… It’s been a long time since we’ve been to a country that we haven’t been to before collectively. It’s always fun when you get caught off guard and go to like Table Mountain and Kruger Park and all that stuff.
Is it true that you were some sort of tennis prodigy?
Calling me a tennis prodigy would be pushing it a little bit. I used to hang out on the tennis tour and for at least a few years I was envisioning a future in tennis, but I don’t think my talent could keep up with my vision. You get to fifteen and you want to start having a couple of beers and there’s a very disciplinary side of tennis that you have to keep up. I wasn’t particularly interested in that. My talent wasn’t up to speed with my desire, plus I wasn’t dedicated enough.
How different is South Africa now compared to when you were here?
I can’t remember. I was here in ’67 and was like five-years old. Obviously things were different politically and with the integration and so on, but I don’t remember much. We were here long enough and my dad taught me to speak a little bit of Afrikaans. I’m Danish. Dutch and Afrikaans are obviously similar and Danish and Dutch are not entirely dissimilar. It’s easier to see stuff in writing to understand written stuff than to understand different dialects and accents. Most Anglo-Saxon languages derive from the same place.
So, this is Metallica backstage?
Pretty exciting huh?
Where are the drugs?
You tell me where the drugs are, man.
Outside we’re lining up for hours to get a beer.
You can go line up in front of that refrigerator and see how long it takes.
How different is touring now compared to back in the day?
The main difference is that now we’re a little bit more respectful to the body. Back then it was just whatever, you took all the beatings, stayed up till nine in the morning and now we try get a good nights sleep, have a good half hour rub down. We try stay a little more conscious about being in shape. Other than that it’s still a mind fuck, traveling and meeting people and being uprooted all the time. It’s a weird way to live, more so now that we have kids at home.
What type of dad are you?
I get up at like six and make the kids lunchboxes. It’s not about the cost of it. Especially if you have the ability to do it, it’s more important to take a first hand approach so that the kids grow up with a sense of balance and don’t get raised by a bunch of maids and chauffeurs. I spend all my time at home, waking up and making boxed lunches and driving my kids to school, and doing homework and taking them to Taekwando and rock climbing and soccer practice and birthday parties and all that shit. It’s all about the 1800-dial-a-ride. Yeah so I got to take this guy to a party and this one to fucking baseball practice.
How do your kid’s friends act towards you?
We keep it kind of low profile. You get the occasional seven-year-old saying, ‘I saw you on TV’ but it’s okay.
So when was the last time you did something that was really rock n roll?
Depends on your definition of rock n roll. To me it’s as rock n roll to get up and make a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches for the lunch boxes. I dunno? Me and Kirk and Rob went out to dinner last night, ordered some pretty expensive champagne, sat around and felt pretty decadent for half an hour, then we went home.
What’s your pre-gig ritual?
I sit down, try write an interesting set list. We have a masseuse and a guy that comes in and stretches us. Other than that we have a little room back there called the tuning room, where we go in and jam, so by the time we’ve gone up on stage we’ve played for about 15-20 minutes, just loosen up our old battered bodies. Most of it is just about physical well being, fucking trying to rev up the old engine.
The masseuse, is she hot?
Actually they’re guys. But they’re hot guys. Most of the stuff you’re alluding to, sex, drugs, rock n roll… you’re about twenty years too late, pal. We had most of that fun 15-20 years ago. We still enjoy a drink, but it tends to be sampling the fine South African pinot grapes instead of doing shots of tequila and Jack Daniels. Most of the drug stuff was left behind in the 80’s unfortunately. I wouldn’t say it’s the straight and narrow, but when you have to play for two hours at the pace that we do, you prioritize. What we do is athletic and it’s not like soccer players drink beers before a game.