Lars Ulrich: Metal Drummer, Danish Bohemian

September 13, 2011
Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Lars Ulrich stopped by to promote Metallica’s upcoming concert at Yankee Stadium, and, at Howard’s request, started at the beginning—he grew up in Denmark with bohemian—but not poor—parents. “I grew up poor in the friendship-area,” the drummer admitted to Howard Tuesday morning. “I was sort of a loner.

Until he was around 14 or 15, Lars played tennis like his father, at one point ranking in his age group’s nationwide top ten. “In my mind, I was almost a professional tennis player,” he noted before discussing his shift to music and learning the drums by playing along to his favorite records. “I actually had to go back after we put our first record out—before ‘Ride the Lightning’—[and] I took lessons for about six months,” he revealed. “Because there were some basic rudiments that I didn’t even know.

He also admitted that was still a virgin when he co-founded Metallica. “Hand on heart, yeah,I was,” he explained. “[Until] I ran off with one of [original Metallica guitarist] Dave Mustaine’s girlfriends. That was the first.

He Smoked Pot with His Parents

Howard asked if some of the friction between Lars and Metallica frontman James Hetfield—as documented in the “Some Kind of Monster” documentary—was rooted in jealousy for Lars’s upbringing, so Lars shrugged. “I think that initially he might have been a little jealous of the, um, somewhat functioning family structure that I had going,” he admitted. “I was the only guy in those circles that didn’t hate my parents … I’d smoke pot with my parents.

What Happened to Jason?

When questioned why James kicked bassist Jason Newsted out of the band, Lars begged off. “When there’s something going on that doesn’t involve me, I stay the fuck out of it,” he noted. “I ran screaming in the other direction.

Still, Lars said he sympathized with Jason. “James’s whole thing at that time was that he wanted that kind of, what’s the word, loyalty. He wanted that kind of dedication. And to stray from outside of Metallica was to show weakness … nobody was allowed to breathe outside of Metallica,” he said before noting he though Jason was justified in seeking an outlet. Lars accepted partial blame (“I stood on the sidelines like a f’ing pussy.”), adding that Jason was justified in seeking an outlet: “He was not involved in the creative side of Metallica. He had no voice in Metallica.

Even now, Lars seeks James’ approval for most any project outside the band. “I go, ‘Listen, I’ve got this opportunity to put my toe into that. I’m interested in the creative process. Are you OK with that?‘

A Man of Metal, Not Bad Blood

Howard asked if there was still any bad blood between Lars and Dave Mustaine, but Lars didn’t think so. “He’s been mad at me for many things that I may or may not have done so it’s difficult to keep up with that,” he admitted. “But we’re all good now.

Lars credited this peace and clarity to a drug-free lifestyle, saying he quit cocaine because of the day after. “I would feel so bad the next day, it just wasn’t worth it anymore,” he explained.

The drummer also said he enjoyed monogamy more than the ‘dating’ he’d enjoyed when the band was first successful, though he admits he that reconciling those early days with his modern domestic life has been a long struggle. ‘The first time I went furniture shopping, I was like, ‘OK, do I have to get all black furniture?” he recalled with a laugh.