Lars Ulrich

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lars Ulrich
Lars Ulrich at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International held in San Diego, July 19, 2013
Background information
Born (1963-12-26) December 26, 1963 (age 51)
Gentofte, Denmark[1][2]
Genres Heavy metal, thrash metal, hard rock, speed metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer, actor
Instruments Drums, vocals
Years active 1980–present
Associated acts Metallica

Lars Ulrich (/ˈʌlrɪk/ UL-rik; Danish: [lɑːs ˈulˀʁæɡ̊]; born December 26, 1963) is a Danish drummer and one of the founding members of the American heavy metal/thrash metal band Metallica. He was born in Gentofte, Denmark to an upper-middle-class family.[1] A tennis player in his youth (he is the son of former tennis pro Torben Ulrich), Ulrich was originally a drummer in San Francisco. He then moved to Los Angeles at age sixteen in the summer of 1980 to train in the sport of tennis. However, rather than playing tennis, he began playing the drums. After publishing an advertisement in a local Los Angeles newspaper called The Recycler, Ulrich met James Hetfield and formed Metallica.

Early life[edit]

Lars Ulrich was born on December 26, 1963, in Gentofte, Denmark, the son of Lone (née Sylvester-Hvid) and Torben Ulrich.[3] His paternal grandfather was tennis player Einer Ulrich. His paternal grandmother, Ulla Meyer, was from a Jewish family, and as a result, Ulrich's father was persecuted by the Nazis during World War II.[4] Saxophonist Dexter Gordon was Ulrich's godfather, and he's a childhood friend of Neneh Cherry.[5] In February 1973, Lars' father obtained five passes for five of his friends to a Deep Purple concert that was being held in the same Copenhagen stadium as one of his tournaments. When it was discovered that one of the friends could not go, their ticket was handed over to the nine-year-old Ulrich. The young Ulrich was mesmerized by the performance, buying the band's Fireball album the next day. The concert and the album had a considerable impact on Ulrich, inspiring the start of his career in rock and roll and later on, heavy metal. As a result of his newfound interest in music, he received his first drum kit from his grandmother at the age of twelve,[6] a Ludwig. Ulrich originally intended to play tennis, and he moved to America in 1980.[7]

In 1981, Ulrich discovered British heavy metal band Diamond Head. He was excited about the band's style of music after purchasing their debut album Lightning to the Nations (1980). He traveled from San Francisco to London to see the band perform live at the Woolwich Odeon. Ulrich remains a fan of Diamond Head and mixed its album The Best of Diamond Head.[8] Upon returning to America, Ulrich placed an ad in a local newspaper looking for musicians to start a band with him. James Hetfield replied to the ad, and Metallica was formed.


Ulrich in 2008

Later in 1981, Ulrich met James Hetfield in Downey, California and they formed the heavy metal band Metallica. He got the name "Metallica" from a friend, Ron Quintana, who was brainstorming names for a heavy metal fanzine he was creating, and Metallica was one of the options, the other being "Metal Mania." Ulrich encouraged him to choose Metal Mania, and used the name Metallica for himself.[citation needed] He became known as a pioneer of fast thrash drum beats, featured on many of Metallica's early songs, such as "Metal Militia" from Kill 'Em All, "Fight Fire with Fire" from Ride the Lightning, "Battery" and "Damage Inc." from Master of Puppets and "Dyers Eve" from ...And Justice for All. He has since been considerably influential due to both the popularity of his band, as well as his drum techniques, such as the double bass drum in the song "One" (...And Justice for All) and Dyer's Eve. Since the release of Metallica, Ulrich adopted a less focused and simplified style of drumming, and reduced his kit from a 9-piece to a 7-piece.

Between 1998 and 2002, Ulrich tried running a record label, the Music Company. The company was a joint venture with Metallica accountant Tim Duffy. It failed to catch on and folded in the spring 2002.[9]

Ulrich's voice can be heard in the opening seconds of "Leper Messiah" and he also counts to four in his native Danish on the "St. Anger" music video.

He made his acting debut in the HBO original film Hemingway & Gellhorn, which began filming in March 2011 and was released on May 28, 2012.[10] Ulrich made a brief cameo appearance as himself in the film Get Him to the Greek, as the partner of the character Jackie Q.[11] He and fellow Metallica member James Hetfield guest starred in one episode of the animated series Dave the Barbarian as a pair of metalhead dragons.

In 2012, Ulrich was the focus of the documentary film, "Mission to Lars". The film by Kate and Will Spicer concerns their journey with their brother Tom, who lives in a care home in Devon, England and who has Fragile X syndrome, to try to meet Lars at one of Metallica's 2009 gigs in California.[12]

To unwind after certain gigs, Lars listens to jazz.[13]

Lars has publicly stated his respect and admiration for Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, during an interview at the Golden Gods Awards.


Lars Ulrich in Madrid in 2009.

Ulrich's drumming style has changed throughout his career. During the 1980s he was known for his fast, aggressive thrash beats. He would often utilize the double bass technique in Latin breakbeats (which is influenced greatly from the Motorhead song "Overkill"), which has become highly popular among heavy metal drummers. The best examples of this are "Metal Militia" (Kill 'Em All), "Fight Fire with Fire" (Ride the Lightning), "Battery" (Master of Puppets), "Damage, Inc." (Master of Puppets), "Blackened" (...And Justice for All), "One" (...And Justice for All), "That Was Just Your Life" (Death Magnetic), "All Nightmare Long" (Death Magnetic) and, arguably his most extreme, "Dyers Eve" (...And Justice for All), among others. Ulrich uses groove in his drum style, including clean and fast double bass beats in many songs and heavy drum fills. He has been known to drum in sync with the rhythm guitar played by James Hetfield.[14]


Napster controversy[edit]

In April 2000, Ulrich became a vocal opponent of Napster and file sharing as Metallica filed a lawsuit against the company for copyright infringement and racketeering. In July 2000, he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee after Metallica's entire catalogue, including the then-unfinished track "I Disappear" was found to be freely available for download on the service. The case was settled out-of-court, resulting in more than 300,000 Napster users being banned from the service.[15] Since the Napster ordeal, Ulrich was quoted by LAUNCHcast as having some regrets:[16]

"I wish that I was know, I felt kind of ambushed by the whole thing because I didn't really know enough about what we were getting ourselves into when we jumped. [...] We didn't know enough about the kind of grassroots thing, and what had been going on the last couple of months in the country as this whole new phenomenon was going on. We were just so stuck in our controlling ways of wanting to control everything that had to do with Metallica. So we were caught off guard and we had a little bit of a rougher landing on that one than on other times than when we just blindly leaped. But you know, I'm still proud of the fact that we did leap...and I took a lot of hits and it was difficult."
— Lars Ulrich

Drumming Skills[edit]

Lars is often criticised to be a poorly skilled drummer by the fans and media and that his performance has diminished over the years.[17][18] This began in the 1990s and early 2000s when he simplified his drum rhythms in order to fit the shift in Metallica's overall musical style, which was a huge contrast to his previous performance. Prior to forming Metallica, it has been said that Lars Ulrich had a small beginners kit that he never played, and James Hetfield originally did not want to jam with Ulrich due to the drummer's novice abilities.

"[The criticism] used to [bother me], back in the day – and I spent a lot of time overcompensating for that on the early records. But then you wake up one day and you're like, 'whatever.' It hasn't bothered me for about 15 years. I'm no Joey Jordison. I'm no Mike Portnoy, and I have nothing but love and respect and admiration for all those guys. When I hear some of the young dudes, they blow my mind with what they can do with their feet and stuff – but it's not something that makes me go, 'I need to feel better about myself so I'm gonna learn how to do what they do with my feet.' I'm not a particularly accomplished drummer but I am very, very, very good at understanding the role of the drums next to James Hetfield's rhythm guitar. I guarantee you I'm the best guy in the world for that, and that's enough for me!"
— Lars Ulrich[19]

This started with Metallica, and very roughly ended with St. Anger. With Metallica's ninth album, Death Magnetic, Ulrich made a return to his style from the 1980s, in which he played slightly more complex and fast rhythms. Anthrax founder and guitarist Scott Ian mentioned in his memoir that in 1986, he recalled a conversation he had with Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett about them considering firing Lars from the band. He never asked why but he suspected that it was because they wanted a better drummer. However, in a 2014 interview with radio station KILO 94.3, he felt that Metallica wouldn't have fired Lars after all.[20]

Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo defended Lars' drumming skills in a 2014 interview saying that he is a good arranger and that he plays an important role in Metallica. He said, "Without Lars, there wouldn't be a Metallica. So you have to give him credit for what he does for the band." While speaking with UK's Rhythm magazine back in 2009, Lombardo was a bit more critical of Lars' drumming abilities, saying that playing with Metallica at Download in 2004 was a great experience, but adding that it was good to "show 'em how it's done!" Dave continued. "No disrespect to Lars, because Lars is great and he's a very nice guy, but he needs to spend a week at my house and we need to sit down and play. I could show him — 'No, Lars, like this!'… 'Let's chill, let's relax, have some coffee and let's play!' [Laughs]" A few months later, Lombardo was asked by Noisecreep if Ulrich had ever accepted his offer of drum lessons. "Oh man, no, he hasn't," Lombardo said that the comment he made was merely a joke.[21]

In a 2015 interview, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy spoke about Lars that he has great respect for him not only as a writer but as a businessman, marketeer, composer, and performer.

"To me, I would rather watch somebody like Lars Ulrich on stage than one of these technical drummers that can do quadruple paradiddles at 240bpm. To me, that's boring. Who cares about that? I'd rather be entertained and go to a show and watch a drummer and have somebody that makes me actually smile. So I don't judge drummers based on their technical ability; I judge them based on the overall package and what they bring to the music they're part of. And what Lars brings to the music of METALLICA is absolutely invaluable. So I could care less if his meter might be slightly up and down, or if his fills are slightly sloppy; I don't care about that. To me, there's way more to being a good drummer than precision and technique."
— Mike Portnoy[22]

Personal life[edit]


Lars Ulrich in 2009

Ulrich has been married three times. His first marriage was in 1988 to Debbie Jones, a British woman he met on tour, but they divorced in 1990 due to Ulrich's constant absence during the recording of Metallica. That self-titled album ended up being released on August 12, 1991.

His second marriage was to Skylar Satenstein, an emergency medicine physician, from 1997 to 2004. They have two sons, Myles (b. 1998), and Layne (b. 2001).[citation needed] Myles is following his father's footsteps by playing drums for the band My Missing Half.[citation needed]

Following his divorce from Satenstein, Ulrich dated Danish actress Connie Nielsen from mid-2004 until 2012. The couple had their first child, Bryce Thadeus Ulrich-Nielsen, (b. 2007) in San Francisco.[23] Nielsen also has another son named Sebastian (b. 1990).[citation needed]

Ulrich is currently married to fashion model Jessica Miller.[24]

Awards and honors[edit]

When he and fellow Metallica members Hetfield, Newsted, Burton, Hammett and Trujillo were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, Ulrich was the first Dane to receive the honor.[25]


In terms of charity, Ulrich has been an activist in support of expanding access to health care for Americans, with his family working with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic of San Francisco, California. He particularly raised $32,000 for the group during a celebrity edition of the popular Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? program.[26]


Musically speaking, Ulrich is a fan of a wide variety of genres, feeling particularly passionate about jazz music. He is particularly inspired by the influential tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who was Ulrich's godparent.[27]

Ulrich, a friend of Noel Gallagher, is a fan of Gallagher's former band Oasis and claimed Gallagher was his inspiration to give up cocaine in 2008. Ulrich has also expressed his desire to sometime play drums in Gallagher's current band Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.[28]


Current tour kit (2008–Present)[edit]

  • Drums – Tama Starclassic Maple, LU Magnetic Orange.[29] Ulrich uses the same kit, in a green finish, in the tuning room (prior to performances) and in the studio. In 2013, Ulrich began using the silver drum kit last seen around the filming of S&M.
    • 10"×8" Tom
    • 12"×10" Tom
    • 16"×14" Floor Tom
    • 16"×16" Floor Tom
    • 22"×16" Bass Drum (×2)
    • 14"×6.5" Lars Ulrich Signature Snare Drum
      • Note: Ulrich uses the standard Lars Ulrich Signature LU1465 snare live on tour (diamond plate), while he uses both the LU1465 and LU1465BB (bell brass) in the studio, depending on what type of sound he wants.
  • Cymbals – Zildjian[30][31]
    • 14" Z Custom Dyno Beat Hi-Hats
    • 17" A Custom Projection Crash
    • 18" A Custom Projection Crash (×2)
    • 19" A Custom Projection Crash
    • 18" Oriental China Trash (used as a ride)
    • 20" Oriental China Trash
      • Note: Ulrich will occasionally use a 22" A Custom Ping Ride when playing live. He has also used splash cymbals in past tours.
  • DrumheadsRemo
    • Toms – Coated Emperor | Clear Ambassador
    • Bass – Clear Powerstroke 3/Powersonic (depending on venue)| Ebony Powerstroke 3
    • Snare – Coated Controlled Sound (black dot on reverse) | Clear Hazy Ambassador
  • Hardware – Tama and Drum Workshop
    • Tama IronCobra Power-Glide Single Pedal (×2)
    • Tama IronCobra Lever-Glide Hi-Hat Stand
    • Tama Roadpro Cymbal Stand w/Counterweight (×2)
    • Tama Roadpro Cymbal Stand (×3)
    • Tama Roadpro Double Tom Stand
    • Tama Roadpro Snare Stand
    • Tama Cymbal Holder (×2)
    • Tama Multi-Clamp (×2)
    • Tama Hi-Hat Attachment
    • Tama Ergo-Rider Drum Throne
    • DW Drop-Lock Hi-Hat Clutch
  • Other
    • Ahead Lars Ulrich Signature Sticks (1994–present)
    • Calato Regal Tip Lars Ulrich Signature sticks (1981–1993)



Main article: Metallica discography

Mercyful Fate[edit]


  1. ^ a b Scaggs, Austin (September 2, 2004). "Lars Ulrich". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow Publishers) (956): 64. ISSN 0035-791X. 
  2. ^ "Lars Ulrich". Metallica.Com. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ ": OneTrees by MacGregor Sadolin". Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Conversation : Lars and Torben Ulrich" (PDF). Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Lars Ulrich on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire"". YouTube. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Metallica". The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music. ...emigrated to USA '80 ... 
  8. ^ "Galaway Advertiser, The Week, June 2007". Retrieved October 30, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Lars Ulrich's Record Label Sees Red, Fades to Black" May 23, 2002 Retrieved August 11, 2014
  10. ^ HBO Builds Cast For 'Hemingway & Gellhorn' Deadline. March 10, 2011
  11. ^ "Metallica's Lars Ulrich has cameo in Get Him to The Greek" Artist Direct May 21, 2010 Retrieved June 4, 2012
  12. ^ "Mission To Lars". Mission To Lars. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ Everitt, Matt (June 27, 2014). "BBC News – Metallica on Glastonbury: 'The downside is we have to stay sober'". Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ Wall, Mick (2011). Enter Night: A Biography Of Metallica. Orion. ISBN 1409121674. 
  15. ^ Shenaz Bagha. "Napster bans more than 300,000 for downloading Metallica". The Falcon Newspaper. 
  16. ^ [1] Archived March 10, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "LARS ULRICH Is 'Unbelievably Bad' On Drums And METALLICA 'Is Shite,' Say Scottish Post-Rock Icons MOGWAI". Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  18. ^ Tavana, Art. "Does Lars from Metallica actually suck?". Death and Taxes. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  19. ^ McIver, Joel (2012). Rhythm Presents 100 Drum Heroes. Future Publishing Ltd. p. 66. ISBN 1858706114. 
  20. ^ Kaufman, Spencer. "Scott Ian Recalls Time When Metallica Discussed Firing Lars Ulrich". Loudwire. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "What Does DAVE LOMBARDO Really Think About LARS ULRICH's Drumming Abilities?". Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "Is METALLICA's LARS ULRICH A Good Drummer? MIKE PORTNOY Weighs In". Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  23. ^ "METALLICA Drummer LARS ULRICH, Girlfriend CONNIE NIELSEN Expecting". December 6, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2006. 
  24. ^ "Lars Ulrich, Jessica Miller: Metallica Drummer Dating American Model". Noisecreep. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  25. ^ Kory Grow. "Metallica's Lars Ulrich on the Rock Hall – 'Two Words: Deep Purple'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 14, 2014. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Lars Ulrich wants to play drums for Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds" Diffuser April 20, 2012 Retrieved June 4, 2012
  29. ^ "TAMA – artist profile – Lars Ulrich" (in Japanese). Retrieved October 30, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Zildjian Artists|Lars Ulrich". Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  31. ^ [2] Archived January 11, 2015 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]