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In advance of Saturday's much-anticipated Metallica, Paul Peterson caught Metallica's loquacious drummer Lars Ulrich on the phone during an off day in St. Louis. Read a fuller version of the interview here.
Do you happen to recall a brief stop in a little Arkansas town called Bald Knob about 27 years ago?
Oh yeah. It was a field full of moss and mosquitoes and large insects probably I'd never seen before. It was August of 1983 and it was about 140 degrees and 95 percent humidity and not a very fun place to wake up when you're very hung over. I think we played to about 12 people on a big slab in the middle of the Balk Knob amphitheatre. Had a good time doing it and lived to talk about it.
Any similarities playing live now to when you first began, 27 years ago, cutting your teeth in San Francisco and on early road shows? I mean, from Bald Knob Amphitheater to Alltel is a large difference, but is there a certain gratification from playing live that remains the same?
There certainly is. It's the anticipation, the possibilities — that feeling you never quite know what's going to happen, being onstage sharing that experience with a bunch of people you don't know but have something in common with. It's a very alive thing. There's a great human energy that I think is very much the same as it was 27 years ago, obviously on a bit of a larger scale. And it's indoors and you're in the middle of the building. It's absolutely awesome.
You guys have paid great, great homage to a slew of bands you admire. From Budgie (“Breadfan”) to Queen (“Stone Cold Crazy”) — you've done Bob Seeger justice. Are there any covers that you particularly enjoy playing? Maybe it's hard to pick favorites, but does any tune come to mind?
Since you mentioned it, I really love playing “Stone Cold Crazy.” I love playing the Misfits songs, “Last Caress.” And I definitely like playing the Diamond Head (“It's Electric”) stuff, naturally. Most of the cover songs we feel are songs that are should be Metallica songs. Do you know what I mean?
Ones you wish you'd written yourselves?
You got it. Absolutely. It's been fun to have that side of Metallica, a little lighter side, if you will. We take our own songwriting somewhat seriously sometimes and it's been pretty funny, a lot of fun, to play those songs and have that kind of outlet.
You've worked with three bassists; from a drummer's perspective can you talk about their stylistic differences?
Jason was kind of the aggro-metal; he played a lot with James. Cliff Burton, kind of classical. His training came from a whole unique place, with some elements of ZZ Top and Lynyrnd Skynrd. He also definitely had a bit of classical training, and actually went to college. Trujillo almost has a kind of R&B background, a little bit of a different bounce, a little funk, so that's also very cool. All very, very different from each other. That's for sure.