Lars Ulrich

Lars Ulrich

Lars Ulrich at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International held in San Diego on July 19, 2013
Background information
Born (1963-12-26) December 26, 1963
Gentofte, Denmark[1][2]
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • actor
  • record producer
  • Drums
  • percussion
Years active 1980–present
Associated acts
Notable instruments

Lars Ulrich (/ˈʌlrɪk/ UL-rik; Danish: [lɑːs ˈulˀʁæɡ̊]; born December 26, 1963) is a Danish musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and co-founder of the American heavy metal band Metallica.[3] 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 moved to Los Angeles at age sixteen in the summer of 1980 to train. However, rather than playing tennis, he began playing the drums. After publishing an advertisement in a local classified ads newspaper called The Recycler, Ulrich met James Hetfield and formed Metallica.

Early life

Ulrich was born in Gentofte, Denmark, the son of Lone (née Sylvester-Hvid) and Torben Ulrich.[4] 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.[5] Saxophonist Dexter Gordon was Ulrich's godfather, and he is a childhood friend of musician Neneh Cherry.[6]

In February 1973, Ulrich's 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 one of the friends could not go, they gave their ticket to the nine-year-old Ulrich. 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,[7] a Ludwig. Ulrich originally intended to play tennis, and he moved to America in 1980.[8]

In the documentary, Anvil: The story of Anvil, Ulrich states that witnessing a Y&T show was his defining moment in deciding to become a musician. 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.[9] 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.

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.[10] His 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 28 May 2012.[11] Ulrich made a brief cameo appearance as himself in the film Get Him to the Greek, as the partner of the character Jackie Q.[12]

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 Ulrich at one of Metallica's 2009 gigs in California.[13]

To unwind after certain gigs, Ulrich listens to jazz.[14]


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 became highly popular among heavy metal drummers. The best examples of this are found in songs such as "Metal Militia" (Kill 'Em All), "Fight Fire with Fire" (Ride the Lightning), "Battery", "Damage, Inc." (Master of Puppets), "Blackened", "One", "Dyers Eve" (...And Justice for All), "That Was Just Your Life", "All Nightmare Long" and "My Apocalypse" (Death Magnetic). The 2016 release of Metallica's Hardwired... To Self-Destruct saw a more aggressive and experimental drumming style from Ulrich. 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.[15]


Napster controversy

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.[16] Ulrich was quoted by LAUNCHcast as having some regrets:[17]

"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."

Drumming skills

Ulrich has been criticised for being a poorly skilled drummer by some fans and media and for diminished performance over the years.[18][19] Ulrich said in a 2012 interview that he "regressed" at drumming; although he exercises regularly to stay fit, he doesn't regularly practice drums "in order to get better."[20][21]

"[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[22]

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 Ulrich 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 Ulrich after all.[23] Kirk Hammett confirmed in 2015 that he indeed considered firing Ulrich in 1985 but managed to resolve whatever issues they had 30 years ago. “To be completely honest, [Lars] has a lot of drive, and that’s a part of the reason why I love the man. His drive and his motivation is just so intense, you know.”[24]

Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo defended Ulrich's 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 Ulrich's 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, adding that the comment he made was merely a joke.[25]

Despite his bad fame, there are some drummers that disagree with such views. In a 2015 interview, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy spoke about Ulrich 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 Ulrich 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[26]

Former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison also spoke highly of Ulrich and Metallica in a 2016 interview:

"[The critics] need to shut their fucking mouths because Lars Ulrich is probably one of the best and most innovative drummers ever. I got to tour with the guy and I watched him play every night from behind the kit, and his double bass was completely on point. He’s also one of the best businessmen that keeps this type of music going; he’s the heart of the whole fucking community, because Metallica are the kings. There’ll never be anybody that will match them, and Lars is a huge, huge part of that. Without that guy, and the influence of that band, I wouldn’t even be sitting here talking to you."
Joey Jordison[27]

Personal life


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.[28]

Following his divorce from Satenstein, Ulrich dated Danish actress Connie Nielsen from mid-2004 until 2012. The couple have one child together.[29]

Ulrich is currently married to fashion model Jessica Miller.[30]

Awards and honors

When Ulrich and fellow Metallica members James Hetfield, Jason Newsted, Cliff Burton, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, Ulrich was the first Dane to receive the honor.[31]

Having led the charge for several years to get his longtime favorite band, Deep Purple, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ulrich gave the band's induction speech when Deep Purple finally went into the Hall in 2016.[32]


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.[33]


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.[34]

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.[35]

At the 2016 Men in Blazers Night of the Golden Blazer, Ulrich revealed his passion for Chelsea Football Club, as he stated that he went to Stamford Bridge many a time starting in 1973 during the time his father was playing at Wimbledon during the Tennis Season.[36]


Current tour kit (2016–present)



Main article: Metallica discography

Mercyful Fate


Year Title Role Notes
2010 Get Him to the Greek Himself
2012 Hemingway & Gellhorn Joris Ivens HBO original film
2012 Mission to Lars Himself Documentary film
2013 Metallica: Through the Never Himself
2016 Radio Dreams Himself


  1. 1 2 Scaggs profile, Austin (September 2, 2004). "Lars Ulrich profile". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow Publishers (956): 64. ISSN 0035-791X.
  2. "Lars Ulrich profile". Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  3. "Drummerworld: Lars Ulrich". Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  4. "OneTrees". Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  5. "The Conversation: Lars and Torben Ulrich" (PDF). Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  6. "Metallica's Lars Ulrich Performs With His 86 Year Old Father In Copenhagen". October 28, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  7. "Lars Ulrich on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire"". YouTube. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  8. "Metallica". The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music. ...emigrated to USA '80 ...
  9. "Galaway Advertiser, The Week". June 2007. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  10. "Lars Ulrich's Record Label Sees Red, Fades to Black",, May 23, 2002; retrieved August 11, 2014.
  11. "HBO Builds Cast For 'Hemingway & Gellhorn'",, March 10, 2011.
  12. "Metallica's Lars Ulrich has cameo in Get Him to The Greek" Artist Direct, May 21, 2010; retrieved June 4, 2012.
  13. "Mission To Lars". Mission To Lars. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  14. Everitt, Matt (June 27, 2014). "BBC News – Metallica on Glastonbury: 'The downside is we have to stay sober'". Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  15. Wall, Mick (2011). Enter Night: A Biography Of Metallica. Orion. ISBN 1409121674.
  16. Shenaz Bagha. "Napster bans more than 300,000 for downloading Metallica". The Falcon Newspaper. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  17. Archived March 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. "LARS ULRICH Is 'Unbelievably Bad' On Drums And METALLICA 'Is Shite,' Say Scottish Post-Rock Icons MOGWAI". Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  19. Tavana, Art. "Does Lars from Metallica actually suck?". Death and Taxes. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  20. "Metallica's Lars Ulrich 'Regressed' At Drumming". Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  21. Constantin, Dave. "In Their Own Words: Lars Ulrich". DRUM!. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  22. McIver, Joel (2012). Rhythm Presents 100 Drum Heroes. Future Publishing Ltd. p. 66. ISBN 1858706114.
  23. Kaufman, Spencer. "Scott Ian Recalls Time When Metallica Discussed Firing Lars Ulrich". Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  24. DeRiso, Nick. "Kirk Hammett Confirms Metallica Considered Firing Lars Ulrich". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  25. "What Does DAVE LOMBARDO Really Think About LARS ULRICH's Drumming Abilities?". Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  26. "Is METALLICA's LARS ULRICH A Good Drummer? MIKE PORTNOY Weighs In". Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  27. Stocks, Matt. "Joey Jordison's Top 10 Best Drummers Of All Time". Team Rock. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  28. "Lars Ulrich, Jessica Miller: Metallica Drummer Dating American Model". October 22, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  29. "METALLICA Drummer LARS ULRICH, Girlfriend CONNIE NIELSEN Expecting". December 6, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2006.
  30. Hartman, Graham. "Metallica's Lars Ulrich Photographs Model Wife For Metal-Inspired Clothing Line Read More: Metallica's Lars Ulrich Photographs Wife For Clothing Line". LoudWire. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  31. Kory Grow (April 9, 2014). "Metallica's Lars Ulrich on the Rock Hall – 'Two Words: Deep Purple'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  32. Kory Grow (April 8, 2016). "Read Lars Ulrich's Passionate Deep Purple Rock Hall Induction". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  33. "Blistering Metal News: Lars Ulrich Wins 32,000$ For Charity On "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"". Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  34. "Metallica's Lars Ulrich to Discuss Jazz on Radio". Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  35. "Lars Ulrich wants to play drums for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds",, April 20, 2012; retrieved June 4, 2012
  36. "Men in Blazers Night of the Golden Blazer 2016"
  37. "TAMA – artist profile – Lars Ulrich" (in Japanese). Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  38. "Lars Ulrich profile". Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  39. Archived January 11, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Lars Ulrich
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lars Ulrich.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/2/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.