Metallica’s Lars Ulrich is a drumming sensation, and he has the late Rush icon Neil Peart as someone to thank for the realisation of such a seismic talent. Not only did Peart inspire him musically, but more importantly, he offered him advice when he needed it most.
Peart was known as ‘The Professor’ of drums, which made him the perfect candidate for Ulrich to turn to for advice and one that he made sure to utilise. The late drummer knew everything there was to know about the instrument and had an encyclopedic knowledge that he was more than willing to pass on to the younger generation.
The Canadian had a distinctive sound and a technical ability that meticulously carried out some of the most complex drum fills ever recorded. Refreshingly, he was never defensive about others attempting to replicate his style and admitted his technique was just an amalgamation of those who he admired.
Peart told Modern Drummer in 1993: “One thing I have come to learn about influences is that although copying one style can never be original, copying many styles often is original… The best advice for someone who wants to develop an original style is: Don’t copy one drummer, copy twenty! I copied a hundred.”
Ulrich was devastated after Peart’s death and wrote an emotional Instagram post after he discovered the news. “Thank you Neil,” he said. “Thank you for inspiring me and for all your help and advice along the way, especially in the early days when you took the time to talk to a young green Danish drummer about recording, gear and the possibilities that lay ahead.
“Thank you for what you did for drummers all over the world with your passion, your approach, your principles and your unwavering commitment to the instrument!” he added.
Elaborating on their relationship with Howard Stern, Ulrich said speaking to Peart about the drums was like receiving information from “the god of gods.”
He continued: “I actually managed to get enough guts to dial the phone number that I was given and I called him and it’s like I spoke to Neil Peart for a half an hour about Tama drums, it was pretty amazing.”
Ulrich then recollected the first time that their paths crossed and how welcoming Peart was to him. “The first time I ever met Neil – it was 1984, our manager Cliff signed Rush, and I had drum questions about gear and this and that, and he goes, ‘Neil loves to talk to younger drummers,’ and he goes, ‘Call Neil. He wants to hear from you.’
“And it was, like, ‘Huh?’ I was 20 years old with not a pot to piss in and I called him, and we spoke 30, 45 minutes on the phone and we were geeking out on drums, and the whole thing was like a fairy tale. You can’t play drums and not love Neil, and you can’t not-be appreciative and respectful.”
After the death of Peart in 2020, stories similar to Ulrich’s flooded out of the woodwork as people shared their cherished memories. Many in his position would have felt threatened by Ulrich, but not Peart, who was energised by seeing someone with a similar passion for the instrument as him, and the Metallica drummer absorbed the information he bestowed akin to a sponge.