Metallica’s Lars Ulrich is an expert voice in drumming, and for many, he’s one of the truly great modern drummers. Despite all the Dane’s accolades, there’s one drummer he believes will never be surpassed.
Ulrich made the statement when he appeared on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM, and the Metallica drummer was left with two people to pick from. Stern and his team had already discussed the topic prior to Ulrich’s involvement in the broadcast, and they shortlisted the contenders down to John Bonham and Neil Peart.
In fact, the Metallica member only got involved after one of Stern’s listeners called the show to say Ulrich should settle the debate. For most radio shows, this would be unattainable, but not for Stern, who has access to anybody in the entertainment industry.
The following day, Ulrich appeared by video link on the programme and provided the definitive answer on the greatest drummer of all time. “It’s fucking hard,” he said. “Listen, I’ve been asked that question on and off for 40 years.”
Firstly, he gave credit to Deep Purple’s Ian Paice and AC/DC’s Phil Rudd, who were left out of the conversation before discussing the two contenders.
“The first time I ever met Neil, it was 1984,” recalled Ulrich. “Our manager Cliff [Burnstein] signed Rush, and I had drum questions about gear and this and that. He goes, ‘Neil loves to talk to younger drummers.’ He goes, ‘Call Neil. He wants to hear from you.’ And it was, like, ‘Huh?!’”
He added: “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 were geeking out on drums.”
Despite Ulrich’s relationship with Peart, who was a gentleman towards him, it still wasn’t enough to displace Bonham at the top of the list. The Metallica drummer concluded: “Between Neil and between John — no disrespect — I’ll have to go with John Bonham.”
Ulrich isn’t alone in the belief that nobody has ever been greater than the late Led Zeppelin drummer. Others who have gone on record to share this opinion include Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, Mike Portnoy, Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine, and the late Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison.
Dave Grohl once perfectly epitomised Bonham’s brilliance, and opined: “John Bonham played the drums like someone who didn’t know what was going to happen next—like he was teetering on the edge of a cliff. No one has come close to that since, and I don’t think anybody ever will. I think he will forever be the greatest drummer of all time.”
Watch Ulrich’s fiery debate with Howard Stern below.