Metallica are unquestionably a musical behemoth of the highest calibre, stature that would put their name on the list of countless dream festival line-ups. The devilish magic that James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich have been cooking up over several decades has made them an absolute tour de force. Whilst all four members of the group bring a different mercurial element into the mix, many would say that Lars Ulrich is the not-so-secret ingredient that makes them an incredible powerhouse.
Ulrich’s life has been a wild one. When he was 16-years-old, he left behind his life in Denmark to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a professional tennis player. Moving to California was his opportunity to make it as an athlete. However, his life soon took an unexpected turn as the bright lights of Los Angeles introduced him into this brand new world of rock music and, rather than becoming one of the great tennis players, he became a metal icon.
Destiny saw him move to Los Angeles to follow his dream. Still, the road he’d end up down was a world away from the clay courts of Gentofte, where he honed his tennis skills as a youngster, and Ulrich ended up becoming a very different kind of icon to the one he once imagined, but a beloved figure nonetheless.
There’s no achievement that Metallica haven’t accomplished throughout their career, one that has seen them notch up countless hit records and obtaining a collective Godlike status together in the process. The band has headlined most major festivals on the planet, including live music’s zenith, the coveted headline slot on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. If there’s somebody who knows what makes a great festival band, then that person is Lars Ulrich, and his dream festival line-up is an eclectic mix that has got a little bit of something that will pique everybody’s interest.
The first act that the Metallica drummer named was Australian stadium rock extraordinaires AC/DC, with Ulrich telling GQ: “I saw AC/DC with Bon Scott four times, opening for Black Sabbath and Rainbow and then playing their own shows in Copenhagen in 1977 and San Francisco in 1979, in my early teens. The energy was insane: Angus strutting across the stage, all guitar solos, sweat, hair, no shirt on and Bon Scott, also shirtless, tight jeans, the coolest frontman ever. To me the definition of rock’n’roll attitude is AC/DC in those formative years.”
Deep Purple was the next act on Ulrich’s lips: “I would take Deep Purple in their Gillan, Glover, Blackmore line-up from 1971 to 1973,” he explained. “Deep Purple in 1973 was the first concert I ever went to. I remember being taken aback by the spectacle of it all, Ritchie Blackmore twirling his guitar and playing it with his foot or his bum. They’d change the setlist and improvise, and when they were on fire, they were otherworldly.”
Ulrich has then a dosage of pure ferocity lined up for festival-goers in the shape of Rage Against The Machine, who are an almost impossible act to follow. “I’m drawn to bands that are impulsive and about the moment, with an element of danger or unpredictability,” the drummer explains. “Rage Against the Machine have that and when they get 50-70,000 people yelling ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!’ it feels pretty real. While it usually lands in a safe spot, it always feels like it could completely go off in that moment.”
In a left-field turn, Ulrich’s next pick would see Oasis deliver a slice of Cool Britannia and mix things up following Rage Against The Machine’s brutal aggression. “I’d also have Oasis in their heyday because you never knew what the mood would be like, what the temperature was going to be like between the brothers or who was going to walk off,” he stated.
Ulrich then prescribed another shot of stadium rock with his penultimate pick, “Guns’ N’ Roses at their most dangerous were unstoppable in a live situation. We toured with them in 1992 and I got the chance to watch them every night. A great, great band – it was one of the best summers I’ve ever had,” Ulrich said.
The final pick is an artist that one wouldn’t associate with Ulrich, but Bob Marley and the Wailers’ inclusion is one that we can all get behind. “I’ll throw some variance in now and have Bob Marley and the Wailers in the late ’70s era of Babylon by Bus, for me one of the greatest live albums ever. The music seems to bring band and audience together. You can close your eyes and hear the unity.”
Ulrich added: “Bob Marley has become this iconic figure, but at their best they really were a band, with a whole new groove and world of sound. By now, I’m not sure those statues would still be standing!”
After the sheer chaotic sounds of the rest of the line-up, Marley and The Wailers’ addition is a much-appreciated one and would make for a nice change of pace compared to the rest of the day. Although festivals still feel like lightyears away from happening, it won’t be long till you’re in a field somewhere watching Ulrich and Metallica tear through a set with a cold beer in hand.
Metallica’s Lars Ulrich’s dream festival line-up:
- Deep Purple
- Rage Against The Machine
- Guns N’ Roses
- Bob Marley & The Wailers