Lars Ulrich is a mercurial fellow. Never one to be too concerned about what anybody else thinks, Ulrich has been the main captain shepherding the good ship Metallica through 40 years of internal strife, drug addiction, death, and changing musical styles. You can level anything against him: his drumming, his band’s turn away from thrash metal, his choice of snare drums on St. Anger. It doesn’t matter because it will just bounce off, and he’ll live to steer the ship another day.
Occasionally more trivial matters will be presented to Ulrich. Sometimes these can be sweet, like anytime he goes back to his home country of Denmark and extolls about his youth as an aspiring tennis player. But other times, it can concern image, something that metal music and metal fans as a whole usually have a particular view on.
Metallica’s fanbase, especially, seems to embrace the “metalhead” aesthetic, which can include biker gear, leather, and tattoos. This was pointed out to Ulrich when he took part in an interview with Atlanta NBC affiliate 11 Alive in 2017. When asked why he doesn’t have any tattoos himself, despite being involved in the heavy metal scene that tends to favour body art, Ulrich kept it simple.
“I never really thought about why I haven’t,” he said. “It’s just the idea of somebody sticking needles in me, leaving permanent ink spots on me, just seems… it’s sort of like, I don’t know, why don’t you eat coal or jump off the top of the Empire State Building? It just doesn’t seem, like, within the range of, sort of, what I would call ‘normal behaviour’.”
Ulrich is a bit glib about it, and chuckles as he makes these statements. The musician clearly didn’t think about what he says before he says it, and seems a little confused by his own comments once he stops making them. He also insists that there’s no disrespect to anyone who may have tattoos (or to anyone who might want to jump off the Empire State Building) and quickly asks to retract the “normal behaviour” part of the comment.
In the end, Ulrich repeats the simple truth that he was trying to articulate the whole time: “The tattoos are not for me”. Ulrich looks slightly bemused, and turns the tables on the interviewer about why he doesn’t have any tattoos, only for the pair to laugh when the interviewer gives the same answer. All in all, it’s a light moment that wasn’t meant to offend, but it’s still kind of funny watching Ulrich make the realisation mid-sentence that he might have just said something stupid.
Check out the interview down below, with the tattoo conversation starting at 11:30.