Metallica’s latest undertaking, which is part-concert movie, part-fictional tale – starring Dane DeHaan along with the band members – is typical of the innovations that have helped the group maintain their status as one of the world’s biggest-selling bands. We ask one of the founding members, the Danish-born drummer Lars Ulrich – who turns 50 this year – about the band’s present project and future plans.
How did Metallica: Through the Never come about?
Metallica loves to be out of its comfort zone and doing projects that are not what we know. We wanted to do another film [after the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster] just to do something different. The idea came up that we would weave a dramatic narrative into a concert. Most concert films, it is backstage footage – like they are getting massaged, or they are in a prayer circle or high-fiving each other.
You do all that?
We try not to let people see that! But it shows up in concert movies all the time. We just wanted to put a dramatic narrative in there,\rather than all that stuff.
How did you choose the music in the film?
It’s a mix of everything. It’s not like we went for songs better or more well known – but we picked the songs that filmed the best, and lent themselves better to this concept. There are some of our most famous songs that didn’t make it into the film, so it wasn’t about that. It wasn’t easy, but it was pretty obvious to see quickly which songs worked better within the journey of the film.
Do you like to take these artistic risks in your work?
Yeah, well, we like to jump and then occasionally go: “Oops.Where are we landing? Where’s the parachute?” I guess it ultimately keeps us edgy and it keeps us alive and it keeps us functioning. We’re really scared of repetition and creative stagnation.
What’s the most difficult thing about being in a band?
The hardest thing about all of it is really the physicality of it. The two hardest-working people in the Metallica organisation are the two who massage us every night after each show. That is a gig you would not wish on anybody – trust me. And we’ll see how long they can keep stitching us together, but so far so good.
It’s been five years since your last proper album, Death Magnetic. Are you going back into the studio?
Yeah. We’ll always make another record. We’re certainly not avoiding making another record. We’ve been fiddling around a little bit when we have a week here, a week there, but we realised the other day that this movie will take up realistically the next four or five months. But I hope we will get to another record when this movie is over.
What’s the secret of the band’s longevity?
Somewhere along the line we learnt to get along and somewhere along the line we learnt we’d rather be in Metallica than not be in Metallica. I think we have tremendous respect for whatever it is Metallica means. I’ve never known anything else. This is the only band I’ve ever been in, since I was 17. So ultimately, you want it to survive, and you figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s best for the band. Somewhere along, you just figure it out and you pray you have more good days than not.
You’re a big art collector. How important is that for you?
Going and losing myself is really important for my own survival. I’ve spent 20 somewhat well- documented years losing myself in the world of contemporary art and I still do. I drift in and out of different things. The last couple of years I’m more into furniture, and design, and a little less painting. But I collect a lot of things.
• Metallica: Through the Never is out now in UAE cinemas