This room is where the truth happens,” explains Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, settling into a black leather couch in the control room at the band’s HQ in San Rafael, California. “There are 14,000 square feet in this building. Whenever you need the truth, you come in here. This is where you go for ultimate privacy.” And, perhaps, to fight with your bandmates? “There are no fights here,” the Danish-born drummer replies. “That’s all folklore.”
Ulrich, 44, is kidding. Metallica’s colossal intra-band blowouts ripped through Some Kind of Monster, the excellent 2004 documentary about the making of their less-than-excellent 2003 album, St. Anger. Outside the “truth room” lies the kitchen in which one of the film’s most brutal scenes was shot: Ulrich, exasperated by fresh-from-rehab singer James Hetfield, screams “Fuckkkkkkkk!” inches from his bandmate’s face, as the group’s $40,000-a-month shrink looks on.
By all measures, the 27-year-old Metallica—whose lineup is rounded out by longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo, who joined in 2003—are in a better place right now. Their latest disc, the Rick Rubin–produced Death Magnetic, marks a return to the band’s classic, bloodthirsty form: Guitar solos, so glaringly absent from St. Anger, are back, as is an epic sense of scale (only one song clocks in at under six minutes). Ulrich has other cause for contentment: Last year, he had a son with his girlfriend, Danish actress Connie Nielsen (he also has two kids with ex-wife Skylar Satenstein), and with his role as the mouthpiece in Metallica’s battle against Napster now eight years behind him, it must be a relief to no longer be the Most Hated Man in Rock. Presently, the chatty timekeeper is excited to field Blender readers’ questions. “I’m armed and ready,” he insists. “Sitting, talking about myself—that’s not work.”
You were a ranked junior tennis player in Denmark. Were you a hothead like John McEnroe?
dynamojonezø442, Altamonte Springs, FL
I was a fuckin’ pussy, actually. I come from a long line of tennis players—my grandfather was the best player in Denmark, my father was a professional player—and because of my last name, all eyes were on me. If I’d had an aggressive attitude, people would’ve just smacked me. In retrospect, I just wasn’t really that into it.