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Lars Ulrich Reveals the Secrets Behind Guitar Hero Metallica

sized_Lars-Drumming.jpgDrummer Lars Ulrich recently spoke to Blender about Guitar Hero Metallica (out March 29), which features 28 songs spanning the hard rockers’ entire career, plus 21 tracks by the likes of Motörhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Mastodon. Here’s what the outspoken skinsman had to say about devising the game’s set list, rocking that extra-snug motion-capture suit and getting pwned by his kids:

BLENDER: How did you decide the list of songs? Were there any fights between the four of you?

LARS ULRICH: No fights. It really wasn’t that difficult to put together. Since we’re pretty much equally proud of the whole journey—there’s not a particular era that’s extra-nauseating to think back on—we tried to pretty evenly represent all the different phases of Metallica, from Kill ’Em All all the way through Death Magnetic. There are some hits—it’s difficult for me to say that word with a straight face; putting the word hit and Metallica together is always awkward. So there are a few of the well-known toe-tappers, plus a few shredder songs, a few deeper album cuts and some cover stuff.

The only thing that got a little hairy toward the end was the master tapes for Kill ’Em All were nowhere to be found. So we looked at a couple of options. Number one: Do we rerecord the songs? I believe that’s what Aerosmith did for some of their stuff that was missing. Or you can use live versions. But lo and behold, the master tapes for Kill ’Em All were located in a basement in New Jersey—sort of a ninth-inning type of thing—and three tracks from Kill ’Em All were included. Turns out the masters were in the basement of our first manager, Johny Zazula.

B: Which of the game’s songs do you consider a sentimental favorite?

LU: “Hit the Lights,” because it was the first song that me and James sort of did together—it appeared on the Metal Massacre compilation album back in the day. “Hit the Lights” reminds me of the garage in Norwalk, California, at 13004 Curtis & King Rd. That was where James Hetfield and [original bassist] Ron McGovney shared a house together and Metallica came to life in 1982. We spent our time drinking Schnapps and Goldschläger and cheap beer, eating crappy food and putting all these early songs together. The house was unceremoniously demolished 10 to 15 years ago to make way for the fuckin’ 110 freeway.

B: Which track is hardest for you drum on in the game?

LU: I look like a complete fuckin’ klutz because I can drum them in real life, but obviously there are slight modifications when it’s transcribed for the game. I have it inbred in me how to play these songs, but then I have to sit and look at little dots on a screen and try to figure out how to play it the way it’s transcribed. Meanwhile, my 10-year-old and my 7-year-old are shredding on the guitars. It’s kind of a mindfuck, sitting there, with my 45 years of semi-glory, and getting toasted by my kids.

B: Which Metallica songs do your kids like to play?

LU: The problem was that on Guitar Hero 3, we were never good enough to earn our way to play “One.” So after a couple of months, my kids didn’t actually believe there was a Metallica song in this fuckin’ game, so I had to call the guys: “Can we get the cheat codes, please?” And the same thing with “Enter Sandman” on Rock Band. I’ll tell you a little secret about the gaming industry: You know who gave me the cheat codes to Rock Band? The guy at Guitar Hero! Isn’t it nice how they all sort of work together in a perverse way?

B: What was the most awkward song to motion-capture?

LU: “The Shortest Straw” was pretty nutty. Very few of these songs are played the way we played them 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. So you gotta motion-capture it to the album track, which over the years becomes a distant memory. And then you’re sitting on the motion-capture stage and there are 25 to 50 Guitar Hero guys—they’re all fans of the band—and you’re trying to remember what drum fills you did in 1988 in some godforsaken studio in Hollywood. With a song like “The Shortest Straw,” which is pretty progressive, you feel a little bit like a fuckin’ dick. You’re Joe Fuckin’ Cool—you’ve got all these people looking at you—and you’re just fuckin’ up the motion-capture.

And the mo-cap suit certainly doesn’t add to your confidence. It looks like some sort of fuckin’ aerobic, spandex suit, and it’s fuckin’ seven sizes too small. It certainly emphasizes all that extra fuckin’ dessert that you shouldn’t have had. And you’ve got all these fuckin’ reflective balls on the suit. You basically look like a fuckin’ Christmas tree!

For more from Ulrich, plus commentary from singer James Hetfield, pick up the April issue of Blender.