Metallica are winding up to take their rock juggernaut back on the road. The band were one of the first ever to prevent pre-release leaks on the internet. Here, founder and drummer Lars Ulrich talks about closing down Napster, the troubles that almost split the band and about sharing a hip flash with The White Stripes:
You have managed to keep a lid on ‘St Anger’ with nothing appearing online. As the debate over Napster raged, you became figureheads for opposition to file sharing. In some ways you are responsible for shutting Napster. Do you feel guilty?
Lars Ulrich: “I don’t think guilty is the first emotion that comes. I just feel saddened by the whole episode.”
“We were sitting there working on this song for a fucking movie soundtrack, and before we were over and done with it, it’s being played on half the radio stations of America. And we’re like ‘Where does it come from?’ This is March 2000”
“I knew nothing about any internet stuff. And I get this call saying there is this company called Napster and they have this way os allowing people to get stuff. And I’m like, ‘OK, we’ll fuck with them right back.’ For 20 years, whenever anybody fucked with us we just fucked with them right back because we were very protective of everything that was our thing. Are we guilty of being control freaks? Absolutely.”
Are you glad you became the anti-Napster spokesperson?
“Glad is not the right word. I’m proud that we had the courage to continue the way we had always been in Metallica, to protect what is ours and to do what we choose with what had always been ours.”
“Sitting in the middle of this, when people are saying Metallica are anti-bootlegging and pro-record company I’m like, ten years ago we were giving tickets away at our shows so people could bring recording equipment in a bootleg our shows.”
You called your action to be taken against 300,000 people downloading Metallica’s music. Were you worried that it would cost you fans?
“I’m not stuppid, obviously I could see some fans going. It is what it is. I have no problem giving things away. We give things away all the time. But it’s got to be on my terms.”
“Were we losing fans? Of course we were losing fans. Were we worried about it? Of course. As a human being, when anyone says something bad about you it’s difficult 100 per cent of the time to pretend it away. I was certainly more hurt by everything that was going on at the time than I ever let on because when you are in the middle of that sort of thing, you’ve got to have your game face on.”
“I’m not proud of shutting down Napster. There’s no victory claimed, there’s no gloating – we stood up for what was ours. The only thing that we are pro is pro-Metallica.”