Lars Ulrich was asked by a fan about which tunes off the “Black Album,” “Load” and “Reload” he believes late Cliff Burton would be interested in hearing the most, to which he replied (transcribed by UG):
“All of them! [Laughs] As I grow older the one thing I’m so shitty at is the ‘what if’ questions. ‘What if this hadn’t happened, what if Cliff was still alive, or what if the Earth was flat instead of round…’
“It’s like ‘Okay, what if I was sitting over there and you were sitting over here,’ we would have a completely different conversation. I think that there would have been an evolution and obviously I believe very much that it’s the sum of the parts.
“If Cliff was still in the band, something else would have happened. Those records would have some sort of different feel to them.
“It’s as same thing as saying ‘What if Jason Newsted was still around now? What would ‘Hardwired’ sound like?’ It’s great stuff but I’m not the guy that can give you definitive answers.
“I think that, like with everything, Cliff was incredibly opinionated and was actually quite inspiring to both James and I. Because at that time it was so much about a gang and kind of a collective, and then Cliff would just go – he would use the word ‘I’ a lot more and we would use the word ‘we.’
“And I actually mean the positive in that. He was just very [determined about] what he liked and what he didn’t like.
“But he also rolled along and understood that there was a part of Metallica – maybe he liked ‘Orion’ better than he liked something else. And that’s totally fine. Being in a collective, being in a group, it means you have to compromise. If not, then go be a solo artist.”
Asked on what losing Cliff was like to him, Ulrich replied:
“I didn’t slow down long enough to feel. We were at that age, unequipped to deal with that kind of tragedy and that kind of shock. We just jumped deeper into whatever vodka bottle was close and compartmentalized it.
“No [I was not scared that Metallica would end with Cliff]. Because the way that we dealt with it was that we never made that an option.
“I don’t think there was ever a conversation that I was part of where we sat and said ‘What should we do now?’ It was more like ‘How quickly can we get it back on track?’
“And we realized pretty quickly that – at 22 years of age – that the quicker we got back on track the less we would have to deal with it. And we were sort of under the auspice of ‘Cliff would have wanted it that way.’
“And I think that, yes, Cliff would have wanted it that way, we may have heard ourselves say that a little too much. But when you’re 22 years old you don’t know how to deal with this shit.”
Last year, James Hetfield said he believes Cliff would have been against the “Load” era, telling Team Rock:
“Well, I certainly would have thought there would have been some resistance, for sure. I think the ‘Black Album’ was a great album and I appreciate the fact that we did have the balls to do that and have Bob Rock to work with us. It had to be, it really did. You know, when I go back and I listen to ‘…And Justice for All,’ it couldn’t have stayed on that path.
“We needed to bring in another set of trusted ears. But I think Cliff would have probably interjected some different stuff, getting his bass heard and some more musically challenging things, probably. I would certainly think that the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload,’ I would have had an ally that was very against it all – the reinvention or the U2 version of Metallica.”