In a recent Interview, Lars Ulrich revealed what METALLICA did differently from the other “Big Four” thrash metal bands of the 1980s that made the James Hetfield-fronted outfit so much more commercially successful, Ulrich said:
“Well, I don’t wanna sell anybody down the river here. Obviously, all these bands are friends of ours, peers of ours, and I have a tremendous amount of respect and love for each one of those bands. But, I guess, we’ve always felt in METALLICA that we were autonomous and that we were in our own world and that we were misfits and that we never felt like we were part of a scene. So we really only ever charted our own course, as they say. We just are fiercely independent, and it’s an approach to everything that we do, which is that we don’t try to latch on to another way of doing things or piggybacking on particular trends or fashions or business styles or whatever.
But we just do what is right for METALLICA in our own universe. And we’ve made, I guess, some decisions along the way, both creatively and practically, that have put us on a different course. So it’s not my place… I’m not a journalist, and it’s not my place to sit and talk about why we are in a particular place and other people are not. I feel uncomfortable with that.”
Lars also talked about the “most important decisions” that METALLICA has made over the years that have given the band greater commercial success than that attained by all of their peers.
“Like I said, the battle cry, the M.O. was always independence and just do our own thing and never feel that we had to serve anybody else, that we had to cater to anybody else’s needs, any particular trends, any moments that were going on in business or in fashion or any kind of things that were part of particular trends or waves,” Ulrich explained. “So musically, we played harder music, but we’ve never particularly felt that we were part of a scene. We always felt that we could… When ‘Ride The Lightning’ came out, our second album, in 1984, there was an acoustic guitar on the song ‘Fade To Black’, and people started freaking out: ‘Oh my God! What are they doing?’ But, to us, it was just the next natural place to go musically.
So we’ve always let the creative energy and the creative flow dictate what we were doing, and then, like we say, the practical, the business, all that stuff, kind of is a second parallel course that follows it. It’s almost to me… The analogy I give in interviews is that there’s a train, and we’re doing our best to steer the train, but at the same time, you can’t just force the train to go — sometimes you end up actually holding on as the train is moving forward rather than forcing the train to a particular place. That’s kind of how we look at all this type of stuff. So sometimes you’ve gotta hold on, sometimes you’ve gotta steer, and the thing is to know when to do what at which time.”