In Interview: Lars Ulrich on Metallica: Through The Never

by Daniel Goodwin on 10/10/2013


Rock monsters Metallica exploded into our cinemas last week with their concert film Metallica: Through The Never, an exhilarating meld of fictional cinema, live gig footage, immersive 3D and brain-rattling guitar noise

New Empress attended a roundtable discussion with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich to discuss the ideas behind the film and the use of 3D for concert movies.

How important was it for Metallica to be in control of this film? Obviously it was a big risk financially for you guys.

When it comes to considering other options, compromise is not Metallica’s major strength. The fans hopefully appreciate that if it’s got the word Metallica written somewhere on it then it comes from us. Creative experiences with us aren’t ones we really share apart from with the few that we purposely let in. So taking a bunch of money from people and then having them come in and editing and taking control of the movie just seemed wrong. That of course was before the project ran amuck so it’s nothing new. I hear myself say the same sh*t every couple of years in various ways so we’ll have to see. It’s not like an isolated entity.

Where did the idea to have a narrative to accompany the stage show originate?

I think it originated from within the band. We thought that if we were going to do a movie of this scale, then there should be something in there other than just us. So as we sat around and discussed what that could be, we quickly felt that having a story to be interesting because it felt unique and weird and challenging and also we felt to a degree the reason Some Kind Of Monster ended up resonating with so many people was because there was a story in there. It wasn’t just four guys making a record, you can somehow attach a dramatic element or a dramatic art to some of the stuff and it just resonates differently with different people.

Do you think 3D concert films will be more commonplace in future what with gig ticket prices rising?

It’s a good question, I mean this stuff always seems to go back and forth. There has been a bit of a backlash against 3D, especially in America in the last few years. Now it seems to be more about immersion 3D rather than stuff flying out of the screen at you. But now in America, what with the release of Gravity, everyone is saying that 3D is back and it’s bigger and cooler than ever. So now 3D is hip again with Gravity and we can all watch George Clooney float around in space and with this movie so it’s cool.

What was it like seeing yourself in 3D? Was that freaky?

After Some Kind Of Monster nothing scares me. After that it’s all good, it’s easy. So silly things, accents, double chins and receding hairlines and all the rest of it, I’m pretty thick skinned. It’s kinda cool, I sat with an audience in LA in the Universal City after I introduced the film a week ago and watched the first two thirds of it on a big IMAX screen. All filmmakers sit there and say “you have to see my movie on a big screen” but this movie really does deserve to be seen on a big screen. And the sound! I’m sure it will play fine though on phones six months from now but in terms of the immersion experience, that big f**k off screen, it’s got to be seen.

What was the inspiration by the horrific aspects of the plot?

Well if Nimrod Antal was sitting in this chair he would answer it this way: there’s a book called The Alchemist which inspired him. The human journey, rather than the destination. Nimrod was quite inspired by the energy in the Occupy movement a couple of years ago, and correlating some of that energy to Metallica. The elements of what was going on politically in the world and then and that was where those inspirations were drawn from.

How did you actually come to work with Nimrod Antal (director)? How did you choose him?

He was mad enough to want to do it. He knows that I spoke to other people before him and none of them were mad enough and none of them were up for it enough and everyone had questions and reservations and a lot of people had raised eyebrows and Nimrod was just f**king up for it. And sometimes enthusiasm trumps everything. Metallica also played a pretty significant role in his life when he was growing up, and it’s always good to have a little bit of Eastern European attitudes. You can never go wrong with that.

How did he direct the band during a live show?

It was more about how he could capture what we were doing, how we told him how to get his cameras up on stage and what was going on rather than just having him shoot it from the outside. At one point he did ask if a couple of the band members could stand within twenty feet of each other so he could get two of them in shot and we were like “Jesus Nim, what the f**k! Put a wider f**king angle on your camera!”

How much involvement did the band have with the narrative?

We tried to get as much narrative in there as possible. We kept pushing and pushing but what happened is we actually ran out of narrative. There will be no more narrative in the DVD extras because it is all in the f**king film. Dane ( Dehaan, who plays the protagonist in the film’s fictional story ) was tied up with Spiderman but we finally wrestled one whole day out of Sony and shot an additional five quick sequences for some transitional stuff but we kept trying to get more and more Dane in there. Less Metallica more Dane. He’s way cooler than us. So we kept pushing for that and every frame of this film that you see I can personally vouch for, as can every other member of the band. So we are either to applaud or to blame depending on who’s side you’re on.


Metallica: Through The Never is in cinemas now.

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