This story has been passed around for quite some time, but Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett has just given it an extra bit of credibility. Legend has it that Metallica were considering kicking drummer Lars Ulrich out of the band in 1986 when they were on the tour where bassist Cliff Burton lost his life in a bus accident. Apparently, the plan was to oust Ulrich once the trek ended. Obviously, it didn’t happen, but Hammett spoke about the situation in a new interview.
“You know, that was just an old thing, you know. I think at one point or another, we were pissed off at Lars, around maybe 1985 or something,” Hammett tells Albany station PYX 106. “We were unhappy and we might have grumbled something to someone. And then that person might have picked up on it and made it something a lot bigger than it actually was… To be completely honest, [Lars] has a lot of drive, and that’s a part of the reason why I love the man. His drive and his motivation is just so intense, you know.”
The “someone” whom Hammett mentions is likely Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, who told former Metallica guitarist and current Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine about the conversation. Mustaine told Rolling Stone about it in a 2009 interview, and Ian even wrote about Ulrich’s near-firing in his 2014 autobiography, I’m the Man. In the book, Ian said that once Burton died, the feeling was that Metallica couldn’t lose two members of the band, so they stuck with Ulrich. Speaking further to 94.3 KILO, Ian said, “I honestly think it wouldn’t have happened. ‘Cause, believe me, I’ve thought about it quite a bit over the years. I honestly think that the tour would have finished and I think cooler heads would have prevailed, maybe, and I don’t think the change would have taken place. That’s what I believe.”
Metallica are currently back in the studio crafting the follow-up to 2008’s Death Magnetic. Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and frontman James Hetfield, along with new-era bassist Robert Trujillo, are passing around ideas. However, had things gone differently, for the past 30 years, Ulrich apparently could have found himself out of the equation.
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