Ulrich ‘shocked and crushed’ by Reed’s death
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich says he’s “shocked” and “crushed” by the death of Lou Reed.
The Velvet Underground founder passed away on Sunday, aged 71, after a liver transplant earlier this year failed to prevent years of drug abuse from shutting down his system.
Now Ulrich – whose band collaborated with Reed on the critically slated 2011 album Lulu – tells the Guardian: “We had communicated about a month ago when we were going to come by New York. Lou was going to come to the show and hang out. He didn’t make it because his health took a turn for the worse, so I knew things were not good, but I didn’t know it was that serious. So I was half shocked and half crushed – shocked that he went so quickly and crushed over the loss.”
He accepts the popular description of Reed as a difficult person to work with, but argues that the veteran artist was misunderstood, and his personality changed once people got to know him.
“We were aware of his reputation for being unfiltered and upfront, and that he just says what he’s thinking,” Ulrich recalls. “We were in a rehearsal room in midtown Manhattan. He walked in and was quite standoffish, quite short, like you would expect him. He was complaining about how loud we were and that we were playing everything wrong. Every single thing we were doing was wrong. It wasn’t limited to our entire approach to music – our existence was wrong.
“But within an hour or so, me and him had a little chat, and I think I comforted him in the fact that nothing bad was going to happen. It dawned on me that a lot of people from his generation have just been so mistreated over the years by people who have taken advantage of them. A lot of people his age are guarded.
“So when a bunch of musicians in their 40s welcome him with open arms and invite him to come in and jam, he’s just suspicious that something’s going to happen. I understand that and I’m not faulting him for that.”
After Reed thawed, Ulrich says the pair realised they had “so much in common”. He continues: “We were both outsiders – we both never felt comfortable going down the same path that everyone else was doing.
“We shared kinship over that. And we brought him something that he didn’t have, which in his own words were ‘energy’ and ‘weight’ and ‘size’ and whatever it is that happens when we start playing. He was so into what we brought him. He brought us this incredible piece of work that he had already written, Lulu, and about her escapades and sexual endeavours. We brought something to each other, and we shared a common lack of ability to fit in with our surroundings.”
Whatever the critics have to say about the album, Ulrich maintains it’s a brilliant piece of work – and believes people will realise its validity in the future. “Two years later, a lot of people have come around,” he asserts. “Twenty-five years from now, you’re going to have millions of people claiming they owned the record or loved it when it came out, of course neither will be true. I think it’s going to age well – when I played it yesterday it sounded fucking awesome.
“In some ways it’s almost cooler that people didn’t embrace it, because it makes it more ours, it’s our project, our record, and this was never made for the masses and the masses didn’t take to it. It makes it more precious for those who were involved.”
Returning to his memories of Reed, Ulrich reflects: “I felt in some way that I connected to his fragility, and identified with it. He was very open. He would say, ‘Lars, I love you,’ and text me a heart. It was so beautiful. No matter what he was saying, he was always speaking his truth.
“I wanted to give him strength, and I think Metallica gave him strength. His being was so beautiful once that guard went away, and it was childlike.”