METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich told Entertainment Weekly that the band's collaboration with pop giant Lady Gaga at last month's Grammy Awards was "absolutely awesome."
METALLICA's appearance with Gaga at the 59th annual event in Los Angeles on February 12 turned into something of a disaster when the Grammy sound crew did not turn frontman James Hetfield's mic on, forcing him to share the mic with Gaga after the first verse and chorus.
As a further humiliation, presenter Laverne Cox did not even introduce METALLICA by name. At the end of the song, a visibly angry Hetfield hurled his guitar at a road crew member while kicking over his mic stand.
Asked by Entertainment Weekly how the METALLICA-Gaga pairing came about, Ulrich said (hear audio below): "Well, we were fortunate enough to be invited back to the Grammys again, three years after our last appearance, and you sort of sit there and you start wondering who could be potential partners in crime, collaborators. I was at a dinner party at my friend's house, and I was sitting next to Gaga at this dinner thing. And I was, like, you know, she's sort of a metal chick at heart and has a reputation for growing up in that [New] Jersey/New York kind of metal scene and has a reputation to be super easy and cool. And I just threw it at her. We had talked internally about maybe having a female collaborator would be cool to sing one of the songs from the new album, and I just threw it at her. 'Guess what? We've been invited back to the Grammys again. Would you like to partake?' And that took all of about two bites of whatever salad we were having at the time during dinner to finalize. So it came together super organic, really quick. There wasn't five hundred lawyers and strategists and producers and teams and managers sending e-mails back and forth for days."
The drummer continued: "She's very autonomous and independent and she makes her own decisions. And she is the coolest, sweetest, most easy-going person you'll ever meet — just not a trace of ego or anything. And we just sealed it right there, and then we went on our little journey, and it's been a lot of fun.
"She's a very, I think for METALLICA, a very organic, sort of authentic, natural… It's not forced. Without being disrespectful, but occasionally in these circumstances, the pairings seems a little forced. Slightly less organic… I think we can say that without offending anybody. And I think in our case, it literally just felt like she was the fifth member of our band for the whole weekend."
Ulrich also talked about the actual Grammy performance, which saw backup swaying in some weird approximation of "heavy metal dancing" while Gaga — who was obviously thrilled to be there — stage-dove backwards into the crowd.
"We landed on Friday, went straight to rehearsals," Lars said. "Their voices worked, it was great, we get in the middle of the song, the whole thing, and then, as we get further into the adventure over the weekend, it's, like, 'Let's get closer. Come sing in everybody's face, and let's really make this not Gaga and METALLICA, or you and us, but let's make it all of us. It's like the five of us together. You're the fifth member of the band. It's not two different worlds; it's all of us together.' And so we kept encouraging her, and she kept sort of getting more and more into the whole idea of just… It got wilder and crazier as the weekend went along. And [at the Grammys], she started coming up on the drums, and it's, like, 'Come over. Get close. Let's have a moment.' And she really took that to the furthest extreme. It was pretty fun."
He continued: "I mean, from where I was sitting, it was so chaotic — firewalls and dancers and James's mic not working for the first verse. The whole thing was such a clusterfuck. There was just this totally energetic, crazy… it was just energy and excitement and nuttiness, so her being right in my face just added to the whole exhilarating energy that was happening for those five minutes. It was awesome! I got seven hundred texts from people just saying that the whole chaos and tornado-like energy of it really translated well on TV."
As for the technical problems that left Hetfield without a mic for the bulk of the song, Ulrich remarked: "When you're aware of the fact that something is not functioning, it's very difficult to… You don't know where in the chain of possible mishaps, you don't know where that's going on. So you really don't have a choice other than just to keep battling on. It's live television. If you're, I guess, Adele… I didn't see it, but I guess she was doing something and she was in a different key than… If it's musical or creative or has an obvious — and again, no disrespect to her; she's the most awesome, creative person on this planet — but if there's something that's more of a screwup, then it's, like, 'Okay, I can start it over. I screwed up.' But when it's technical, you don't know… 'Wait, is it just in our ears up on stage? We're not hearing James, but maybe it's still going to the truck, maybe it's still going to the house.' You don't know where in the chain of possible mishaps it is. A couple of people were, like, 'Why didn't you stop and start the song [again]?' Well, we didn't know if there was a problem. It could be it worked fine out in the truck that was going to television and it was just up on stage [that the mic wasn't working]. So you never know, and so you have no choice than just to carry on. But in the ensuing chaos and energy and complete over-the-top excitement, including Gaga, basically, in my lap as we were playing, it was absolutely awesome."
METALLICA was up for a Grammy this year for "Best Rock Song" for the track "Hardwired" from its new album, "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct", but lost to the late David Bowie's "Blackstar".