METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich says that he is not opposed to one day touring the world as a hologram.
A Tupac Shakur hologram performed with Snoop Dogg at Coachella in 2012, and Cirque Du Soleil brought a holographic version of Michael Jackson to the stage. More recently, it was announced that a hologram of legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio would embark on a world tour in December, backed by members of his old band.
Ulrich, who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area — the technology hub of the United States — for more than three decades, spoke about the possibility of holographic performers one day flooding the market during a career-spanning interview this past Sunday (November 5) at 92Y in New York City.
The drummer said: "The conversation in the Bay Area, generally, is primarily about… when people look into the future, it's about artificial intelligence, and it's about how you adapt AI into everything that we know on a daily basis. And so when you start looking at the possibilities of how that could play into music, obviously there's been a few go-arounds with the holograms — there's a few artists that are looking at sending artists on the road in hologram form.
"We were in Copenhagen a couple, three months ago, and we were doing rehearsals for the European tour," he continued. "We had this whole new visual show thing happening. And what was going on was, we are in an arena and they're showing some of the visuals and the dynamics and the aesthetics and all the hoopla to us, and we're sitting up in row 33 up there, looking at the whole thing. And they've got a live show of us somewhere on the summer tour blasting out over the P.A., the full rig is up, there's a giant P.A., giant stage and a giant light show. And I'm sitting up there and the whole thing is happening — 120-dB loud music, all the lights, the video screens, everything is going on… except there are no musicians on stage. And I'm sitting there going, 'There's gotta be a version of this somewhere in our future.'"
Lars went on to defend the idea of using technology to bring back any artist that has ever lived to delight and entertain us once more.
"As loopy as that sounds, and as kind of silly as I'm exaggerating for effect, what is a concert? What is music? What's a concert?" he said. "To me, it's about connecting people, and it's about sharing an experience together. And what we try to do, when we play gigs, is to erase the wall between the audience and the band. It's basically about doing away with that division between an audience and artist. And so I'm sitting there going, 'Maybe one day.'
"If the primary objective of a concert is to bring people together and share an experience, why do you need Lars Ulrich or James Hetfield there? Or Kirk Hammett or Robert Trujillo?" he continued. 'If you've got the music, you've got the equipment, you've got the lights, you've got the video, there's gotta be some version of that in there by the time all the Elon Musks and all the Marc Benioffs and the rest of 'em have figured out where artificial intelligence plays into all this."
Asked point blank if he would like to be a hologram a hundred years from now, Lars said: "Listen, I don't know about anybody else in here, but when it's done, it's done." But, he added, "If there was a way for it to work out… if it can be done in some way where it's cool and it's not just some fucking weird cash-in or whatever, but if it there was a way to do it in a meaningful way… Because at the end of the day — and I am actually really serious about this — to me, the further I get into this endeavor, music and METALLICA… People go, 'What's it like to be in METALLICA?' It's, like, we're all in METALLICA. METALLICA is something that exists in the ether. Lars Urich doesn't own METALLICA, James Hetfield doesn't own METALLICA, METALLICA doesn't own METALLICA — it's something that we all share. And it's something that we all used to connect.
"I believe the basic human need is to connect to other human beings — that's what we all strive for in any way possible," he said. "So if there's a way that that could be… a hundred years from now, fifty years from now, and I'm a hologram, fine with me. It's fine with me."
Created by Eyellusion, the digitally recreated Ronnie James Dio made its live debut at last year's Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, and reappeared for the music industry at the Pollstar Awards in February.
The "Dio Returns" tour will hit Europe in December, followed by a South American run in early 2018 and a North American trek next summer.
"We took our time building it because we wanted to pass on the legacy of his incredible music to people who might not have gotten a chance to see Ronnie during his lifetime," Eyellusion boss Jeff Pezzuti told Billboard of the eight-month process of creating the virtual Dio.