“Why did you let Some Kind Of Monster come out?” What happened when Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson interviewed Metallica’s Lars Ulrich

Bruce Dickinson and Lars Ulrich in 2008
(Image credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images | Nigel Crane/Redferns)

In late 2008, the BBC radio station 6 Music hosted a veritable heavy metal clash of the titans. Iron Maiden frontman and renowned polymath Bruce Dickinson had a weekly show on the air at the time, while Metallica were making the rounds promoting their ninth album, Death Magnetic. The Beeb made full use of the metal all-star opportunity they had on their hands, so they got Bruce to interview every member of the Four Horsemen individually, with all four separate conversations making it onto radios across the UK.

When Bruce interviewed James Hetfield, the conversation instantly turned to the powerful topic of Cliff Burton, Metallica’s ex-bassist who died in a bus crash aged 24. The Air-Raid Siren’s chat with drummer Lars Ulrich, however, started on more light-hearted footing. Lars reflects on meeting Iron Maiden’s famed manager, Rod Smallwood, and how his first impression of a then-unreleased Master Of Puppets felt groundbreaking for the young New Wave Of British Heavy Metal fanatic.

“A pivotal moment was when we were mixing Master Of Puppets and we were at Rod’s house,” Lars remembers. “I played him side one and the last song on side one is a song called Welcome Home (Sanitarium). When we were done with side one, I went to turn the table and he said, ‘That last song, can you play that for me again?’ That’s when I knew that we were onto something great!”

Bruce, in his typically fearless and outspoken manner, also pushed Lars into some more difficult discussions. Later in the chat, the Maiden man pokes the drummer on the tumultuous St Anger period, during which Hetfield entered rehab and Metallica made an extremely controversial record of rubbish-bin snares and zero snares. Bruce asks if the album was their Tin Machine, referencing a critically derided project David Bowie spearheaded 1989 to 1992. Lars jokingly replies, “I don’t know if it’s good enough to be Tin Machine!”

Bruce then prods deeper, asking, “Why did you let the movie [Some Kind Of Monster] come out? Was that a good idea?”

“I think it was a dare,” Lars answers, acknowledging how revelatory the documentary was of Metallica’s behind-the-scenes behaviours at the time. The frankness inspired a mixed response, with some pundits admiring the candour while some felt it destroyed the heavy metal heroes’ mystique.

“They [directors Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger] were going to film some infomercials on the making of the Metallica record,” continued Lars. “Then Hetfield shows up one day and goes, ‘I’m going to rehab.’ All of a sudden, this whole thing plays out, and they came to us and said, ‘We think there’s a great movie in this. Are you game?’ We said, ‘We trust you,’ because we felt that was the purest way of doing it. If we were going to sit there and edit things out, it wouldn’t be a movie about us; it’d be a movie by us. I look at that movie as the ultimate access to the band.”

“Didn’t it have the reverse effect, though?” challenges Bruce.

“I think, yeah, to the hardcore Metallica fans, some of it was too much. But, the film was probably better received in the movie world than it was in the music world. As a film, I think it’s very interesting because it has a human element to it. It has a natural, dramatic arc that plays out and it became its own monster.”

Listen to Bruce and Lars’ full conversation via the link below:

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.