Lars Ulrich on how failed tennis career led to birth of Metallica

A picture of Lars Ulrich
Anyone for tennis? (Image credit: Getty)

Lars Ulrich has recalled how learning that he wasn’t anywhere near good enough to be a professional tennis player led him down the path of forming Metallica.

The drummer’s family moved from Copenhagen, Denmark, to California when he was 16 so that he could follow in his father Torben Ulrich’s footsteps and become a tennis professional.

But while he was considered an elite player in Denmark, Lars discovered pretty quickly that he was decidedly average by American standards.

The drummer tells Jonesy’s Jukebox: “I grew up in a tennis playing family. We relocated to Newport Beach and I was going to play tennis at Corona del Mar High School.

“In Denmark I was ranked high enough to be one of the best tennis players in the country, but there’s only five million people there. when we came to Newport Beach, I wasn’t good enough to get on the tennis team at Corona del Mar High School.

“I wasn’t one of the best 10 tennis players in the street that I lived on! I jumped head first back into Iron Maiden, Saxon and Motorhead. And I remember bands like Angel Witch, Diamond Head and Tygers Of Pan Tang – this was in 1981.

“I was like, ‘I want to form a band and play drums,’ and off it went.”

Ulrich placed a newspaper advert to find like-minded musicians and he and James Hetfield formed Metallica, who would go on to become one of the biggest bands on the planet.

Metallica released their 10th album Hardwired… To Self-Destruct last month and have a number of tour dates lined up for 2017, with more expected to be announced in due course.

Metallica tour dates 2017 so far

Jan 11: Seoul Gocheok Sky Dome, South Korea
Jan 18: Beijing Le Sports Centre, China
Jan 20: Hong Kong AsiaWorld-Expo, China
Jan 22: Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore
Feb 03: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 05: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 07: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Feb 09: Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Mar 01: Mexico City Foro Sol, Mexico
Mar 03: Mexico City Foro Sol, Mexico
Mar 25: Sao Paulo Interlagos Racetrack, Brazil
Mar 31-Apr 01: Buenos Aires Hippodrome San Isidro, Argentina
Apr 01-02: Santiago Parque O’Higgins, Chile
May 19-21: Rock On The Range festival, OH

Thinking Out Loud: Lars Ulrich on Cliff Burton, collecting art and being Danish

Stef wrote close to 5,000 stories during his time as assistant online news editor and later as online news editor between 2014-2016. An accomplished reporter and journalist, Stef has written extensively for a number of UK newspapers and also played bass with UK rock favourites Logan. His favourite bands are Pixies and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Stef left the world of rock'n'roll news behind when he moved to his beloved Canada in 2016, but he started on his next 5000 stories in 2022.