Metallica: how we made Master of Puppets

From the Guardian

Lars Ulrich: ‘There’s a fast song, a mid-tempo song, a ballad. It’s like food groups: you need your carbs, your protein’

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‘It felt like a joyride’ … from left, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burton of Metallica in 1985. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns

Lars Ulrich, drums

When we recorded Ride the Lightning in 1984, our producer was Flemming Rasmussen, a Dane. He was definitely our kind of guy: quick on the draw, really smart. The exchange rate between the dollar and the krone was so much in our favour that we decided to record the next album in Denmark. Plus, if you’re going to transplant a bunch of 20-year-old American kids anywhere in western Europe, Copenhagen’s not a bad place. Everyone speaks English, they’re very aware of American culture and there’s lots of good beer.

We had so much energy and belief. It’s interesting how instinctive things used to be, how impulsive. I don’t remember labouring over ideas or ways to do things. We just did it. When you’re 21, you just do shit. When you’re 51, everything is an ordeal.

All the songs had been written, except The Thing That Should Not Be, which we did in the studio. We had a tendency to look at our albums as a collection of different dynamics: there’s a fast song, a mid-tempo song, a ballad, an instrumental. It’s like food groups – you need your carbs, your protein, all of that. So we knew there was a spot for a slow, super-weighty song, and The Thing That Should Not Be came together easily.

We recorded two more songs, initially intended as B-sides: The Prince by Diamond Head, and The Money Will Roll Right In, by a California punk band called Fang. But we thought the punkish nature of the songs was being lost – they were becoming too polished. So we sacked them. Maybe one day they’ll see the light of day.

I remember mixing the record in LA. We used to hang out with Iron Maiden’s manager, Rod Smallwood. He had a house two blocks from Sunset Boulevard that frequently became an after-hours hang. One night, our song Welcome Home (Sanitarium) came on in the background. Rod said: “That was really cool, can I hear it again?” It was as if God had spoken. I thought: “You know what? I think this is going to work out.

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