METALLICA frontman James Hetfield has defended “Lulu”, the band’s controversial collaborative album with former THE VELVET UNDERGROUND frontman Lou Reed, explaining that making the record was a “fun” experience that brought the members of closer METALLICA together.
“Lulu” polarized fans around the world and earned METALLICA some of the most scathing reviews of its career. The effort featured the former THE VELVET UNDERGROUND frontman’s spoken-word poetry and lyrics combined with METALLICA‘s musical assault for a jarring experience that didn’t sound like anything METALLICA had ever attempted before.
Four years since its release, “Lulu” has only sold under 35,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Speaking to METALLICA‘s fan-club magazine So What!, Hetfield said that he has no regrets about making “Lulu”.
“We’ve been extremely either bullheaded or lucky or something,” he said. “We’ve been maybe very jaded in that things have worked pretty well for us. We’re perfectionists. We’re really extremely self-critical. It’s gotten us to where we are, but it’s also the curse. When something doesn’t go right, I come down so hard on myself.
“‘Lulu’ wasn’t accepted as much as we accepted it,” he continued. “I’m really proud that we did it. It was fun, it was an adventure. And there are a lot of bands out there that do adventures that kill them, whether it’s choosing the wrong management or making a bad investment or something like that.
“We’ve got this dedication and loyalty to this band that no matter what, nothing can kill us. Whether it’s Cliff Burton [dying], Jason [Newsted] leaving, ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ [movie], the drama that’s going on now, there’s always something that we stick together with and survive through. So ‘Lulu’ brought us together even more.”
Hetfield added: “There’s certain artists that stand up with you and say, ‘Hey, I like it. They’re artists! They had fun! It’s something they wanted to do and they did it.’ You don’t have to like it, I get that, and there are people that are articulate enough to be able to say it that way: ‘I might not like the project, but I’m really glad, as an artist, they took a risk and went for it.’
“I think it comes down to personalities. You either want things to be safe, and you invest in them so much that if it’s not safe, it rocks your whole world, or you look at life as an adventure.”
METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett said that he was unfazed by the fact that most of the band’s fans found “Lulu” to be virtually unlistenable, saying “I love that album to death. It’s unfortunate that other people don’t see it the same way as I do, but what can I do about it? I can’t do anything about it. I can just keep on loving it. And if people like it, great. If people don’t like it, that’s great too. It’s only music.”
In a 2012 interview with Spin, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich admitted that the band was caught off guard by the vehement reaction to “Lulu”, saying, “It was more spiteful than anyone was prepared for. Especially against Lou. He is such a sweet man. But when METALLICA do impulsive riffing and Lou Reed is reciting abstract poetry about German bohemians from 150 years ago, it can be difficult to embrace.”
Asked whether the band had second thoughts over some of Reed‘s lyrics, like “I swallow your sharpest cutter / Like a colored man’s dick,” Ulrich said, “I understand that to some 13-year-old in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, it can all seem a little cringe-worthy, but to someone raised in an art community in Copenhagen in the late ’60s, that was expected.”
The collaboration between METALLICA and Reed was sparked by their performance together of Reed‘s “Sweet Jane” and “White Light/White Heat” at the 25th anniversary of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame at Madison Square Garden in October of 2009.
The songs were all written by Reed with extensive arrangement contributions by METALLICA.
Only two songs on the album are under five minutes in length, while two are more than 11 minutes long and the closing cut, “Junior Dad”, clocks in at 19 minutes.
Reed died in October 2013 at the age of 71, five months after he had a life-saving liver transplant, according to his wife, Laurie Anderson.