Metallica’s Lars Ulrich has been in the music industry long enough to remember when bands teaming with corporate brands was detrimental to a group’s image. “Remember 20, 25 years ago when the Who got a corporate sponsor for their tour? People said, ‘Ooh, they sold out, they have a sponsor.'”
How times have changed. Speaking to Variety at Los Angeles hotspot No Name, where Metallica held a launch event for the band’s new beer, Enter Night (crafted with Stone Brewing), Ulrich observed: “It’s a whole different thing now and, I think in this day and age, we just love exploring new ways to reach people and communicate. It’s fun.”
Coming on the heels of the band’s Blackened American Whiskey, which Ulrich says has far exceeded commercial expectations, and the Metallica X Nixon Hardcore watch collaboration, the beer is just the latest expansion of the band as brand. And Ulrich says there is more to come. “We’ve talked about if this Blackened thing keeps being as successful as it seems to be, maybe there’s a tequila in our future,” he says. “I think mescal, tequila could be next if this keeps going well and there’s a demand for it. Doing a cool sexy gin could be fun. Obviously, at some point, we could be talking about cannabis, CBD and what that looks like. But there are a whole slew of things out there that could be fun to f— with.”
Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing Company, believes that he and the band will collaborate further as well. “This is a permanent project for both of us,” he says. “Our hope is that this will continues for years and years. This wasn’t a one-and-done thing.”
All of this stems from the band’s understanding of how the musical climate has evolved, which Ulrich has experienced firsthand. ” Ever since [“Hardwired… To Self-Destruct”] came out [more than] two years ago, we’ve allowed ourselves to cast the net a little wider between the whiskey, our foundation, the beer,” says Ulrich. “It’s kind of fun to not only look at different ways to communicate with fans, look at different ways to express yourself, but also feel good about them. I think that 20, 30 years ago there was a kind of a stigma with rock and roll it wasn’t cool or credible to want to explore lifestyle kind of things, other ways to connect with fans. And now I can see in my own kids and a lot of our younger fans they totally embrace all these newer ways of communicating and connecting.”
The launch party, which also found Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo in the house, is part of a big week in L.A. for the Bay Area legends, as they will also be participating in “I Am the Highway,” the star-studded tribute to Chris Cornell taking place tonight at the Forum. The bill includes Foo Fighters, Ryan Adams, Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile.
Says Ulrich of paying homage to the late Soundgarden frontman: “First of all, as a fan, between Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple Of The Dog, his solo stuff … I’m sort of half misty-eyed, half in awe of this incredible mashup of our ‘One’ and U2’s ‘One.’ So as an artist, as somebody who I just totally respect and admire, obviously we’d be there in a heartbeat. It’s sad that it takes his passing for all of us to come and celebrate. Obviously that’s a dark cloud to the whole thing. But I’m glad that the community is getting together to celebrate Chris.”