Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has joined the legion of rock ’n’ roll heavyweights honouring the late Charlie Watts – legendary drummer of the Rolling Stones, who died at age 80 earlier this week – praising him as “such a significant part of [the Stones’] sound, and an underrated part of their sound”.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Ulrich said he was shocked by Watts’ passing, noting that “it hits hard on many levels” because “as a Stones fan, it’s sort of the end of at least an era within that band, because he was the only drummer that ever recorded with them”.
Ulrich pointed out that Watts was often overlooked as the Stones’ drummer, often taking a strictly professional approach to his role in the band while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enjoyed the majority of attention. He continued: “In a band where the spotlight would go to especially Mick and Keith, a lot of people truly didn’t understand how valuable he was.”
- READ MORE: Charlie Watts, 1941 – 2021: the ballast that kept The Rolling Stones tempered and on-track
Ulrich also spoke to how Watts inspired him as a fledging drummer in his own right, citing him as a key influence on much of Metallica’s own work – including the eponymous ‘Black Album’, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
“Charlie has always been that driving force,” he said. “He could kick these songs and make them swing, make them swagger, still make them have that attitude, that pocket. Seeing him do that way deep into his [70s] has been such a life-affirming thing.
“[Metallica are] a good 20, 25 years behind, but it’s given me a lot of faith in the possibilities of what it can continue to be – music, concerts, connecting to fans, connecting to each other as a band. There’s nobody above them on that pyramid, and there’s nobody above Charlie on that pyramid.”
Lastly, Ulrich mentioned that in watching footage of Watts’ final performance with the Stones – a set they played in Florida on August 30, 2019 as part of the band’s No Filter tour – he learned a new reason why Watts was so imperative to the band’s dynamic.
“I was looking at a couple of the clips from [that show] and even seeing Mick Jagger up there swaying,” he said. “He’s swaying to Charlie Watts’ drumming. People sit there and go, ‘Yeah, I’m dancing along with Mick Jagger.’ No, you’re dancing along with Charlie Watts in the same way Mick Jagger’s dancing along to Charlie Watts’ drumming.
“Mick Jagger wouldn’t have those moves if it wasn’t for Charlie Watts’ drumming. It sort of starts and ends there.”
Ulrich is one of many acclaimed artists to have shared their memories of Watts’ influence over the last few days. Others include Paul McCartney, Ronnie Wood, Pete Townshend of The Who, Ben Thatcher of Royal Blood, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam and Bill Wyman, as well as his bandmates.
Watts had played in the Rolling Stones since 1963. He was the only member of the legendary British rock band alongside Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to have featured on all of their studio albums to date, the last being the 2016 covers record ‘Blue & Lonesome’.