Signing on for a "Guitar Hero" game was a "no brainer," according to Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.
"When 'Guitar Hero' came to us in April of last year, we said 'yes' very quickly," Ulrich told Billboard.com on Friday during the quartet's drop-in appearance to promote "Guitar Hero: Metallica," which comes out March 29, at South By Southwest, where it also was set to play a show at Stubb's that evening. "It seemed like the next step - a whole other platform for musicians to reach an audience. If we talk about this in five years, I think it will turn into an expected way to release an album."
Metallica did release its latest album, "Death Magnetic," through Guitar Hero as well as through traditional retail and download sites, and Ulrich acknowledges it may have helped bring a younger audience to the band. "What blows me away is six months into the (album) experience how young the audience continues to be," he said. "We see whole armies of 10-year-olds who weren't listening to music when "St. Anger" was released. In a world where music has so much competition, this is a great gateway for them into the music."
Guitarist Kirk Hammett - who revealed that he beat Ulrich the one time he played "Guitar Hero: Metallica" ("He stormed off") - added that he hopes the game also inspires those young fans to learn how to play instruments for real. "Kids get a feel of what it's like to play a song on guitar without having to learn to play guitar – how cool is that?" he noted. "And to be exposed to classic rock and metal songs they might not otherwise listen to…It's a wonderful thing."
In addition to Metallica songs – as well as character images of the band from throughout its career – "Guitar Hero: Metallica" also features songs by Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and other Metallica friends and heroes.
Metallica resumes the European leg of its "Death Magnetic" tour on March 25 in Birmingham, England. Hammett said the group plans to be on the road until late 2010 and "has talked a little bit" about possibly documenting the tour with an album or DVD release, but has reached no conclusions. The group will come home for its April 4 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where it was recently announced the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea would make the induction speech.
"It's cool that he's not in a heavy metal band but is a well-respected musician you might not expect," Hammett said. Former bassist Jason Newstead will join the band that night, and Ulrich said that the evening "will be lik e a family renio...a whole big pile of people, lots of friends."
Full SXSW 2009 coverage is in our blog at Billboard.com/sxsw.