This past Wednesday, Metallica held their first-ever “Day of Service,” an opportunity for fans to join the band members in chipping in at food banks and giving back to their communities. The event was an extension of the group’s charitable All Within My Hands Foundation, which aids in critical local services and supports workforce education and the fight against hunger. Drummer Lars Ulrich pitched in at the San Francisco–Marin Food Bank, where he packed oranges into crates for people in need and rubbed elbows with fans. Here, he explains why it was important for Metallica to shed light on the cause and what he learned from it.
We have an incredible life. We are very fortunate to travel the world, playing music and connecting with people in live settings, creating intimacy and sharing an experience. As we continue this endeavor into our fourth decade, the notion of others participating in the goodwill and good fortune that’s generated from this incredible journey is one that has been impossible to ignore for many years.
Being in Metallica, our language and culture have always had a bit of cynicism as part of the main driving force: ask questions, don’t trust, don’t believe, etc. For many years, we were quite skeptical about certain elements of the charitable path that we saw some of our peers in the entertainment world take. We would at best be doubtful about the grandstanding that others often took in their efforts that ended up primarily looking like they were patting themselves on their backs and trying to steal the spotlight away from their supposed good deeds.
So for many years, Metallica gave back almost 100 percent under the radar. In cities we would play, we would work closely with food banks and not only make sure that the massive amounts of uneaten meals from the backstage catering and dressing rooms would end up in the hands of the needy, but also support these local charities with donations.
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“It feels like we’re on the path to something that is really making a difference.”
A couple of years ago, as we started looking ahead to the live campaign for the Hardwired … to Self-Destruct cycle, we decided that we were at a point where we were ready to go public with our goodwill endeavors. Maybe advanced age erodes the cynicism? Maybe the possibilities of reaching people in today’s social-media climate seemed too good to suppress? Whatever the reason, there was a natural, effortless transition to not only feeling comfortable with talking about our efforts but being ready to shout them loud and proud from every rooftop and every soapbox possible. So we created our All Within My Hands Foundation.
A year and a half later, our foundation is now up and running. And even though we’re still finding our feet, I’m proud to say that it feels like we’re on the path to something that is really making a difference.
We’re moving forward on two fronts: In every city that Metallica plays, we pick a local charity – so far mostly food banks, homeless shelters and centers for at-risk youth – and donate two dollars from each concert ticket sold to these organizations. We then blow this up on all our socials and in the local media as much as we can to encourage all our fans to participate in all possible ways. An unexpected added benefit to this is that we are not limited to bringing awareness to these incredible organizations on a local level, and since our social media network is so vast, this outreach gets international legs.
Additionally, we are spreading the word amongst our fans, encouraging them to roll their sleeves up in their local communities and help out. Do what you can to get your hands dirty, as dirty as possible! In Metallica’s lingo, we are proud of how the words “we,” “us” and “family” are the verbal cornerstones that not only keep us connected but feeling like we are part of something greater than ourselves and moving forward in tandem.
“Do what you can to get your hands dirty, as dirty as possible!”
This week, we held our first All Within My Hands Day of Service, where we encouraged Metallica fans to lend a hand at all the local U.S. food banks that participated in our program. The response was overwhelming. We’re so proud of the passion and the selflessness that our fans brought to all their local chapters around the country. All the reports that have ended up in my inbox reflect nothing but goodwill, good deeds, good vibes and good energy.
As someone who has been a loner for most of my life, being in the Metallica family has always given me a sense of belonging and made me feel like I was not alone. And as we all know, hard rock can sometimes, in different parts of the world, be looked down upon as a second-class member of the global music community. So we are additionally pleased that we can show everyone that hard-rock and metal fans can be as compassionate and as selfless as any other people in the worldwide charitable family and the bad stigma that sometimes is hung upon them/us as somehow lesser citizens can be readdressed.
A few days ago, I met [Metallica fan] Robert Alvarez at the Metallica Day of Service event here at the San Francisco–Marin Food Bank. He told me about how two of the most important elements of his life collided that day. He’s been volunteering there for 13 years to take care of his immediate community and family members and on top of that has every single Metallica record and calls himself a hardcore fan.
To me, he exemplifies what this whole effort is about: giving our fans a music-based platform to connect with other members of their local community around volunteer work, giving back and sharing in the good fortune I mentioned earlier … the good fortune and incredible opportunities that most of us in the western world take for granted.
As told to Kory Grow.