Former METALLICA Producer Expresses Frustration Over Lack Of Bass In ‘…And Justice For All’ Mix: ‘I Was Mad When I First Heard It’

Metallica With Jason Newsted

In a recent interview with Chris Akin Presents, METALLICA‘s former producer Fleming Rasmussen talked about the sound of the band’s album …And Justice For All.

Although …And Justice For All is regarded as one of METALLICA‘s classic albums, it has faced criticism since its 1988 release for the near absence of bass guitar. Jason Newsted‘s playing is almost inaudible in the mix, and many fans attribute this to drummer Lars Ulrich, who had very specific ideas about how he wanted his drums to sound.

Rasmussen, who produced Justice along with Ride The Lightning (1984) and Master Of Puppets (1986), was asked if he was upset when he first heard the …And Justice For All mix.

“Yeah, I was,” he responded. “Lars came and played it to me, and I looked at him and I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘It’s the mix.’ I said, ‘No, it’s not.’ And he was, like, ‘Yes, it is.’ I said, ‘What? There’s no bass.’ He said, ‘Yeah, there it is. You can hear it. It’s in the bottom of the guitars.’ I was, like, ‘No.'”

“You’re gonna have to ask Lars and James [Hetfield] why they took the bass down, ’cause I didn’t mix it. Because I came in so late, they had already hired Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero to do the mixing. And I mean, just go online, [and] you can get the story from the horse’s mouth what happened. There’s no reason for me to retell that. It was Lars and James. And why they did that, I’m not even sure they know themselves.”

In a 2021 interview with Metal Hammer, Newsted said he was “f**king livid” when he heard the album for the first time and discovered that James and Lars had approved a mix which rendered his contributions to the album almost inaudible.

“Are you kidding me? I was ready [to go] for throats, man! No, I was out of my head, because I really thought I did well. And I thought I played how I was supposed to play.”

He went on to say that METALLICA‘s sound always revolved around Ulrich and guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield. “Lars and James were the original garage band duo, as far as that goes,” he explained. “They always made the records that way, from [1982 demo cassette] No Life ‘Til Leather, it was Lars and James, guitar and drums. On the original No Life ‘Til Leather cassette — if you happen to ever see a real copy or a photo of a real copy — in Lars‘s handwriting, in ink pen, on the label of the cassette, [it reads] ‘Turn bass down on stereo.’ On ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’! They mixed it how it was supposed to be mixed: there’s the bass and there’s the guitar from all the way back. But Lars didn’t want [that] because it messed with his drums somehow, so when he sends the demo out to f*cking Combat Records and wherever, [his instruction is] ‘Turn the bass down before you even listen to this.’

“Before you even get it going, just turn the bass down. Right from the get-go. Before you even start. That’s where he’s been his whole goddamn life, so why would it be any different when it came to […And Justice For All]? They made Kill ‘Em All that way, they made Ride [The Lightning] that way, they made Master [Of Puppets] that way, all of them. Those two guys in a room [mimics drum beats and playing], that’s the way it always happened. [For] the most successful metal band of all time. So you argue with this sh*t? I’m not really sure. Now it’s become the best garage band album ever [for artists such as] BLACK KEYSWHITE STRIPESDUO JETS, the different ‘power duos’ of garage stuff.”

In an 2019 interview with METALLICA fan magazine So What!Hetfield was asked if Jason ever approached him and Lars to say that the bass was lower in the mix than he had expected, to which he responded: “He probably did. I don’t know what my answer was then, but it was kinda done. I mean, I will say, it was not all about, ‘F**k him. Let’s turn him down.’ That’s for sure.

“We wanted the best-sounding record we could make. That was our goal. We were burnt. We were frigging fried. Going back and forth [between touring and mixing the album]. Playing a gig. No earplugs, no nothing. You go back into the studio, your hearing is shot. If your ears can’t hear any high end anymore, you’re gonna turn it up. So we’re turning the high end up more and more and more and all of a sudden, low end’s gone. So I know that played a bigger part than any hazing or any ill feelings towards Jason, for sure. We were fried. We were burnt.”