During a recent interview with Metal Hammer magazine, former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted discussed the sound of the band’s …And Justice For All album.
While …And Justice For All is considered one of METALLICA‘s classics, it has been criticized almost since the day it was released in 1988 for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. Newsted‘s playing is virtually buried in the mix — and many fans feel that drummer Lars Ulrich, who had very specific ideas for how he wanted his drums to sound, is to blame.
Newsted says he was “f*cking livid” when he heard the album for the first time and discovered that James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich 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 KEYS, WHITE STRIPES, DUO 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*ck 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.”