METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich has defended the sound of the band’s “…And Justice For All” album, saying that it was “the result of instinctive choices that were made along the way to make it work.”
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. Jason Newsted‘s playing is virtually buried in the mix — and many fans feel that Ulrich, who had very specific ideas for how he wanted his drums to sound, is to blame.
To promote the 30th-anniversary box-set reissue of “…And Justice For All”, the four members of METALLICA took part in a nearly 90-minute interview in Pittsburgh with longtime rock journalist and Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, who was responsible for writing METALLICA‘s first feature in the magazine in 1989.
Speaking about the slightly one-dimensional and tinny production of “…And Justice For All”, Ulrich said (see video below): “It all about balances. So we found a way to get — I guess primarily James [Hetfield, guitar/vocals] and I — to have our voices in the writing, in the parts, in the sonics. And it was not necessarily about the big picture, but it was about the way that it could all coexist without anybody having to take a backstep, or it was like we were all chained together. And so we would move forward. This was the way it worked.
“It was, like, ‘Why do the kick drums sound like that?’ Well, part of the reason the kick drums sound like that is because there was no other place for the kick drums to sort of come through,” he explained. “Because James‘s guitar was sort of here, so the kick drum would live up there or a little bit down here. So there was a reason for a lot of this stuff. Nobody sat there and said, ‘We’re gonna have a record that’s gonna be mixed this way.’ We weren’t capable of thinking at that level. So a lot of it was a result of what I think were sort of balancing points along the way to just make it all work for the big picture.
“I think it’s important to say that it wasn’t planned that way,” Lars reiterated. “We didn’t sit there and go, ‘A year from now, we’re gonna have a record that sounds this particular way.’ I don’t know if the word ‘accidental’ [applies], but it’s just the result of instinctive choices that were made along the way to make it work, to keep people at bay — all that kind of s**t. ‘This is our thing. Nobody’s gonna f*ck with it. Nobody’s gonna touch it. Nobody’s gonna get involved. We’re the gatekeepers. F*ck you!’ That was kind of my recollection of that whole year.”