During a recent interview, the former mixer of “…And Justice For All” album of Metallica, Steve Thompson criticized the regarded band’s classic 1988 album, revealing that he felt Lars Ulrich‘s drums sounded “like ass.”
Steve Thompson worked for one of the classic albums “…And Justice For All” back in the past as he also worked with other famous names such as Guns N’ Roses (on “Appetite For Destruction”), Korn (on “Follow The Leader”) and Soundgarden (on “A-Sides.”) And during a recent interview of his, the prominent music producer reflected his thoughts on the mixing sessions for “…And Justice For All”, the classic 1988 album of Metallica, as he revealed what he had thought for the drum parts of Lars Ulrich along with touching on the criticism that record has received for the bass parts, which were performed by former bassist Jason Newsted, being nearly inaudible.
“We did the project up at Bearsville, New York — we worked on an SSL [console] up at Bearsville Studios. And Lars originally came in with a whole EQ setup chart of how he wanted his drums to sound. So Michael Barbiero, my partner, says, ‘Why don’t you work with Lars and get the drums sounding the way he wants them to sound, and then once you do that, I’ll take care of the rest.’ So he does that. And I listened to the sounds, and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I think this sounds like ass.’ So anyway, I kind of re-EQed all the drums a little bit just to make ’em a little more palpable — it’s in the ear of the beholder. Then I brought the bass up, which I thought the bass was a great part because… You know what was great about [Newsted‘s] bass? It was a great marriage with [James] Hetfield‘s guitars; it was, like, they needed to work together. It was perfectly played,” started explaining “…And Justice For All” mixer.
“So I got the whole rhythm section together, vocals and everything like that, and then I felt, ‘Okay, now’s the time. Hetfield was in there, giving thumbs up and everything like that. Then I brought Lars in. First of all, Lars hears it for about five to ten seconds, and he goes, ‘All right, stop right there.’ He goes, ‘What happened to my drum sound?’ I basically probably said something like, ‘You were serious?’ So I had to rearrange the drum sound to get it to where he wanted it again. He goes, ‘Okay, see the bass?’ I go, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Drop it down in the mix.’ I said, ‘Why? It’s great.’ ‘Drop it down in the mix.’ ‘Okay.’ So I did it as a joke. I dropped it all the way down. He goes, ‘Drop it down another five or six dB’ from there, which could hardly hear it — you couldn’t hear it. I said, ‘Seriously?’ And I think I turned around to Hetfield, and he just went like this [raises both hands].
And then I remember having a conversation with Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch who were managing them. And I basically had a conversation, I said, ‘Listen, I love these guys. I think this band is fucking amazing. I don’t agree with what they want me to do with this. And I understand, it’s their record. They should get whatever they want. We were hired to get them what they want. But I just can’t see doing this.’ And we wound up giving ’em what they want. Again, it’s not my record — it’s their record — and you have to respect their opinion. I hated it personally because I’m a bass guy. I love bass. When we’re recording, we record the fattest basses in the world.”
You can also hear the whole conversation of “…And Justice For All”s mixer Steve Thompson, down below.
During a past interview in 2008, the talented guitarist of Metallica, Kirk Hammett also made an explanation for the parts of Jason Newsted in “…And Justice For All” and said:
“The reason you can’t hear the bass so well is because the bass frequencies in Jason‘s tone kinda interfered with the tone that James was trying to shoot for with his rhythm guitar sound, and every time the two blended together, it just wasn’t happening. So the only thing left to do was turn the bass down in the mix. It was unfortunate, but for some reason or another, that album is known for the low end being there without the bass being very high up in the mix. It was an experiment, too — we were totally going for a dry, in-your-face sound, and some people really like that sound. A lot of the newer-generation bands, especially, think that album sounds great. But at the end of the day, it was an experiment. I’m not really sure it was 100 percent successful, but it is a unique sound that that album has.”
So, while there are still some discussions that have been happening for the classic album of Metallica throughout the years, the legendary band has stayed put on its line, dismissing calls for remixing “…And Justice For All.” And their decision doesn’t seem to go wrong, after all, considering the streams of the 1988’s album’s tracks getting more than 20 million hits on Spotify, as well.
Ultimately, Metallica has also announced recently before wrapping up the year that they were being listened to 1.3 billion times through Spotify during 2021 along with marking the third year of its row of being streamed more than a billion times.