Music Dorkery

Mixing Engineer Steve Thompson Claims it’s Lars Ulrich’s Fault That There’s No Bass on …And Justice for All

  • Axl Rosenberg

ulrich thompson and newstedJust when Lars Ulrich thought his reputation couldn’t get any worse…

Are you one of the millions of Metallica fans who are pissed about the lack of bass on …And Justice for All? I know I am! I understand it was done as a tribute to the late, great Cliff Burton, and I appreciate the idea, but the lack of bass is really the one strike against an otherwise amazing album (and it speaks to the quality of that record that it’s STILL an inarguable classic, despite the lack of bass).

Now mixing engineer Steve Thompson has revealed what he claims to be the truth behind this horrible decision.

In a new interview with Ultimate Guitar, Thompson alleges that although then-new bassist Jason Newsted “killed it” on the recording, Ulrich instructed him “to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix.” After following Ulrich’s directive, Thompson says the drummer told him “Now drop it down another 5 db.” Thompson claims he subsequently tried to get off the project, but was ultimately convinced to stay:

“They talked me into being there and my only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to at least mix it the way we heard it. I wanted to take ‘Master of Puppets’ and blow that away. That was my sonic direction for ‘… And Justice For All.’ It was all there but I think they were looking for more garagey-type sound without bass. And the bass was great; it was perfect.”

The real kicker, though, came more than twenty years later, when Thompson was seated with Ulrich for Metallica’s Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2009:

“[Ulrich] goes, ‘Hey, what happened to the bass in … Justice?’ He actually asked me that. I wanted to cold cock him right there. It was a shame because I’m the one getting the shit for the lack of bass.”

Is the story true? Given the diminutive Danish drummer’s reputation, it’s certainly not hard to believe. One thing is for certain, though: Lars Ulrich’s place as the most hated man in the history of Metallica is now secure. Sorry, Bob Rock and Phil Towle!

Read the rest of the Thompson interview here. The dude has worked on plenty of other amazing records, too, including Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, so it’s worth a look!

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