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James Hetfield Blames Ear Fatigue for Bass-less …And Justice for All Mix

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Recent interviews with …And Justice For All producer Fleming Rasmussen and mix engineer Steve Thompson were firm in their unequivocally claims that the reason the bass was buried in the mix, a controversial production choice we’re STILL arguing about over 30 years later, was to haze Jason Newsted. “Alright, take the bass down, change this this this and this, and then take the bass down,” Rasmussen said the band told him. “So you can barely hear it. And then once they’ve done that they said, ‘Take it another 3dB down.’”

But according to James Hetfield in a new interview with the band’s own So What! fan magazine, it was an accident! Papa Het stops short of saying that hazing Newsted had nothing to do with it, but he puts most of the blame on the band’s ears being worn out from gigging with no earplugs, claiming they were trying to make the “best-sounding record we could make.”

“It was not all about, ‘Fuck him. Let’s turn him down.’ That’s for sure. 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.”

I dunno, man. I have no doubt that it may have also been the case that the band members’ hearing was shot, but to place most of the blame on that sounds like revisionist history to me.

Hetfield said there are no plans to remix the album, recoiling at the very prospect:

“And why would you change that? Why would you change history? Why would you all of a sudden put bass on it? There is bass on it, but why would you remix an album? You can remaster it, yes, but why would you remix something and make it different? It’d be like… I don’t know. Not that I’m comparing us to the Mona Lisa, but it’s, like, ‘Uh, can we make her smile a little better?!’ You know?! Why?”

That’s a sentiment I can agree with. Remixing classic albums is never a good idea; just ask Exodus or Dream Theater, both of whom remixed classic albums to the consternation of longtime fans.

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