Metallica‘s 1988 effort “…And Justice For All” is the next effort in line for Metallica to re-release a deluxe edition for and it doesn’t look like the – according to many fans’ opinion – album’s biggest defects will be righted with the release. Since its publication, fans have decried the drum sound being weird and bassist Jason Newsted‘s bass parts being buried in the mix.
Steve Thompson, who originally mixed the album alongside Michael Barbiero, has stated that he recently contributed some material to the forthcoming deluxe edition and got the impression that Metallica won’t be re-mixing “…And Justice For All”.
Appearing on the Talk Toomey Podcast, Thompson spoke about the original mixing sessions and how the bass came to be buried.
States Steve Thompson:
“The first day Lars would come in with pictures of an EQ setup of how he wanted his drums to sound, every drum. So I said to Barbiero, ‘Michael, why don’t you work with Lars and get the drums sounding the way he wants them and once you got that let me know.’
So he gets the sound that Lars wanted and I listened to ’em myself and said ‘Man, this sounds like shit.’ …And so I chased everybody out of the room, I started putting everything up, re-EQing drums, bringing the guitars up, bringing the bass up, because the bass was a great part because it was a perfect marriage with Hetfield‘s rhythm guitars, it just was great. And I’m blowing up the band and everything like that and Hetfield comes in and he thumbs up, everybody, he’s happy.
So when I was ready for playback, Lars comes walking in, listens to about 15 seconds and he says ‘turn it off.’ And he goes to me ‘Uhh, what happens to my drum sound?’ So I think I just probably said ‘You were serious?”
So I had to get the drum sound back to where Lars was happy and I wasn’t… And then he said ‘See the bass?’ I said ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I want you to bring it down about 5 or 6db. I said ‘Why,’ [he said] ‘Just bring it down.’ So I brought it down where you barely audibly could hear it. And he goes now ‘drop it down a little more’.
And I remember I think I turned around to James and James just put his hands up and I said ‘Really, why would you do that?’”
Speaking of the forthcoming deluxe edition of the album, he adds:
“I just contributed to the anniversary album of ‘…And Justice [For All‘]. I just sent them a bunch of pictures and some outtakes, but they have no desire to re-mix the record. They want to keep it the way it is.
They might remaster it or something like that, but there is only so much mastering you can do. And I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t even know if those original multitracks could be saved. Because there are like 5 million edits in them from Lars‘ drums alone. So if you have the box and open it up there probably be about 50 million pieces of tape all over the place.”
“They’ve lived with it this long. I’ve lived with most of the criticism, ’cause everybody assumes it’s my fault. And I guess I have to take blame cause it says my name says mixed by me and Barbiero.
But I remember when Metallica got elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, they flew us in there to be a part of it—which I thought was great—and I remember hanging out with Lars and Lars basically came up to me and said ‘Steve, what happened to the bass on the record?’ He actually asked me that and I just said ‘Ok, I give up, I give up’ [laughs].”