James Hetfield Still Defending Metallica’s ‘…And Justice for All’ Mix
Questions surrounding the mix of Metallica's ...And Justice for All album and its significant lack of bass just won't die. It's been the subject of debate for over 30 years now and in a new interview with the band's fan magazine, So What!, James Hetfield renewed his support for what they did at the time.
When asked if Jason Newsted, who had just joined the band to replace the late Cliff Burton, ever approached him or Lars Ulrich about the level of bass in the mix, Hetfield said, "He probably did. I don't know what my answer was then, but it was kinda done."
He noted that it wasn't meant as a slight against Newsted, adding, " It was not all about, 'Fuck him. Let's turn him down.' That's for sure." Instead, he insisted Metallica were pursuing the "best-sounding record we could make."
Papa Het admitted that fatigue could have played a factor in the notorious mix in addition to hearing issues attributed to not wearing ear plugs during concert performances. "We were burnt. We were frigging fried. Going back and forth [between touring and mixing the album]. Playing a gig. No earplugs, no nothing," he recalled.
"You go back into the studio, your hearing is shot," the frontman continued. "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."
The goal was to have the album sound "fucking tight," per Hetfield. "We wanted the snare, we wanted the guitar, we wanted everything up front and in your face and really tight. And we thought we got it." Regarding Steve Thompson, who handled the mixing (and has his own recollection of the events as seen in our exclusive video interview below), the Metallica icon said that "he's got nothing to apologize for or point fingers at," nothing that there is no "blame" to assign.
Fans had speculated that Metallica would have remixed ...And Justice for All last year for the 30th anniversary of the record, but the band remained adamant that it was not going to happen.
Hetfield reasserted his stance on keeping the original mix intact, commenting, "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?"
Metallica are still on the road supporting 2016's Hardwired... To Self-Destruct on their "WorldWired" tour. Find out where you can catch them live and get your tickets here.
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