James Hetfield And Lars Ulrich’s Disagreement Over ‘And Justice For All’

During a recent interview with Dean Cramer, the music producer Steve Thompson talked about the mixing sessions of Metallica’s 1988 album ‘…And Justice for All.’ He revealed that Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield had a big disagreement over the mixes.

It has been more than three decades since the release of ‘…And Justice for All’ but the discussions around it are still going on. Although the album was a huge success when it was released, the fans had severely criticized it for the lack of Jason Newsted’s bass guitar sounds on the tracks. According to many, the drummer Lars Ulrich is to blame due to his insistence on his drum sounds.

During a recent interview, Steve Thompson, who worked with Metallica at the time, recalled the mixing sessions of the album and shared his thoughts on the missing bass. Thompson explained that Lars Ulrich had a particular opinion on how his drums should have sounded. However, Thompson had to rearrange it according to the bass because he thought Newsted and Hetfield’s sounds had ‘work together’ as they were ‘perfectly played.’

Later on, when all the band members came together, Ulrich was sort of angry and asked about what happened to his drum sounds. Steve Thompson explained that he needed to rearrange them, but Ulrich told him to lower the bass. The bass was very hard to hear when they did that, but Thompson did what Ulrich wanted anyway. Then, he turned to James Hetfield to see his reaction but he just raised both hands. Hetfield certainly disagreed with what Ulrich did, but he still didn’t prevent him.

Steve Thompson’s words on the mixing session of the album:

“We did the project up at Bearsville, New York — we worked on an SSL 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, 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 bass was a great part because you know what was great about bass? It was a great marriage with Hetfield’s guitars; it was, like, they needed to work together. It was perfectly played.

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?'”

He continued by saying:

 “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 by raising 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 f*cking 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 watch the full interview below.