By this point, tens of thousands of words have been written about the glaring lack of bass on Metallica‘s 1988 album, … And Justice for All, and the mistreatment that newly recruited bassist Jason Newsted suffered at the hands of his bandmates in the wake of Cliff Burton‘s death.
Newsted has now admitted he wasn’t happy when he first heard the LP, whose drum-and-guitar-heavy mix virtually eliminates his contributions.
“I was fucking livid!” Newsted told Metal Hammer in a new interview. “Are you kidding me? I was ready [to go] for throats, man!”
Newsted recalled going to Los Angeles’ One on One studio to record his bass parts and finding that neither his bandmates nor producer Flemming Rasmussen had shown up. While he didn’t find it unusual at the time, he said the ensuing … And Justice for All mix rattled his confidence. “I was out of my head, because I really thought I did well,” he said. “And I thought I played how I was supposed to play.”
Metallica hired Newsted after Burton died in a tour bus accident in Sweden in 1986 while supporting their breakthrough third album, Master of Puppets. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett hazed Newsted mercilessly, with Hetfield later admitting to MTV that they “grieved through Jason.”
To this day, Hetfield and Ulrich show little remorse for the Justice mix, with Hetfield citing interfering frequencies as the reason for turning Newsted all the way down. “Jason tended to double my rhythm guitar parts,” he told Guitar World in 2008, “so it was hard to tell where my guitar started and his bass left off.”
Newsted told Metal Hammer that in hindsight, it’s no surprise Hetfield and Ulrich called all the shots while recording Justice. “Lars and James were the original garage-band duo, as far as that goes,” he said. “They always made the records that way, from [1982 demo cassette] No Life ‘Til Leather, it was Lars and James, guitar and drums. On the original No Life ‘Til Leather cassette — if you happen to ever see a real copy or a photo of a real copy — in Lars’ handwriting, in ink pen, on the label of the cassette, [it reads] ‘Turn bass down on stereo.’ On No Life ‘Til Leather!”
Newsted ultimately quit Metallica in 2001, amid the tumultuous St. Anger sessions. Despite his initial fury over the … And Justice for All mix, the bassist said in 2013 that it was “water under the bridge,” chalking it up to his own inexperience and a dysfunctional recording schedule. “I just knew about playing bass really fast like guitar — basically everybody playing the same thing like a sonic wall,” he said. “So it ended up with everything being in the same frequency, my bass and James’ guitar battling for the same frequency.
“If I had known then what I know now, it would have been different, but it became a classic album for what it was,” he added. “We captured a moment in time, and that is all there is about it. I used to be pissed about it back then, but that was a long time ago. But the records I have made since then have had some ugly bass parts all over the place on them.”
Metallica Albums Ranked
There are moments of indecision when compiling this gallery of Metallica Albums, Ranked Worst to Best. After all, we really could have had – for the first time ever – a three-way tie for first.