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Was Lars Ulrich to Blame for Lack of Bass on Metallica’s ‘… And Justice For All’?

Ian Gavan, Getty Images

There’s a reason for the oft-criticized thinness of the bass on Metallica‘s … And Justice For All, according to mixer Steve Thompson: Drummer Lars Ulrich wanted it that way.

In fact, Ulrich came into the sessions with a detailed sense of what he wanted out of the drum sound, Thompson says, even bringing in photos of an equalizer set up. And Ulrich was willing to fight for that vision, even at the expense of the other instruments, Thompson tells Ultimate-Guitar.com.

“We had to get the drum sound up the way he had it,” Thompson says. “I wasn’t a fan of it. So now he goes, ‘See the bass guitar?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, great part, man. He killed it.’ He said, ‘I want you to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding. Right?’ He said, ‘No. Bring it down.’ I bring it down to that level and he says, ‘Now drop it down another 5 dB.’ I turned around and looked at [Metallica guitarist James] Hetfield and said, ‘He’s serious?’ It just blew me away.”

The shame of it, according to Thompson, was that former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted had put the performance of lifetime to tape. “My only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to at least mix it the way we heard it,” he says. “I wanted to take Master Of Puppets and blow that away. That was my sonic direction for … And Justice For All. It was all there but I think they were looking for more garagey-type sound without bass. And the bass was great; it was perfect.”

Thompson says he’s speaking out after years of withering comments, including – ironically enough – from Ulrich himself.

Fast forward to 2009, and Steve Thompson was on hand for Metallica’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. “They flew us out and I’m sitting with Lars,” Thompson recalled. “He goes, ‘Hey, what happened to the bass in … Justice?’ He actually asked me that. I wanted to cold cock him right there. It was a shame because I’m the one getting the s– for the lack of bass.”

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