The Missing Bass on Metallica’s ‘…And Justice for All’ Explained by Mixer Steve Thompson [Exclusive]
One of the longest running questions in metal history has been, "Where is the bass on Metallica's ...And Justice for All?" We recently had a chance to speak with one of the key figures in this mystery, Steve Thompson, who was responsible for mixing the album.
Thompson has held firm over the years that he's not exactly thrilled with the mix, but that it was his job to do what the band wanted. But to get to the crux of what happened to the bass, you first have to look at the mix for the drums on the album.
“Lars [Ulrich] has a specific way in which he wanted his drums to sound. He would actually send me pictures of an EQ setup," explained Thompson, who admitted he was taken aback after hearing where things stood after fellow mixer Michael Barbiero had set up the room per Lars' instructions.
"I chased everybody out of the room and I think they had [James] Hetfield in the room, and I changed the drum sound to be more what I was hearing, and then put on the bass and guitars and stuff like that," recalls Thompson. "The thing about Jason [Newsted]'s parts, they were in perfect rhythm with James’ guitars. It was a great marriage that worked out great."
After Thompson put his mix together, it didn't take long for Ulrich to find an issue. "He says, ‘Stop tape. I’ve got a problem. What happened to my drum sound?’ And I basically said, ‘You were serious?," recalls Thompson. Not only did he ask Thompson to adhere to his drum sound, he also requested that he drop Jason Newsted's bass to where it was barely audible.
Thompson said he was a huge fan of the band, but the direction was not something he had envisioned and he had actually asked out of the project but was eventually convinced to stay.
Years later, Thompson can laugh about it a little bit and had a fun yet absurd moment with Lars Ulrich at the band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction: "I’m hanging out with Lars and Lars came up to me and said, ‘We did have bass on that record, didn’t we?’ … And I said, ‘You’re kidding me. You’re absolutely kidding me.’”
Watch Steve Thompson discussing the mixing of the ...And Justice for All album in the player above.
Jason Newsted Reflects on Metallica's ... And Justice for All