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Early Metallica Producer: Who You Should Blame for Lack of Bass on ‘Justice’

Early Metallica producer Flemming Rasmussen - who produced 1984's "Ride the Lightning," 1986's "Master of Puppets," and 1988's "...And Justice for All" - discussed the infamous lack of bass on "Justice," saying on the Alphabetallica Podcast:

metallica flemming

“What happened was [mixing engineers Steve Thompson and Mike Barbiero] did a mix that they thought sounded really, really good, which had lots of bass in it.

“And the bass – let me just point out – the bass tracks on ‘…And Justice for All’ are actually fantastic. Jason plays really well. He probably tried to prove that he was worth, that he was up there with Cliff, which in my opinion he is.

“It’s a different style, but he is as good of bass player as Cliff, just in a different way.

“And I’ve heard the bass tracks and they were actually amazing. They sound good, he plays well.

“But, they heard the mix and they went, ‘Alright, take the bass down, change this this this and this, and then take the bass down.’ So you can barely hear it.

“And then once they’ve done that they said, ‘Take it another 3dB down.’

“Why they did that – I have no idea! It could be that they were still grieving about Cliff. I have no idea. But imagine my surprise when I heard the album. I was like, ‘What the… What?!’ [Laughs]

“It got really criticized when it came out, and people got more or less blown away because of the dryness of the sound. It just goes BANG, right in your face.

“‘…And Justice for All’ was probably the single album in the last 30 years which has been the most influential in terms of sound for the whole generation of the hardcore metal bands.

“They all wanted to sound like ‘…And Justice for All.’ That really clicky, high-endy bass drum, all that stuff…

“Every time I hear the bass drum like that, I go ‘I’m really sorry about that. That’s my mistake.’ [Laughs] Well, I didn’t mix it! [Laughs]”

Asked on how Cliff Burton’s death affected the recording sessions, Flemming replied:

“It was just work, work, work – we worked like 14 hours a day.

“They like started at 10:00, ended up at midnight. Some days would go to slightly past midnight, and then we’d go further past midnight. Then we said, ‘OK, let’s start at 11:00 tomorrow.’

“And as that kept progressing we kind of pushed the start time an hour all the time because we went so late. There was actually one point when we started at 5 in the morning because we went all the way around the clock. [Laughs]

“That was one of three days I had off in those four months. That was the day that we kind of caught on by pushing the hours. We were kind of on a 25-26-hour day. Everything got kinda pushed.”

Asked on what he thought about the music, Rasmussen mostly praised the guitar parts, saying:

“We did some really good guitar sounds on that album. They got new Boogie amps that I fucked around with, it was kinda cool. I had this setup where we had the amps in the studio, and at the back of any amp there’s a loop you can stick a pedal in, so it’s on all the time.

“And I’ve stuck some professional studio quality equalizers in there. So I could actually sit in the controll room and add [change the sound] the way I wanted. And they were loving that, because the guitar sounds we had on ‘Justice’ are pretty fucking amazing.

Flemming also remembered how Metallica initially hired “Appetite for Destruction” producer Mike Clink, saying:

“They called me and said, ‘We booked the studio, we start January 3rd. We want you.’

“And I said, ‘That’s nice, but I’m not off till March 1st’ – I was so booked in that period.

“And they already booked the studio, so they decided to start with Mike Clink who did ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ which they really liked, they were totally nuts about that.

“Three weeks into January, I got a phone call, I pick it up – it’s Lars.

“And he says, one sentence, ‘When can you come?’ [Laughs]

“I went ‘What?!’ And he says, ‘Yeah, we’ve been in the studio for three weeks now, we’ve done fuck-all. They’re still doing guitar sound and James doesn’t like it and we decided we need to get you in.’

“I kinda took all my sessions and clamped them together so I could leave on February 14th.

“And I was recently a father, my daughter was born on December 10th, so I said the conditions are that I’m gonna have to bring my whole family. I’m not gonna leave a two month old daughter and then come back half a year later, and she doesn’t know who I am.

“So the whole family packed up and went to the States. And Mike got fired. He literally got fired the day I flew in. [Laughs]

“I think this was probably because he had his set ways of how things should sound that didn’t fit to the Metallica sound. They all [Metallica] had a really big understanding of their own sound.

“James’ rhythm guitar sounds a certain way, [Mike] was going for the old more or less ’70s kind of hard rock sound, and they were going for something completely different.

“It was just a bad match. Because he is a really talented guy. It’s nothing on him, it’s just they didn’t fit. So I came in and just tore everything down and built it up again.”

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