James Hetfield on ‘…And Justice For All’ Mix – ‘We Were Fried. We Were Burnt’
James Hetfield reflected on the mix on fourth Metallica album …And Justice For All, which remains controversial 31 years after its release, saying the band were “fried” and “burnt” while they worked on it.
He rejected the idea of remixing the 1988 LP to increase the level of then-bassist Jason Newsted’s contribution – the main criticism that’s lead to “Justice for Jason” campaigns from fans. It’s known that there was some bad feeling between Newsted and his colleagues, with accusations of their new member having been “hazed.”
“I will say, it was not all about, ‘Fuck him, Let’s turn him down,’” Hetfield told Metallica fan magazine So What! in a recently-released interview. “We wanted the best-sounding record we could make. That was our goal.” He continued: “We were burnt. We were friggin’ fried. Going back and forth. Playing a gig. No earplugs, nothing. You got back into the studio, your hearing is shot. If your ears can’t hear any high end anymore, you’re gonna turn it up. So we’re turning the high end up more and more and more… all of a sudden, low end’s gone. So I know that played a bigger part than any hazing or any ill feelings towards Jason, for sure. We were fried. We were burnt.”
Hetfield went on: “All this is after the fact, and it’s like, who gives a shit, man, really? … Why would you change history? Why would you all of a sudden put bass on it? There is bass on it, but why would you remix an album? You can remaster it, yes, but why would you remix something and make it different? … Not that I’m comparing us to the Mona Lisa, but it’s like, ‘Uh, can we make her smile a little better?’”
He also shot down the suggestion that mixing engineer Steve Thompson was to blame for the album’s sound. “We wanted it fucking tight. That's what we wanted,” Hetfield said. “[W]e kinda know what we want to sound like. Can we sit behind a desk and make it happen? No. We ask people to do it, and they do it. So [Thompson] did his job. He's got nothing to apologize for or point fingers at. No one's to blame for 'something.' It is a piece of art. It happened and it ended up the way it is for a reason. … We were burnt. We're traveling, we're playing a gig, our ears were fried. We were not sleeping. He doesn't need to defend himself. He was a part of an awesome album in history, so I think he should be maybe be a little easier on himself.”
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