Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has defended the sound of the band’s …And Justice For All album, calling it, “The result of instinctive choices that were made along the way to make it work.” While considered a classic, the band’s 1988 fourth studio LP has been criticized almost since the day it was released for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. Jason Newsted‘s playing is virtually buried in the mix — and Ulrich is generally regarded as the one responsible.
Speaking with Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke during a 90-minute interview in Pittsburgh to promote the release of a 30th anniversary box set of the album, Ulrich said, “It was all about balances . . . Nobody sat there and said, ‘We’re gonna have a record that’s gonna be mixed this way.’ We weren’t capable of thinking at that level. So a lot of it was a result of what I think were sort of balancing points along the way to just make it all work for the big picture.”
Ulrich added, “I think it’s important to say that it wasn’t planned that way. We didn’t sit there and go, ‘A year from now, we’re gonna have a record that sounds this particular way’ . . . it’s just the result of instinctive choices that were made along the way to make it work.”
In a 2015 interview with Ultimate-Guitar.com, one of the producers who mixed …And Justice For All, Steve Thompson, revealed that Ulrich was the culprit for the lack of any bass guitar on the record. He explained, “We had to get the drum sound up the way he had it. I wasn’t a fan of it. So now (Ulrich) goes, ‘See the bass guitar?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, great part, man. (Newsted) 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.'”
…And Justice For All was Newsted’s first full-length album with Metallica after he replaced late bassist Cliff Burton in 1986.