Metallica’s ex-bassist Jason Newsted gave an interview to Metal Hammer and revealed a handwritten note by Lars Ulrich which he wrote about the bass track in a Metallica record.
Back in 1981, the iconic heavy metal band Metallica was formed by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. To this day, Metallica has released ten studio albums, four live albums, and many singles and music videos. As for now, the prolific band is still producing new music for metal music enthusiasts.
Five years after their formation, in 1986, their bassist Cliff Burton died in a tragic bus accident. Following this heartbreaking incident, Jason Newsted joined the band as the bassist. During his career with Metallica until 2001, Newsted appeared on some of the band’s albums, including the 1988 record ‘…And Justice For All.’
As you may know, in Metallica’s ‘…And Justice For All,’ the bass guitar is almost inaudible. This album was the first to feature Newsted. Therefore the bassist was not happy with the result. Speaking to Metal Hammer, Newsted expressed his displeasure and anger when he recalled the incident. He said that he thought he played well, but Ulrich and Hetfield were the ones who made all the decisions.
The bassist then revealed there was a handwritten note by Ulrich on the original ‘No Life ‘Til Leather,’ which read ‘turn bass down on stereo.’ He said it was because Ulrich thought it messed with his drums, and he implied that Metallica was a ‘guitar and drums’ band, dominated by Ulrich and Hetfield.
In the interview, Newsted recalled the recording process and the time when he heard the lack of bass:
“I was fucking livid! Are you kidding me? I was ready for throats, man! No, I was out of my head because I really thought I did well. And I thought I played how I was supposed to play…
Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were the original garage band duo, as far as that goes. They always made the records that way, from ‘No Life ‘Til Leather,’ it was Lars and James, guitar and drums.
On the original ‘No Life ‘Til Leather’ cassette – if you happen to ever see a real copy or a photo of a real copy – in Lars’ handwriting, in ink pen, on the label of the cassette, ‘Turn bass down on stereo.’ On No Life ‘Til Leather!”
They mixed it how it was supposed to be mixed – there’s the bass and there’s the guitar from all the way back. But Lars didn’t want it because it messed with his drums somehow, so when he sends the demo out to fucking Combat Records and wherever, ‘Turn the bass down before you even listen to this.’ Before you even get it going, just turn the bass down. Right from the get-go. Before you even start.
That’s where he’s been his whole goddamn life, so why would it be any different when it came to ‘…And Justice For All’? They made ‘Kill ‘Em All’ that way, they made ‘Ride the Lightning’ that way, they made ‘Master of Puppets’ that way, all of them.
Those two guys in a room, that’s the way it always happened. For the most successful metal band of all time. So you argue with this shit? I’m not really sure.”
In 2019, Hetfield and Ulrich told Kerrang that their decision was not to belittle Newsted, but because their hearing is shot due to touring without earplugs. However, considering it was the first album where Newsted appeared as the bassist, it is no surprise that he was pretty dissatisfied with the result.