Jason Newsted is resurfacing into the world of interviews, following the news he's firing up his Newsted metal project again with a new lineup. And unsurprisingly talk in his extended chat for Dean Delray's Let There Be Talk podcast turns to his former band. And that inevitably makes for some interesting listening.
"There was never any big bass on Metallica's albums until the Black Album," Newsted muses on his role recording the infamous … And Justice For All album and his perception as a fan of the band joining, to recording with them as a members from the preceding 1987 Garage Days Re-revited covers EP onwards. "There was audible bass [on] For Whom The Bell Tolls, solos obviously, Call Of Ktulu, Orion… these things were out there where there was lead bass. But as far as the body and the depth and the girth of the bass frequencies, they didn't exist in Metallica albums other than the bass drum until the Black Album."
It's a salient point, and in no way meant as a diss to Newsted's hero and predecessor, Cliff Burton. "And actually, on Garage Days Re-Revisited there was some throbbing bass, and that's what I was going on," he adds. "That's what we recorded [on Justice] so that's what this was going to be. So I can hand it over to these guys to mix it and I don't have to be there." Slight problem there…
We know the rest. Newsted's bass parts were barely audible in the finished Justice album – and though it was hoped for by fans, the 30th-anniversary reissue of the album in 2018 failed to provide any reckoning with a bass-boosted mix.
Newsted spent some time talking about the context of the album with Delray, and how it links to a central truth about Metallica. While the bassist had been directly involved in the mixing process of his previous band Flotsam and Jetsam, he was still finding his feet in the Metallica dynamic. And we already know that Metallica vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich played a leading role in the sound of that album because the former told us. The duo are the epicentre of the band as a creative force.
"It was their trip, you know?" reflects Newsted. "I was still trying to find my place. The incredible thing now, 35 or 36 years since …And Justice For All, is [Hetfield and Ulrich] are the best garage duo ever. The White Stripes could barely tie these guys' shoes, no disrespect to White Stripes or Black Keys… This is what always happened in Metallica – there's two people. They go into a room, usually as small as possible like a f******g cave, and there's still stacks of Marshalls in that cave, even though it literally is 70 or 80 feet square with a drum set and Marshall stacks and the old Tascam recorder eight-track.
"They were very good at this thing – the demos that they produced from this little machine were insane. So it was that sound, that was the sound of the band; look at the original, original original photographs where it's just Lars and his drumkit and James [with his] flying V. It was them, that's always been the sound of the band with two other guys over here [to] compliment, embellish – whatever you want to call it."
With this as the context, Newsted argues the sound of Justice was "just an extension of those two guys doing that thing." The bassist still got a writing credit on the opening track Blackened though. And he also reiterates the turmoil within the band when they were making the album, in addition to mourning the death of their friend and bandmate, Burton.
"We're talking about living in a band with full-blown alcoholics, man," he reasons matter-of-factly. "There's a lot to it, but we did good at still making our way and working on it. My take on it now, as a fan first, then in the band and out again, trying to look at the band's perspective [and step out of myself]; best garage duo ever, best garage duo album ever."
Check out the full interview above.