Cliff Burton vs Jason Newsted


Metallica fans often obsess over bass: whether it’s the greatness of Cliff Burton’s playing, the absence of any audible bass playing on …And Justice for All, the rest of the Jason Newsted era and the following era, which featured his successor, Robert Trujillo. In a new interview, producer Flemming Rasmussen went in-depth about the recording process with the thrash legends and discussed working with both Burton and Newsted.


Rasmussen was at the helm of Ride the LightningMaster of PuppetsGarage Days Re-Revisited and was called in mid-way through the recording of …And Justice for All. Speaking with Songfacts, the producer described Newsted as a “fabulous bass player” and called his playing on Justice, “up there” regarding excellence, not the mix. “Jason was more of a really solid, steady bass player that you knew you would give a really good performance,” he added.

“Cliff fits in his own category. He was like a musician’s musician and he played by ear,” the producer said of the late icon. “You could have something he played that you went, ‘Eh,’ and then the next time, it would be absolutely fantastic. So, with Cliff, it was waiting for him to get inspired and deliver. Everybody knew he could – especially everybody in the band – because we’d heard it so many times.”

When discussing the infamously controversial production on Justice, Rasmussen pointed the finger at Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield, saying he was “as surprised as everybody else” when he heard the mix. Later in the interview, he recalls the nuances of recording songs like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and goes deeper into how the band achieved certain sounds on Master of Puppets.

Flemming Rasmussen must be considered one of the greatest heavy metal producers of all-time. After all, he co-produced what many headbangers believe to be Metallica’s three best albums: 1984’s Ride the Lightning, 1986’s tour de force Master of Puppets, and 1988’s …And Justice for All. The Danish engineer, producer, mixer is also the founder and owner of Sweet Silence Studios, which is where Metallica recorded the first two aforementioned classics (at the studio’s original location, in Copenhagen).

Getting his start at Sweet Silence in 1976, Flemming has worked with other notable hard rock/heavy metal bands over the years (Rainbow, Morbid Angel), as well as more pop-based artists (Tina Turner, Mew), and played a major role in Metallica’s first-ever Grammy Award win when the song he co-produced with the band, “One,” was named Best Metal Performance in 1990.

Flemming kept copious notes from these sessions and was able to easily recall the gritty details, like getting the bell sound on “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” and using reverb on Ride. He also shared his thoughts on recording with the late/great Cliff Burton, and offered some pointers for aspiring producers. Just don’t blame him for the disappearing bass on Justice.


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