… And Justice For All Bassists, Particularly Jason Newsted

A quick search through my posts will reveal that I spend A LOT of time talking about Metallica. And why not? They’re one of my favorite bands of all time, and it’s only fitting. Their music shaped me as a player, and still gets heavy rotation in my car and iPod. I can neatly define periods of my life based on Metallica releases. I’m going on about Metallica again, aren’t I?

Anywho, one of my “Unnecessary Life Goals” was to one day record audible bass lines over my favorite Metallica album, …And Justice For All. This certainly isn’t a groundbreaking idea, I know for a fact other bassists have done it, I just always wanted to do it myself. And, finding myself with some spare time, I did exactly that last week.

“Justice” is an amazing album, full of harmonic and structural complexity and blazing speed; it is still the album I throw (sometimes literally) at musical snobs who still see metal as being simple or “beneath them”. Unfortunately, “Justice” is really one of the only Metallica albums you can’t play along with as a bassist (Well, that and St. Anger). There was no way I could touch those tunes in my younger days; to complex, to fast, and besides… nobody knew what the basslines were. YOU CAN’T HEAR THEM. I also had no real way to record them.

Time and technology have since made the impossible possible for me. A few years ago, I picked up a complete set of early Metallica bass books, so step one was taken care of. After that, it was a relatively simple process of dragging the AAC file of the song into Garageband, and recording the bass line as a new track. I usually ran through the tricky parts a few times before recording, and did A LOT of splicing when I missed a note or had to turn a page. It generally took just over an hour to record and mix each song.

It was an insightful and amusing experience. For one thing, I never really get the full sense of a tune until I actually play it, and seeing the music in front of me, time signatures and all, gave me a whole new appreciation of just how awesome “Justice” really is. I also gained more respect for Jason Newsted; the lines he wrote are solid, and it’s unfortunate they didn’t get more prominence on that album. The amusing part came during the faster tunes, particularly “Dyer’s Eve”, where I realized that I may have bit off more than I can chew: THAT SONG IS REALLY FAST. I should have kept a mic recording during that one. Lots of swearing.

So, here’s a snippet from the title track as originally recorded:

[audio:justicewithoutbass.mp3]

And here’s the same snippet, with my bass added:

[audio:justicewithbass.mp3]

(I’m relatively certain that posting these snippets falls under fair use, but just in case, those songs are the property of Metallica, I didn’t write them, I’m not making money off of them, Lars please don’t come to my house and sue me, but if you do come over bring the rest of the guys, we’ll grill out and listen to The Sword.)

I had a lot of fun recording these tunes, and I’d love to do the same for more albums, Metallica or otherwise. It’s like bass karaoke.

the ultimate in vanity

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