The Humorless Productions restorations of a few tracks from Metallica’s …And Justice for All

(edit March 2015)

With the recent headlines concerning Metallica’s 1988 masterpiece …And Justice for All and the assertion by mix engineer Steve Thompson that it was Lars who ordered him to ‘bring down the bass so you can barely hear it in the mix’, I thought it a good opportunity to share with you these reconstructions I did of a few tracks from that album.

I could have sworn that I posted these tracks to my blog when I did the reconstructions two years ago, but apparently I was mistaken about that. Better late than never I guess.

TL:DR version- some video game has Jason’s parts isolated for five Justice songs: the title track, Blackened, The Shortest Straw, One, and Dyer’s Eve. I re-inserted the bass tracks into those songs and mixed/mastered it properly. Other people had attempted to do the same thing, but invariably went totally overboard with the bass parts, pushing them way too loud in the mix. My mixes sound exactly how the album should have sounded, before Lars’ interference.

Two of the five songs were rejected by Soundcloud immediately over copyright concerns, but for some reason three of them didn’t trigger any flags, so those three are below.

Full technical details and exhaustive wordage follows the tracks.

(original text from Spring 2013)

Proper progressive thrash, mixed properly. I’ll tell you the story-

As we all know, …And Justice for All has no bass guitar in the mix. There’s no disputing it. Of course, rumors have swirled over the years as to why this is, the most prominent theory having something to do with the rift between Jason and the rest of the band at the time when they were recording the album, and that the other guys in the band dropped Jason’s part out of the mix and as big FU to him.

Now, I don’t know any better or worse than anybody else, but I don’t buy this at all. I think it was a purely technical decision.

The problem originates in the kick drum, which in the album version, sits way down at 60 to 100 hertz. I don’t know if that’s intentional, but every music producer, every mixing engineer and every mastering and remastering engineer should know that that’s gonna spell trouble, because that’s the range normally reserved for bass. You can sometimes get away with it in electronic music, but for rock music, the kick drum should be centered a little higher, say at 150 hz, which will give the bass guitar a little bit more breathing room down at the bottom end.

I think what happened, was that when they mixed the album, the drum faders go up first (as is standard procedure for just about any audio engineer on the planet), and everything else fills in their own spot in the mix. When it was time for Jason’s faders to go up, all that low end accumulated right at 60-80 Hz, and no doubt it sounded like crap. The only way around it was to drop one of the faders, and we all know who hit the chopping block.

The thing is, there’s not only one way around it. Because it’s really the simplest of procedures to throw an eq on the kick drum and drop the 60-80 Hz and (if needed) boost the upper low end which gives plenty of room for the bass to live beneath it. Why they didn’t just do this I have no idea. The fact that they didn’t sorta gives credence to the whole ‘FU Jason’ theory. But at the same time, bands know that their names will forever be stamped on their releases, and because of that, won’t want to release anything with such monumental imperfections. But perhaps I’m being naive.

But whatever the reason(s), I’ve made an attempt to fix it. I started with Shortest Straw. And it’s funny, because I started working on it on a whim by applying my own synth bass part, which sounds like a weird idea, but actually it sounded pretty damn good. But then (for one reason or another, I really don’t remember) I came across a YouTube of Jason’s isolated bass part for the song, as uploaded by user metfan4l here. I thought ‘how does this person have access to this?’ In doing some research I discovered that some songs from the Justice album were included in some music video game where the individual parts could be isolated and exported, is this correct? Well, I’m not a gamer at all, so this was news to me. I don’t know if that’s where these bass parts originated, but it’s what I ended up using. We all know that YouTube’s sound quality ranges from questionable (even on the high definition uploads) to utter garbage (on just about everything else), but this sounded good enough that, with a little processing, it would sound good enough for my purposes.

So here it is, the fully restored remix/remaster with Jason’s bass part slotted back in place. The result? Instant awesome! Seriously, once you get accustomed to these versions, you’ll never go back to the originals ever again. Coincidentally, the album came out 25 years ago, so I guess you could call this my attempt to commemorate the original’s 25th anniversary, and hopefully to improve upon it.

And now I’m thinking, how have I not run across other people’s attempt to restore these songs? Quite frankly, I’ve not really been interested in Metallica since this album came out 25 years ago, so it’s not like I’m just gonna hear any remixes unless I go looking for them. But when searched around the internet, I only found a couple, and it seems like those who attempted to do it got all hyped up on finally hearing Jason’s part and got all carried away and ended up totally overloading the mix with low end. Am I the first one to make an actual proper mix of these songs? The mix that should have ended up on the album itself? How is it possible that the internet isn’t flooded with And Justice for All remixes? I dunno, but I couldn’t find any.

Couple notes-

1. The way I did it is I had the cd mix on one stereo track and Jason’s part on another. When mixing, I was really tempted to try and warm up the cd mix even a little bit, to try and move away from its very clinical, sterile sound. I tried a couple things, but nothing worked to my satisfaction, so in the end I left the cd mix untouched, outside of dropping some of the low end to make room for Jason’s bass as I described above.

2. I’m well aware of all the ‘loudness wars’ controversy that exploded all over the internet surrounding Metallica’s later releases. Even though this version that I’ve uploaded looks totally brick walled, it’s just Soundcloud’s visual representation that makes it look like this. Everything I’ve ever put on Soundcloud ends up looking a lot more blocky than it actually is, and this one is no different. For the band part of my mix, I used an aiff that I pulled straight off my original release cd. I did all he arranging/mixing in Presonus Studio One 2, and the final master in Soundtrack Pro, all on a MacBook Pro.

Comments, critiques, suggestions? Throw ‘em at me.

(audio) silly little thing I cooked up

Upon hearing it, a friend of mine said, ‘This is the stuff of nightmares.’ Best compliment ever.

I wish the church organ at the end could have been louder, but it was crowding the mix too much.

Don’t think it’s gonna be a keeper. But I do really like some of the synth sounds, so I’ll probably use those for something else someday.

(off-topic) Is Instagram as lame as it seems?

So I started an Instagram. Dunno what I’m gonna do with it. Started it just to figure out how it works, what the hype is, if it has any advantages or usefulness…

And after being on it for one day, I’m finding so many shortcomings that I wonder if I’ll even bother posting more than the one test foto that’s already there.

1. I find it laughable and embarrassing that Instagram doesn’t support 16:9 widescreen fotos. What do they gain by forcing everything into square images? Every foto and video that I take is in big ol’ widescreen (or bigger = panorama). It seems that the primary recommendation as a work-around is to use a free app called Squareready, where you can make sure your fotos aren’t cropped and post them to Instagram in their original widescreen (or any other) aspect ratio. That’s what I did, and it worked fine.

Also, is there a way to view pictures posted to Instagram in their original dimensions? I have just a regular 15″ laptop, but if I click on a foto which is originally 4000×2248 (as pretty much all my fotos are, unless it’s a frame grab from one of my videos, in which case it’s still 1920×1080), I expect it to fill pretty much my entire screen. Can’t seem to find a way to do that, which is a significant mark against it. If nothing else, is there a way to download fotos in their original size (as you can in FB)?

2. Why do they make it such a pain in the ass to post fotos taken by some camera other than my phone? Why can’t I upload fotos directly from my computer? I have an iphone 4, and if you don’t know, the camera on that phone is garbage. (Never mind that I’m wi-fi only, so the vast majority of the time, the phone isn’t even connected to the internet anyway.) So I’ll never post any fotos that I take with that camera. Anything that I post will have been shot on my Canon handheld and transferred to my computer and processed in DxO Optics. So after that I’ll need to transfer the foto to my phone first in order to post it to Instagram? Do they not have a desktop version?

3. Is there anything I can accomplish with Instagram that I can’t with FB or Ello? Does Instagram do anything better than FB or Ello? Does Intsagram have foto albums or groupings the way FB and Flickr do?

4. As you can see from some of my blog posts, I don’t hesitate to write exhaustive, sometimes overly-long posts (like this one!). Which is kinda weird, because personally, I’m very much an introvert and really barely talk at all. But this is one of the reasons I dumped my Twitter, with their famous 140 character limit. And now I see that Instagram has a slightly more generous 300 character limit. At least FB got a clue some years ago and upped their limit from 256 to the current 63,206 characters per post limit. I grew tired of posting something to Twitter and only being able to write ‘go to my blog to get the complete details for this’ with the direct link. And I’m not gonna bother posting anything to Instagram if I’m forced to do the same thing. Sometimes my blog posts are very short and to the point. But there are other times when I like to explain stuff and those explanations will undoubtedly exceed 300 characters by a significant number.

Then again, Instagram posts differ from regular WordPress Tumblr Blogspot posts, yes? Instagram isn’t a blog, per se. It’s just a repository for fotos. That’s fine, but why would I bother with Instagram if FB and Ello (and WordPress and Tumblr and Blogspot) do the same thing, but better?

So follow me on Instagram or not. Still don’t know whether I’ll be bothered to post to it or not.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of a wasp-

long wasp1

I rescored a couple 80s horror movies. Help me get them screened.

After posting my first batch of originals in early August, I’ve been working on a couple other projects, and now those projects are done, so I want to tell you about them.

I added original music, sound design and sound effects to Demons, Lamberto Bava’s classic, gore-ific zombie flick from 1985, as well as a lesser known flick Elves from 1989, which is a low-budget and completely bizarre movie about some little, vicious troll-gremlin type monster and something having to do with Nazis and it all revolves around a hot, young blond woman and stars Dan Haggerty (well after his Grizzly Adams days) who plays a down-and-out Santa at a dreary department store at Christmastime. I also remastered the original audio of both films for my versions.

Here’s how this all came to be.

I’d done a couple fan edits of Demons in the past, just for personal use. This amounted to cutting out all the scenes of that quartet of punk rockers aimlessly driving around Berlin. Those scenes are totally inconsequential to the film, so I axed them. I trimmed some other very small bits, but nothing as substantial as the punkers. Well, I had it on the flatscreen the other day, and something I hadn’t noticed before hit me- a couple of pivotal scenes are largely devoid of music. I don’t know how it was possible that I didn’t notice this until now, 30 years after the movie had originally been released and after having viewed it dozens of times. In fact, it’s the most famous scene from the movie – the transformation scene with the teeth and fingernails – and the climactic finale scene with the rooftop battle which are both are bafflingly light on music. So, I set out to fix that by composing my own and inserting it into the movie alongside those great Claudio Simonetti compositions and the 80s heavy metal songs.

The two songs I made for those scenes came together quickly. But upon watching the film again with a keen eye (ear) on the soundtrack, I started noticing all sorts of scenes that could be touched up with some added sounds or atmospheres. So, in the end, what I did was analyze the movie from beginning to end with an emphasis on the soundtrack, and filled in the gaps that I felt needed filling.

To give you a much better idea of what I’m talking about, I threw together a couple A/B before-and-after comparisons of those two famous scenes (using low res files; my master copy is 720p)-

Big difference, yes? The music in those scenes may come across as a bit too heavy or relentless or poundingly aggressive, but those are but a few minutes of a movie that is 90 minutes in length (well, actually 80 minutes now that I’ve excised the scenes of the hoodlums). I added all sorts of sounds to the rest of the film- sounds that are much more subdued and atmospheric, but appropriately spooky and creepy and ominous. So don’t expect the entire movie to be wall-to-wall industrial strength pounding drums and distorted synth bass lines.

I am very happy with the results with this first attempt of mine to rescore an old movie. So, I thought I’d do another. I selected Elves not because it had any scenes in it that were egregiously in need of music, but rather I thought that I could make great improvements in this movie by adding just some atmospheres and other minimal synth parts. So I started doing that, and, like Demons, I got a little bit carried away and ended up adding a decent amount of sounds throughout the movie. All told, though, I’d say that I ended up contributing less music to Elves than Demons. But still, the impact of those sounds is significant. I’m not gonna say that I’ve transformed the movie into a whole new thing. In fact, unlike Demons, I didn’t edit out any scenes from Elves at all. But with both of these movies, I like to think that I’ve improved upon the material that was already there.

And now I say to myself, ‘ya know, I’d bet there’s a bunch of people out there who might really like to see one or both of these. I wonder if I could find anybody who would be willing to screen them for a public audience.’ Having seen Demons a couple times over the years at Grindhouse at The New Beverly in Los Angeles, I know that movie has a sizable fan base. Elves, probably not as much, but it’s definitely one that fans of that era of horror flicks would like.

So that’s what I’m working on now- finding a venue that’s willing to screen these. And this is where I can use your help. I’ve contacted some people at theatres in my current city, San Diego, but none have expressed too much interest. I have some contacts through some of my LA friends, but I’m still coming up empty. So I’d be super stoked if any of you, my readers, might have any suggestions or know of any people who I could contact in the hopes of getting either of these versions screened.

My original idea was to do a Kickstarter to raise the funds to rent a theatre for a couple hours, and I still might do that, but I thought I’d first try to leverage the power of the internet and ask my network of social media friends. I’m hoping to find some place in San Diego, OC, LA or the Inland Empire, but I’d be happy to trek to anywhere in the region if need be. I don’t know if I’d be open to sending off the movie to some remote location where I wouldn’t be able to attend the screening. I’ll want to be there in person, and would even be hip to doing a Q&A about the work I put into my version.

I might also add that neither of these reworks are commissioned or authorized by the original filmmakers, composers, producers or movie studios or anybody involved. They’re simply a couple personal projects of mine in an attempt to challenge myself to find out if I could do it. And now that both final versions have surpassed my expectations, I thought some of you horror fans out there might like to see and hear them as well.

Hit me with any suggestions in the comments of this post, or drop me a note at brianhumorless@gmail.com, or find me on FB.

Super. Thanks for everything.

Brian, Dancu and Humorless Productions

[audio] Autechre live in Toronto, 9 May 2001

Autechre live in Toronto, 9 May 2001 by Humorless Productions on Mixcloud

Autechre live at Steam Whistle Brewing Company, Toronto, 9 May 2001.

This is another Autechre board tape that I post-produced into a concert recording- gave it a lot of crowd sounds, some room ambience, and remastered the actual music as well.

There are a handful of Ae board tapes from the 2001 tour out there, and this Toronto performance is one of my favorites, so I wanted to give it some special treatment and really fix it up.

Most importantly, there was a nasty bit of digital clipping immediately after the 6 minute mark which I fixed up manually, which required about a half a day of tedious pencilling out flattened waveforms in Soundtrack Pro, but it’s worth it.

I’ve seen the venue listed for this show as being the Steam Whistle Brewing Company and also The Opera House. I don’t know which is correct, or if both are correct, or if one is more accurate than the other.

Presonus Studio One for arranging, DSPing and mixing. All mastering done in Soundtrack Pro.