20 Years Ago: Why Jason Newsted Suddenly Quit Metallica
For years, the exact reasons for his surprising departure were never fully explained, but in 2014 Newsted finally opened up about why: The final straw, he said, came when James Hetfield quashed their management's involvement with Newsted's side project, Echobrain.
Halfway through the hour-long conversation with ScuzzTV, Newsted spilled the beans. “I’ve never told this story,” he said. “I’m not sure if I should tell it now, actually,” He goes on to say how Metallica’s management were enthusiastic about Echobrain, which he formed in 2000. “They felt Echobrain was that good, the singer was that good, and it didn’t affect Metallica because it was a totally different kind of thing, and I was in Metallica; that would give it its pedigree already.”
However, Hetfield was “not happy” about Echobrain. “He was, I think, pretty much out to put the kibosh on the whole thing because it would somehow affect Metallica in his eyes,” Newsted continued. “Because now the managers were interested in something I was doing that had nothing to do with him.” A few days later, Newsted received a phone call from their manager saying they weren’t going to back him with “that Echobrain thing.”
Upon announcing his departure from Metallica in 2001, the bassist vaguely cited “private and personal reasons and the physical damage I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love.”
That had long been taken to mean that the poor treatment that he endured during his tenure with the band, which included an endless variety of pranks and having his bass too low in the mix on …And Justice for All, had taken its toll on him.
In hindsight, Newsted’s tenure in Metallica may have been doomed from the start. Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood, authors of Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014, noted as such in an interview with Salon. "Jason Newsted was given the job of bassist only three weeks after Cliff Burton was killed in the tour-bus crash in Sweden. Within five weeks he was on tour with the group in Japan. This was clearly far too fast for the three members – then only in their mid-20s – to process their loss or articulate their grief, so instead of healing and moving on with their new bass player, instead Newsted became the focus of much resentment, none of which was his fault. So to a degree the well was poisoned from the start.”
That viewpoint was echoed by Flemming Rasmussen, co-producer of ...And Justice for All. "He always, more or less, was the new kid," Rasmussen noted of Newsted. "I feel, and I think the general feeling in the band is, that he was never treated with the respect that he deserved."
Despite this, the rocker has rejoined his former group in the past, most notably performing alongside Metallica for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2009 and during the group’s 2011 30th anniversary concerts. Even decades after departing the band, Newsted takes pride in his contributions to the group, admitting in 2019 that he’ll “always be a member of Metallica.”
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