Source: Classic Rock Magazine
Jason Newsted has revealed that he decided to leave Metallica the moment he realised James Hetfield didn’t regard him as an equal – and warned him “other arrangements can be made” if the bassist didn’t abandon his plans to work on side-project Echobrain.
Newsted, who made his decision four months before confirming it in 2001, also says Hetfield “put the kibosh” on management plans to get involved with the other band.
But he doesn’t blame Hetfield for the issue, and suggests other people in the Metallica organisation should have offered more support.
He tells Scuzz TV: “Echobrain was just another project but I wanted to get more serious about it. The upside-down thing I don’t think anybody knows: the management of Metallica was very excited about Echobrain. They wanted me to do it. They felt it: ‘This is a great record. Let’s do something with this.’”
But just days later the plans were abandoned. Newsted says: “James heard about it and he was not happy. He was out to put the kibosh on the whole thing, because somehow it would affect Metallica in his eyes. I don’t know why or where. I’m not going to say anything bad. I have no idea what he was thinking other than protecting what he valued. That’s his thing; he protects what he loves and squeezes it too hard – like he’s said himself.
“That’s where I was coming from. The people that I’d counted on for fifteen years to help me with my career told me: ‘Your new project is fantastic. We’d like to help you with it.’ James heard about it and the manager calls me back: ‘Sorry, we’re not going to be able to help you with the Echobrain thing.’”
The issue came to a head when Metallica gathered to shoot a TV documentary on September 27, 2000 – the anniversary of previous bassist Cliff Burton’s death. Newsted recalls handing round copies of his Echobrain album to positive comments while Hetfield looked on, “not liking it”. The pair then had a discussion in which Hetfield demanded to know how far his bandmate planned to take the project. “He started saying: ‘I’m not sure I’m good with this,’ and my head started spinning. I was feeling like a little kid being reprimanded.
“He said: ‘Other arrangements can be made.’ That’s the deal: ‘Other arrangements can be made’ on Cliff’s day. Both bass players left on the same day.”
Newsted says he told guitarist Kirk Hammett that night that he’d decided to leave, and advised drummer Lars Ulrich two weeks later. “I was hoping they might say: ‘Let’s go and talk to our boy – he might be a little ill,’” he admits.
But the crunch came at a meeting in January 2001, to which the management sent infamous “performance-enhancing coach” Phil Towle, who featured in the Metallica documentary Some Kind Of Monster. Newsted told him: “‘You don’t know me; you don’t know our band; you haven’t been through what we’ve been through. I’m really glad that they brought you here – get the fuck out of this room.’ He reasons: “I was on the edge of giving my dream away, throwing it away. I was planning on crying for the next three weeks.”
And after an hour of emotional discussion, during which his colleagues failed to change his mind, members of the management team came into the room and, says Newsted, began acting as if everything was routine.
“I was broken down in a freaking puddle on the floor, just destroyed,” he remembers. “They can see me dead in the water and he goes, ‘I see you didn’t talk him out of it, okay,’ and passes out the papers like any other meeting. Lars goes: ‘Did you hear what he said?’ And the guy’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ I was like, ‘Who’s made the right decision here?’”
Newsted has previously said that he believed Metallica needed some time off after nearly fifteen years of effort. He adds that management should have offered more emotional and mental support, saying they should have asked: “Are you okay in there? How is your health? How is your family? How is your drug addiction? How is your neck? Maybe we should take a few months off. But nobody did that.”
Newsted launched his self-titled band a year ago and released the debut album Heavy Metal Music in August. Metallica, who headline Sonisphere in July, are planning to record a new record this year.
Newsted’s comments about leaving the band begin around 30 minutes into the Scuzz TV special below.