Why Did Jason Newsted Leave Metallica in 2001?
Let's dive into the history of this historic departure.
How Long Was Jason Newsted in Metallica For?
Jason Newsted left speed metal band Flotsam and Jetsam to join Metallica in the fall of 1986 after the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton the year prior.
Prior to his exit in 2001, he played on four studio albums — ...And Justice For All (1988), Metallica (aka 'The Black Album,' 1991), Load (1996) and Reload (1997).
What Were Jason Newsted's Reasons for Leaving Metallica?
In the documentary film Some Kind of Monster, which candidly chronicles Metallica in crisis as they record what became St. Anger, Newsted attributes his decision to step down from Metallica to the employment of intervening therapist Phil Towle, who was contracted to smooth over tense relations within the band.
Towle is prominently featured in the documentary, helping to guide the members through their emotions, laying out over a decade's worth of conflict to work toward reaching a point of mutual understanding and respect to better help the creative flow and business.
On top of this, James Hetfield in particular was not fond of Newsted's pursuit of his side project, Echobrain, which was also being backed by Metallica's own management, QPrime. Hetfield basically got management to back away, leading to more tension.
“Management wanted me to do Echobrain also, with Metallica. 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," Newsted told Scuzz TV in 2013.
In 2001, the bassist cited, “private and personal reasons and the physical damage I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love” among the reasons for his exit.
In Some Kind of Monster, he vents frustration about what ultimately led to his departure, telling the cameras, "When it comes to a time where my main cat James tells me that basically he couldn't be in a band with me if I took this project to this level. After 15 years of working together, going on busses, the stories, man... there was no way that this thing that I was doing could affect the monster of Metallica. I just don't see how it could. So, saying things like that, I couldn't accept that kind of limited acceptance."
"At that time, the manager suggested that we have a psychotherapist come in. A man that meets with pro ball teams — big ego, big dollar guys that can't get along but have to make some kind of entity flow so everybody else and everybody can make their money. I actually said that I think that this is really fucking lame and weak that we cannot get together — us, the biggest heavy band of all time and the things we've been through and the decisions we've made about squillions of dollars and squillions of people... and this? We can't get over this?"
Who Replaced Jason Newsted in Metallica?
Once Newsted left, he left an immediate void in the Metallica lineup, which took time to fill.
During the St. Anger writing and recording sessions, Metallica utilized producer Bob Rock, who is credited with playing bass on the 2003 album. Prior to the release of the record, however, the band publicly introduced Robert Trujillo as their new bassist. Trujillo's first live performance with them was onstage at the 2003 MTV Icon television special honoring Metallica's achievements and widespread influence.
What Did Metallica Think of Jason Newsted Leaving the Band?
At the time, the members of the band were not completely understanding of Newsted's decision. Their public statement expressed appreciation for Newsted's 14-year tenure while looking ahead to "the excitement of rising to the challenges that lay ahead to make Metallica shine brighter than ever." The group also noted that they were parting ways "with more love, more mutual respect, and more understanding of each other than at any other point in the past."
After Newsted left, the band came to the realization of how he was pushed to that point.
Regarding Echobrain, Hetfield says in Some Kind Of Monster that he didn't want Newsted to enjoy his side project more than Metallica and that his personal display of love is to cling close and "choke them to death" because he doesn't want them to leave.
"We write the songs. We make the decisions. We do all of it. You have no creative outlet in this band. You have no creative voice. Then when you go and do something that gives you satisfaction in a way for you to express yourself to the rest of the world, then we get pissed at you. Then that resentment then goes to you leaving the band. I mean, that's kind of psychiatry 101 here. But we weren't equipped to see that side of it. Twenty years later, now it makes complete sense," drummer Lars Ulrich told Zane Low in a 2021 interview.
Is Jason Newsted Still Friends With Metallica?
Newsted remains on good terms with his former bandmates.
Speaking with Eddie Trunk in 2023, he opened up about his relationship with Ulrich specifically, stating, "[I've texted] back and forth with Lars the last couple days. We try and stay in touch — he and I do — and talk about whatever. He's interested in the art a lot — he's always been very supportive of that, so I'm grateful, but also with the music stuff. His sons, I'm a fan of them [and their band Taipei Houston] and they're fans of my stuff and that's a cool thing — an incredible thing, actually. I've got nothing but mad respect. That's it. That's what I've got. I'm so freakin' proud of those guys."