James Hetfield on Jason Newsted: “All our grief and sadness got directed at him”

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In the early stages of his tenure with Metallica, Jason Newsted encountered a fair share of challenging pranks and “disrespect” from the band members. Reflecting on this period during a 2018 conversation, lead vocalist James Hetfield shared some insights with reporter David Fricke.

James Hetfield expressed, “Joining the band for Jason must’ve been an emotional roller-coaster. While he was fulfilling a dream, he was also stepping into a void left by Cliff Burton, a void that seemed impossible to fill.”

“He was walking a fine line, and for the rest of us, it was tough,” James mused. “Any psychology book would highlight that our collective mourning and pain inadvertently became directed at Jason. Partly because he was vulnerable.”

James explained further, “There were a few traits in Jason that stood out. His ability to absorb the pressure was commendable. However, his fanboy attitude towards the band was something we weren’t too keen on. Our objective became to shake that fan persona off him, toughen him up a bit.”

James went on, “We urged him to infuse his unique style, akin to what Cliff brought to the table. Jason had a different approach, often mirroring my play. There were moments I’d purposely shift so he couldn’t imitate.”

Yet, in a live setting, Jason shined brightly. James proudly stated, “Onstage, he was phenomenal. His bass lines were dominant, and he never shied away from taking the vocal lead. The energy he injected into our live performances was palpable.”

Despite having credited contributions to only three Metallica tracks – Blackened from …And Justice For All, My Friend Of Misery from The Black Album, and Where The Wild Things Are from Reload – Jason’s passion made him a darling among the fans during his decade and a half with the group.

His decision to part ways in 2001, stemming partly from James’ reluctance to allow side projects, left a void. This tumultuous phase in the band’s journey was captured in the 2004 documentary, Some Kind Of Monster. Fast forward to the present, and both Jason and Metallica, with Robert Trujillo as their bassist, share a cordial relationship.

In a candid 2021 chat with The Guardian, Jason remarked, “Currently, my bond with the Metallica members is stronger than ever. It’s evident parting ways was the right call; they’re still ruling the charts, and I’m enjoying every moment of my journey.”

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