“All our grief and sadness got directed at him”: Watch James Hetfield explain why Metallica hazed Jason Newsted in the ’80s

Jason Newsted and james Hetfield onstage in 1987
(Image credit: Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Jason Newsted was royally hazed during his early days in Metallica. When the bassist joined the Four Horsemen to replace the late Cliff Burton mere weeks after his death, he was greeted with pranks and “disrespect” from his bandmates. Singer/guitarist James Hetfield shed some light on why that was in a 2018 interview.

“I think it had to be incredibly bittersweet for him: a dream come true, but stepping into someone’s shoes that can never be filled,” the frontman told journalist David Fricke (footage below).

“For him and for us, it was difficult. Psychology 101 will tell you that all our grief and sadness got directed at him, and quite a bit of it was that he was an easy target.

“There were a couple things about Jason: he was goofy enough to take it, which was a positive for him, and he was such a fan, and we hated that. We wanted to ‘unfan’ him and make him as hard as we were.

“We were trying to beat the fan out of him,” James continued, “and also trying to get him to play something different, like Cliff would. [Jason] played with a pick and he’d follow what I’d do. I remember times where I’d turn around so he couldn’t see what I was playing.”

However, to Jason’s credit, James added: “Live, he fit right in. He was a great force: you heard the bass live and he wasn’t afraid to step up to the mic and bark. He would sweat and put a lot into the live shows.”

Although Jason only has writing credits on three songs Metallica released – …And Justice For All’s Blackened, The Black Album’s My Friend Of Misery and Reload’s Where The Wild Things Are – he became a staunch fan favourite during his 15-year stint in the band. His 2001 exit, partially a result of James not allowing him to pursue outside projects, sent the remaining members into a tailspin, as depicted on the 2004 documentary Some Kind Of Monster. However, the bassist and the band (now joined by Robert Trujillo) are on amicable terms today.

“[I’m] better friends with the Metallica guys now than I probably ever was,” Jason told The Guardian in 2021. “Obviously [leaving Metallica] was the right thing to do, because they’re still fucking crushing and I’m here smiling at you.”

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.