In what verges upon the outskirts of an apology in Metallica-world, Lars Ulrich has acknowledged that the attitude he and James Hetfield displayed towards Jason Newsted in the run-up to the bassist’s 2001 resignation from the band was less than perfect, and that, with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, Newsted’s decision to quit “makes complete sense.”
In conversation with Zane Lowe for a Metallica special on Apple Music, Ulrich notes, “If you think about it, Jason is the only member of Metallica who's ever left willingly, and that in itself is a statistic.”
“And the resentment from James and I was just so... [We felt like] you can't do that,” the drummer admits. “You can only leave if we want you to leave. And then we weren't equipped at the time to do a deep dive into why he was leaving. And so, of course, now you can see 20 years later, it makes complete sense.
“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. And then when you go and do something that gives you satisfaction and a way for you to express yourself to the rest of the world, then we get fucking pissed at you. And 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, so now it makes complete sense.”
Ulrich went on to acknowledge Newsted’s commitment to Metallica during his 14 years in the band, and on to the present day.
“Jason gave 14 years — every day, every performance, he was there always... I mean, we always used to joke. It's, like, 'He's so fired up. Come on, dude. Slow down.' He was the fucking first guy in and the last guy out. He was signing autographs when we were driving by waving on the way out of the buildings. I mean, he really was. And I now [am] finally equipped to appreciate every moment that he gave. And we have, I think, so much respect for each other now, so much appreciation.
“Ten years ago, when we did the 30th anniversaries, when he came up and played four nights with us at the four Fillmore shows, played two nights with us, seeing Rob [Trojillo] and him together up there, that felt like it was the beginning of the thawing of where we are now. But he's been a very integral part of the [Black Album] reissue and the re-release and has done interviews and been very, very helpful. He did the unboxing of the box for the cameras and the whole thing. I mean, he's been so gracious.”
Considering Newsted’s exit in the same interview, James Hetfield used classic judgement-free therapy speak.
"He was at a point where he was at; we were at a point where we were at," said Hetfield. "It happened because it happened.”
"Jason was caught in no man’s land,” Lars Ulrich previously admitted to Classic Rock. “So in a way he sacrificed himself – or had to be sacrificed – in order for us to be able to move to the place we’re at now. So it’s ironic, and really sad. For me, it’s amazing that it lasted for 14 years, that Jason stuck it out for that long.”
You can watch the one hour-long special with Zane Lowe below.