Jason Newsted says that he no longer has the "physicality" to play with a band like METALLICA.
The 58-year-old musician, who left the San Francisco Bay Area metal giants two decades ago after a 15-year run with the group, discussed his exit from the band in a February 2020 interview with Florida Daily Post which has only recently been uploaded to YouTube.
Speaking about the series of shoulder surgeries on both arms that initially rendered him unable to play, Newsted said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The surgeries kind of set me back. I kept playing music the best that I could, and I haven't ever been able to come all the way back; I'm, like, 90-something percent full. I can't play the full METALLICA stuff; I couldn't do the show anymore like that.
"As the times went by in the earlier years, [I kept asking myself] 'What if? What if? What it? What if? What it you had stayed? What if? What if? — that kind of thing," he admitted. "And everybody — except for maybe my sister, my wife and my dad and my brothers and my mom; they [told me], 'You do you.' They were in it close enough with me. They went to enough shows. They saw enough of the backstage stuff. They saw what took place. And they were, like, 'We get it. You do you. We'll be around for you.' But everybody else, whether they knew me, or they call me Jason anyway because they knew my name, but I didn't know them, there's millions of those people — millions of those people — and they all had something to say about it. 'How in the hell could you do that? You're throwing away tens of millions of dollars? Why would you do that? Why would you step out of the biggest and best band of all time? What are you thinking?'"
He continued: "You don't know where I've been. But it took me a while to convince them. So, as I think about that 'What if? What if? What if?', it worked out exactly like it was supposed to. I'm not saying I could have planned it or anything like that. So it took for the years to subside, which is really nice, and now I've got 19 years. I've had a whole other two or three lifetimes since I was in that big thing that provided all of this for me.
"I'll never talk a bad word about anything like that or the guys; they gave me my chance and my life, and I worked as hard as I could," Jason added. "I was always with the fans. Something back here [points to the back of his head] told me I have to spend every minute I can with the people 'cause it's not always gonna be like this. And so I did; that was my thing. They made fun of me for how much time I spent with the fans. Really — they ridiculed me for how much time I spent with the fans. And now I wouldn't change one thing. I had my doubts at a certain time, but now I know. The music I'm playing with THE CHOPHOUSE BAND [Newsted's mostly acoustic project] is what I'm able to play. And sometimes it gets vicious, and sometimes it gets nice and ugly, and all that stuff, but I know I can play this forever. This music and the Johnny Cash [stuff] I can play sitting right here or laying right there or dancing around over there, I can still play music. I know for a fact I cannot play the way that I would want to play in VOIVOD, METALLICA — any of those bands. I don't have the physicality to do that anymore. I only do six shows a year [with THE CHOPHOUSE BAND], and I do them right."
Newsted's exit from METALLICA was documented in the band's 2004 documentary, "Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster", which followed the members of the group through the three most turbulent years of their long career, during which they battled through addiction, lineup changes, fan backlash, personal turmoil and the near-disintegration of the group while making their "St. Anger" album.
In a 2004 interview with The Kansas City Star, METALLICA's "performance coach" Phil Towle, a former psychotherapist who was brought into the picture in January 2001 to help James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich repair their relationship with Newsted, spoke about being present when Jason told the band he was leaving, though that scene isn't in "Some Kind of Monster". Asked how that went down, Towle said: "We'd been sitting around talking for about a half-hour when Jason says to me, 'I want to talk to the guys. Will you excuse me?' So I went into the other room in the suite. I could hear all this pain resonating from the room they were in, and after about 10 minutes, I went back in. Jason says, 'I don't want you in here.' I said, 'I was hired to be here, to work with you guys and your issues, and I can't in good faith stay in the other room.' There was silence. Then Lars says, 'Let him stay.'
"They were all jarred so much that a family member for 14 years was leaving for various reasons. They said, 'We gotta do something about this.' Here's what I offered: Rather than invest energy in being pissed at Jason, use this thing to explore the underlying issues of discomfort and conflict that led to his leaving.
"In a very dysfunctional family, Jason had the courage to stand up. He was the one who set in motion this process of calling everyone out. I'd read an old interview with METALLICA in Playboy in which the band members separately trashed each other. So now the conflict had come to a head."
Newsted was METALLICA's third bassist, following Ron McGovney and the late Cliff Burton. Robert Trujillo took over in 2003 after Newsted's exit.
Jason spoke in detail about the reason he left METALLICA in a 2013 interview with Scuzz TV. Newsted said that his eventual split with the group was over the way his then-side band, ECHOBRAIN, was handled. Newsted explained: "The management of METALLICA was very, very excited about ECHOBRAIN, wanted to take it out for me, 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 continued: "They had told me, pretty convincingly, 'This is a great record, we've been playing it around the office, that's all I’ve been hearing, it's fantastic, this kid has a great voice. Let's do something with this.' That's what they told me, and then James heard about it and was not happy. He was, I think, pretty much out to put the kibosh on the whole thing because it would somehow affect METALLICA in his eyes, because now the managers were interested in something I was doing that had nothing to do with him."
Newsted told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that he never saw how ECHOBRAIN could have interfered with METALLICA. "I never felt that it was going to affect METALLICA in any way," he said. "There was no way that it could. The monster and the integrity and the legend that METALLICA's built, it would take a lot more than that to ever affect it."
Newsted added, "The people that I had counted on for 15 years to help me with my career, help METALLICA, take care of my money, do all of those things, told me, 'Your new project is fantastic, we'd like to help you with it.' James heard about it, the manager calls me back a couple of days later — 'Sorry we're not going to be able to help you with that ECHOBRAIN thing.'"