METALLICA's "performance coach" Phil Towle, a 64-year-old former psychotherapist who was brought into the picture in January 2001 to help James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich repair their relationship with Jason Newsted, recently spoke to Classic Rock magazine about his work with the group to help them connect to each other, to their loved ones, and to themselves.
When asked why he urged Lars Ulrich to have a sit-down with former METALLICA guitarist Dave Mustaine in 2001, Towle said, "We went through a time in our lives where we realized there were certain things unfinished. For example, the Jason thing still remains, in my mind, unfinished. It doesn't necessitate a sit-down with Jason. I certainly recommend it, and I've attempted to do that, but it hasn't met with everybody's approval and the timing has been a little bit off.
"There was healing that needed to be done with [late METALLICA bassist] Cliff Burton in using psycho drama role-playing. We didn't do it, but it was done in James' rehab process. The band never said goodbye or grieved appropriately over the loss of Cliff. They just ploughed on like they've always done, sweeping things under the rug. Not out of spite or out of willful negligence, but just because they had a job to do. So much of they've learned is that past undone and unfinished contaminates the present.
"There was healing done as regards to Cliff. There's a desire to heal some things with Jason. And that brought up the whole thing with Mustaine. It seemed like a good thing to do for Lars, and it would've been also for James, but he wasn't around at that particular time [since he was in rehab].
"So I encouraged that, because it frees up people to go forward and it teaches a responsibility for bringing things to closure. In my former life as a psychotherapist, so many times when people had trouble letting go of relationships that were over, the 'divorces' weren't really finalized or finished in a productive way. It just doesn't work well that way in life, it's important to complete. I was present for the meeting of Dave and Lars, and I thought it was very useful and very productive. It helped both of them."
In response to a question about whether they were screaming at each other during the meeting, Phil said, "No. Dave is a very sensitive guy, and Lars is too. They were both grateful for the opportunity to talk with each other. It didn't mean it was totally resolved, and there were other issues that still remain, I think, that could've been talked about some more. But at least they've got some of those things out on the table and walked away from that meeting caring more of their long-standing love and respect for each other than resentments has perhaps poisoned their perspective of each other."