The bassist joined the band in 1986 soon after the death of Cliff Burton. His departure was announced in February 2001, but he’d called a meeting the previous month at which he explained why he thought they needed a year away. When James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett refused, he knew he had to go.
Speaking on Nikki Sixx’s radio show Newsted says: “One of the most important things in life – but especially when we do this kind of accelerated lifestyle – is when to say when.”
He’d become a Metallica member just 25 days after the bus crash that killed Burton, and seven days after that he embarked on his first world tour with them. Asked if it was a “massive amount of stress” he replies: “So much. On everybody: 22-23-year-old kids, metalheads, all dress the same, act the same, feel the same, drink the same. We didn’t know about the grieving process.”
From the moment they started that tour, he says, they “didn’t turn the faucet off until 2001.” He continues: “We went so hard and so long for 15 years. There was never an assessment of the mental deal. Nobody ever came to say, ‘How you doing, bro?’ in a compassionate, caring manner.
“It was like, ‘Keep rockin’, guys – you’re making the world go round for however many thousand people that get paid by what you’re doing.’
“When it came to it, 12 years ago tomorrow, I was addicted to painkillers, my neck was jacked, James was considerably drunk. They were having their first divorces, first children. Big stuff going on in their lives.
“I called the meeting. I said, ‘Dudes, look at us. My suggestion is: one year off, everybody recalibrate, get back to this and let’s go crush it again.’ That’s what I said. Those words.”
Newsted says he “blew himself out” when it took his bandmates less than 25 minutes to reject the idea. “Management comes in, ‘MTV, next thing, make us money,’ and I’m a puddle on the floor. I’m like, ‘There’s my answer.’”
He was replaced by Robert Trujillo in 2003 and later went on to settle his differences with his ex-colleagues, appearing at their Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in 2009 and also at their 30th anniversary shows two years later. He recently admitted he knew he’d been “a dick” during parts of his Metallica career. He’s now working with his own band, Newsted, who recently released their debut EP, Metal.
-Classic Rock Magazine