In 1986, Metallica faced a challenging phase when their bassist, Cliff Burton, tragically passed away in a bus accident while on tour. The band was devastated, as Cliff was not only a talented musician but also an integral part of their tight-knit group. Searching for a replacement, they found Jason Newsted, a skilled bassist who had previously played with Flotsam and Jetsam.
Unease and Resentment: Kirk Hammett’s Perspective
Amid the grief over Cliff’s loss, Jason’s entry into Metallica was met with mixed emotions, particularly from Kirk Hammett. Kirk, who had been with the band since 1983, had a close bond with Cliff, and the new lineup left him feeling unsettled. He found it difficult to accept Jason as a permanent member and harbored a degree of resentment towards him. This tension became apparent during the early stages of Jason’s time with Metallica.
The Incident that Shook Metallica
The turning point occurred during the recording of Metallica’s groundbreaking self-titled album, the self-titled Black Album. The band was under immense pressure to produce a record that would cater to a broader audience without compromising their signature thrash metal sound. Amidst this pressure, tempers flared during a recording session, and Kirk Hammett lashed out at Jason Newsted.
Hammett told Gibson Icons, “I hate to say it, but Jason became the scapegoat for all those feelings that we did not know how to process. And to this day, I regret behaving like that and then taking that attitude, but you didn’t know better. As far as the grieving period is concerned, I think we’re all still grieving.”
Harsh Words and Their Impact
During the heated argument, Kirk made hurtful remarks that deeply affected Jason. The incident left a scar on their relationship and caused an irreparable rift within the band. Kirk later acknowledged that he regretted the way he treated Jason during that moment of tension and vulnerability. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and the band’s camaraderie was significantly impacted.
Fallout and Departure
The aftermath of the incident had a lasting impact on Jason Newsted. Despite the success of the Black Album, the tension within the band continued to escalate, leading to Jason’s eventual decision to leave Metallica in 2001.
Newsted confronted Hetfield, telling him “I asked James, straight up, ‘Dude, you’re saying that you can’t be in a band with me if I put the Echobrain record out’. After he said yes, I said, ‘okay, then I’m going to have to step off’”.
His departure marked the end of an era for the band and signaled a change in their musical direction.
The Lingering Effects
Kirk’s regrets about his behavior towards Jason haunted him for years. It was a stark reminder that even in a close-knit group like Metallica, misunderstandings and hurtful actions could lead to profound consequences. Jason’s departure left a void in the band that took time to heal, and his absence was deeply felt by both the members and the fans.
Redemption and Reconciliation
Over the years, Kirk Hammett has publicly expressed remorse for his treatment of Jason Newsted. In interviews, he has emphasized the importance of respect and communication within a band and acknowledged the valuable contributions Jason made to Metallica during his tenure.
The incident between Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted was a significant moment in Metallica’s history, marking a shift in the band’s dynamics. It serves as a poignant reminder of the impact of words and actions, even in the realm of rock legends. While the incident may have caused rifts, it also paved the way for growth and introspection within the band. Today, both Kirk and Jason have moved forward in their respective careers, carrying with them the lessons learned from this critical juncture in their shared musical journey.