James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich took responsibility for Jason Newsted’s departure from Metallica in 2001, saying there was too much they failed to understand about the situation at the time.

The bassist quit amid internal turmoil that nearly ended the band’s career, concluding a 14-year stint that started after the death of Cliff Burton in 1986. Newsted found himself under fire for suggesting the band needed a yearlong break, during which he intended to focus on his side project Echobrain. When his bandmates objected, he quit, leading to the hiring of Robert Trujillo in 2003.

In a new interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, front man Hetfield said he had struggled with interpersonal relationships at the time. “My theory now is I could love anybody, really, at the end of the day,” he said. “There was more to be revealed. … He was at a point where he was at, and we were at a point where we were at. .. If it was like that right now – say, Robert comes and says, 'Hey, I'm done here’ – we would fight. We would fight, or I would fight for him. I didn't know about the fight back then.”

Ulrich said he now understands how Newsted felt about his position in Metallica, and why Echobrain mattered so much to him. “We write the songs, we make the decisions,” he explained. “You have no creative voice. 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 pissed at you. 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 – 20 years later, now it makes complete sense.”

The drummer reflected that the situation had actually gotten worse after the split. “Jason is the only member of Metallica who has ever left willingly,” he said. "And that in itself is a statistic. And the resentment from James and I was just so ... ‘You can't do that. 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.”

Ulrich described Newsted’s participation in the band’s 30th-anniversary celebrations in 2011 as “the beginning of the thawing” and hailed the former member’s commitment to the band.

“Jason gave 14 years, every day, every performance,” he said. “He was there always. … It's like, 'He's so fired up. Come on, dude. Slow down!’ He was the 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 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. … And, I mean, he’s been so gracious.”

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