In 2001 bassist Jason Newsted quit the band after being prevented from working on his own side-project. The moment contributed to the band’s famous near-collapse as documented in their Some Kind of Monster movie.
But in a new interview with Rolling Stone, guitarist Hammett said: “I was also pretty shocked that I got the complete band’s blessings on it. It was amazing because our band has not had a lot of great progress with band members going solo, as everyone knows.” He continued: “But all that went down almost 20 years ago, and we’re such different people now. We’re all just older, wiser, and more mature.”
He reported that, since they’d become comfortable being seen as “not musicians” but “artists,” it had become clear that “morally and creatively, it’s wrong to deny someone the opportunities to express themselves and create.” He offered another reason: “I think we’re a little bit more aware of our own mortality and how much more time we [may] have as functioning artists… there are other things that are more important to consider, like the longevity of the group, the mental health of the group, the creative energy of the group.”
Hammett recalled playing his EP for his bandmates and management, and being surprised when they suggested he release it immediately rather than wait until after the next Metallica album. “It’s a fucking instrumental album, and it sounds nothing like Metallica,” he said. “So it sits in a different spot than all the music that I’ve been involved in in the past – and I like that.”
He noted: “And those guys know I ain’t fucking going anywhere. Metallica is my fucking bed. Metallica is my home, and it would be fruitless to leave the band because, if I did, people would be reminding me every single day of how I was the Metallica guitar player.”
Newsted was replaced by Robert Trujillo, who’s established himself as a communication conduit within the band over the years. Asked if he still felt like a “referee” among the members – which is how he’d described himself in the movie – Hammett laughed: “Well, Rob’s that guy now! It’s freed me up to concentrate on more musical stuff, but the attitude’s different now… the ultimate goal is to freaking make music that fucking brings happiness to people and helps people. I mean, when you go deeper and deeper, ‘Oh, it’s just these five notes in this particular fucking pattern make me really fucking happy.’ We string these concepts together. Music is magical.”
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