JASON NEWSTED 'Didn't Get' METALLICA's 'St. Anger' When He First Heard It: 'I Went, 'What The F**k Are They Doing?''

June 10, 2022

In a recent interview with U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine, former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted was asked when the last time was that he listened to one of the band's albums that came out after he left the legendary heavy metal act. He responded: "Never. I heard the one where they made the video in prison [for the 'St. Anger' title track]. I heard one song with my dad while we were riding in the car in Michigan, because the radio is still pretty wed to METALLICA, and it went on for-fucking-ever. It was eight minutes on the radio, and I went, 'What the fuck are they doing?' No disrespect, but I didn't get it. It was maybe harking back to the longer songs and the aggression and the tempo. And that stuff takes a lot of energy to play, and with James [Hetfield, METALLICA frontman] going up and down the fretboard like that, no one can touch it. I have a lot of respect for that thing, but I am quite a distance away from that type of music now.

"I still like my heavy songs, but I sing for real now," he continued. "I play the bass right up high, sing those backing vocals way up high. I still love SEPULTURA and stuff… but it really isn't the way that I used to. I'd be happy to join them to do that stuff if they wanted me to. I still talk to Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] a fair bit, and I send him my stuff and he's always super-supportive. I really appreciate it, and I respect his opinion. If he called me and asked if I wanted to throw down, I'd say yes, but I'm not sure if I'd say yes to anyone else."

Shortly after the release of "St. Anger" in 2003, Newsted slammed his former bandmates over the LP's production, stating that the band appeared to be more concerned with "following" the latest production trends than putting out records that live up to the high-quality standards that fans had come to expect from METALLICA.

In an interview with Boston's 107.3 WAAF radio station, Newsted said: "I feel ['St. Anger'] could be a bit more listenable. I just think that for them… They make statements like this is the record I would have wanted to make [had I stayed in the band]… I think that's not [really the case]… Guess again on that.

"When you have that much production at your fingertips and you have the means to do anything and you've proven before over the years that you can make the best-sounding metal records that have ever been made, then why couldn't you do it again?" he continued. "It doesn't sound, to me, like the team effort that they claim that it is.

"I'm the only person on the planet that can say I was a METALLICA fan — a hardcore METALLICA fan — for years, in the band for 15 years, and now, a fan again. But all the words that I say now are as a fan only — not as a former member, but as a fan.

"As far as the new record's listenability [is concerned] and your desire to put it on again and listen to it over and over again like you did with 'Ride The Lightning' and 'Master Of Puppets', I don't hear it… I don't hear it," Jason added. "To me, they were always leaders, and on this record, they seem to be more followers."

In 2013, Newsted was asked by the Serbian Metal Portal if he had ever heard the first two METALLICA albums that were recorded after his departure from the band — the aforementioned "St. Anger" and 2008's "Death Magnetic" — and what his opinion was of them. Jason said: "I heard 'St. Anger' one time — really, literally. My wife, who at the time was my girlfriend, got the record, or actually had someone get the record for us when we were on tour with Ozzy [Osbourne]. And she got the record the day it came out. She [played] about seven tracks and took it off, and that's the only time I really ever heard it. I watched the video — the one they did in a prison — so I saw that a couple of times and I heard that song a couple of times. But I won't speak anything ill of METALLICA, because… you know what I mean?!"

He continued: "Are they the best-sounding records they've ever made? No. But 'Death Magnetic', I think, has some juice. I think it shows that they've still got it.

"I did see them play one of their new songs on the TV, on the [BBC television show 'Later... With Jools Holland'] a couple of years ago," he continued. "And I don't know what the name of the song was. It was, like, a seven-minute song. It was fuckin', 'Whoa!' And I just stood up in my living room when they were done, and I was [cheering them].

"I'm a fan of METALLICA, so that's kind of the way it is. But 'Master Of Puppets' is the shit for me."

Back in 2009, Newsted told Rolling Stone that he had no regrets about exiting METALLICA. "I tell you very honestly, one billion percent, I have never regretted leaving METALLICA," he said. "It was the right thing for everyone. It was the right thing to do for the camp, that's it. I've never told anyone that I wanted to go back or anything like that, not once. I made up my mind. It was not an easy thing to do, but it was something I had to do. I thought about it very much before I pulled the trigger, and because of that, I have never looked back. The past is where it's supposed to be."

He added: "I was one of the biggest fan of the band before I went in, and I'm a METALLICA fan still. I was always the one person in the world who had an inside look and an outside look at the band, at the same time, and now, I've been out for a while, and I'm able to be a fan again."

Asked if that meant Newsted liked "Death Magnetic", which had been released a year earlier, he said: "It was better than 'St. Anger'."

"St. Anger" was released in June 2003 at the end of a turbulent two-year period in which Newsted left METALLICA, Hetfield went for a lengthy stay in rehab, and the entire band threatened to break apart. The album's raw, lo-fi production, lack of guitar solos and unorthodox sound were not well-received by many of the group's fans, who still often cite it as METALLICA's worst record. "St. Anger" has nevertheless sold more than six million copies worldwide, although fans have generally not warmed up to it in the 19 years since its release.

Back in 2003, KORN singer Jonathan Davis made headlines when he told Swedish journalist Martin Carlsson that "St. Anger" was "the shittiest thing I ever heard in my life." He went on to say: "I respect those guys immensely since some of those songs are great. Some of that shit sounds like it's beginners' shit. I understand they're going for a new raw and heavy sound, but that's just shit. I don't get it. I like some of the songs, it's cool and it's not [me] talking shit [about them] at all, but the production is just horrible. I know what they're trying to get across, but Lars's snare drum is the most irritating thing I've heard in my whole life."

Four years ago, former DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy said that he had mixed feelings about "St. Anger" when it first came out. "There's no question, it's an incredibly weird album," Mike told the "Speak N' Destroy" podcast. "As much as I liked a lot of those elements of what they were going for [on that record], I also remember sitting… DREAM THEATER was making the 'Train Of Thought' album at that time, and we had just [played] the whole 'Master Of Puppets' [LP in concert] and put that out. And I remember while we were making the 'Train Of Thought' album, 'St. Anger' came out, and I remember sitting in my car outside the studio and I called [DREAM THEATER guitarist] John Petrucci into my car to play him some of the songs. And it was… I can't remember… maybe the middle of 'Invisible Kid' or 'Dirty Window', this weird middle section with just screaming and moaning, and James's vocals are… [I was, like], 'What is going on?' And the sound of the snare drum.

"As much as I appreciated that album and it got me back because of the spirit and the intention and I really got that, there's no question there's some really hard-to-listen-to stuff on that album," Portnoy added. "There were moments where I was, like, 'Oh my God! What are they fucking thinking?' But then there were other moments [where I was], like, 'Oh, man! This is fucking great!' It was a really mixed album for me."

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