Phil Towle, the therapist who played a major role in Metallica's Some Kind of Monster documentary film, revisited one of the film's major turning points in a recent podcast appearance.
Speaking with Metallica fan show And Podcast for All, Towle suggested bassist Jason Newsted never truly wanted to quit the band when he tendered his resignation in 2001. His departure was depicted early on in the film and was deconstructed later in numerous therapy sessions with remaining band members Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and producer Bob Rock.
"I don't think he wanted to leave the band," Towle said. "I think he wanted to leave the reality of what existed. And this was the only way he could start to do something with it. And that triggered a whole bunch of things."
He noted that Newsted's departure started a domino effect of positive changes for Metallica, namely Hetfield going to rehab to confront his alcoholism.
Towle, continued, likening the band's relationship during his arrival to that of a family. He says the four band members built up resentment over Newsted's 14-year tenure that was never dealt with in a direct, honest way.
"...I think that Jason — this is my second-hand knowledge — but I think that Jason, coming off of [late-Metallica bassist] Cliff [Burton's] reputation and the way the Cliff died so tragically, and that he was so instantly a replacement for Cliff, that he became, what the guys would say, a 'whipping boy,'" Towle said. "He was the way that they grieved unhealthily. And Jason, because he was so — like anybody else — so grateful to be a part of the band, never felt like he could quite make it."
Newsted was famously hazed — somewhat relentlessly so — by his bandmates during his first several years in the band. The unprocessed grief from Burton's passing and Newsted's mistreatment all had cumulative effects, until Newsted reached a breaking point.
Towle characterized it as an "explosion," where all that could be done was to "pick up the pieces of it."
Newsted left Metallica for good in 2001, to be replaced in the interim by Rock for the St. Anger album, and then later by the mild-mannered and infinitely likable Robert Trujillo.
Not long before Some Kind of Monster was released, Ulrich admitted publicly that Newsted "was overlooked" in the band and subject to "medieval" treatment from his bandmates.
"And the ironic thing is that the model for what would have been the perfect Metallica in Jason's mind is the one that exists now," the drummer told Classic Rock magazine. "That is kind of ironic. It's also a little sad, because Jason's a good guy and he put a lot of effort into the band for many years, and in retrospect he was never really fully accepted into the band. Then when he tried to go elsewhere to satisfy his creative needs, he was told — well, barked at — that he couldn't."
While Hetfield has frequently espoused the positive impact rehab had on his life, he and his bandmates have also expressed misgivings about how much the band revealed of itself in Some Kind of Monster.
Ulrich has remained bullish that, while the film is uncomfortable and raw at time, Towle's guidance ultimately helped save the band from a breakup.
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