After 14 years of holding down bass duties for Metallica, Jason Newsted is leaving the band.
In a joint statement issued by Newsted and Metallica on Wednesday (January 17), the bassist hinted that the physical duress and rigors of the band's touring schedule over the past few years may have played a hand in his decision to walk away from the group.
"Due to private and personal reasons," Newsted wrote in the statement, "and the physical damage I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love, I must step away from the band.
"This is the most difficult decision of my life," he added, "made in the best interest of my family, myself and the continued growth of Metallica. I extend my love, thanks and best wishes to my brothers: James, Lars and Kirk and the rest of the Metallica family, friends and fans who have made these years so unforgettable."
Metallica didn't announce an immediate replacement for Newsted, who joined the band in the fall of 1986 following the death of original bassist Cliff Burton, who died when the band's tour bus crashed while traveling in Sweden.
"We part ways with Jason with more love, more mutual respect and more understanding of each other than at any other point in the past," drummer Lars Ulrich said in the statement. "James, Kirk and I look forward to embracing the next chapter of Metallica with both a huge amount of appreciation for the last 14 years with Jason and the excitement of rising to the challenges that lay ahead to make Metallica shine brighter than ever."
Metallica said they would continue with a new bassist, and the remaining members still plan to start work on a new studio album in the spring for possible release in late 2001 or early 2002.
"Playing with someone who has such unbridled passion for music will forever be a huge inspiration," frontman James Hetfield said in the statement. "On stage every night, he was a driving force to us all, fans and band alike. His connection will never be broken."
"Jason is our brother," added guitarist Kirk Hammett. "He will be missed."
Since joining Metallica in 1986, Newsted participated in the recording of six albums from the group, including 1988's … And Justice for All, 1991's Metallica, 1996's Load, 1997's Re-Load, 1998's Garage, Inc. and 1999's S&M.
Before Metallica, Newsted played bass in the Phoenix punk outfit Flotsam & Jetsam, appearing on that band's 1986 debut, Doomsday for the Deceiver.
Last spring, the bassist holed up in a San Francisco studio with a new side project, Echo Brain, whose membership included guitarist/vocalist Dylan Dokin and drummer Brian Sagrafena (see "Metallica's Newsted Readies 'Echo Brain' ").
At the time, Echo Brain planned to enlist Hammett and former Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin to help record the band's self-titled debut, although material from those sessions has yet to surface and the band apparently never secured a separate record deal.
A rep from Metallica's management company, Q-Prime, said she was unaware of the fate of Newsted's Echo Brain project, and said the fledgling band has no immediate connection with the bassist's decision to leave Metallica.