Jason Newsted discussed Metallica’s first soft song being one of its biggest hits in a new Talk Toomey interview.
“There are a few very important elements that made this concoction come together, percolate, and do what it did. Start out with the hard work of the band.
“So you go back to ’83, the boys are already doing ‘Kill ‘Em All,’ for one, playing Europe, getting their following in Europe before America even knew who they were, did the hard work, went on the road, roughed it – the first couple of times around is always the toughest.
“And then they lose Cliff [Burton, bass] – devastating, that will never be forgotten, ever, or ever be able to come away from the changes that were made there, inside the people.
“And then I come in, and we work, four and a half years, pretty fucking hard. Once we wrapped that all up and made up for the shows of Cliff, we then went on to the [1988’s] ‘Justice’ stuff and everything, worked very hard.
“And the team that was established, from carpenter to manager, to every person that took the pride in the band and was there to do whatever was needed to make it happen – everybody was willing to work hard and lose all the sleep necessary and everything to be victorious.
“That’s the beginning, so you got the tools that you need to work with. Next comes the arrangement of that.
“So when the managers work it out, they set you up with all these opportunities amongst the demographic of however many ever millions of people that are 12 to 32 years old, that would get down with loud guitar music across the globe.
“Because we were global already and we were ready for that chance. It was set up, it was just waiting for us to take it.
“So the album comes out and it sounds great right across the board, and it covers a bunch of ground – the weighty stuff, speedy stuff, good heavy stuff in the middle. And the secret of it all? Secret…? I don’t know.
“That’s what came in and now we know it’s knowledge and fact – the softest song that we ever made is called ‘Nothing Else Matters.’ Up to that point, there was already [1984’s] ‘Fade to Black’ and things like that – but the radio…
“Only certain college radio or something like that would ever play that song. It was never a thing…
“As ‘Nothing Else Matters’ comes out as the third single [from the ‘Black Album’] or whatever it was, it comes a little bit later and by that time, we’ve already been out on the road and building the following.
“The softest song broke down the tallest, strongest barriers for ‘Battery’ and ‘Fight Fire’ to get through. We couldn’t have done it the other way around, it would not have worked the other way around.
“The radio was the way it was at the time, the listeners of the radio, the way it was at the time across the globe, ready for that song to appeal to everybody.
“So not just the people who are going to come to the concert to hear the heavy shit, now all this starts to be getting to the mainstream of things. So all of a sudden, it goes from 30 to 50 countries that they want us to play in, and we’re on the road for…
“We were like five or six months into the thing, and the dude comes into the dressing room and says, ”Nothing Else Matters’ is No. 1 in 30 countries this week.’ And they’ve asked us to come there.
“So they set us up, that’s my point here – the managers, promoters, and all those things, radio people, the team that made that all happen, they set us up for the next shows, set us up for success – we went and crushed them.
“Anything that they would set up for us we would go and take care of business like everyone expected us to do. So the promoter would ask us back again. We were set up by those people to do that, so those elements are in a place.
“I’ll take the one chronologically that actually made it all possible – AC/DC and Iron Maiden from early ’80s up through the time that we were coming to that spot right there – they had played those countries that would allow westernized heavy music by that time.
“Communism, Islam, whatever didn’t keep it from coming there, they went to all those places first, they knocked down the first batch of trees and kind of gave us a rough road.
“Some of the places they paved that shit in some of the bigger cities. But in those outskirts and stuff, they broke down, and then we had to go through and make it happen.
“If they wouldn’t have come and done those places for those people, and making the fandom of heavy music foundation, then we wouldn’t be able to do what we did either.
“So all those things together I just explained aligned like planets, and we had enough conviction as a collective to do it, and as individuals the determination and the talent.
“But also not ever wanting to let the other guy down because one of our cardinal rules within the band is, ‘You never want to be the weak when on the stage,’ ever!
“So whatever it takes – Kirk’s [Hammett, guitar] doing yoga, Lars [Ulrich, drums] is running every day, whatever the hell you need to do to be that – that’s what you do as an individual.
“So the understanding of all the people within it knew that we were made of that, so they put their efforts into it, and that collective effort became something we’re talking about 30 years later right now.” Ultimate-Guitar transcribed his comments.