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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Newsted is the brain behind his new band

Ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted first met drummer Brian Sagrafena during a 1995 Super Bowl party when Brian began playing funk riffs on an old drum set. Shortly after, Sagrafena introduced Newsted to singer and guitarist Dylan Donkin and Echobrain was born. After five years of playing together during Newsted's off time from Metallica, the trio set about crafting the music of Echobrain. At times, Newsted's bass still resembles the heavy pounding from his Metallica days, but the music is far from it. The recently released self-titled debut record is more melodic than the heavy metal band and resembles the mid-'90s rock popular when the band was formed. The Daily Cardinal caught up with Newsted to discuss some of his current and past music endeavors.  




How would you describe the music of Echobrain? 




Our true organic thing is from the porch, that is where we started: harmonicas, banjos, mandolins, talking drums, those kind of things. Playing on the porch with a couple of beers, playing at somebody's barbeque, playing at a kegger, that is the kind of thing we did. Making up acoustic jams and all that, that is still our nucleus, that is still what we do when we get the chance to play out in the sunshine just to have fun.  




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What are your plans for touring? 




We are doing 30 to 35 shows in the A market through five or six solid weeks. This is the first time Dylan and Brian have toured, so we're meeting at the middle ground. I have to have it a certain way that I'm accustomed to, but it still has to be dirty enough that they are still going to taste some shit. There needs to be a couple of times, which I know is going to happen'the dude's coming in with the Ride the Lightning shirt which has been washed 600 times, go \Master of Puppets, dude, let's hear it!"" I know that's going to exist and I know it's going to be something for Dylan to deal with, he is our leader, our frontman and it's going to be cool, see him develop see his performance emerge. I don't want to have to have great expectations, I want it to make sure it's real, I want those guys to earn it since it is their first time out.  




How does it feel to be in a position of control after being the low man in Metallica? 




I'm very busy all the time, which is the way I like it, like when I was in Flotsam and Jetsam. It takes me back to being 19 again, and I feel like that playing with these young guys too. A rebirth type of thing. I'm starting it from the ground floor, but I have a very unique situation. I can do whatever I want. I don't have to wait for success and/or failure in people's eyes or according to commercial charts, we do whatever we want. We will continue to play on the porch and do whatever we do.  




As for the Metallica thing, in the first years I'd be pissy and bent out of shape trying to elbow my way in at the mixing console when trying to make a record, trying to get my two cents in. That was very difficult and frustrating, almost heartbreaking at times. We'd try so hard to get something going, but you have two people that are so controlling that it just isn't going to get heard. So after a while, I realized when you have something as big as a machine as Metallica, a legend, it took me about three or four years to realize that everyone's got a role in the band to play in order for the machine to run at its fullest. And you can't keep fighting things like that. You put in what you can, you put in what you do best. In any situation, it doesn't matter if you're laying breaks or in a law firm or doing a radio show in college, you want everybody, aka the cogs in the machine, to be as strong as possible doing what they do best.  




So, my thing has always been people. I always felt from day one like ambassador of heavy metal. It sounds corny, but it really is true. Not only for our heavy music that we took to places that never fucking heard it before, but all through the years we broke down walls so bands today can play where they go and play.  




So that part of my role I tried to step up and also, the live guy, musically. The energy. That whole thing, trying to be the strong performing, never letting up. James [Hetfield] is the best songwriter in the band, so you try to help make his good songs great and back him up and support him.  




I don't think without one of the elements of the four people it can work. If you take one of them out, the circle is wobbling like a motherfucker. Look at it right now, I've been gone for 14 or 15 months and its just wobbling. They get some good songs together, I know James is writing and I've been talking to those guys and its all cool. The terms as friends and stuff is all fine, but still just the way as far as looking at Metallica at the music and at the band and getting things created. I would like for it to be more productive and positive than it is right now and it's because we moved one of the cogs and you can't do that. If anyone of us stepped down, it would be out of whack.  




Is there any chance of you returning to Metallica? 




I never say never and I don't ever want to do that because Metallica is a big part of me and I spent most of my life working at Metallica. ... It would have to be very carefully, sensitively worked out. I would not stop pursuing Echobrain and all my other projects. I would have to do everything. I would have to be James coming to me and talking to me straight up and saying, ""I want you to help me with my songs again."" It's going to have to come to that. It won't be ""Let's get Metallica back together and make a bunch of money for fuckers we don't know."" It has to be a brotherhood first again before it can be a band. There has been a lot of damage done emotionally and psychologically. But, I think if we ever did get together and blast out some of the old shit, it would once again transcend all of the bullshit.  




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