During an interview with METALLICA‘s fan-club magazine So What!, the band’s frontman, James Hetfield, was asked if bassist Robert Trujillo doing his projects and guitarist Kirk Hammett pursuing his horror-related ventures has given him more fortitude to develop some projects like that for himself. He responded: “That’s a great question, because, for me, it’s always been if anyone does something else, it waters down the potency of METALLICA. That’s always been the thought around it. But I guess if they do it, it’s okay, but if I do it, it’s not, because I’m the frontman, or Lars [Ulrich] is the drummer. We’re the founders. We can’t do that kind of stuff.”
Asked if he still feels that way, Hetfield responded: “I think it’s always been like that, and I still feel that a little bit. And I think METALLICA, for Lars and myself— I’ll speak mainly for me, but I know he feels the same way — METALLICA is our side project too. It’s our main project, it’s our side project, it’s our 24-7 project. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to try other things, like voiceover work, a book, photography, art, cars… you name it. I want it to add to me, not subtract from METALLICA.”
He continued: “Before, I might have come to the table with a negative attitude around side projects: ‘You’re doing that, which means you’re not into this band as much as I am or Lars is.’ I’m tired of that feeling and I’m tired of that resentment.
“At the end of the day, I know Lars and I are the guides of this. We steer METALLICA most of the time, and the other two guys are very happy that that is the way it is. And we’re all equal. We’re all contributing in our way. But I think Lars and I are very comfortable being the spearheads of it. And we are in a great spot right now, because everyone knows the band is prioritized above everything, but everyone also feels free to to explore other things.”
Former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted said in a 2014 interview that he left the band fifteen years ago over the way his then-side band, ECHOBRAIN, was handled. Newsted explained: “The management of METALLICA was very, very excited about ECHOBRAIN, wanted to take it out for me, wanted me to do ECHOBRAIN also, with METALLICA. They felt ECHOBRAIN was that good, the singer was that good, and it didn’t affect METALLICA because it was a totally different kind of thing, and I was in METALLICA; that would give it its pedigree already.”
Newsted continued: “They had told me, pretty convincingly, ‘This is a great record, we’ve been playing it around the office, that’s all I’ve been hearing, it’s fantastic, this kid has a great voice. Let’s do something with this.’ That’s what they told me, and then James [Hetfield] heard about it and was not happy. He was, I think, pretty much out to put the kibosh on the whole thing because it would somehow affect METALLICA in his eyes, because now the managers were interested in something I was doing that had nothing to do with him.”
Newsted told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that he never saw how ECHOBRAIN could have interfered with METALLICA. “I never felt that it was going to affect METALLICA in any way,” he said. “There was no way that it could. The monster and the integrity and the legend that METALLICA‘s built, it would take a lot more than that to ever affect it.”
Newsted added: “The people that I had counted on for 15 years to help me with my career, help METALLICA, take care of my money, do all of those things, told me, ‘Your new project is fantastic, we’d like to help you with it.’ James heard about it, the manager calls me back a couple of days later — ‘Sorry we’re not going to be able to help you with that ECHOBRAIN thing.'”