Anyone who’s met or been in contact with Jason Newsted knows that he will always give every ounce of his energy to connecting with you, as a fellow metal fan, as a person. He understands and is empathetic to that intense feeling so unique to hard rock and metal fans because he still feels that way about the genre and music in general. More importantly, in 2013, Jason is once again giving back all that same energy full-force to the metal music that gave him so much career wise over the years he spent making a name for himself in bands like Flotsam and Jetsam and Metallica. His new band Newsted’s EP Metal might be the mostly aptly titled debut ever and he is now getting set to release his full length album and reach out to metalheads everywhere with Megadeth, Zakk Wylde and others on this years’ Gigantour. I recently caught up with Jason to talk a bit about what’s going on, read on…
LRI: Hi Jason, nice talking to you, I’ve met you a few times over the years either backstage or at Metclub events and you were always really cool and talkative, as was Lars. I know you did a zillion of those things back in the day. Were they always something fun or light for you ? You always seemed in good spirits.
Jason Newsted: I really made it a point to try and make the most of those moments for myself and for the people I was meeting, yeah. When you’ve been on the road for twenty months at a time and you can’t think of anything else in the world but being at home with your girl or having some home cooked food, those kind of things were just so seductive at that time. When it would get to that point, I would go to the people to get their energy. I had to meet them before the show, during the show and after the show to hear their stories and feel their energy in order to keep going at all. I would not be able to get through all of those tours that I did without the energy of the people and without talking to them and making that connection. It was and is all-important to me and still to this day I try to find all the time I possibly can for anybody who’s interested or wants to send some positive vibes exchange some words. I’m still very much all about that and I always will be.
LRI: I just wanna say thanks on behalf of all the people of all ages who had a positive experience because you gave a shit. It’s cool to see people’s eyes light up and know that you can make people happy like that.
Jason: Also, from a fan’s perspective, me being a fan myself, when I go to meet people whose music I enjoy or look up to whether it’s Clapton or even some of the younger cats like meeting the Mastodon guys or some of these other bands for the first time that I look up to, my eyes light up too. When I talk to Ozzy, even though I’ve known him for years or when I talk to Tony Iommi or someone like that, there is still that exact same feeling in my heart. I know what that feels like so if I can spread some of that from the other side to people who appreciate my music, it’s a great thing.
LRI: The “Metal” EP has been out for quite some time now and it’s amazing.
Jason: Thank you.
LRI: When I first saw the video for “Soldierhead” I got a feeling similar to what I felt when I heard your old friends Metallica come back with “Death Magnetic”. The whole EP has that same familiar, “God, it’s good he’s back” feeling.
Jason: Yeah, that’s awesome. I can feel that.
LRI: Is it true that this whole eardrum-splitting, return to thrash was actually born out of the need to get down sweet song you wrote for your wife? That sounds crazy but I remember reading it I believe.
Jason: No, that is true. I wrote a batch of songs and one of the songs was a song that I was gonna record for her for our wedding and while we were in the studio we ended up putting down five or six other ones in that same session, it was all over the span of about five days. We rented our friend’s studio and recorded as much as we possibly could in that time. There was very little cheating or anything like that, we just kind of put down the microphones and played like the old days, like you’re supposed to. The music you hear is what came out so it ended up that “Soldierhead” was obviously kind of the cream that rose to the top and one guy played it for another guy who played it for another guy and about three weeks later we had offers from 3 different managers and five different labels and all that stuff just kind of happened. It really wasn’t in the plans to actually go and do this and put a name on it or go on tour or anything. I really hadn’t planned on doing that but the response from the people and the record companies kind of pulled me back into it and now we’ve got some momentum going. We’ve got a big snowball going with Gigantour before us and all this at our feet. It wasn’t planned but I guess it’s happening because it was done for the right reasons.
LRI: That’s a pretty awesome thing for your wife to know too.
Jason: (laughs). Her song is fantastic too, Maybe someday people will hear it. I’m not sure if they will but it’s an epic, really huge song and it’s the thing that brought us all together here with the new band.
LRI: How have you dealt with your notorious perfectionist tendencies with recording the new full length album?
Newsted: (laughs). Well, it’s finished and delivered, an hour’s worth of heavy metal music. There will also be a couple of bonus tracks to go to Japan and other regions, however that works but it will all be “Heavy Metal Music” in the sense that there’s no ballads, it’s not all fast but it is all heavy. The EP is definitely a primer or sampler of what the LP is. There are re-recorded versions of “Soldierhead” and“King of the Underdogs” that will appear on the album along with the new songs and it is ready to go. We are all very excited for everyone to hear the LP. I’m putting some of those perfectionist tendencies on the backburner, I still want it to reach a certain standard but I do not want it to be all meticulous to the point where you spend so much time on it and second guess it to the point of ruining it. That’s not what we did here.
LRI: People were so overwhelmingly happy with the EP, what was the thinking behind re-recording those two songs for the full length?
Jason: Well, first of all I had a different team of people who helped me record the LP. The EP was kind of a real quick thing where somebody was doing a favor for us and on the LP a couple of people who helped make the Metallica records back The guy who mixed for me has actually been working with Metallica since the Black Album. Everyone who helped me with this album are from the Bob Rock school, they’re all from Vancouver and Little Mountain studios. That in of itself is the difference in recordings. Both albums are very pure and honest, there’s some moments where shit’s outta tune, there’s some mistakes in there but it’s very real, warts and all but I’m letting it fly because we’re human beings. We’re not wanting to rely on technology to cheat our way to a perfect sound or making a perfect album. We play what we can play in front of people, we just record it. I’d say the biggest difference between the original versions of “Soldierhead” and “King Of The Underdogs” and the new version is just that these versions are just a little bit more raw than the original ones.
LRI: The setlist I have seen from the Newsted shows has been really solid. There’s enough there for a taste of the old material and you’ve done “Whiplash” but you’re certainly not dwelling on history. Are you open to tinkering with the set or mixing up the classic tidbits? Like maybe changing in “Blackened” or “Doomsday For The Deceiver”?
Jason: Yeah, we have quite a few ideas that we could do for what we consider the “extra” songs so as far as the appeal of some of the things from my history with Metallica we’ll bring in a few of those riffs here and there. As far as the riffs from Metallica that I helped make famous playing, there’s only a few that I feel righteous about playing, “Whiplash” and “Creeping Death, because I sang them and then the obvious ones that I have songwriting credits on like “My Friend Of Misery” and “Blackened” and those things will most likely rear their head at some point. Like you said, if you play too much of that Metallica thing you begin to seem like you’re relying on that instead of moving forward which I haven’t done in the past and I don’t plan on starting now. I’ll do what I feel righteous about and that’s it but we have plenty of our own material. I’ve written twenty songs since October so we have lots of our own material to play.
LRI: You’re going to be hitting the big venues again on Gigantour but you did get a chance this past year to play some of the smaller places. Those kind of gigs were always super special when you played a tiny club in Metallica and obviously you had experience with some of that in Flotsam. Was playing up close in people’s faces like that a bit of a flashback?
Jason: Yeah, it was, like you said, we played some of those fan club events or MTV specials where we played little clubs in Metallica and that was kind of a different thing for that obviously. In my own career, I really skipped over that section. I went from Flotsam and Jetsam, loading up my own truck with my own gear in October of 1986 to playing live in Japan at a sold-out Budokan with Metallica a week later (laughs). I never really did the thing where I was hauling around the countryside in a van for an extended period of time playing shows for people in clubs for a few hundred bucks. I just never did that, and I’ve been doing that part now and filling in that little gap in my career where I wasn’t able to do those little stepping stones. I went from the small bar scene down there in Flotsam to the giant stadium scene overnight basically so now I’m going back and tasting all these things and it’s been pretty awesome.
LRI: You’ve been witness to other bands having issues getting along and of course over the decades there have been moments with Metallica not getting along but have you and your band mates in Newsted found a place where you’re all pretty copacetic and having a good time?
Jason: I could have put together a supergroup, I could have called up, I think anybody I wanted to or convinced just about any player to get with me on this project and you probably could get behind me on that. There’s not many people who would say no, so when it came time to do this I had to find people that I get along with first and foremost who are my friends and my bros first. That’s because there are a lot of really talented cats who can play, but not everybody’s cool so I had to find people who were cool first and then once we were able to get it together and get along then we put on the instruments and made it rock and roll. That’s how it has to be and I learned that over the years like you said.
LRI: You have to have that “14 year old, friends banging around in the garage mentality” in place in order to keep it fun in some respects?
Jason: Yeah, and not only that getting along thing but also the hard working thing, the clear eyed thing, the knowing when to get your buzz on stuff. I like to have a drink or do my thing but you don’t do it when it’s time to work, you don’t do it when it’s time to write songs and you don’t do it when it’s time to perform. You do it afterwards, everybody can have a nice drink, get their respective buzz on, hell yeah but not when we’re working. Everybody is hard working and professional in this band with a quest, we all believe in each other. I have a support in this band that I have never felt before. You know, as many others know, that this is the first band I’ve formed since 1982. I formed Flotsam in 1982 with Kelly Smith and I hadn’t put together a band since. I’ve always been the guy who’s come in and been the new engine who’s come in to resuscitate, the transfuser. I’ve gone into bands to serve that purpose. Metallica needed a whole new engine, a whole new propulsion unit and that was me, Voivod needed a new engine, Echobrain needed a new engine , Ozzy needed a new engine. I was the engine each time but now I get to be everything and I get to start the band and pick the guys from the beginning. I get to be the frontman, my words, my name, my lyrics, my voice, you know, it’s a different thing altogether.
LRI: Has it ever occurred to you how rare or special your success of plugging into Metallica was? I love Jake E Lee more than most players but even Jake wasn’t able to plug into Ozzy with the relative ease that you did in terms of fan acceptance in Metallica after Cliff died.
Jason: Of course. But it did take a couple years for me to earn it from the people originally after Cliff passed. I get it. I was a bigger fan of Cliff than anybody on the fucking planet. To be put into his place like that…..the only way I can describe it to you is that his fate brought about my destiny and that’s a crazy thing. For people to accept that is even crazier, to be able to accept that while grieving, to accept that someone else is going to be standing there and it’s not Cliff is amazing. Especially when I think about the fact that I was mad that he wasn’t around (laughs) so I can only imagine what other people felt. I went through a couple of years of dealing with the fans but once they accepted me it was probably twice as lovingly or heartily as they would have otherwise because they realized I could put up with or stand up to anything and I took all that and still stood there proudly. I think that meant a lot to people. It was not an easy task but then again, noone could ever replace Cliff and I knew that going in. He did his thing, I did my thing and now Robert’s doing his thing and it’s all good.
LRI: Last year’s Gigantour was exciting and a lot of people were turned on to some of the bands who played before Motorhead and Megadeth, bands like Volbeat who have gone on to become an even bigger band than they were at that point. What element of Gigantour are you most looking forward to??
Jason: The opportunity to reaffirm with everybody what they already know about me. There’s a lot of things that go with a band’s comeback, or a reunion with bands where there’s two original members or even all the original members all these years later. All these years have passed since people have seen them and fans are expecting to see a certain thing and they come to the show and either don’t get what they expect or they get three times what they expect as far as how the guy used to be rock and roll trim and now he’s three hundred pounds. I mean, peace to everybody, I’m not trying to be mean or anything like that, I’m just saying that factually, when you go and see someone who you haven’t seen live in some time and he’s not what you expect when you get there it’s kind of a bummer. I am confident that the people who come out to see our band will get what they expect to see. They expect to see the same crazy, freakin guy bouncing around the stage, being the monster playing the bass and that’s what they will get. The same guy up there with a little bit cleaner, better voice, fronting a band, I get to say the words in between the songs and talk to the people I wanna talk to and spread my positive message with my heavy music. That’s a pretty big deal and I feel very fortunate.
LRI: How appropriate, last year we got Lemmy and this year we get Jason.
Jason: Yeah, that’s right. I’m gonna follow in the footsteps of Lemmy just as I always have for this entire time as far as my playing and my style with my pick and my distorted Marshall and all that stuff. I’m just planning on picking right back up where he left off and keeping right on going.
www.newstedheavymetal.com (Official Newsted Website)
www.gigantour.com (Official Gigantour Website)
View photo’s of Newsted’s recent show in Pontiac, Michigan HERE!
Sites That Link to this Post
- Newsted Unveil ‘Above All’ Lyric Video | July 25, 2013
- Newsted Unveil ‘Above All’ Lyric Video | Q 103 - Albany's #1 Rock Station | July 26, 2013