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INTERVIEW – Jason Newsted, April 2013

| 24 April 2013 | Reply


When a local guy makes good, everybody wants to cheer.  When that same guy is a rocker that has played for one of the biggest metal bands of all-time, rockers unite and raise their fists to the heavens.  On that note, my raised fist is holding a microphone and recorder to totally capture all the information, thoughts, and ramblings that bassist extraordinaire Jason Newsted is willing to share.  I got to speak tot eh man himself via phone leading up to his first tour with new project Newsted and their opening dates in Michigan on May 15 in Battle Creek and May 17 in Pontiac.

ToddStar: First off thank you so much, we really appreciate you taking time out for us today.

Jason: Gotta take care of my home boys!

ToddStar: That you do man. You’re calling Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Jason: There you go.

ToddStar: Let’s kick it off man; you’ve got this EP out, Metal. This thing, it rocks man, its four songs and I can’t wait to hear more, but from the minute “Soldierhead” kicks off, even in my review I state that once you’ve listened to the song it gives you a view into not only your past, but also the future, where Newsted is going. What can you tell us about the EP and any future disc surrounding the EP that you might not get first listen through?

Jason: I really like that statement; that was cool, the future and the past, that’s great. I agree with that, it couldn’t be much more accurate because it really is that. For me it’s a culmination of all the stuff that I’ve done in the past thirty years. I’ve worked hard for thirty years, slugging it out, and I’ve had the opportunity to play, record, and perform with some great players of different styles. Now the forte is definitely the metal, I spent fifteen of the thirty years, half of Metallica’s life I was in there to the highest peaks that they climbed, of course that’s pretty well known. The Voivod stuff slugged it out with those guys, they’ve been together longer than Metallica and they’re still slugging it up, so there you go with that. I learned a lot from them, it was an amazing influence for me as a fan, but then as being a member of their band, so that’s a big thing. Then all the other styles I got to play through time with different players, like Gov’t Mule and Shadow and all the different people that I’ve got to jam with, now this is showing up. I’m making myself a well-rounded player by exposing myself to all those styles and then coming back to what I know the best, to my forte, to make it happen. And that’s what happened on this EP. It was actually… the beginning of it was September or October of last year, I wrote eleven songs. I just had my iPad. My wife had gotten me a computer and I put that program and I started burning some songs, basically channeling shit and just knocking it down as it came to me, and I was going to go record this song for my wife actually, as a gift, and I had a bunch of other metal songs written. We got the studio for about $2,000 for a week or whatever, and I went and in one week recorded a whole bunch of songs. Well it happened to be that those other songs that were away from my wife’s nice song were “Soldierhead,” “Godsnake,” and “King of the Underdogs,” and we were going to… our deal was Jesse, Jesus and myself we were like, okay dudes, we’re going to make this CD, you’re going to have one, you’re gonna have one and you’re gonna have one. We’re going to play it in our truck and it’ll be loud as hell and we’ll be like YEAH! It’s our metal, like that. So one guy plays “Soldierhead” for this guy, and then that guy plays “Soldierhead” for this other guy, the next thing it gets to Geffen Records and blah, blah, and here I am eight months later ready for the world tour, putting out an LP with Universal, Sony and all these people. So it came from this thing where I just wanted to make some metal with my boys, and people heard it and go Jay, come on now, and here we are talking, me and you getting ready to take it all out. So that was the instigation, was kind of an innocent thing and now it’s become this monster and we’re back in the worldwide swing.

ToddStar: Is there a plan to put all eleven of these songs out there for the rest of the world to enjoy?

Jason: Since those I wrote ten more. I got twenty-one since October and so we have just finished the recording of the LP. That was Sunday night we finished the source material, we started doing mixing yesterday and we’re piecing it all together, and for the first time tomorrow record company dudes are coming to my personal studio, for the first time in twenty years, bro. So we’ve done demos with Sepultura, Exodus and Machine Head, we’ve played all our noise in here man, but never had none of them guys here, so I got all these songs together and these guys are coming to check it out tomorrow, I’ve got thirteen songs that I’m going to play for them. A few of the earlier tracks, the ones that you ask about, they’ve all been recorded proper and everything, but as I think they started sorting themselves out and we started to see what the actual focus was and which ones were cohesive and which ones made up the Metal EP and which ones made up what’s gonna be the LP, they found themselves. They really choose themselves. The killer ones raise their heads and the other ones kind of just go to the wayside, or whatever, end up being B-sides and things like that, like any other project. So the answer to the question is yes you will ultimately hear all of the tracks someday, but the first hour, hour and five of really tough stuff is what I’m trying to get out, of course, as my first foot forwards on the LP. So a few of the older ones and some of the ones from the EP, at least a couple from the EP are of course going to be on the LP. The EP was just supposed to be a sampler of what was to come. So the LP will have a couple of those, but they’re re-recorded versions and kind of freshened up. So I do have nearly a couple of hours of music for people to hear and everybody will ultimately hear it, yes.

ToddStar: Awesome. Again, it kicks off with “Soldierhead,” like you said, everybody played it for everybody just because it kicked ass, but then you get something like “Skyscraper” where it just nuts to soup, it’s just a good, solid rock song. Kind of those songs from front to back are good songs. You’ve got an EP that front to back is just solid good songs. You’ve mentioned Metallica, you’ve mentioned Voivod. You’ve been all over the place. You did the stuff with Rockstar Supernova. I mean, how do you find yourself in all these right places at the right times?

Jason: I continue chasing it every day. I never rested. My laurels are great, the accomplishments are great, I’m ultimately proud of all the things that we reached, because we reached some peaks, like Metallica and stuff, that no other band has reached or will ever reach. They would take an awful lot, especially of that genre, to get to the places that we got to. So those experiences were all great, but I wanted a bit of rest on that. In one of the new songs on the LP it says ‘Trying, or I’m dying, won’t wallow in what I’ve done,’ and so it’s about continuing to chase it and because the way I conducted myself in my career, about being the first one in and the last one out of the building, being a hard worker, being focused, determined and motivated, all those things help me get gigs. The word of mouth is very powerful in this business, as it always has been, and just as my initial thing getting into Metallica, when Lars reached out to all the people around the world and called ‘Who’s the guy to look for? Who’s the bassist? Who’s the stand out?’ my name came out everywhere he asked, all over the globe, because I’d already started doing correspondence with Flotsam, I’d already been talking to record company guys, I would bug the shit out of them with our demos. I was a determined individual and so my name came up everywhere he asked. It’s the same thing thirty years later, it’s still that. When people reach out and go, Tony Iommi fucking calls me on the phone, a year and a half ago, ‘Hey mate, I want you to play on this song, Jon Lord is gonna play on it and Nicko McBrain wanna play bass?’ I was like duuuuuuuuuh duuuuuuuuuh who is this? Who set you up to this? I thought it was a road crew guy because all our road crew guys are British. So I was like who is this? Mick is that you? Jonny, is that you? Who is this? And he goes ‘It’s Tony Iommi mate’, and I’m like fuuuuuuuuuuck, you know? And I’m like dude, what time you want me there? It wasn’t like how much money, when are you going to do it, I’m busy. It was like what time do you want me there? These kind of things come out… when heroes call you and ask you to jam, dude, you know you did something right.

ToddStar: That’s why guys like me freak out when they miss the first phone call from Jason Newsted, and you’re like ‘Please Kim, make him call me back’.

Jason: I don’t know if it’s the same as that, I appreciate that comment, but still. It’s overwhelming when your main teacher, like number one teacher in all your life calls you and asks you to play on his record. Whoa dude, so those opportunities have come because I keep going for it. I never let up.

ToddStar: If any of our readers get the chance they should check out the single, Out of my Mind, or Holy Water which were the pieces from that recording session.

Jason: Right.

ToddStar: Those are great. Let’s talk about Newsted the band, you just had a new addition, Mike Mushok joined the band. How did that come about?

Jason: I put the word out that we were going to do some auditions at the beginning of the year, and I talked to a couple of cats, I had my idea of who I wanted. My first choice was Rob Cavestany from Death Angel. We’ve played a lot of music together here in the chop house, and we’ve always gotten along so well, and he was my boy. He was local and we were going to make it happen, but he’s got Death Angel and I’m such a big fan I didn’t want to do anything to throw a wrench into that. He’s written another album and everything. I was like dude; you continue with your thing, you guys belong together. There’re two bands in the world that I’ve ever known that really belong together, Voivod and Death Angel. You guys look like you belong together; you fucking belong together, do not break that band up and do not come over to this band. So we talked that through, after a couple of talks, we were like GODDAMIT, but we couldn’t do it, that’s just how it worked out. We auditioned a couple of other cats. Mike from Flotsam was gonna come and play, but he chose to stay in Flotsam which is great too. We auditioned a couple of other people, and a lot of people wanted to come and play but we had to siphon through… so Mike ended up coming over and the first two minutes before he even played I knew he was the dude. Right away we had the same sense of humor  same thing, he’s experienced, it’s cool and I never really was a Sting fan or anything, I don’t know about their music, I heard maybe a couple songs on the radio or whatever, but I never knew that much about them, I just knew their name. I don’t know if you know it or not, but he’s a shredded. He’s a full on shredder. He comes from Toby McAlpine was one of his earliest teachers.  And he came and he plays on the seventh string, and he plays baritone guitar and all this, so he added… he made the heavy songs even heavier with the baritone, it’s just fucking evil dimensions, so that was really welcome. I knew he was going to add that dimension, but I had no idea that was the direction it was going to go. His prowess on the instrument as far as [makes guitar sounds] full shred, he’s just down, and so between Jesse on the guitar playing like his AC/DC American rock and roll style, versus Mike’s double shredder style, we’ve really got something going here. So Mike came in about one month ago he’s been in the band now, so you know, recording the album as a four piece, touring as a four piece, the EP was recorded as three people but the album will be recorded with the four us, it is recorded as the four of us.

ToddStar: How did it feel to be actually break out and write all your own tunes again, I know you wrote a couple with Metallica, and you did the Echo Brain stuff, and you wrote a lot with other bands, Flotsam, you wrote most of their material while you were in the band. How did it feel to again be able to pick up the pen and paper and get your shit out there?

Jason: Very victorious actually. I wasn’t sure I was going to do that, like I said before my wife got me that computer and I just sat there messing with it, and didn’t really know what was happening. I’ve repelled technology for years and years.  I really have. And I used to have to carry four or five cases, guitar, recorder, speakers, and mixer into a hotel room in order to get my thing to get my demos together. Now I can just carry my phone or the iPad and one guitar and make the whole freaking thing. So it’s a different immediacy. I could capture it right now and not have to spend much time and lose the idea, and all that kind of stuff. So that has a lot to do with it. The GarageBand iPad application, that thing, being able to get it right now. I just started messing with songs, and Soldier Head came and it was seven or ten minutes maybe total, then Soldier Head just showed up. I had the guitar in my hand, I channeled it, there it was and now you hear it. It’s the same thing with like the paintings that I do. The brush and the paint are there together, I channel it and it comes down to me and I just throw it on a canvas. I don’t know what’s going to happen before hand, I don’t have a plan of what it’s going to look like. It just shows up and the same with all these songs, they just show up, and through all of the years I’ve written tons and tons of poetry and lyrics, book after book full, and so I just go start digging in there, and pulling things up and pulling subjects out, and they become the song. So it’s something I started chasing, the ideas, and they became these twenty songs or whatever. I wrote the guitar part, the bass part, the vocal, the lyric, the drum machine, all that thing then I gave it to Jesse and Mike, they put their artistry on it, they come back with their hands, put it down and that’s what you end up hearing on the album. So it’s the first time I got to do it, top to bottom, with songs, all the instruments, my lyrics, lead vocal. You know, I’m assuming many roles that I never really touched before.

ToddStar: I think you’ve done it well.

Jason: Thank you.

ToddStar: As a kid growing up in the late sixties in Michigan, did you ever think by the time you were fifty you’d head up your own rock band, be a hall of fame bass player, and just be an all-around rock motherfucker?

Jason: No, as far as all of those things, the accomplishments that have happened that I’ve been a part of helping accomplish as a piece of Metallica or whatever, I knew something was going to happen for me somehow. I guess maybe all kids think that when you’re hopeful when you’re young. Everybody’s going to know about me one day or something like that, I definitely had those feelings really in my life, but just like millions and squillions of other people that did, or that do now, look up at the posters on your wall and say some day, someday I’m going to be in the lights. I had that every single day. Those posters are still, the same posters are still up on the wall in my bedroom at my dad’s house in Michigan. My dad has retained my room exactly the way it was when I left when I was eighteen years old, so it still has Hendrix posters and Led Zeppelin, and Rush and Aerosmith, ACDC. And I looked up at those pictures and I wanted to be that guy, and I had my bass sitting there against the wall and I’d say yep, yep, one day. And so here we are, and I guess I don’t know if I kept wishing it true, or I put out in the universe that that’s what I wanted to do and I kept working, working, working. I never let up. At the beginning of our conversation, you know, I never stopped chasing it. I practiced every single minute I possibly could be awake. It’s just the way it was, it still is to this day. I’ve still got big dents in my fingers, I don’t have any fingerprints, and I haven’t for years on the left hand.

ToddStar: I know you’re a busy man so I’ve got a couple more for you, if you don’t mind.

Jason: Just do what you need to do.

ToddStar: If there was one song in the history of time, or an album or piece of music, that you wish was yours, what would it be?

Jason: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

ToddStar: Really? That was quick, you didn’t even think about it.

Jason: Heaviest riff, dude.  “The Thing That Should Not Be,” its pretty close as I get as far as heavy riffs, but Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, that’s about top for me. I could go through and pick a few for you from heroes, but Sabbath as my main teacher. We could go “Overkill” by Motorhead, something like that. But Sabbath is always going to be first.

ToddStar: Okay. Now, you’ve got this tour coming up, you’re going to be playing close to me here in Pontiac at the Crowfoot in the middle of May and I can’t wait to be there for that show. What can we expect to hear from you?


Jason: We’ve got thirteen to fifteen of our own songs that I’m trying to build a set list from. It’s going to be Newsted music. I do have a lot of repertoire to be able to go after if I really wanted to. I’m entertaining the pieces, snippets of familiar music that I want to put in between our new songs to make sure to remind everybody where we’re coming from, as if they needed to be reminded. But you know, piece of “(My Friend of) Misery” maybe, piece of “Creeping Death” maybe, piece of “Whiplash” maybe. You know, that kind of stuff, but not guaranteed. Mostly just our own music, focusing on that. I don’t want to ever come back like ‘Oh he’s going to sing Metallica covers and shit man, play Enter Sandman..’ no! The answer’s no. I’ll go back to the old stuff, the stuff I feel like I have a right to play. So I helped to write My Friend of Misery, Where the Wild Things Are, and Blackened, so I have the right to do any pieces of those I want to. Period. It’s my shit. And then “Creeping Death,” I sang that for years and the only other person in the world who ever sang lead vocals for Metallica. There’re two guys, me and James, that’s it. So I have the right to go and sing a couple of those peoples, and the stuff people know me for. They know me for ‘die motherfucker, die’ you know? They’re going to be hearing that, bro. People are going to be hearing that because that’s what they know me for. They know I’m going to sing ‘Whiplash, let’s get it’ like that. They know that, they’re going to hear that, because that’s what they know from me. But as far as going into any catalog or people calling out requests for Metallica, save your breath, because it ain’t happening. I’ll give you what I want to give you and you’ll be glad. You know, that kind of thing. Be happy that we peppered it with a few of the things you’re familiar with, but I don’t in any way want to rely on that, or ride on that, or coat tail or any of that bullshit. It happened when it was supposed to happen. This whole thing, time wise, schedule wise, calendar wise, chronologically, it happened the way it’s supposed to. When I was ready for it, it’s ready for me. I should have come up with Echo Brain right away, people would go its not heavy fuck you, you know that kind of thing? It wasn’t supposed to happen in 2001/2, that’s not what was supposed to happen or any of the other stuff. Di great in the underground, did great on the albums. Some of the best music I’ve ever been a part of, so proud of it. But always in the underground. Different thing this time. My own thing and I get to decide what’s going to be played, when it’s going to be played and I want it to be a fresh start, I’ll make sure everybody knows where it came from, but it’s a new thing. It’s its own thing and it deserves its own respect.

ToddStar: It’s not only a new thing, it’s a Newsted thing.

Jason: Hey, I like it. Bumper sticker!

ToddStar: It’s a Newsted thing, you won’t understand. Well Jason, I got one last one for you; what’s the meaning of life?

Jason: Creating more positivity than negativity. Giving people more joy than sadness. Success is measured by how much joy you spread. That’s it.

ToddStar: Damn dude. That’s a whole lot deeper than I thought it would be.

Jason: It comes down to, you know, in our world, even… pick some… you got Slayer, okay? I have mass fucking respect for Slayer, and even though their lyrics might be God hates us and the devil this, devil that, and whatever, they still have created more joy for people, even in a pit man, even when there’s blood flowing in the pit, they’re still creating more positive energy and joy for people than negativity or sadness. Metallica is the same thing; it’s still positive, joyous energy that everybody is feeling a part of something. The unity that it creates, our music, only our music, sure rock is neat, jazz is neat, but there’s not the same as metal, man. It’s not the same. The fans of metal are the fans of metal forever. Once you’re a metal fan, you’re a metal fan forever. It’s not the same in any music, only ours. And so the joy that you spread within that unity is the measure of success. I pray for millions of people, bro, literally. And I know that I created a lot more joy than sadness, I know that, I can go rest knowing that.

ToddStar: That’s awesome. You threw it out there, I was going to breeze over it, and you want to leave any official comment on all the fun little Slayer stuff that was on the internet last week?

Jason: People were blowing up my phone last week, go get them Jay, yeah, fucking Slayer man! What are you talking about? Yeah we’re playing with Slayer, yeah we’re doing some shows with Slayer in the summer, yeah, and we got them already. Yeah I can’t wait to… we’re playing in Serbia with Slayer, bro. And no dude, you’re fronting the band now right? Yeah I need more stuff to do, man. I’m not busy enough right now. Shit. But anyway, it was kind of funny. But I will tell you this, between me and you or whatever, there are two bands in the universe that I feel can play after Slayer. AC/DC and Metallica. I was in one of those and I did that, I played after Slayer a bunch of times. But I’ve seen what happens to bands that play before Slayer. The same thing happens to bands that play before Metallica, people are there to see one fucking band. They’re there to see Slayer, and if you’re not Slayer they don’t give a shit, you know? And so we’re playing a few shows where we’re opening for Slayer, so the roles have been switched. So we are going to be in some serious places like Serbia and Poland and stuff like that, when we open for Slayer in June, and I’m going I wonder how this is going to go over, you know? I’m hoping the kids are going to show respect. It’s going to be interesting though, because they’ve only ever opened for a band I was in, so it’s going to be a little different.

ToddStar: I watched a band get booed off the stage like that. I saw Megadeth open for Cooper on Halloween night in Detroit once and it was bad.

Jason: Yep, that’s not something you want to do. Not open for Cooper in Detroit. Not a good idea.

ToddStar: Well listen man, again, thank you so much for the time, and I look forward to rocking the fuck out of Pontiac with you May 17th.

Jason: Yes, we will be there. I’m excited to get home to play in Battle Creek you know, the first show in the east is Battle Creek so then we go to Pontiac after that, so I haven’t been there for a long time. I think the last time I played in Pontiac was the Silverdome, so I’m a little bit…

ToddStar: Was that the Guns gig?

Jason: Was Guns with the last one? We did the one earlier with Monsters of Rock and I think we did Guns like ‘92/’93 or whatever, that’s probably the last time.

ToddStar: Yeah.

Jason: We did Flint but I don’t think we’ve actually been in Pontiac since then.

ToddStar: I was at all your Silverdome shows. I was at both shows with the Monsters of Rock tour, and then I was there for the Guns show.

Jason: Those were the days.

ToddStar: You’ll have them again. Smaller venue man, they don’t even book shows at the Silverdome anymore, don’t worry about it.

Jason: I’m not worried about that, I think that the… my attitude about those things has always been the same, I used to enjoy when we went from playing some big ass 30,000, 40,000 seat place, then go play a 400 seat club for some special event. I loved that. It’s still what I like the best. There’s beauty in the festivals, beauty in the big crowds, but when you can see everybody’s eyes you get that feeling, feeling sweaty and you know, that’s the purest it can be I think, so I really want to start this one off on the right foot. I know I’ve got to earn my way back. I’ve got a good paved way and everything, but I do have to earn my way back. And I’m looking forward to doing that.

ToddStar: Thank you so much Jason and we’ll see you in a little over a month in Pontiac.

Jason: Thanks very much, man.

If you want NEED tickets to this show,


Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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