APRIL 16th 2013
JASON NEWSTED EXCLUSIVE
Interview by Ruben Mosqueda
MetalTitans recently had an opportunity to speak with Jason Newsted---who frankly needs no introduction. If you’re a metal fan you know Newsted’s body of work, you know the high profile gigs that he’s held. You know he’s an outstanding bassist and you know that he has a new band simply called Newsted. Jason and crew are on the verge of hitting the road to promote their critically acclaimed EP ‘Metal.’ Newsted have an album in the can that they have slated for release in the fall of 2013. While I can go on and on I’ll let Newsted tell you all about the EP, the band, the upcoming album and then some.
1: Was the plan initially to do an EP? Or were you so excited about the band that you just had to get some music out there?
Newsted: I had been reading about bands like Down and cats like that had been releasing EPs via iTunes---it’s a new avenue to do it. So that’s what we did with this EP we wanted to test the waters to see if anyone gave a crap about what I was doing. It seems like they do. It’s been a great opportunity to see what we can do with what we have on hand. We’ve done everything out of my studio without a lot of help so far. It’s been a ‘do it yourself’ thing.
2: What inspired you to tackle the vocal duties on in this band? Surely you would have had people lining up to audition to sing in this band.
Newsted: That’s true. I’ve been working on signing for some time now. I’ve been getting away from the ‘cookie monster’ thing over the course of the past few years. At this point I’ve done more recording out of Metallica than I’ve done in Metallica. It doesn’t matter if it’s been Echo Brain, Voivod or Government Mule—I sing a lot and I play a lot. This is the first time in my career that I wrote all the songs top to bottom before I gave it to the guys in the band to learn. I wrote all the lyrics and sang all the songs. I just wanted to set up and express my lyrics—I’ve been working on my vocals for years. That’s why I’m doing it and it feel real good to.
3: Your vocal has evolved since that time. There are times where there’s a little bit of a Jon Oliva influence there. How would you describe it?
Newsted: Wow that’s interesting. I wear my influences on my sleeve—there’s Sabbath, Motorhead and Priest. I think it’s a blend of all of those cats over time. I don’t get anywhere near to what Halford can do but I do think that snarl is influenced by him. Lemmy (Kilmister) has always been a huge influence and he’s always been an influence and the basis of what I’ve done. I know I don’t have much range but I do think it’s about charisma and it’s about drive and what is appropriate for the music. It’s a mix of all my heroes I guess.
4: There are four tracks that are featured on ‘Metal.’ Did you have more tracks to choose from and if so how did you narrow it down to these four?
Newsted: We started off with eleven in the end we wound up with these four and they basically chose themselves. I’ve composed maybe twenty-one or twenty-two since October. We have songs from the last batch and now we have songs from this new batch and we have the songs that will go on to become the debut LP. We just finished recording the album last week and now we are going to start mixing next week. I have to add that we are a four piece now because we’ve added Mike Mushok (Stained) on guitar. So the power-trio that you heard on the Newsted EP has now expanded to a four-piece. I think Mike has brought a new element and dimension that makes this pretty fantastic.
5: I read that you added Mike to the band. Did he get a chance to add his stamp on the new music?
Newsted: He definitely added his own stamp to the new songs. He brought in new elements that I couldn’t have imagined. I’ll admit I wasn’t a Stained follower—I knew who they were. I wasn’t too familiar with a lot of their music. Mike came in and really made the songs better—no question. I had the skeletons mapped out and I gave him demos to work with and he added all sorts of colors. It’s beautiful. I’m very happy with the end result. We really have a tough band together here.
6: So I imagine that some of the tracks on ‘Metal’ will make their way onto the new debut album?
Newsted: Oh yeah, back in the day EPs were issued as a sampler for the LP so that is exactly what is happening here. The tracks that make it onto the new LP will be new versions of the same songs.
7: It’s hard to pick a favorite track off ‘Metal’ but if I had a gun to my head I’d have to go with “Godsnake.” So I don’t know if that’ll make it onto the debut album but it’s a killer track.
Newsted: Nice! That’s awesome, man! I like that the EP can be a stand-alone release. Like I said two tracks are going to make the album but there will be two that will only be available on ‘Metal.’ I can tell you that “Soldierhead” will make it on to the debut LP.
8: Since we’re on the topic of “Soldierhead” can you give us the back story on that track?
Newsted: That one came pretty quickly it was more of a channeling kind of thing it came together in like 10-15 minutes. It just kind of fell from the sky musically. The lyrical content came from about Pat Tillman’s story—documentary type stuff. That’s where that was originally initiated. It evolved into a tip of the hat to our services personnel. ”Godsnake” is a bible story roughly which came from my childhood. It’s basically about not judging a book by its cover. Let’s say if God came down as a snake how would people judge him? The message is to not judge on first view—take a closer look. There’s a couple of times in my travels that I got upset at myself for doing just that—then I got slapped in the face when I saw just how talented the person was. I was with Jim Martin (Faith No More) and we were at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland (California)—it was the real deal blues club.
He and I were the only two Caucasians in the club we were playing pool and having a couple of drinks. We saw this old cat come in—the older black gentleman. He was shaking, really disheveled and kind of gnarly looking. I was like what is the hell is this guy doing here? He couldn’t even hold a drink to his face. Then about five minutes later he’s up on stage taking my face off with this slide guitar performance. I learned right then and there that you don’t do that to people. There are professors, inventors, musicians, artists and authors—that are fantastic, talented, wonderful human beings. They might not be dressed up or whatever but they are incredible beings –be careful how you judge.
9: Well since we’re on the topic of songs let us in on “King of the Underdogs?”
Newsted: That’s a personal one for me. I mean I think no matter what I’ve done in the past musically it’s in the past. There will be skepticism surround thing Newsted and in a sense I’m king of the underdogs. There are people that are rooting for me to make it happen and I’m rooting for me to make it happen. I mean there are things that are described as the best of the worst—that kind of hits home in way. So I can relate to that.
10: ”Skyscraper” has a political theme to it doesn’t it?
Newsted: I think it’s self-explanatory with the way our world has been turned upside-down in 2001. It has to do with the skyscrapers—terrorism and people blow up shit. If you read the lyrics it talks about that type of thing. It talks about a new plane of insane dimension---putting a hole in a skyscraper.
11: You mentioned that you’ve wrapped up recording the album and you’ll be mixing it soon. Will you have the same team that recorded the EP on the new album? Also will the album be independently released via your Chophouse Record label?
Newsted: There are different licenses that have been taken out throughout the world but it will be released on Chophouse. It will be distributed via Sony or Geffen Records in different regions. We’re looking at a fall release for the album and we’ve got a world-wide tour we start on Friday (April 19th) and we’re booked through August. We have about 6-8 days where we’re not playing—we’re very busy and we’ve got more offers coming for the rest of the year through February of 2014. We want to roll out the LP very tactfully---we’ve got a bunch of cool ideas. We want to create some intrigue and get people interested in the band. We’ll be delivering 15 songs to the label that we’re very excited about.
We used a different production team on the new album. It’s still me producing but we’ve also put together some people from the Bob Rock camp that have come back to help me with this. They know what I want and they know how to help me get it. Let me put it to you this way this thing has some big ugly teeth to it.
12: With Echo Brain you were able to stretch musical boundaries. What did you gain from your time in that band?
Newsted: It’s one of the single most wonderful musical experiences that I have ever had. I was with these young kids that were so talented and so bright-eyed—they were just awesomely musical. I don’t know what other way to put it. I learned a lot from them—it was a departure from what I had done prior to that. I needed to find something after the Metallica thing that was fun, fresh, refreshing and cheerful. We went up to Northern California to a studio that was self-sufficient studio. We camped there and there wasn’t any outside distractions; it’s out in the middle of the mountains. We were there for 40—45 days and drank mushroom tea and had some herb and did our thing. It was just a wonderful, wonderful time. I’m just sorry that it had to end with lawsuits and all that stuff.
13: And you time in Voivod? You went from being a fan of the band to playing with them too. No too dissimilar from other gigs you’ve had.
Newsted: That was also a great learning experience. I learned a lot from those guys. It was a different kind of thing because like you said I always looked up to them. I had known them for a longtime; we went back to 1985. They are French Canadian and English being their second language that was a new experience for me—it was challenging for me. It was all for the right reasons. We made some great records. We made some music without Piggy—that is never easy as you can imagine. It’s hard even to this day. (long pause) There’s actually a song on the new album that we’ve dedicated just to Piggy. Yesterday in performance I just about lost it. I sang through it. I sing about him in the song and I say his name in it. It’s still fresh and he’s 7 years gone. He’s one of the unsung heroes of metal guitar; he’s the single most innovative instrumentalist that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with and I’ve played with some wicked musicians.
14: You played musical chairs with Robert Trujillo who went on to play in Metallica and you took over as bassist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band.
Newsted: Yeah that was a dream. I’ve had a few of them. I’m on my fourth dream now as far as I’m concerned. When your heroes become you peers—it’s a surreal thing. It happened with Metallica. It happened with Ozzy and it happened with Voivod. With all the bands that I mentioned; they were already established and I came in to resuscitate them. I gave them transfusions and be their new engine. I saw myself as the propulsion in those bands—I guess that’s why I got those gigs you know?
15: In retrospect was your arm injury that took place prior to the Rock Star Supernova tour , was that a blessing? That project wasn’t well received.
Newstead: That sucked! That wasn’t good. Not good, man. Not good. I became addicted to painkillers as a result of that injury. (Rock Star) Supernova? I loved it! It was a goodtime for me; again I learned a lot. I received a lot of money. People were like what did you do that for? Figure it out man! Just figure it out. It’s CBS television. They came to me. They asked me to play. I said I want that much they said ‘okay.’ I was like what? So I went ahead and did it. Years later I’m still floored that I was paid that amount of money. I’m not going to tell you how much but it was a lot; I can assure you.
NEWSTED ON TOUR
Apr. 19 - Red House - Walnut Creek, CA
Apr. 20 - Red House - Walnut Creek, CA
Apr. 23 - San Jose Rock Shop - San Jose, CA
Apr. 24 - The Starline - Fresno, CA
Apr. 26 - The Alley - Sparks, NV
Apr. 27 - Ace of Spades - Sacramento, CA
May 01 - The Roxy - Los Angeles, CA
May 03 - Vinyl - Las Vegas, NV
May 04 - KUPD Ufiesta - Mesa, AZ
May 15 - Planet Rock - Battle Creek, MI
May 17 - The Crofoot - Pontiac, MI
May 18 - Bottom Lounge - Chicago, IL
May 21 - Highline Ballroom - New York, NY
May 22 - The Middle East Downstairs - Cambridge, MA
May 23 - The Stone Pony - Asbury Park, NJ