Jason Newsted Discusses ‘Metal’ EP, Upcoming Album + Mike Mushok’s Addition to the Band
After exiting Metallica just over a decade ago, bassist Jason Newsted followed his heart, exploring passion projects like recording with Voivod, playing shows with Ozzy Osbourne, and making a few guest appearances. But in recent history, he began to get the itch to not only form a new band, but also to be its creative leader and thus the self-titled act known as Newsted began.
He announced his return by launching a social networking presence last fall, then quickly worked with drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. and guitarist Jessie Farnsworth to get together a handful of songs for the ‘Metal‘ EP. After positive response and the recent addition of Staind guitarist Mike Mushok to the lineup, Newsted is now working toward a full-length album and is currently in the midst his new band’s first tour.
Loudwire spoke with Newsted ahead of the launch of the trek about his album progress, the response to the ‘Metal EP,’ and what Mushok’s arrival has meant. The interview can be read below:
We’re digging the ‘Metal’ EP and so glad to have you back rocking out again!
Thank you man, I’m glad to be back.
I know the EP is your baby, but with the music out there and having time to sit with the reaction from fans, how does it feel to get the response you’ve received so far?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive and I didn’t know what to expect actually and I just kind of put it out there thinking whoever wanted to hear it could share it. The last however many records I’ve done for the last six to eight years have been Voivod albums and underground stuff and a certain amount of people buy those things and that’s that and I know what to expect.
On this one, I spent a lot of time in my career shaking people’s hands, looking in their eyes and giving them the time of day and making the connection with the fans and the groundwork that I did has come back to me now I don’t know how many thousands-fold. It’s been great. The longtime fans are there for me, their kids are there for me and there are so many generations of listeners that are saying the same thing you just said — how happy they are that I’m back. So that kind of feeling is very empowering and enlightening and it makes me feel like I did something right along the way and in continuing to do what I’m supposed to be doing.
It feels great and I’m overwhelmed and you know, I’ve only been on the social media stuff since about November last year. I withheld from it a long long time and now that I get to talk to people from all corners everyday, it’s pretty fantastic.
The seeds of this album no doubt started with your ideas, but with Jessie and Jesus on board and this being a work in progress, has it become more of a collaborative effort over time?
Yeah, it started out as my seeds for the first eleven songs that I made on my GarageBand thing. I wrote all the tracks — guitars, bass, drums, everything and gave them to Jessie and Jesus and had them go learn it, put their artistry on it and so it was collaborative in that way for the first batch. Like the four songs on the EP came from that initial eleven, so that’s how those songs went.
Each day as we get deeper into the songs, the collaboration gets deeper as well. I have come a long way from my tunnel vision of “Only my ideas are good enough,” bulls—, and I’m a lot more open to everyone’s ideas and the artistry of each person to make it what it is. And three heads is better than one and that kind of thing. So it has become more collaborative as we go. I’ve written ten more since that time in October last year and a few of them have made their way onto this LP now.
Once again, they were all my seeds, but now that we have Mike Mushok in the band and I give the music to all three of those guys, now I have three great artists bringing back their responses and their counterpoint playing to my ideas, so it’s becoming more and more collaborative everyday and on this LP there will be shared writing credits on at least half of the songs with the writing credits now.
‘Soldierhead’ has taken off since we last talked with you and people have had time to sit with it. What response have you’ve gotten on the song, especially from your military fans?
Yes, we do get notes everyday from people who are in service personnel and it’s wonderful. There’s a lot of thanks for giving us something to rock to. There’s meaning to that and there’s something to that. It’s all positive response and we’re now working on doing some USO shows and getting all that as part of our swing with the whole ‘Soldierhead’ vibe. So that’s a strong place for us, one of the strongest footholds we have as far as a fan base goes.
You mentioned USO shows. Can you talk about how that type of crowd differs from your more traditional rock audiences?
There’s always an exchange of pride and downright happiness. When you’re traveling around the world and you’ve been away from home for three-four-five-six months and you get to wherever we happen to be, like for instance in Germany we were there for a Thanksgiving, and we go to a German military base and have dinner and watch football with the guys and that’s happened more than five times in my life touring on Thanksgiving, but whenever we see each other like that, we’re happy. It’s like home. There’s a pride and a certain strength that we have when we’re together with those people and we go to the show in a town where there’s a military base and we go there and we spend time with them prior to the show and you look out into the crowd and 5-600 dudes out there just in it from the guys we’ve seen earlier in the day. They’re so thankful that we’re there and we’re so thankful that they’re there, you know. So that’s what the exchange is. We’re together through the music and they seem to be just really appreciative more than the average person because of what they go through and they learn to appreciate things like that. So that’s how it’s always been, from my view anyway.
‘Godsnake’ comes from a place of being judged. But can you talk about that song and where that inspiration came from?
On ‘Soldierhead,’ reading ‘The Pat Tillman Story’ kind of started the whole thing. On the ‘Godsnake’ thing, it was a story in the Bible that comes from my childhood, well everybody’s childhood I guess [laughs], about ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ You know that old adage. And if God came down as a snake, how would he be judged? That’s really what it is. In my travels around the world five or six times so far, I’ve learned that you do not judge people. It’s a very wrong thing to do. It’s hard not to as it’s in our human nature to infer things about people, and some can be accurate, but for the most part you can’t tell what’s in somebody until you give them a chance. That’s what I’m trying to get across with that one. Considering how big the world is and how much we’re the same, we really need to consider how we judge persons.
Knowing the story from childhood and it’s always been there, but what happened to me, I was in Oakland, Eli’s Mile High Club, which is a very real deal blues club, and I was in there with Jim Martin from Faith No More and I was in there playing pool and we were the only white guys in the club and this old black gentlemen comes walking up and he’s just barely making it, what we call shoein’ it, one shoe in front of the other just trying to make his way to the bar. He gets up there and he’s shaking and he barely gets the shot up to his face. I’m looking and I’m a little drunk and I’m thinking, ‘Dude, this poor guy, what the heck?’ and five minutes later he’s onstage with a slide guitar just peeling my face off. And I’m like, ‘Okay dude, that’s it, that’s it. I’m not doing that anymore.’ That guy just kicked my ass and anybody could be like that. This guy could be the greatest author that ever lived or that guy could have discovered this that cured that. You don’t know and you’ve got to be careful with that, so that’s what it comes down to.
The ‘Metal’ EP sounds great as it is and you definitely rock as a trio, but when you’ve got someone like Mike Mushok available to you, it’s a no brainer to add to your lineup, right?
[laughs] Yeah, it became that no-brainer once I saw him and met him. I know of Staind and I’m familiar with their songs and have seen some videos over time, but it’s not really something I paid a lot of attention to, so he was suggested by several corners as a real professional, hard-working kind of guy and that we’d get along because I have the same ethic.
We auditioned a few people and then Mike came in and I knew within the first two minutes that as soon as he played, that was our guy. It was his demeanor, his sense of humor, he was one of us. He is one of us. We’ve been together for about seven or eight weeks and he’s very, very accomplished and he’s going to set a lot of people right on their ear. You’re not going to know what the hell happened.
A lot of people are going to be saying, ‘What’s this guy from Staind? Why didn’t he get a metal player?’ Well, just wait f—ers. That’s all I got to say. We were playing yesterday and he was just shredding dude. I want to shake his hand and say, ‘OK, we got this!’ It’s gonna be big and I’m very, very excited for fans of Megadeth lead guitar and those kind of things, I’m excited for them to see Mike perform. He adds this dimension to the band that makes the heavy heavier.
That’s the color he puts in — the seven-string guitar, the baritone guitar — he makes ‘Godsnake’ f—ing ugly man. You would not believe it. Yesterday we played ‘Godsnake’ for the first time in full focus with his seven-string and Jesus, fillings were falling out onto the floor and s—. It’s pretty cool.
I read where it was a REALLY quick turnaround for Mike trying to lay down tracks with you. Can you talk about his introduction and transition?
He came at the end of February and came in knowing nine of the songs with no notes in front of him. He just came in and played and it was like, ‘Jesus, I wrote the song and I still had notes.’ So that was impressive in itself was just like the brain power. So he rehearsed with us and since he’s from the East he was kind of flying back and forth. And he started tracking and he’s used to being able to take a lot of time and they usually spread it out and however you need to track, but in this situation, I got the whip out and told everyone you have two-and-a-half days to track all your parts. Ready? Go! I’ll be in here at 3 o’clock in the afternoon two-and-a-half days from now, so let’s make sure we’ve got it going.
So everybody studied and made sure they knew their stuff and we did it in less than three days, so it was definitely a little bit different for him, but he was definitely up for the challenge. He’s very talented.
The initial plan was to do the three EPs and get the full-length out, but has that changed?
Yeah, we’re going straight into the full length because when I laid out my plan I didn’t realize it was going to be like this. That was our own thing and I figured I’d put it out on the Internet and it’d sell a few thousand copies and it was going to be a fun little thing, but it transpired into this giant thing now that agents and managers and record labels and all that stuff, so it became a thing where we want to focus our energy on an album with a couple of songs that are the spearhead.
But the EP being the sampler, the example of what’s to come, and there will be a couple of songs from the EP on the LP and a couple of ‘em won’t. And that’s how we’re going to do that. It was a great idea to do those three EPs to begin with, to get ‘em all out, but of those first eleven songs, only five or six are going to be contenders for this final LP. So out of the 21 songs I’ve written since October, we’re gonna end up sharing maybe 15, including the EP.
Any songs you can tease from the album?
I can’t really give any song titles yet. But it’s coming from the same seeds obviously, from the songs on the EP, but now adding the dimension of Mike and the color and we’re getting shared writing credits on these songs, so now everyone gets to do their own thing and play a bigger part. … It’s all heavy and still very much in the vein of the EP, not all fast but definitely heavy for sure.
Metallica’s got a new pinball game coming out and it incorporates some of the music and iconography from your period in the band. What’s your thoughts on them putting something like that together?
That’s awesome. That’s the first I’ve heard of it, but fantastic man. Let ‘er rip! That’s all I’ve got to say. Let’s do it. I’m all good with that and I’m proud of those guys. I’m back to being a Metallica fan again now, full circle. So here I am again, and that’s kick-ass, man. Those guys, go get ‘em, go get ‘em. I’m interested to see what that looks like and I hope I get one.
What’s on the horizon now for Newsted?
Well it’s going to be a while yet [for the new record], but we’re going to be sharing some videos and some live versions of the songs that are coming and we’re probably looking at September or so for the LP in order to roll it out properly. And once we get the tour going, we might sneak a few singles out.