Jason Newsted Talks to Full Metal Jackie
Former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. Newsted spoke about his new band, Newsted, and their new EP titled 'Metal.' He also explained how the sounds of the previous bands he has been in throughout the years influenced his new music and much more. Read Full Metal Jackie’s interview with Jason Newsted below:
We’re here to talk about the new EP ‘Metal.’ Tell us as a player, what’ s most exhilarating about Newsted being a trio?
It covers a lot of new territory for me so it’s a fresh start and I have to do a brand new start because I climbed the mountain with Metallica and I stepped off right there when we were up at the top and that’s we’re I get to come into this as far as the approach to everything. So the freshest part is new ground, being lead vocalist, singing my songs, my lyrics, in front of people, playing bass and guitar.
I composed all the music on guitar, played all the rhythm guitars on the music and some bass but it’s all my stuff from the get go and then my guys came in and made it what it is now. It’s very personal this time, kind of different in that way.
How is it to hear your music being played by other people; is it hard to not want to control it or do you allow these other players to inject their own creativity?
I’ve been playing long enough with these guys, Jesus Mendez Jr. on drums, he’s from Fresno and Jessie Farnsworth was from Connecticut, now he’s from Fresno; he plays guitar and stuff actually he plays everything. We switch back and forth between guitar and bass. Jesus started working for Metallica at the end of the ‘90s as a local California road crew guy and then he was their drum tech. We started making music about 10 or 11 years ago and then he brought Jessie in about five years ago.
We started melding our stuff together and getting to know each other for about five years and then last September or so after I put it all together pretty much on my iPad and gave them the music. They brought back their stuff and they have paid enough dues and they make their own records – Jessie Farnsworth has his own albums where he fronts his own back, he’s a way better singer than me, a way better guitar player than me already so they have their own ground that they cover and they stand on their own.
When they come in to do their thing it’s like, “Man, can you please make it better because I certainly can’t play as good as you play.” So, it’s like they’ve paid as much dues as anybody else but they haven’t gotten the recognition that they deserve, yet – but it’s coming.
Obviously, a four year period of physical rehabilitation following surgery on both shoulders limits your ability to play an instrument. Not being able to play how did that in turn change the way you listened and appreciated music?
Wow, that’s great insight – just like anytime you lose something in life that is so valuable you appreciate that much more, I think that’s an obvious thing but when you taste it for real it really becomes magnified. I was always able to rig up a thing like a very thin Parker guitar or something in between my sling to keep my chops up a little bit but I could no where even get close to being the monster or do what I really wanted to dig in on any instrument for that matter.
I took my loudness to canvas and I started painting - I had left shoulder, right shoulder back and fourth for about a four year period. Each time you do something as serious as that – time for it to rehabilitate and be good enough to let the other one go and take over becomes a crazy little cycle I got into.
Fortunately, we caught it three times back and fourth like that but it’s a really tricky thing, it takes a long time to get it back especially when it’s used so much and I really overuse those parts of myself in the years. I’m getting it back about 95 percent now and feeling strong again but the painting is what came from it. I also became as good with each hand, all the paintings are done with both hands now and the instruments are a little better because I can use both hands the same so I’m trying to make some pretty wicked lemonade out of it.
Everything for a reason, man, somehow it was all mapped out and everything that’s happened, everything that has transpired, I put all those paintings together – between 800 and 1100 pieces between 2005 and 2010 when I did my first art show in San Francisco, three different studios across the country. I took the loud expression of my music and put it on a canvas and just changed the medium but now I’m back to what I know best because I’m able again and the timing of things, it’s magnificent really.
I’d like to talk about the timing of the 12 years of Metallica, being away – it was 12 years ago this week that we had a meeting that they announced it to people that we were going to do what we were going to do and that I was going to step out. Now that the dust has settled and we look back, they have a great band that’s once again dominating the universe, I have a cool band that I’m really happy about that makes me feel like I’m 19 again. I’m really pretty jacked up about the purity of it and the word for this week is Rawesomness – the rawesomness of the Newsted ‘Metal’ EP and the music itself.
James [Hetfield] is healthy and clear-eyed and stronger than he’s ever been and I’m healthy again too and all that came from that decision so whether it stung a little bit – yes it did in the beginning, it was traumatic but now that’s all that happened, looking back it’s a beautiful thing. Fantastic things have transpired.
Just talking a little bit about Metallica, which is more than a band, it’s an institution. What’s the most valuable thing that taught you how you now approach writing, performing and distributing music?
Wow, Metallica taught me so much and the first and most important thing is the work ethic, road dog thing – never wanting to be the weak link, always keeping yourself strong for the performance, everything revolves around the show, that always comes first. The professionalism that I got from those guys and from their whole camp because it goes all the way around, the same people have worked for Metallica for decades and there’s a reason for that.
If they didn’t work for them for that long it wouldn’t be Metallica being around for that long and it’s a cycle. Everybody has to do their job as good as the next guy from the light guy to the carpenter guy to the guitar player to the drum tech - everybody is that same team and they’ve known each other forever and ever and that’s what makes it what it is.
Having the same people, it doesn’t take a lot of people – if you have good people in the positions that know what they’re doing and assume their role and do what they do and not try to do the other guy’s thing or anything like that. That’s the main thing right there are work ethic and once you find the people that you gel with keep them close and you can build something. When everybody has a stake in it, everybody’s willing to put a lot more forth to make it happen so all of those things business wise, presenting music to people, always going big – I don’t know if I did but Metallica always did.
The distribution of music these days is so considerably different and I’m learning every minute now as I’ve opened myself up to social media. I haven’t really been neck deep into it and really involved since the middle of a Voivod record since 2007, 2008 and the last release I did with them was 2009 so I haven’t really been in a place to think about all the social media stuff Michel [Langevin] 'Away' from Voivod always handled that stuff.
I find myself almost 10 weeks into it now, I’m learning that there is a small percentage of the old avenues that still exist – that I knew and grew up on and that Metallica taught me and there is a whole slew, twice that, that has new avenues and I’m learning as we go here in this new place. I’m getting neck deep in it with this thing, it’s old school music in a new place. Because of the 30 years we worked and going around with Metallica, Voivod, Ozzy and all of these things, I’ve built a certain reputation and following with all those bands, as part of those bands to get people to respond to what I’m doing now because this is what they’ve wanted from me.
Somehow the timing is just right but I can only do what I can do, it’s old-school metal because that’s what I am. All of the experiences that I’ve had with all the musicians and all the times and different styles has brought me here – it’s like a certain culmination, a certain regurgitation of all that stuff and being influenced by all those people.
The distribution thing, now I’m learning as I go. I think I have something to work with, people seem to be responding to it really well – positively actually overwhelmingly right now because I can hear everybody. You used to have to go on foot to say something to them and talk to them and say “Hi” before I got that response and we went to those places and that’s the only way I could know how they felt about the music – I went to 40 or 50 countries with Metallica.
Now you just go online and it’s not even a matter of going up to someone and saying, “What did you think?”
Right, even though I enjoy all of that stuff and I will continue to do that kind of connection with fans,this thing is my new re-connection with fans in a way that I could never do before. I’m in one place and I’m able to get across to everybody, what’s happening and they respond to it. It’s so eye opening, it gives me hope that if you do it right.
As long as you let people know you’re going to be where you’re going to be to jam or your music is going to be in a certain place for them to share – they’re going to go for it because of all the hard work that we’ve done. So that distribution thing, I’m trying to let the kids help me because we got to No. 1 a debut with this thing on the iTunes Metal Charts with a four man crew out of my garage. So that in itself, the fans, the people, they’re the ones that really spread this around and I see how powerful that is now, it’s a whole different thing.
I’d like to talk about that more actually, what I’ve learned about that, the technology thing. I’m feeling like the music is the calling card, the music is the head of the spear and it has to get everybody’s attention and once you have that calling card in their hand, in their ear, in their pocket, in their earbuds, then they’re going to come to the show, then they’re going to want to start sharing. If you make them feel a part of it then they’re going to come and share it, that’s what Metallica always did forever and still does, perpetually – making everyone feel a part of why and where they are, everybody does it together, it’s a big family, a big army.
That’s undeniable, people are very loyal in that way so taking the music out to the people, having some cool merchandise together so everybody can share it and be a part of it in that way and fly the flag and keep the metal alive and all that – that’s how you got to keep the music on the road and pay the musicians you want to pay and that kind of thing. That’s all I really want to do with this, the people screamed me back into this, but for real when we did the 30th anniversary thing with Metallica, that’s what brought me back into it so when I do this for the fans and they’re responding so much it makes me want to do it more.
I just want to take it to the people again. I know that’s what has to happen now, it’s a single based thing where people and the short attention span and that – I’m testing the waters because I don’t know what the waters are mostly. So I put these four songs out to see how people were going to respond and if anyone gives a snot anymore and it seems like people do.
We recorded 11 songs total, we’re going to release them in batches and if people dig them then try to get a full LP out with the last EP with nice vinyl and stuff – that’s my plan. If I can get that through and share that with people, then that’s going to be really cool. I want to have it on CD, I ultimate want to have it on vinyl – the separate EP and the final one.
We have to do it from the ground up like this because you have to take it to the people and selling the CDs at the show and all those kinds of things are the only way we were going to get back any money from the music. I think if you’re going to put it online and share it with people that way – you get the downloads you can and then once it does whatever it does, you shouldn’t try to really fight it - just present the best source material that you can, try to have it be representative and let it do its thing.
Would Newsted exist today had you not taken part in Metallica’s 30th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco at the end of 2011?
I would say that the Newsted band as serious as it has become now and the commitment we’ve made to it would not have been in this form if I has not been invited by Lars [Ulrich] to come and play with Metallica at the 30th Anniversary on December 2011, four nights over one week – each night got louder and louder. You ask anybody that was there and I’m just observing this is what took place, when we came on it got really loud and they were chanting in every dialect you could figure out, every language.
It was crazy and wild and I hadn’t tasted that sweetness for a long, long time – when you’re addicted to the chemicals that are released when you play in front of 50,000 people or 20,000 people or 10,000 people and with the confidence you have with something like Metallica and you get dosed with that time after time after time, you’re addicted, you’re done. People say “Adrenaline junkie” it’s flippin’ real, so I came down from that – it took me 12 years to come down from that addiction.
When I tasted it again, it was like the first time I hit it and that’s why I’m back again – just like that. The people called me back into it, I’m doing it because they did. We know how good ‘The Black Album’ did and does – I do what I want to do and anybody that knows me knows that I make my own path about things. I’m doing this because I want to do this for the people, this time and they keep responding to me like this, I was to take it to them that much more. If it hadn’t been for those shows when those people gave me that energy I would have not chased what I’m chasing now.
I’m happy that Newsted does exist today and looking forward to more to come for you. Welcome back.
[Laughs] Thank you very much, it really is great to be back. It’s overwhelming and I feel young again with it. I think the fountain of youth is within music or something where you find you have a purpose like that – fortunately this stuff has a lot of juice and you get to pump up your heart a lot. I’m still the same fighting weight I was all the times I’ve played, I’ve always kept that metal alive even when I was just painting and the whole thing I still kept that juice going. Now it’s back and I have an opportunity to show off a little bit or maybe something I’ve been storing for a long time and I didn’t even know it.
A lot of the stuff came to me as channeling, I know what that’s about when you get into the painting and you let it become what it’s going to become – you are the conduit but that it what happened. On half of these songs I was the conduit and the deal about the way it sounds, why it sounds the way it sounds, it’s the immediacy of it. Even where the songs are a little bit heavier, held back a little slower tempo or that kind of thing they still have this immediacy to them.
I had the iPad, with the GarageBand thing – it was new to me but I could do the simple recording on there, I built those songs on there, it was right there in front of me. I had my guitar I could do everything, boom change to bass, change to drums, as it came to me on the moment – I hadn’t had that before. All of the things we’ve done at the Chop House Studio, all of those jams for all of those bands for all of those years, everything’s mic’d up you just rock and record it as a jam then I got that machine and I focused on writing these songs. It just came to me, like that.
We used to have our guy Gio back in the day with Metallica, he would carry six cases into my hotel room for me, keyboards, bass, guitars, mixing desks, speakers, power amps now I can do songs on my phone with one instrument or the iPad. The immediacy of that enabled me to channel that stuff that quick and that’s why it sounds like it does, there is a certain primal simplicity to it.
It ain’t ground breaking, it ain’t innovative, none of that kind of stuff. It’s just old school metal like I was building the whole time as I went through the different bands. There’s flavors of every band I ever got to jam with in that thing. By the time everybody hears all 11 of this offering recorded in that pocket – 11 songs in two weeks, when they hear all of that stuff and all the interludes and all the flavors and textures – there’s one big song that finishes off that is the frosting and it’s long. I can’t remember how many tracks we ended up doing but it was many – I’m thinking past 140 and it was just layers of all kinds of craziness, I never thought anything would come out that kind of epic-y thing.
Once people hear all that stuff they’ll see “Okay that snarl is from Snake in Voivod” because that is such an influence and great teacher without even knowing that he did and “That’s from Hetfield and that’s from Zakk [Wylde] and that’s from Flotsam” that’s what’s going to happen “and that’s from Black Sabbath” because they’re the great teachers “and that’s from Motorhead” and those are the two biggest comments so far.
Motorhead is the number one comment, that’s the best compliment you can give me because if there wasn’t Lemmy [Kilmister] there’s not me. He plays with a pick through a guitar amp that’s how I started that’s what I do now. I didn’t know he did what he did until I found out then it made it okay for me to do it. So it’s a big deal, that’s where I’m at with it, it’s just stuff that my great teachers have brought back out and the flavors that I got to experience through time with my privileged opportunities.
Full Metal Jackie will welcome High on Fire frontman Matt Pike to her program this coming weekend. She can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.