Jason Newsted Talks Intriguing Writing Rituals, Mike Mushok + More
It’s been a banner year for Jason Newsted, whose eponymous band has emerged as a major metal presence. Loudwire recently had a chance to speak with Newsted, and in the first part of our interview, he talked all about his participation at the upcoming Bass Player Live! Concert. Now, in Part 2, he reflects on the band’s summer participation on the Gigantour festival and talks about guitarist Mike Mushok’s status in Newsted once he returns to Staind, among other topics. Check out Part 2 of our interview with Jason Newsted below.
Last time we spoke, you had just been announced for Gigantour. I know you missed a week or so due to illness, but that had to be a great run overall.
The best part was to rekindle friendships with peers that I hadn’t seen in a long long time. Getting back together with Vinnie Paul and those cats, and especially with Dave [Mustaine] and Dave [Ellefson]. They gave Flotsam and Jetsam one of our earliest opportunities to play outside of Arizona. The first time we played in California, we opened for Megadeth. It was 1985, Dave and Dave gave us that chance. That’s a pretty big deal to me in my career and my life and all the stepping stones as it were. So getting back with those guys after all those years was a wonderful completion of the circle. We’ve been friends for that whole time, there’s never been any valleys in those friendships. There’s only ever been even keel or peaks. It was good to get back with those guys.
There was that fantastic moment where I got to go up and sing ‘Phantom Lord’ with Megadeth. They never played a Metallica song, one of David’s songs outside of what he wrote outside of Megadeth he never played in Megadeth let alone have someone as an almost legitimate vocalist come up and sing a Metallica song in Megadeth, five people onstage. It was a history-making thing for those us in the thrash metal. That was the icing on the cake on that one. It was a good run.
I did get very sick. I’ve been sicker than that in Metallica but I wasn’t singing then, so it was quite a bit different. Being that sick, it’s a tough thing to deal with. I don’t like to cancel shows. I’ve already canceled more shows in the Newsted band than I ever did in all my other bands put together and that doesn’t feel very good. Not a good record I’d like to be talking about, but it is the truth. So, starting with this six shows for this band, if I could have done it I would. There were a few spots there I was blacking out on stage but staying on my feet, so that’s — you got to sit down and lay down when that starts happening.
Earlier this summer you released ‘Above All.’ Any thoughts of another song from the album coming down the pipe?
We spent last weekend in Oakland recording a video for three different tracks. I plan on releasing three videos hopefully before Christmas to share with the people. ‘King of the Underdogs’ is the main one, but we did a couple of other ones as well we’ll share with people.
[Editor’s note: Shortly after this interview, Newsted premiered the ‘King of the Underdogs’ video right here on Loudwire. Watch it below.]
Yes, there will be more to share. For people to see that never got to see the band and I feel the YouTube channel is such a big help for us right now. It’s probably the biggest tool for this band anyway for people to see what the band is about and hear what the band is about but especially see what the band is about. New songs, I’ve already composed another hour for our band. When I came home off the tour, it was the week before the full moon in August.
I always compose my music, or try to compose my music under the full moon. It has just always worked for me. I’ve composed all of the original songs under the full moon of August in 2012 and so the new album so far has been composed under the full moon of 2013 in August. So I’ve got another hour and I know that Mikey has some new tracks that are pretty great and beautifully ugly. I could try to follow the same cycle for next year, we’ve got some shows for the beginning of the year already booked. Maybe right there in the middle get the record made and head right back out in May / June / July doing festivals. Roughly, that’s what we’re looking at doing.
What an interesting ritual…
Every full moon usually. If you look at the logo of Chop House Records we’ve had for 20 years now, the moon is the heaviest magnet and it draws out the heaviest metal and that’s kind of what we go by. It’s a silly cosmic thing, but we’ve done it for decades and we still do it, it works for me.
Do you have to be in a certain mindset to write? Or does it just come to you?
I just have to make sure that I have other things turned off and I have my guitar in my hand and my little Garage Band application ready to go on my iPad and I can rock for days. It really does fall from the sky. I have a lot of riffs, I just piece together puzzle pieces. Sometimes it’s a couple of minutes, sometimes it’s a couple of days. But, it really does flow pretty easily once I give it a chance to do so.
With Mike Mushok, at some point Staind will come back around. What is the status of Mike moving forward with Newsted?
Mike is in our band and I won’t do our band without him. We’ve become very good friends in eight months time — a lot of mutual respect. We’ve already talked about those things and I know it is inevitable that Staind will get it back together and do a tour and record. But it’s something that I will make room for and he will make room for. There’s no reason why we can’t make it all happen. I always want to leave room for the opportunities that he’s trying to pursue, go on limited wage with Staind and come back and rock with us. Mikey is actually working on a solo project right now, actually. He’s pulling a bunch of more prominent singers of our day and age right now, doing a bunch of tracks and getting guys to sing on so I can’t say a whole lot about it other than he’s busy with that right now.
He’s got some great ideas. I’ll be playing on a lot of that, I’ll also be singing on it. We’re already composing a lot of other stuff. We’re working on soundtrack stuff. We’ve got a deal with a company to do soundtracks for commercials and movies, video games, Michael and I together. We have a lot of irons in the fire, composing music duo kind of thing. We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time and I plan on keeping him in my camp for however long I can and give him whatever room he needs to do whatever he wants to do.
Newsted have been tapped to play Soundwave 2014, which is a major touring festival. What are your thoughts on that upcoming run?
It’ll be here before we know it. That stuff creeps up on you pretty quick. To get the advertising / marketing together, logistically it’s what we’re basing everything around now, those shows being in place. We’re piecing the rest of the year around those shows. Once again, personally the Australian thing is a big deal for me. It’s one of the first places I ever got to play with Metallica. We were one of the first heavy metal bands to take our kind of music into that part of the world in the end of the ’80s.
I was treated like a king right from the get go. Before they knew me, before they never saw cliff play live. I was the only bass player in Metallica, anything they’d seen was with me in it. So we were always treated with such respect there, I never forgot that. All through my years of interviews people would ask me what’s your favorite place to go? Australia is the answer. If I was to live anywhere else, that’s where I would live. For me, I’ve always described it as a giant California without the guns. And it really is that. They speak our language, same kind of weather, same kind of vibe, openness to environment and eating healthy and all these things like California.
That’s always been attractive to me so I have a special place in my heart for Australia. I haven’t been there for a long time to play for the people, so all of those things make up the field that I’m playing on to go down and take care of that business. So I’m looking forward to going there in a big way. The actual Soundwave Festival is a giant freaking thing. It’s one of the biggest ones that exists annually now — 200-250k people at a time to see this thing, that’s a big crowd. The festivals this year, for us anyway, we’ve played 17 or 18 countries this year and probably 15 of them were in June in Europe at the festivals. It was a wonderful thing. The world is in a lot better shape than I thought it was going to be. The metal world is in way better shape than I thought it was going to be.
I can’t believe what the family has grown into that tens of thousands of people, everywhere we went there were people that enjoys this music. So, that gives me hope. Festival things, good vibes to play at those, good vibes all around as far as the camaraderie of the bands and the people and doing it for the right reasons. I’ve discovered that again. Fortunately for our band, we got to do, or experience about every scenario that you can as a band performance wise, this year so far. We started out with 120/140 seat clubs and feeling sweaty and loud as crap, making all the mistakes and knocking the dust off and then 400 seats, 700 seats. Then we open for Mastodon in Belgium, 1100 people, open for Slayer for Serbia in a giant arena. Then going opening for Iron Maiden, 40,000 people at Sonisphere, 50,000 people at Donington. All these different things, then 300 people in London. All of them back to back to back. We’d play 10,000 people one day and then 1,000 the next day. For those reasons I learned to like every scenario. I always have but it proved to me that our band can step up with whatever we’re presented with. That’s the way I would like to continue to do it. Whatever show we can get that makes sense for our band, if it’s a nice tight club where I can see everyone’s eyes, or a big festival and everything in between. We’re open to all of those things this coming year. There have been a lot of great offers and there have been some not so great offers, that I have turned down, but at least we’re getting attention.
Watch Newsted’s ‘King of the Underdogs’ Video