Voivod treated me with a lot of respect – differently then Metallica”
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hello, can I talk to Mr. Jason Newsted, please?
Jason Newsted: That’s me.
W (NM): Hi, Jason, this is Nando, from Wikimetal, from Brazil. How are you?
JN: Very good, man, thank you. How are you doing?
W (NM): I’m doing great. Are you available, can we start our interview now?
W (NM): That’s great. First of all we´d like to say that we are very happy to know that you have a new projects, and that you are back in what you do best. We really wish Newsted the very best for the future, and hope you come to Brazil soon.
JN: Well, thank you very much. I’m happy to be back, and Brazil is very close to my heart, as you know. I think that people know, from Brazil, that I have close ties there, with the Sepultura family, and I’ve had many, many good memories from that place. So if I have an opportunity to play there again, I certainly will. I would love to come back down there.
W (NM): Excellent, excellent. So, about the Newsted project, Jason, can you tell us more about the line up? Is the band ready to play concerts yet or if not, how will choose the musicians that will join you on stage with this project?
JN: We’re still on the studio right now. This is the last day of studio for this batch of songs. We are recording songs in batches, at four or five at a time. And we’ll be re-releasing them at four or five at a time. The band members that play with me now, I’ve known for some years, the three of us have played together for five years. I’ve known the drummer for probably 15 years, he used to work for Metallica, and then he was the drum tech for the EcoBrain Tour, and his name is Jesus Mendez Jr., and the guitar player’s name is Jessie Farnsworth. And so they will be with me when I play live, and I’ll also be adding one more guitar player, so we’re a four piece band live. And I play bass and guitar and sing lead vocals, and Jessie and I switch back and forth on bass and guitar in the studio and in the live performances. We’ll be ready to do concerts next year.
W (NM): Excellent. And how about the name of the project? I found it interesting that you called Newsted Heavy Metal Music. Is it just Newsted, or Newsted Heavy Metal Music? What is it about?
JN: Newsted Heavy Metal Music is just the brand of all of my stuff, all the merchandise and this whole project is Newsted Heavy Metal Music, but the EP, the first EP with the four songs is available for pre-order now on iTunes, it’s called “Metal”. So just Newsted “Metal” EP. And you’ll see, I can’t really tell you all about the Newsted Heavy Metal Music. It’s a plan that will unfold next year, and you will see why it’s called Newsted Heavy Metal Music, at the end of that plan, OK?
W (NM): Sure, excellent, we can’t wait. Anyway, changing the subject, Jason, we have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person we interview, we have to listen to some music now. Just imagine yourself, maybe driving your car, or wherever you be, in the shower, or working, or whatever, and you listen to a song, all of a sudden, that you lose your mind completely, and you start head banging wherever you might be. Which song would that be, so we can listen to it on our show now?
JN: OK. There are two different songs that I’m really enjoying this week, and one is called “Old Fangs”, by a band named Black Mountain. And the second song that I really like this week is a couple years old, and it’s by The Sword, and it’s called “Tres Brujas”, which is “the three witches”, so those two songs are my favorites this week.
W (NM): All right, so may we listen to some Black Mountain, now, on Wikimetal?
JN: Sure, Black Mountain, that sounds good.
W (NM): Jason, talking about the beginning of your career, even before you played in Gangster, and the first bands you played in, how did you first get involved with music?
JN: Wow, you know about Gangster, that’s crazy! I was a kid, then, I tell you… Music came… It was always in our home, I have two older brothers, 8 and 5 years older than me, they were both teenagers during the 60s, in the Midwest of the United States. And so they had some cool record collections, you know? Jimmy Hendrix, and Blue Cheer, and MC5, and Ted Nugent, and Nazareth, and Kiss, and all these different things. So at a very young age, I was exposed to that music. And Black Sabbath really kind of turned it around for me, and so I started playing when I was 14 years old, I got my first guitar when I was 9 years old, and started writing songs when I was 9 years old, writing words on paper and singing along and everything, so I’ve been doing this for years actually, writing songs and playing. So I got my first bass when I was 14, and started to listen to a lot of Kiss, and then I started learning more from Black Sabbath and UFO. Ted Nugent’s old bass player, named Rob Grange was one of my very favorite bass players, and so I still listen to a lot of that stuff. But that was my earliest influences, and it came from my family, my mother taught piano, and my oldest brother is still a musician, he plays trumpet, and he still plays all the time. So it was family related.
It was a very big honor to be asked to play with Ozzy, I felt like a little kid again, looking at my Black Sabbath posters on my bedroom wall”
W (NM): Excellent, great story. And how about joining Flotsam and Jetsam? Could you tell us the story of you joining the band? And after that, could you choose a song from “Doomsday for the Deceivers” that you feel really proud of having written, so we can listen to it on our show?
JN: Very good. I left Michigan, my home, when I was 18 years old, with some older guys. I was 18, and they were 26 years old, and we headed out to California to be in a rock band, you know, like a dream thing, or whatever. And I ended up in Arizona, and I met Kelly Smith in February of 1982, and we formed a band called Dox, that eventually became Flotsam and Jetsam. And then we worked five years through the clubs and the bars, and then we got a record deal, and we made “Doomsday for the Deceivers”. And then a few months after that, I joined Metallica. So it was a pretty fast ride, and my favorite song off of “Doomsday”, I think it’s the first track, “Hammerhead”, it’s a tough song, good tough song. I’m very proud of it, I wrote it when I was a very young man, so it still stands up today.
W (NM): What do you remember about the invitation to join Metallica in 1986?
JN: I remember it being very surreal. I know that Lars had called all over the world to find a bass player, and my name kept coming up from everybody’s mouth, no matter what country he called, because I had done so much work with Flotsam and Jetsam, tape trading, that I was already out there. And so when I got the call from Lars to come and play, it was very exciting, because Metallica was already my favorite band, I already knew all their songs, you know, Flotsam and Jetsam covered Metallica songs, and I sang them. So it was already very familiar, they were our heroes. And so when I got that opportunity, there was no way that I wasn’t going to get the gig, I was it, I knew that in my mind, I knew that in my heart, and I wasn’t going to let anybody else beat me. So that’s what I remember – it’s staying up for probably five days in a row, with no sleep, just playing and playing. My fingers literally bled, there was actually blood on the bass from my fingers breaking open. So that’s how hard I wanted it, that’s how bad I wanted it, and I went in and I got it, so there you go. I remember excitement and complete disbelieve.
W (NM): This is great, great to hear from you. And talking about Metallica again, what did it mean to you to play again with them again at your induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on their 30th anniversary celebrations?
JN: Well, the Hall of Fame was a great thing, it was very special because we got to include our families and all of our friends, and they were there to share it with us, so that became extra special. All of the old road crew from 30 years came to the Hall of Fame, and people we hadn’t seen for many, many moons, and we all got together and had a drink. And that was just a fantastic victorious feeling of a family, and like a team, like we’d won, you know, like a big soccer game, we won the world cup, man. So that’s what that felt like, and it was great to play with them again. The 30th anniversary was even better than that. The Hall of Fame was nice to get the statue, but the 30th anniversary was a bigger reward for me. Lars had called me on October last year, and told me that they were going to play for the anniversary in San Francisco, and they were going to invite Kind Diamond, and Halford, and Biff Byford, and a bunch of people, Death Angel, and Armored Saint, and all our old friends. And I said “Yeah, man, what time do you want me there? I’ll jam with you guys.” And he said “Well, what songs do you want to play?” And I said “Go to the Metallica albums, find the fastest songs, the fastest songs from each album, and that’s what I’m going to play.” So we picked the 14 fastest songs and that’s the ones I played with them, and it felt very good. And to hear the reaction of the fans and look in their eyes, and feel the energy again, is actually the catalyst, the reason that I’m doing the Newsted project now, it’s because I got my head lit back up when I played with Metallica, when I looked at the fans and I realized that I could do it again. So that’s really the reason that we’re talking now, one year later – it’s because I jammed with Metallica and decided I wanted to do it again.
W (NM): That’s great, wow. We’re very happy that you did that. Tell us a little bit about the experience of working with Ozzy.
JN: OK… Ozzy… In 2003 I joined his band with Zakk and Mike Bordin, and had a really good time. I mean… I got a to live a few dreams in one lifetime, and not very many people get to do that. I got to be in Metallica – it was a beautiful, wonderful dream for 15 years, and then Ozzy for a year, and that was another dream. But Voivod was an even bigger dream, I’m the most proud of my Voivod records, actually, out of any records I’ve ever made. But Ozzy was so special because he’s our teacher, he’s our great godfather of Metal. And so for him to ask me to play bass for Black Sabbath songs, I mean, I got to do old Black Sabbath songs – that’s how I learned to play. We talked about it a little earlier – I learned to play bass from listening to Black Sabbath records over and over and over again – that is it. So when I was given the opportunity to actually prove myself with those songs, I really didn’t have to study very hard, because I already knew al l of them, all the way down to my toes, and so he would just call out a song and I would just play it. And actually, the longest concert that I’ve ever played in my career was with Ozzy – we played for three hours and one minute. We played 28 songs, and 17 of them were old Black Sabbath songs, it was in Montreal. And he called out songs that we had never even rehearsed together, he just said in the mike, you know, “The Wizard”, and they were playing it, and I was like “OK, how does this one go?” We just had to pull it out, we just had to go from our memory, when we were kids playing the songs, and just play the songs, we never even practiced them. So it was a very good test for my knowledge of Black Sabbath and Heavy Metal, but also a very big honor to be asked to play with Ozzy, so I felt like a little kid, actually, I felt like a high school kid again, looking at my posters on my bedroom wall, of Black Sabbath, you know.
Geezer Butler is my number one favorite bass player, he is my greatest teacher, and then Lemmy is a very close second”
W (NM): Yeah, I believe you. And since you mentioned Black Sabbath, who are your favorite bass players? Is Geezer Butler one of them?
JN: Geezer Butler is my number one favorite, he is my greatest teacher, and then Lemmy is a very close second. And Geddy Lee, and Rob Grange, like I said, from Ted Nugent’s band, and a guy named Bill Church, from the original Montrose band, are the bass players that I think are the bests.
W (NM): How about choosing a Metallica song that you feel really proud? I know you wrote a few songs with Metallica, do you want to choose one of those, so we can listen to it on our show now?
JN: Yeah, man, let’s go for “Blackened”.
W (NM): “Blackened”, one of my favorites, “Blackened”, from “…And Justice for All”, a song written by Jason Newsted on Wikimetal! Changing the subject again, Jason, some people say that “Out of my Mind of Who Cares” was one of the best songs of 2011, tell us about the experience of – I guess you’re also living a dreaming again – playing with legends like Tony Iommi, Ian Gillan, Nicko McBrain, Jon Lord, the late Jon Lord and also Mikko Lindström.
JN: Yeah, it was, once again, a very surreal type of thing to be called – it compares to the Ozzy thing, because if you think about it now, I was playing with half of Black Sabbath, that’s just… I can’t even…
W (NM): It’s legendary, man.
JN: You know, you get a call from the guy that wrote our music. He is the man that is responsible for what I do, he’s responsible for what your show is, he’s responsible for what our music is. The man that wrote the beginning riffs of Heavy Metal. He calls me on the phone, he calls me by my name “Hey, Jason, you all right, mate? You want to come play some bass?” I’m like “Who is this? Why are you messing with me?” It thought it was somebody playing a joke on me, man. It was really him. And he sent the music, and… I mean, he trusted me with his music, he sent me his music to go over all of his tracks, and listen to all his stuff to make my bass line. I mean, that was crazy, to receive the data from Tony Iommi, of 12 guitar tracks, all wheezing in and out of each other, and I just get to play with him on the mixing desk, like “Oh, my God, I’m mixing Black Sabbath!” It was pretty crazy. So it was very special, once again, it was an honor to be asked. It was something that I still can’t quite believe it really happened, you know, because I’m younger than those guys, and they truly are our teachers, and so to be equal with them for a minute, to be eye to eye with them, after I’ve looked up to them for so long, was kind of… You know, I wasn’t sure if I was really dreaming, or really awake, or what for quite a while, so it took me a couple days to get my excitement down to be able to play the part, because it’s kind of a laid back song, and I got to lay back on the bass, but I was so excited, I kept playing faster and faster. It took me two days to calm down to play the part, so it was, once again, like a little kid, man.
W (NM): I believe you, and you surely deserve all that, and much more than that. Anyways, I was reading the interview you gave Eddie Trunk a few days ago and you talk about vinyl, you talk about tapes, you talk about internet, social networks, EPs, basically every format that exists, format of consuming music that exists. Since you lived all these changes in the music business, how do you relate the early 80s tape trading era – as you said, you were very active on those days – to the file and MP3 sharing nowadays? What are the advantages and disadvantages of technology in your opinion?
JN: In the tape trading days, there was a lot more work, you know, I would have to make the copy of the tape one at a time, stuff the envelope, put the note in there, a photograph or a sticker, or whatever I was going to send to the person, to whatever country. And back then, there were maybe 12 or 17 countries that you could trade with, European, and you know… They had music that you had, music that you wanted to get back, there were bands that were interesting, but we had to do one package at a time, with the stamps and the custom stamps, and all those different things for each country, so really labor intensive. And nowadays, as soon as I get my music together, I can just push one button and it goes around the globe. So that in itself is amazing to me, that it can reach all corners of the globe, while I’m just sitting in California, so that’s a beautiful advantage. Even if I had the rest of my life to try to get CDs, the actual physical product, to the middle of Tunisia, or some place out in the middle of nowhere, I would never be able to get it there, no matter how hard I tried, it would just take forever to get those CDs to people. Nowadays, I can just set it on the wire and they get it, so that’s an advantage. The disadvantage is that anybody can pretty much steal it, and that people are feeling entitled about things, and that they don’t think they should have to pay for the hard work of the musicians, and I don’t agree with that. I think that everybody should be paid for the hard work they do, no matter if you’re a radio DJ, if you’re a dentist, if you’re a brick layer, a doctor, a lawyer or an entertainer. You still should be paid for your hard work. So I disagree with the piracy, I don’t think it’s right, I never thought that tape copying was right, in like, VHS tapes, and stealing movies and all those kinds of things. And our tape trading, that we did back in the day, was trading our own music. I wasn’t stealing somebody else’s music, and copying it on a tape, and sending it to someone, I was giving them a copy of my own band. I was trying to promote my own band, just like I’m trying to promote my own band on the internet now. So it’s not the same thing as stealing somebody else’s songs. There’s a couple of differences there. But the technology, if you harvest it right, and going to 2013, the future of music, I think that it can be a wonderful, wonderful thing, because no matter what, you still have to earn one fan at a time, you still have to take the music to the people, and there’s only a couple things that can’t be stolen and downloaded now: a live concert experience, and a nice, cool T-shirt from the band, they can’t be stolen yet. So you just got to keep working on that, figure out the avenues that you have in music to share with the people. And that’s it.
James Hetfield is a good lyric writer, he does pretty good on a lot of stuff. But Snake from Voivod is the best lyric writer I’ve ever know”
W (NM): Those are great words, Jason. Jason, about your experience on TV with VH1’s reality show, Rockstar Supernova, is that something that you enjoyed doing, is that something that you´d ever consider doing again?
JN: It was actually on CBS Television… At first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it, when they first called me I was kind of apprehensive, but once CBS talked to me and told me what was happening and what I could do, and how much money I would make, I kind of said “OK, I can go play bass with Tommy, we’ve been friends for a long time.” He’s a really good drummer when he puts his mind to it, if he’s not too distracted he can be a really, really good drummer, good sensible musician, actually. But he has such distractions in his life, that he can’t really focus on the music. So it was a good experience overall, I really learned a lot from it – that’s the main thing – it was just a great learning experience. Like I said before, the money was excellent, and it helped me to be able to pay for my musical projects, and that’s really the way I go about it, you know, I’ll do a little work over here, like that Supernova thing, to make enough money to continue doing what I want to do with my music, so that’s exactly what happened. And it was fun being on TV, I think everybody would want to be on TV, you know, it’s kind of exciting. And a lot of people were responding in a positive way, I mostly got positive energy from people during that thing. So a couple people didn’t like it, but not very many, and I liked it, and that’s really what matters. So I’m also very glad that I didn’t end up going on tour with them, I’m glad that I made the record, I’m proud of that record, I’m proud of my bass playing on there, but it was a very different way of going about an album. It was on Hollywood, that’s exactly the opposite of what I am, and I had a really hard time getting anybody together to rehearse as a band, to actually work on the songs. That’s different than we do in Northern California, in San Francisco, in Metallica Camp, Flotsam Camp, Voivod Camp. We practice hard, we’re disciplined hard-working people that want to make the music as good as it can be. The guys at Supernova were more interested in being Hollywood stars, and so that’s the difference there.
W (NM): We’re going to ask you about Voivod. You recorded three albums being Jasonic, right, with the legendary Canadian band. How was that experience like and could you choose one song from those three albums you recorded with Voi Vod?
JN: Sure. Voivod, like I mentioned it a little earlier, was, I think, my single greatest musical experience as far as what we produced. The music is fantastic, and most importantly, the meanings of the songs, the lyrics, the meanings of the songs are what I’m the most proud of. They have depth and they are real. And, you know, James Hetfield is a good lyric writer, he does pretty good on a lot of stuff – not everything, but on some stuff. But Snake from Voivod is the best lyric writer, and word weaver that I’ve ever know. Anybody can learn something from Snake, he is the very best. So having all that, and the musicianship of Voivod, and how good they are in their instruments, and I mean, really exceptional virtuoso type players, especially Piggy – rest his soul – he was an amazing, amazing underrated genius. I mean, when you get with that guy to play, he wouldn’t allow you to make a mistake. He would show me one song, I try to play through it one time, if I make one mistake “Stop! Wrong!” I mean, it had to be so perfect, and that was a very big challenge for me, and at that time in my life, I needed a challenge, and that’s probably why I think I enjoyed it so much. They were my heroes also, but I got to play with them and they gave me respect, and they treated me with a lot of respect – differently then Metallica. So Voivod are very special to my heart – still one of the greatest bands of all time, and I’d like to share a song “The Getaway” with everybody, from Voivod.
W (NM): That’s great! I love that band, I think they’re so original, and have such a unique sound. You can listen to Voivod and, and after 30 seconds, or 20 seconds, you say “That’s Voivod”. That’s not very usual in Metal, I would say.
JN: That’s true, they are completely unique to themselves, no one else sounds like them, a lot of people have tried to sound like them, but nobody can, they are real unique. And in this world, and especially in the Metal world, it’s hard to be unique. And they always have been. They still are, I saw them playing three weeks ago, and they kicked my ass.
Andreas Kisser in one of my very favorite humans ever, of all time”
W (NM): And do you think that that has anything to do with not having any prejudice towards other musical styles? Like, Voivod covered Pink Floyd songs when that’s absolutely forbidden, nobody merged other styles with Metal, and Voivod was always bringing new influences to Metal. Do you think that it has anything to do with that? Do the guys from Voivod listen to many other musical styles?
JN: Yes, absolutely, you answered your own question, they listen to all kinds of different musical styles, and they come from a place that’s so far from anything else… They really live in the middle of nowhere, in the ice – that’s where the band started, you know? So they had to be very creative and make their own world, and that’s what they did, they created the Voivod, and they created the “Warriors of Ice”, and their stories and their world. They had to do that with their minds, and so they were always ahead of the curve, they were always ahead of their own time. You know, Michel “Away” was doing computer graphics for their album covers in the early 80s, when there was only like a Commodore 64 computer. You know, they were so advanced with all of their stuff – they were computer age before there even was a computer age. And they are a really, really innovative type of band.
W (NM): And do you think that the fact that Voivod was away from everything is a little bit similar to what happened with Sepultura, when they were really big in the early 90s, and they were also creating a unique sound? I know you have a very close relationship with the guys from Sepultura. Do you think that that’s maybe the reason why Sepultura also has kind of a unique sound?
JN: Absolutely, I think that that is so true, and it is really important to get yourself to a place that doesn’t have distractions once you are making the music. Voivod came up with no distractions, and so they were able to make their stuff. Sepultura did that themselves, and they were the kings of their country, they’re the biggest that Brazil has produced in this kind of music, so they were able to create their own world as well, and that’s why they sound unique. They didn’t have competition, as it were, they could just do their own thing, and make it… You know, whatever they did was the right thing to do, they were setting the standards for Brazilian Metal, and then it became something that was known worldwide, played by them, because of where they came from. Not much had come from there before, the same as Voivod. So I still stick to that type of mentality. The place that we’re in right now, where I’m talking to you from, where we’re making the next batch for the Newsted project, is a little farmhouse in the middle of a cornfield, in central California. There is no one. I mean, it is just farmland and fields and barns, you know, there’s no distraction, there’s no Hollywood, there’s no strip clubs, there’s no… There’s none of that. We come here, we isolate ourselves, we create our own world, and we make this music. And you can hear, from our music so far, that it works. You know, you go to your place and that’s all that you think about doing. You engulf yourself in the music and make it happen.
W (NM): Great, so just out of curiosity, are you still in touch with the guys from Sepultura?
JN: Yes, yes, since I’ve been on the internet now, I go back and forth with Andreas and his wife, actually. Andreas Kisser in one of my very favorite humans ever, of all time. He’s probably my favorite guitar player. He is the most versatile guitar player, we can play super Heavy Metal, we can play some kind of funky music, we can play acoustic music on the porch, we can play drums, you know… He’s a very, very true through and through musician. We haven’t seen each other for long time, but we have made some killer music together before, and he still is one of my very special people.
W (NM): Great, he’s also a very close friend of ours. All right. And about Newsted again, Jason, what can we expect for the future? And let me tell you, Wikimetal is a… We’re trying to build here a 360º project on hard rock and Heavy Metal, and so we’ll be very happy to get involved as much as we can in maybe trying to bring you to Brazil, or promote a tour here, we would like to support you, so let us know, let our listeners know your plans for the future, with Newsted.
JN: OK, so… The Newsted band, right now, we have the first four songs, first 22 minutes of the old school Metal, that’s available for the pre-order on iTunes, and then available for download on January 8th, 2013. Then the second batch of songs is planned to come out in March, and then the third batch of songs is planned to come out in May, and that will complete the album at that time. And so on iTunes, you’ll be able to push the “complete the album” button, and that just finishes it off, and at that time, there will also be a complete album available on vinyl, CD, with all the lyrics and artwork, and everything like that, so that’s kind of the grand plan. Since the music’s come out the last few days, we got a lot of calls from agents and managers, and things that are wanting to help, so we’re trying to figure out the live situation. I want to come and play European festivals, I want to come to South America, I want to do all the things that I’ve done before, a lot of times, you know, go around the world a couple more times, and take the music to the people. So if that all works out and we can go to places and they make sure that there’s good enough money for the shows, that my band will be safe and all that, then I’ll bring it out to the people again. So that’s roughly the plan.
W (NM): We’re almost reaching the end of our interview, we just want to say that we encourage every single listener of Wikimetal to pre order the “Metal” EP, the Newsted EP, you can listen to 90 seconds of each song, there are four songs, “Soldierhead”, “Godsnake”, “King of the Underdogs”, and “Skyscraper”. It’s great music… “Soldierhead” is probably the first single, right?
JN: Yes, it is, we just made a video for it last Saturday, and we’re getting that ready in a couple weeks, so everybody will have that. We plan on presenting the video for free, everyone will be able to see and hear what the band is all about. So that’s the main thing, keep an eye out for the “Soldierhead” video in a couple of weeks here.
W (NM): Allright, so we want our listeners to buy the CD, it’s available for pre order now, it’ll be out on January 8th, and we’d like to thank you so much, Mr. Jason Newsted, for being on Wikimetal. We want to tell you that we have a huge, enormous respect for this great bassist, singer, producer and songwriter, Mr. Newsted, on Wikimetal! And just before we finish, we want to say that we really look to seeing the development of Newsted Heavy Metal Music, and please count on Wikimetal to help to promote this project in Brazil anytime.
JN: Thanks so much, God bless you. Obrigado!
W (NM): Obrigado, Mr. Jason Newsted, thank you so much for being part of Wikimetal! Great, man, thanks a lot. Thanks for your time.
JN: OK, good job man, thanks for the help, I’ll see you around.
W (NM): We’ll be in touch man, for sure.
JN: OK. Bye, bye.
W (NM): Bye.