Jason Newsted filled some incredibly big shoes back in 1986 after the death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. During his run with the band, he proved to fellow musicians and fans alike that he was an artist who was passionate about what he created. So it was befitting when “creative differences” were the official reason given for Newsted’s departure from Metallica in 2001, although many say that the same passion he held in his personal beliefs are what fueled him to leave; a move that to this day he doesn’t regret. Jason didn’t stop playing after leaving Metallica; continuing to make new music with Gov’t Mule, Papa Wheelie, Voivod and Echobrain. His exemplary musicianship can be traced back to his early days in Flotsam and Jetsam, all the way to the present day with his newly formed band Newsted, which features drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. and guitarist/backing vocalist Jessie Farnsworth.
Newsted’s four-song EP entitled Metal, released earlier this month and shot straight to #1 on iTunes Metal Charts where it has remained, and the first press of limited edition signed physical CD’s sold out in less a week. Second press CD’s with altered disc artwork are available via pre-order now on the to Newsted Merch store for a February 5th ship date. The pre-release anticipation of Metal from fans and press alike had already jettisoned Jason back into the world of a media frenzy focused squarely on the artist himself. I sat down with Jason to discuss the Newsted band and subsequent EP Metal (before release). It is interesting to read the answers in retrospect that this passionate musician gave as we discussed what prompted him to form Newsted and contemplated what the (as yet unknown) public reception to Metal would be. It’s amazing what can happen in a few short weeks in the craziness that is the music business, and in this case, it couldn’t be happening to a nicer or more deserving artist than Jason Newsted.
Johnny/RR: I have to say that it’s so good to see you back. I’m sure you’ve been talking to a lot of press about your new EP Metal coming out very soon.
Jason: Yeah I have actually; the last week or so has been pretty crazy! It’s all good though man, I love it!
I know you’ve been making music all this time, but this new project is pretty special. Metal is kickass and you have a lot of fans very excited. Is there anything that inspired you to give it one last run?
Jason: I think that I’ve been working towards this for a while now. I’ve constantly been playing with all of the other projects and making noise and beating my chops up and stuff. I had gotten a wild hair about maybe taking all of this just a little bit more seriously. I had done my Papa Wheelie project starting in September 2011. We had always been a Chopshop (the name of Newsted’s studio) band and made a couple of noisy recordings and we decided that we were
going to go do a few shows. So, for six Saturdays in a row in October and November in 2011, we played some shows around and I was playing guitar and singing lead. I got bit by the bug a little bit by being in front of the people again.
Right before the sixth show happened, Lars (Ulrich) called me and said that Metallica was going to be doing the 30th anniversary shows at the Fillmore. He said that they were going to be inviting all of the people who had played an important part in the band’s career. So, I went to the shows but I didn’t know what to expect out of everyone, and I was completely blown away by the reception from all of the fans. There were 30 countries represented in the place and they were screaming my name and it was intense. I knew it was going to be mostly positive, but the response, the actual volume and intensity of the people, directed towards little old me was like, “Holy shit!” I’d forgotten how good it could actually be.
I saw the footage of that on YouTube and I remember getting goose bumps watching some of the performances. I can only imagine how you felt to experience that first hand.
Jason: It was intense to say the least and I knew I was going to do this again. So, I weighed my options and I started out by getting with the Flotsam (and Jetsam) guys. Then the original band that played Doomsday got together in a rehearsal place. We sat there staring at each other in amazement that we were all still breathing. We played some music together and recorded it and it was great, but it wasn’t anything that could have been profitable out on the road. So, then I got together with Jessie (Farnsworth) and Jesus (Mendez Jr.) and I started testing them to see how their endurance was. I had known them forever but wanted to see if they were really ready to rock it hard. Once I knew they could do it, I buckled down on my iPad and I wrote a batch of songs. We recorded 11 songs in two weeks and we’re releasing them in batches to the people. So, long story short, I was bitten by the bug from the Metallica fans literally screaming me back into it.
Is the EP going to be an exclusive to iTunes or will it eventually be released in a physical format as well?
Jason: I’m coming back into this new music industry with 60% of it being new trends and 40% is still the same old avenues, so I am re-adapting and trying to figure out what is best out there in the music world now. I want to get the music to as many people as I possibly can, so I am testing the water with iTunes first. I’m releasing four songs, 20 minutes worth of metal, and I’m going to see if anyone gives a shit anymore. If they dig it, then I will release more music as time goes on, but only if the fans respond to it. I’m doing it for the fans and I will continue to do so for as long as they respond. The CDs will follow each iTunes exclusive by two weeks. You’ll be able to pre-order each physical CD at newstedmetal.com one week after each iTunes exclusive and the shipping will start one week after that. The physical CDs will be autographed by the band and we’ll also have a special bundle with a t-shirt as well as special hand written lyrics for anyone who is interested. Ultimately, my plan is for three EPs over the next 14 to 18 months and at the end of the third one we’ll compile to make the full LP which will be released on vinyl; maybe with one of my paintings included as a poster. (Writers Note: Jason and band are currently recording new music in response to the first release and in anticipation of a full-album.)
Wow, that’s a lot to keep up with. I bet you have a small army helping you out with all of that.
Jason: Yes, it actually is a small army, but just a very small army. I only have about four or five people, including myself, who are making all of this happen right now. I have the right people though and that’s the main thing.
I know a lot of the fans want to know if you are going to be taking this out on the road. Is this a case where the “powers that be” will have to weigh in on it or what? Can you disclose any privileged info to us on that aspect of this project?
Jason: Well, you nailed when you said the “powers that be.” As you can imagine, the single “Soldierhead” has been playing on the radio for about nine or ten days now and the video will be out soon. (Writer’s Note: It’s out – watch it below). That’s generated quite a bit of interest and there have already been a lot of offers for different types of gigs like international festivals and domestic festivals, some cool club shit and some great support gigs for some of our heroes; things like that which are being presented to us. I go next week to L.A. for all the meetings with the key people, which I haven’t done in a while and I’m actually looking forward to it. There will be a lot of decisions being made as to when and where we will start this. My quest is still the same as the day I started Flotsam and Jetsam, and that is to take this music anywhere that accepts our westernized rock and roll and kick people’s asses.
When I was with Metallica, for 15 years I was part of a very tough band that took it to the world and broke down walls and I want to continue that. As long as things are decent and I am shown the respect that I deserve, as long as my guys are safe and in decent hotels and we get to take a little money home and we get to eat well, I’m going to take it to anywhere that will possibly accept me. That’s my goal!
Writers Note: Obviously Jason’s meetings went great in LA, and I’m sure the success of Metal warranted the following post on the Newsted Facebook Page: “METAL EP strong @ #1 Itunes Metal charts!! Thanx Everybody!! Looking forward to a busy & productive week…lining up some live shows, and planning for full album this summer!! I am AMPED UP as we begin preparation for taking the music to the people!”
Watch the “Soldierhead” Video:
You mentioned something about one of your paintings. I know when you hurt your shoulder a few years back that you started painting. Do you even have time to do that these days given the time you’re devoting to your new music project?
Jason: Yeah, I had surgeries on and off for three years and during that time I was able to put together somewhere between 800 and 1100 pieces of art, between three studios. I just dove into that as an artistic outlet and I’ve sold a good number of paintings. I still sell a few every month. But the painting has been kind of put on the back burner because of my focus on recording though.
Oh, but this is so cool – I actually sold a painting to Joe Satriani about three weeks ago. I was so freaking stoked that he even knew that I had been painting. He picked one out and said that he had his eye on it for months and he was finally going to get it and asked when he could come get it and I was like, “You can come pick it up right fucking now, man!” My agent was like, “we’re going to have to charge him blah, blah, blah…” and I told him, “Like fuck we do. If he wants that painting, then I want him to have it in his studio.” It’s not about the money, but the fact that he was showing me recognition was crazy. He came over to pick it up and I was like, “hey bro,” but inside I was really like “duh.” (laughs)
You mentioned earlier about jumping back into this and 60% being all new. You have definitely not shied away from the social media aspect. You are very hands on with that and fans have expressed how impressed by and really love how interactive you are, which is great.
Jason: My thing and the way that I have always conducted myself in my career has been to be very accessible and approachable to all fans. I’ve spent many, many tired hours taking the time to look at people’s eyes and shake their hands and hear their stories. My mantra through all that time was to always give everyone 60 seconds. If I could give everyone one minute to hear why they came to the show or what their favorite song was, then I was doing what I was supposed to be doing as an ambassador of music.
Now, all of that time and effort and friendships and acquaintances that were created are now coming back to me about a
thousand fold. Through time, all of my heroes that I have met like B. B. King and Eric Clapton and stuff, it seems that the people who have done the most and have gone the furthest are the coolest. They don’t need to prove anything to any fucker and they don’t need to pretend. They let the music do the talking. The second time I met Clapton, he called me by my name and I just about shit in my pants. I was like, “Holy fuck, Eric Clapton actually remembered my name!” I will never forget that and I will never lose it; when I do you can punch me!
It’s so important to me to remember what that feels like – to be a fan myself and understand that there are people out there that may feel that way about me as a fan. So being “interactive” just comes naturally to me, no matter what the setting. Sites like Facebook and Twitter make it so easy and fun to connect to people and share what’s going on. I love being able to actually “talk” to fans (and I do look at it that way) and have gotten a lot of encouragement and inspiration from them. Hopefully I’ve given some back.
That’s a great philosophy to be able to pass along to other artists on their way up. You know, so much has changed since you started out. What would you tell some of these new bands and artists who look up to you that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out your career in this crazy business?
Jason: There are a couple of different things in a couple of different realms that I think are most important. The basic foundation is that you have to have your boots in real firmly about what’s important to you as a musician. Choose the weapons that make you a well-rounded musician and make sure that you’re available to handle whatever comes at you. The ability to actually listen, not just hear the stuff going by, but listening to what’s happening in the music and playing your part appropriately. The bass player doesn’t play the guitar part and the guitar player doesn’t play the bass part. A band is an orchestra and everyone has to play their part; not just have everyone play the same fucking notes all the time. You have to know your part and play it, which I didn’t realize that until I met Bob Rock. He taught me about being a bass player in the band. Until that time, I just copied the guitar parts on the bass. I could play as fast as the guitar player, so I did. I didn’t realize about the importance of laying down the fucking boom! You lay down the concrete for everything else to build on top of. Secondly, get ready to fucking sweat, not just because you’re jamming but because of the pressure. You have to be ready to get up one more time than you fall down. If you get knocked down 60 times, you get up 61 times. The labels and the handlers don’t have the time or money these days to cultivate or nurture an artist to help them get to that third album and be relevant. You have to be determined and willing to take a lot of shots.
The music business has basically done a complete circle from 1953. We can go 60 years back when B.B. King was driving around his B.B. King Revue in an old checkered cab, which was an old nine door station wagon with the name painted on the side – that was his tour bus. He would drive that car himself to every juke joint or wherever they could play for a quarter and sold records out of the back. He was taking it to the people, one fan at a time, one record at a time, one t-shirt at a time. It’s now come full circle 60 years later. You don’t have to go out in a checkered cab if you don’t want to, but you have to load up in the minivan or whatever the fuck and you have to take it to the people, one fan at a time. You sell your stickers, your shirts and your trinkets at the show because that’s how you make money. You’re not going to make money off of the music anymore; it’s just not possible. You have to take it to the fans and concentrate on those fans. There are two main things: contact with fans perpetually and give them a reason to buy your stuff. They can steal it forever, but that vinyl that comes out with that artwork and poster in it. They will have to have a reason to want to get that.
I think you are absolutely right. You have to give the fans something special and make them want it. I never thought of it that way, but it really has come full circle. Well Jason, I know you have more interviews lined up, so I will wrap this one up and I can’t wait to see you out on the road. I, along with a lot of fans, will keep my fingers crossed that everything goes well and that happens. Thanks again for the opportunity to sit down and talk today; it’s definitely been a treat.
Jason: Thank you man! Again, I am doing this for the fans and I will continue to as long as they want me to. I look forward to hearing how they respond.
End of interview
As I’m sure you all have concluded from my “Writers Notes” throughout this interview that things are going amazingly well for Jason. His updates on Facebook (including some awesome video diaries) show an enthusiastic, energized band hard at work recording more songs and tour date announcements should be forthcoming soon. For a man who has been through hell and back: from the pinnacle of success to suffering health issues, addictions and the loss of his arm for a few years, Jason maintains a humble, appreciative and grateful attitude for the life he’s been given and the fans that continue to inspire him to keep creating.
By: Johnny Price, Journalist – RockRevolt™Magazine
Newsted Official Website: http://newstedheavymetal.com/
Newsted on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jasonnewstedofficial
Newsted on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jasoncnewsted
Pre-Order the 2nd Pressing of Metal from Newsted Merch store: https://tinmanmerchandising.com/newsted/
Order Metal on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/metal-ep/id586448459