On December 18, Brandon Marshall of Sonic Excess conducted an interview with former METALLICA, VOIVOD and FLOTSAM AND JETSAM bassist and current NEWSTED frontman Jason Newsted. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Sonic Excess: Welcome back! The metal word has missed Jason Newsted. Every couple of years, you come up with a new project or collaboration, and then we don’t hear from you. Are you back for good, and is the band NEWSTED a full-time project?
Jason Newsted: [laughs] I’m always back for good and better! NEWSTED is the project that’s happening now, I would like to see it grow, get somewhere, of course, and be able to share it with everyone who wants to share it with me. It has been a lot of years coming. It’s ready for me, and I’m finally ready for it. I never thought I was going to put my name on a project; I’ve always come up with cool enough band names. We did it with this, and I’m very proud of it. Things are lining up very well, and I’m hoping to take it out to the people live next year.
Sonic Excess: What was the spark that got NEWSTED ignited?
Jason Newsted: We always play a lot of improv music. We have though the years, and we just keep it going in the Chophouse Studio [Newsted's home studio in Walnut Creek, California] and play with a lot of different cats through time. What really happened was about a year and a week ago, with the METALLICA 30th-anniversary shows, where we played The Fillmore in San Francisco. Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] had called me in October of last year and said, “Do you want to jam?” I said “What time do you want me there?” I haven’t seen them in a long time, and I hadn’t seen them since the [Rock And Roll] Hall Of Fame thing anyway. He said, “What songs do you want to play?” and I said, “You pick the fastest one dude.” We took the 14 fastest ones. I rocked a few each night, and we had a good time. What came from it was the realization of the energy of the fans. There were probably 30-35 countries represented on the floor that week. The energy I got back, and the appreciation, the real, true fan-dom, and being able to look into people’s eyes made me think it could happen again. Maybe, I could bring it out on my own and sing, play bass, play guitar, and do my own stuff. Make it fast and make it ugly, like old METALLICA, like “Kill ‘Em All” and “Ride The Lightning” records, and the old FLOTSAM AND JETSAM records, make real, old-school metal. One year later, I have 11 songs total, and we are doing it in batches. The first batch is in four, and you can pre-order it today.
Sonic Excess: Everything seems to be happening very fast. A month ago, your web site went live, and now you have an album coming out January 8th. How long has NEWSTED been in the works? Can tell us about the other members in the band?
Jason Newsted: Yes, I would be glad to. Jesus Mendez, Jr. is the drummer. I have been playing with him for about 10 years, and we have known each other for longer than that. He was a California roadie guy for METALLICA and worked at headquarters for some years. Then, he was the drum tech on the ECHOBRAIN tour, so we have been friends for a while. We have played a lot of hours, for a lot of years. He comes from like Vinny Appice, DIO, MOTÖRHEAD, AC/DC, but way down with double bass. He is a very serious, hard-working player. Our secret weapon is Jessie Farnsworth; he is a little bit younger than us. He is 32 and he is from the East, from Connecticut. He has been out here for a while, and I have been playing with him for about four years. We swap back and forth with bass and guitar. I choose people who have not quite risen in their own bands. I didn’t want people who were jaded or had ugly baggage come into this band, and I didn’t want to make it a supergroup. I wanted real friends that I get along with, and I wanted to play real true music.
Sonic Excess: Do you plan on touring?
Jason Newsted: I plan on taking it anywhere I can. As you can imagine, people are coming out of the woodwork wanting to help out, like promoters and agents, and people wanting to do what they do. We have scheduled meetings after Christmas about how we are going to get it out there to the people. My desire and quest has always been to take it anywhere I can for anyone who will accept our westernized rock ‘n’ roll music. I want to continue being the ambassador of metal, like I have been pretty much my whole career. My idea, actually, is to go to a lot of places not a lot of people actually do go to. I’ll still go to the “A” markets and play places expected, but I really want to get into the nooks and crannies of the countryside. I really want to get in front of people in places where I come from. I want to go to a lot of places that don’t get a lot of shows. I’m down with that, and I really want to do that.
Sonic Excess: What’s your opinion on bands charging for meet-and-greets now?
Jason Newsted: I think it’s bullshit! My guys had been talking to me about doing those things, and they talk about KISS making money for this meet-and-greet. People will pay it, but that’s not the point. I don’t want to take money like that. If they want to buy a t-shirt and have something to show for it, that’s what we do. You can’t download a t-shirt. There are certain things that make sense to me. I have never charged for my autograph up until the web site. That is my first time in my 30-year career that I have charged for my autograph, and I have signed for hundreds of thousands of people. I don’t feel comfortable with charging people to meet me; I don’t feel comfortable with charging people to get me to sign something when they are standing with me. If they buy it off the Internet and want an 8×10 or an autograph CD, they have that momentum. That’s fine, but I’m not going to charge people to meet me. I just don’t feel that’s right. I’ll pay to meet one of my old sports heroes, or something like one of the cats from the 1970s Orioles. I’ll pay a couple of bucks for something, but I’m not going to pay for Gene Simmons. It’s ridiculous, that’s not what it’s about.
Read the entire interview from Sonic Excess.