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 Jason's Back!

Photographs and Interview by: Brandon Marshall

Video Courtesy of: NEWSTED HEAVY METAL

Publish date: December 18th, 2012

 “Be there, share it with us, and enjoy it! That’s what it’s for! Let’s keep the metal alive."

 Jason Newsted has been waving the banner high in the name of metal and remains on the frontlines fighting for the Metal Militia, creating music he and his fans have loved for over 30 years. Newsted has added more than most to his resume, a resume that could easily become a book, but his passion, drive and enthusiasm are among his greatest achievements.

Suffering from a series of debilitating injuries in the mid 2000’s, Newsted needed time to take care of himself, but the ideas never stopped rolling. In November of 2012, Jason launched his first official website, He is healthy and happy…and still heavy.

 Within a few short days after publishing, Jason announced a new band simply entitled “Newsted”.  The band’s first E.P., simply called "Metal", is scheduled for a January 8th release date via iTunes. Metal is four tracks of blistering, raw, no frills, old school metal and is just a taste of what’s to come. With the release of Newsted’s E.P., Metal, on the horizon, Sonic Excess caught up with Jason for a telephone interview while Jason was in the studio recording Newsted’s second E.P. But, rather than me describing all the talking points, read the interview instead. It’s much more interesting than a bunch of buzzwords being thrown around.

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.

 "Is straight and to the point. It’s Kill 'em All style metal music, up-tempo and awesome."

S.E.: Before a release, do you enjoy the excitement and anticipation surrounding it, or do you want it out to the masses ASAP?

J.N.: Well, it has been a long time since I really went deep into it like this. I did the Papa Wheelie thing and some Voivod stuff, Ozzy and some different things, but it was never quite like this, where it was all me and all on me. So, the enthusiasm is through the roof, and it doesn’t hurt that there is so much positive vibrations coming back at me from around the globe. Karmically, I feel very victorious.

S.E.: What was the spark that got Newsted ignited?


J.N.: We always play a lot of improv music. We have through the years, and we just keep it going in the Chophouse Studio 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 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 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 todayS.E.: Can tell us about the other members in the band?


J.N.: 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 Vinnie Appice, Dio, Motorhead, AC/DC, but way down with double bass. He is a very serious, hardworking 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.

"There’s gotta be that human factor, because, if there is not, I’m not interested in any of that fake stuff."

S.E.: Can you give us a track-by-track breakdown of Newsted’s Metal EP?

J.N. Soldierhead: Is straight and to the point. It’s Kill 'em All style metal music, up-tempo and awesome. I’m very proud of the lyrics. I am as proud of the lyrics as I am proud of the music this time. This one talks about what goes on in our soldier’s heads, “Bombs go off around me, bullets chase my head, try and not get dead…” kind of thing. It’s my shout out to our service men and personal. It’s what that comes down to in a realistic kind of way.

Godsnake: Is a song more flavored towards Black Sabbath. All of my teachers show their heads. I only surround myself with my teachers when I get serious about the studio. All the other time, I listened to different music with other languages, and different instruments, but when it came to this time, I listened to Sabbath, old Nugent, Rush, UFO and all those kinds of things, a heavy Motorhead influence, a heavy Geezer Butler. It has a Black Sabbath influence, and that’s about not judging anyone. In our world now, with reality television, people are just honed to judge more. People have just been fooled to judge, and they don’t even realize it. Godsnake is about not judging people.

King of the Underdogs: Is about more personal things. It can be taken in a couple of different ways, as in the best underdog or the tallest midget. It’s like a who can win the “best of the worst” contest, but who can also rise under certain circumstances and be king.

Skyscraper: Is an older track I came up with a while ago. We honed it in and made it some real sick, American, rock n’ roll. We made it sound like it was from the 70’s, almost, with good, old style guitar that talks about terrorism and ending the world. All of them have to do with what’s happening around us right now. They all have meaning, they all have story, and there are no wasted words. That’s it for the first 22 minutes.


S.E.: You mentioned earlier that you have 11 tracks. When will the second E.P. be released?J.N.: I have kind of a game plan. So if I get close to it, I will be happy. The first one on January 8th, with the first four we just discussed, and a couple of months after that will be the next batch. That’s what we are working on in the studio right now. Then, there will be a couple after that, and it will finish the L.P. At that time, it will be on vinyl and a complete CD with all of the artwork for everyone to have a proper tangible product. The first eight or nine tracks will be released on iTunes, and the finished thing, at the very end, you will be able to get the whole thing as a complete form.S.E.: Do you plan on touring?

J.N.: 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.

S.E.: Tell us about the video you filmed for Soldierhead. What is the concept behind it, and when will we see the finished version?

J.N.: We did the Soldierhead video last Saturday, which was out first music video for this particular batch of songs. It’s just a simple thing, and I just wanted to capture the band. There is no heavy concept, no literal thing about bullets chasing your head or any of those things. It’s old school metal and most likely will be black and white. It was shot in an old factory. It was a gnarly, dusty, old factory and it had energy. That is what I will describe it as. I haven’t got to play to the camera like that for a long time, and I was really going for it. The soldier version is something everyone will have. An HD version will be available on iTunes, but I want everyone to have it for free across the world. I want it to be the tip of the spear for everybody to see and hear what exactly it’s all about.

S.E.: I’ve heard Soldierhead, and I love the production. It sounds raw and not looped to shit with Pro Tools.

J.N.: Pro Tools is the way that you capture music now. I don’t believe in fiddling around with it. If you can’t play it in front of me, then get the hell out. If you can’t play it while standing in front of me, then I’m not interested. Turn on the red light, we play it and record it, chords and all. If there are mistakes, then that’s too bad. You will hear that in this record, if you listen to it more and more. I left that in there man. I want it to be as human as possible. There’s gotta be that human factor, because, if there is not, I’m not interested in any of that fake stuff.

"The damage is done from banging and windmilling, vertebrae wise, and there is nothing you can do about it."

S.E.: Will the Tree Of The Sun recording ever see the light of day, and what other projects or recordings do you have that is not known?

J.N. Tree of the Sun is… I would love to share that with people. I would have to talk to Devin. That one is Devin Townsend on guitar and vocals, Dale Crover of Nirvana and Melvins on drums, Scott Reeder of Kyuss as bassist, and me, that’s Tree of the Sun. I played six string bass; Scott played regular bass on that one. It’s crazy, the three or four tracks… I haven’t heard it in a long time, but it is epic though. Those guys did well for themselves, so we would have to go though permissions and licenses to get that one out. That is maybe the highest quality recording from The Chophouse, as far as musicianship and knowledge. Devin is a genius. I have known him since he was 20 years old, and he has always been a genius. With people like that, it’s always unbelievable. We got some Sepultura stuff; we got a guitar rap project with the guys from Voivod before I came in to Voivod. The little better known is the IR8 thing that has Devin Townsend and Tom Huntington from Exodus on drums. There is Sexoturica with members from Sepultura, Exodus, and Metallica; I’m the Metallica part. There is also one with the Death Angel guys from '96 or '97, umm... (laughs) it goes on and on. I did a two-piece thing with Thomas Pridgen of Mars Volta. It’s like a psycho White Stripes, Black Keys metal version thing where I hook up an instrument that plays guitar and bass at the same time on the synthesizer thing. I can go on forever dude; I literally have thousands, literally…thousands of cassettes, digital tapes, disks, reels of all the projects, 21 years worth.

S.E.: Have you thought about releasing compilations or splits?

J.N.: As the Newsted label and brand keeps going and gets stronger, I will start releasing those pieces of different projects. It will be a Chophouse archives type thing where people can stream or download, but my main thing now is to concentrate on this project. I don’t want to confuse anybody. There is a lot of art stuff and things I have on the back burner, but this one’s gotta be focused, because it’s for real right now.

S.E.: How is your shoulder doing? Were you able to make a full recovery?

J.N.: I don’t think it will ever be a full recovery, but I’m at about 90%. In the 12 years since I left Metallica, there has been quite a backstory. Like what you said, I would do a project and go away, but I kept trying to do what I could with what I was dealt. The Echobrain thing came right away after Metallica, and then I went right to Voivod, did a couple of records with them, went to Ozzy, and played with him for a while. I had my first surgery in ’04 on my right side and that was severed. That was almost a complete bicep separation. That was pretty gnarly and took a lot of therapy. It took six or seven months to get me back to using it again. In the meantime, I pulled my left one trying to make up for my right one, so I had to go right into it all again. I could only use one arm, so that got me into painting again, one arm at a time, and then the paintings had both hands. I did the Supernova in between two surgeries in ’06 and went through therapy for like four or five years and was still doing therapy three months ago man just to keep it going, because I knew I was going to play music. The damage is done from banging and windmilling, vertebrae wise, and there is nothing you can do about it. Just try to keep everything strong. Then the shoulder stuff, it is what it is, but I do the best I can. It was maybe a little too much metal for a while (laughs).

"I’ve always said, I have made more people smile than frown. We’re not singing about flowers, but we make people smile, and that’s what rich is. That’s what success is"

S.E.: What’s your opinion on bands charging for meet-and-greets now?

J.N.: 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 website. 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 8X10 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 1970’s 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.


S.E.: Even if people can’t meet you in person, they can go to your Facebook and say “Hi”. You even answer some questions, right?

Jason's Facebook Page

J.N.: Yeah, I answer every night. We have been doing 14-16 hour days in the studio, and then I try and get on for an hour when I get home at night. The juice is so positive from people. There have been a couple of things dude... I’ve met some people, and I have seen some stuff. I’ve been though some “Make-A-Wish” experiences and these different things in my life, OK. But, when the fans write something like, “When you are making music, the world is a better place.” I mean, how (Pause)…. I make metal, but that melts me man. You can’t ignore that kind of compassion, that kind of genuine respect. That makes me get right on there and respond. I’m not going to let that go by and not pay attention to it, not them think it didn’t mean something, because it did. 99.7% of the messages are from fans. “I met you in ’96, and you were so cool to my sister and my brother. You signed stuff for us.” I can’t remember all of that, but they do. That’s what success is. You can measure by dollars and millions of records and that’s great, but the measure of it is how you can move people. How do you help, how do you make positive vibrations in this crazy and world. I mean, it’s beautiful in some places, but holy shit! This last week, come on! If you can spread a little bit of a smile... even though the music has been ugly all this time, I’ve always said, I have made more people smile than frown. We’re not singing about flowers, but we make people smile, and that’s what rich is. That’s what success is. You’re talking about the newer bands that don’t give fans the time of day, and how they charge you to see them. I’m the only metal Hall of Fame bass player. I’ve been in this for a long, long time, and I still want to talk to kids every night. I love it! That’s how it’s supposed to be. You get to remember why you’re doing this, because too many people forget. I had my times with my ego when I couldn’t fit my head though the door, like in the years with the Black Album, forget about it. I’ll be the first one to admit it. I know I was a dick, but I learned from that. I learned from the best what not to do. I toured with Guns N’ Roses, don’t  forget (laughs). Like when I met BB King, I actually told the story just two days ago, and when I met Eric Clapton, it was the second time that I’d met him, and he called me by my name. I almost shit my pants, and that wasn’t that long ago. That was in the last 10 years, and I was tongue-tied. It still takes me to that place. I still get that same way about my heroes. I hope I never change in that way. ‘Ya know?

"That was another victory for American metal, the ambassadorship of us bringing metal to the people who would never get to have that experience."

S.E.: I’m hoping you can clear up a bit of confusion. Did you write or record on the new Flotsam and Jetsam album?


J.N.: I’m trying to keep that cool, because I don’t want the confusion to happen between their record and my record that’s coming out at the same time. At the beginning of this year, the original band got together for the 30th anniversary, just a month after the Metallica anniversary. So I wanted to get together with the Flotsam guys in our old rehearsal place from 25 years ago, actually. We played the entirety of the Doomsday record over a couple of different weekends, just for ourselves, because I was thinking about taking that out again and it wasn’t in the cards. We did work on some songs together, Mike Gilbert and me, and he had asked me if I could help with some lyrics. He gave me some song titles and some lyric ideas, and they are using those for their record. I’m not credited on the record or anything like that, we are bros man, and I’ve known them for a long, long time. It was a good time, but it wasn’t meant to be.

S.E.: Throughout your career, you have achieved and accomplished more than many musicians, past or present. What is the one moment you think of most when reflecting back, and what new goals have you set for yourself?


J.N.: Gesh. There are a lot of pretty good moments, and I get to pick just one? (laughs) I’m going to have to go with a couple; I can’t go with just one. One early and one older. The early one, that would be Monsters of Rock in 1988 with Van Halen, Scorpions, and Dokken. It was just before And Justice. It was 200 miles per-hour and just thrashing Metallica. We played the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. It’s the biggest place you can play in Michigan, and I’m from there. I had been in Metallica for two years, and my family had never seen me perform. The first time they saw me was in the sold out Silverdome. That’s 70,000 people, and they were in the front row. Security was bringing my mom down, and I was watching this from on-stage. It had all taken me over for a second. My whole family came out. I’m banging like mad, and I was something like 23 years old. They were just bawling their eyes out. My mom was just weeping tears of joy. They couldn’t believe I was on stage, and this was the first time they had seen me play. At the moment, it was a big deal. I left home, and I quit school... I don’t recommend this to anyone, so don’t follow in my steps kids (laughs). I quit school to be in a rock band. I left home at 18 years old and that moment was five years later. I was glad they could see me on stage in the biggest place you could play in our state. That was something that’s a pretty big deal, a big feather in the cap there. If I had to pick one big show that was just mindboggling, it would be Tushino Airfield in Moscow. That was ’91 or ’92, I think. We were invited by the prime minister to come and play. It was the time of the coup when the people stood up to the tanks and everything. The government had asked the youth what they wanted in reward for standing up to the tanks, and the kids said we want rock ‘n roll, American heavy metal. We happened to be on tour in the Eastern Block at the time with AC/DC. Time Warner got involved and they sent us on a plane that you could drive a car onto,  just a pimped out plane. We had been on nice planes, but holy crap! We all got on there together. Black Crows, AC/DC and us are on the plane together drinking stuff and flying to Moscow. So, we land, and it’s the same if we were coming to Colorado, or Florida, or wherever. The fans look the same; they all have the Metallica shirts on. But, the thing was, we met this fan, and it took him six or seven weeks of  wages to save up for a copy of the cassette tape he had in his pocket of Kill ‘em All.


They are just so rabid, and no one ever comes through there. We set up for the next day, and it was a free concert in the outskirts of Moscow. Every European nation was represented, and it was free. So you had grandmas, and family, and dogs camped out, and metal heads and soldiers. I’m not sure, but Time Warner wanted to say it was like a million, but it was maybe 400,000 to 600,000. There were flags of all nations. The people were singing louder than the P.A. That moment right there was the biggest thing. We really didn’t even get paid, it was like, “Here are some beer and sandwiches, you gotta get over and play for these people.” So we’re like hell yeah! That was another victory for American metal, the ambassadorship of us bringing metal to the people who would never get to have that experience


S.E.: Thanks so much, I’m going to give you the last word.

J.N.: I appreciate everybody’s positive reaction and the feedback from longtime friends and new fans. It feels really good. We want to keep going, and it makes me stronger. We have a new E.P. out, and it’s the real deal. We have more to come. Be there, share it with us, and enjoy it! That’s what it’s for! Let’s keep the metal alive man.


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New EP on iTunes  January 8th




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