Former METALLICA, VOIVOD and FLOTSAM AND JETSAM bassist and current NEWSTED frontman Jason Newsted was interviewed on the January 25-27 edition of Full Metal Jackie's nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
To see a full list of stations carrying the program and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.
Full Metal Jackie: We're here to talk about the new EP, "Metal". Tell us, as a player, what's most exhilarating about NEWSTED being a trio?
Jason: It covers a lot of new territory for me, so it's a fresh start and I have to do a brand new start because I climbed the mountain with METALLICA and I stepped off right there when we were up at the top and that's we're I get to come into this as far as the approach to everything. So the freshest part is new ground, being lead vocalist, singing my songs, my lyrics, in front of people, playing bass and guitar. I composed all the music on guitar, played all the rhythm guitars on the music and some bass, but it's all my stuff from the get-go and then my guys came in and made it what it is now. It's very personal this time; kind of different in that way.
Full Metal Jackie: How is it to hear your music being played by other people? Is it hard to not want to control it or do you allow these other players to inject their own creativity?
Jason: I've been playing long enough with these guys. Jesus Mendez Jr. on drums, he's from Fresno and Jessie Farnsworth was from Connecticut, now he's from Fresno; he plays guitar and stuff actually he plays everything. We switch back and forth between guitar and bass. Jesus started working for METALLICA at the end of the '90s as a local California road crew guy and then he was their drum tech. We started making music about 10 or 11 years ago and then he brought Jessie in about five years ago. We started melding our stuff together and getting to know each other for about five years and then last September or so after I put it all together pretty much on my iPad and gave them the music. They brought back their stuff and they have paid enough dues and they make their own records — Jessie Farnsworth has his own albums where he fronts his own back, he's a way better singer than me, a way better guitar player than me already so they have their own ground that they cover and they stand on their own. When they come in to do their thing it's like, "Man, can you please make it better because I certainly can't play as good as you play." So, it's like they've paid as much dues as anybody else, but they haven't gotten the recognition that they deserve yet — but it's coming.
Full Metal Jackie: Obviously, a four-year period of physical rehabilitation following surgery on both shoulders limits your ability to play an instrument. Not being able to play, how did that in turn change the way you listened and appreciated music?
Jason: Wow, that's great insight. Just like anytime you lose something in life that is so valuable, you appreciate that much more. I think that's an obvious thing, but when you taste it for real, it really becomes magnified. I was always able to rig up a thing like a very thin Parker guitar or something in between my sling to keep my chops up a little bit, but I could nowhere even get close to being the monster or do what I really wanted to dig in on any instrument for that matter. I took my loudness to canvas and I started painting. I had [surgery on my] left shoulder, right shoulder, back and forth, for about a four-year period. Each time you do something as serious as that — [it takes] time for it to rehabilitate and be good enough to let the other one go and take over becomes a crazy little cycle I got into. Fortunately, we caught it three times back and forth like that, but it's a really tricky thing, it takes a long time to get it back especially when it's used so much and I really overuse those parts of myself in the years. I'm getting it back about 95 percent now and feeling strong again, but the painting is what came from it. I also became as good with each hand. All the paintings are done with both hands now and the instruments are a little better, because I can use both hands the same, so I'm trying to make some pretty wicked lemonade out of it. Everything for a reason, man. Somehow it was all mapped out and everything that's happened, everything that has transpired, I put all those paintings together — between 800 and 1100 pieces between 2005 and 2010 when I did my first art show in San Francisco, three different studios across the country. I took the loud expression of my music and put it on a canvas and just changed the medium, but now I'm back to what I know best because I'm able again and the timing of things, it's magnificent really. I'd like to talk about the timing of the 12 years of METALLICA, being away. It was 12 years ago this week that we had a meeting that they announced it to people that we were going to do what we were going to do and that I was going to step out. Now that the dust has settled and we look back, they have a great band that's once again dominating the Universe, I have a cool band that I'm really happy about that makes me feel like I'm 19 again. I'm really pretty jacked up about the purity of it and the word for this week is "rawesomness" — the rawesomness of the NEWSTED "Metal" EP and the music itself. James [Hetfield] is healthy and clear-eyed and stronger than he's ever been and I'm healthy again, too, and all that came from that decision. So whether it stung a little bit — yes, it did in the beginning, it was traumatic, but now that's all that happened, looking back, it's a beautiful thing. Fantastic things have transpired.
Full Metal Jackie: Just talking a little bit about METALLICA, which is more than a band, it's an institution. What's the most valuable thing that taught you how you now approach writing, performing and distributing music?
Jason: Wow, METALLICA taught me so much and the first and most important thing is the work ethic, road-dog thing — never wanting to be the weak link, always keeping yourself strong for the performance. Everything revolves around the show; that always comes first. The professionalism that I got from those guys and from their whole camp, because it goes all the way around; the same people have worked for METALLICA for decades and there's a reason for that. If they didn't work for them for that long, it wouldn't be metallica being around for that long, and it's a cycle. Everybody has to do their job as good as the next guy — from the light guy to the carpenter guy to the guitar player to the drum tech; everybody is that same team and they've known each other forever and ever and that's what makes it what it is. Having the same people, it doesn't take a lot of people — if you have good people in the positions that know what they're doing and assume their role and do what they do and not try to do the other guy's thing or anything like that. That's the main thing right there — work ethic, and once you find the people that you gel with, keep them close and you can build something. When everybody has a stake in it, everybody's willing to put a lot more forth to make it happen, so all of those things business-wise, presenting music to people, always going big — I don't know if I did, but METALLICA always did. The distribution of music these days is so considerably different and I'm learning every minute now, as I've opened myself up to social media. I haven't really been neck deep into it and really involved since the middle of a VOIVOD record — since 2007, 2008 — and the last release I did with them was 2009, so I haven't really been in a place to think about all the social media stuff Michel [Langevin] "Away" from VOIVOD always handled that stuff. I find myself almost 10 weeks into it now, I'm learning that there is a small percentage of the old avenues that still exist — that I knew and grew up on and that METALLICA taught me — and there is a whole slew, twice that, that has new avenues and I'm learning as we go here in this new place. I'm getting neck deep in it with this thing; it's old school music in a new place. Because of the 30 years we worked and going around with METALLICA, VOIVOD, OZZY and all of these things, I've built a certain reputation and following with all those bands, as part of those bands to get people to respond to what I'm doing now because this is what they've wanted from me. Somehow, the timing is just right, but I can only do what I can do. It's old-school metal, because that's what I am. All of the experiences that I've had with all the musicians and all the times and different styles has brought me here — it's like a certain culmination, a certain regurgitation of all that stuff and being influenced by all those people. The distribution thing, now I'm learning as I go. I think I have something to work with, people seem to be responding to it really well — positively, actually overwhelmingly right now, because I can hear everybody. You used to have to go on foot to say something to them and talk to them and say "Hi" before I got that response and we went to those places and that's the only way I could know how they felt about the music — I went to 40 or 50 countries with METALLICA.
Full Metal Jackie: Now you just go online and it's not even a matter of going up to someone and saying, "What did you think?"
Jason: Right. Even though I enjoy all of that stuff and I will continue to do that kind of connection with fans, this thing is my new re-connection with fans in a way that I could never do before. I'm in one place and I'm able to get across to everybody what's happening and they respond to it. It's so eye-opening, it gives me hope that if you do it right, as long as you let people know you're going to be where you're going to be to jam or your music is going to be in a certain place for them to share, they're going to go for it because of all the hard work that we've done. So that distribution thing, I'm trying to let the kids help me because we got to No. 1 a debut with this thing on the iTunes metal charts with a four-man crew out of my garage. So that in itself, the fans, the people, they're the ones that really spread this around and I see how powerful that is now; it's a whole different thing. I'd like to talk about that more, actually, what I've learned about that, the technology thing. I'm feeling like the music is the calling card, the music is the head of the spear and it has to get everybody's attention and once you have that calling card in their hand, in their ear, in their pocket, in their earbuds, then they're going to come to the show, then they're going to want to start sharing. If you make them feel a part of it then they're going to come and share it. That's what METALLICA always did forever and still does, perpetually — making everyone feel a part of why and where they are. Everybody does it together, it's a big family, a big army. That's undeniable. People are very loyal in that way, so taking the music out to the people, having some cool merchandise together so everybody can share it and be a part of it in that way and fly the flag and keep the metal alive and all that — that's how you got to keep the music on the road and pay the musicians you want to pay and that kind of thing. That's all I really want to do with this. The people screamed me back into this, but for real, when we did the 30th-anniversary thing with METALLICA, that's what brought me back into it, so when I do this for the fans and they're responding so much it makes me want to do it more. I just want to take it to the people again. I know that's what has to happen now. It's a single-based thing where people and the short attention span and that. I'm testing the waters because I don't know what the waters are mostly. So I put these four songs out to see how people were going to respond and if anyone gives a snot anymore, and it seems like people do. We recorded 11 songs total. We're going to release them in batches and if people dig them, then try to get a full LP out with the last EP with nice vinyl and stuff — that's my plan. If I can get that through and share that with people, then that's going to be really cool. I want to have it on CD. I ultimately want to have it on vinyl — the separate EP and the final one. We have to do it from the ground up like this because you have to take it to the people and selling the CDs at the show and all those kinds of things are the only way we were going to get back any money from the music. I think if you're going to put it online and share it with people that way, you get the downloads you can and then once it does whatever it does, you shouldn't try to really fight it — just present the best source material that you can, try to have it be representative and let it do its thing.
Full Metal Jackie: Would NEWSTED exist today had you not taken part in METALLICA's 30th-anniversary celebration in San Francisco at the end of 2011?
Jason: I would say that the NEWSTED band, as serious as it has become now, and the commitment we've made to it, would not have been in this form if I has not been invited by Lars [Ulrich] to come and play with METALLICA at the 30th anniversary in December 2011, four nights over one week — each night got louder and louder. You ask anybody that was there and I'm just observing, this is what took place: when we came on, it got really loud and they were chanting in every dialect you could figure out, every language. It was crazy and wild and I hadn't tasted that sweetness for a long, long time. When you're addicted to the chemicals that are released when you play in front of 50,000 people or 20,000 people or 10,000 people and with the confidence you have with something like METALLICA and you get dosed with that time after time after time, you're addicted, you're done. People say "adrenaline junkie" — it's flippin' real, so I came down from that. It took me 12 years to come down from that addiction. When I tasted it again, it was like the first time I hit it and that's why I'm back again — just like that. The people called me back into it; I'm doing it because they did. We know how good "The Black Album" did and does. I do what I want to do and anybody that knows me knows that I make my own path about things. I'm doing this because I want to do this for the people this time, and if they keep responding to me like this, I want to take it to them that much more. If it hadn't been for those shows when those people gave me that energy, I would have not chased what I'm chasing now.
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