JASON NEWSTED: JAMES HETFIELD Is 'The Best' At Playing Guitar And Singing At The Same Time

Geeks Of Doom recently 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.

Geeks of Doom: You must have seen online that the video and the [NEWSTED] song "Soldierhead" are just everywhere now. Has that surprised you, that reaction to it?

Jason Newsted: There are some surprises now, because there's a lot of unknowing. I haven't been amongst it like this where it's my baby, my control, my name and stuff, since really kind of FLOTSAM days where I had to watch everything and make sure all the I's were dotted and the T's were crossed. So I wasn't sure what to expect once I embraced the social media and everything. I know I had planted some good seeds by always having such rapport with fans and all that, but the way it's flooded back to me now is more than I ever could have imagined because it really is unknown. Many familiar avenues out there that I knew from back in the day and being in a big band or even being in VOIVOD or OZZY [OSBOURNE] or whatever, but a bunch of new stuff that I don't quite know how to fathom yet. So I've been two months or something on the Internet and try to talk to everybody on Facebook each night and get back with the fans and make that reconnection. But to answer you, I'm pleasantly surprised and honestly a bit overwhelmed.

Geeks of Doom: So because the focus is all on you, it sounds like you do relish it, but there's a little bit of trepidation?

Jason Newsted: Yes. I think anybody that plays their game with real conviction and does that — they self-doubt, any true artist. You want to make sure that you are the very best that you can be to present to people. So that's been part of my M.O. from the beginning, I always want to be my very best. So the roles that I am taking on in this band are some new territory for me. I am familiar with the interviews and the people person thing, that's kind of been my forte for a long time. But as far as being a six-string guitar player writing all the songs on guitar and then playing guitar, and singing lead vocals at the same time, or even playing bass and singing lead vocal? That's a lot of new roles to take on, and it's a little bit scary. I have a lot of confidence when I am holding onto my bass, I can play in front of anybody or with any musician, I'm not actually encouraging that at anytime [laughs], but as far as the guitar and stuff, I just don't have the same amount of hours and weeks and use on it. So I feel a little, well, it's just different. So I just knock out the rhythms like, man, I'm like a Roky Erickson [of 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS] type of guitar player. I know a couple of chords and I rock that friggin' chord around the guitar as hard as I can and as loud as I can and make some songs out of it! The other guys put on their pieces and Jessie does his leads and that's awesome. Jesus plays the drums killer and makes it what it is. So, [laughs] there's a lot of new roles for me to take on here and it will be exciting to see what transpires. I know I'm going to have to practice hard and I will. I will make sure that we are ready.

Geeks of Doom: Was it always your choice to sing, or was it something that just happened?

Jason Newsted: I have been working on it for a long time and for what people know about a big band and stuff and I was always just [guttural vocalizing] DIE! [laughs] That guttural, vocal kind of stuff, and I can still do that thing, but that's such a one-dimensional kind of trip and the past ten or eleven years, as I have played in all the different projects, with different kind of people, I have tried to work on my real singing voice over time and developed it and developed it and developed it. In 2002 it wasn't great, 2004 it was getting better, 2008 it's doing okay, and now I am getting someplace where I can actually keep some pitch and play along and sing some leads and play the guitar parts and sing some songs at the same time, which is quite challenging. So it took a while to come around to it, but I am kind of excited about the challenge. I have been fortunate enough to be around [METALLICA frontman James] Hetfield for fifteen years and his weaving of words. He's the best at playing and singing, it's just impossible to do some of those parts that he plays on guitar and still sing a straight vocal line. It just gets my vote forever as far as the capacity to do that. He's just untouchable in that way. So being exposed to that and just being able to let it rub off on you, I just try to take it in. So I will pay a lot of credit to that. Also being exposed, I think even more importantly, to Snake from VOIVOD. We have been friends for decades, but being exposed to him and his actual work and the way he goes about things for three or four years as we made records and got serious about things … that was probably one of the most character-building and musician-building parts of my career so far. Especially with the singing thing, Snake's ability to weave words and it's a second language that he's working in so there's no fodder. He doesn't use like the in-betweens and the little words, the connectors and stuff. He just does info, data, words, no fodder, information, no wasted words, just the story. And the way that he weaves it, the manner in which he weaves it and the music, I give him a lot of credit too by inspiring me to try and find those places and weave those words like that and make it musical yet kind of creepy and stuff. So, between being exposed and being able to work with cats like that, it helped me to find my voice. Even though I sang in FLOTSAM and played bass … that was such a different world and whole different person then. Now I have learned what I have learned and gone through what I have gone through and now I work out my voice like I do my situps and my pushups, man. I do a vocal exercise every day to try and make my voice better all the time. And it's a new voice when it comes right down to it, because it's actually a young voice in this old body! Seriously, I am 19 in my brain and heart, and whatever the calendar says as it goes by, whatever man. [laughs] And I know that the flesh and the bone okay, my shoulders, yeah I got it, now you got my attention [laughs], but it's still how I am inside and I still want to project that for always. It's a young voice.

Geeks of Doom: Obviously the EP is in the bag, so is there talk of a full album?

Jason Newsted: Yeah, we actually recorded eleven songs. We did just short of two weeks in the studio. We went into this little farmhouse literally in the middle of a giant cornfield down in a farmland in Central Valley, California … and locked ourselves in and just rocked it out. We had a cat come in, his name is Anthony Focx, and he has done some pretty big stuff lately. We got to know him, he did all the METALLICA mixes for Guitar Hero, and then he did some other stuff like AEROSMITH records … and he did some other things that aren't necessarily hard rock, but pretty successful, like KELLY CLARKSON and some big time artists. So he came in out of respect 'cause he digs the metal and he digs what I have done in my career and so he came in and recorded the stuff with us. That was quite a big deal because we just plug into the amps and rock the shit and he was able to capture it. I mean, we didn't give him any time, we didn't know him, we threw him into the blue fangs and said, "Let's go, man!" And he plugged it in and he just captured what you are hearing now. And it was really just a matter of hours at a time per song. So we had that on our side. Between those few little things, people from the old METALLICA camp are reaching out to help and friends from the past and it's just for the right reasons. When you keep chasing it for the right reasons, these things show up karmatically, you know?

Read the entire interview from Geeks Of Doom.

"Soldierhead" video teaser:

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