"Metal Machine Video" (web site), the self-described "only heavy metal/hard rock daily video show on the net," recently conducted an interview with former METALLICA and current VOIVOD bassist Jason Newsted. A few excerpts from the chat follow;
Metal Machine: What went into making the [new VOIVOD] album ["Katorz"] - the process and the result?
Jason Newsted: "It started out pretty much the same as any other record that we've known from any rock band and the process that's supposed to happen - you get it together and you put the demo together wherever you can - you're in your bedroom put a couple of guitar tracks on, Michel [Langevin, a.k.a. Away; drums] goes into a room with two microphones and puts the drums own, and Snake [a.k.a. Denis Belanger; vocals] will put a scratch track on there and I'll put a scratch bass on there, and then you analyze it for awhile and make sure the arrangements are cool and then you make a big record. Right, that's what you're supposed to do. But… we got those first steps done. OK, so Michel did the thing with the two mics in the garage, and then Piggy [a.k.a. Denis D'Amour; guitar] did the Marshall amp thing in his bathroom, basically, and I had a 10-watt Marshall amp, a practice amp, I plugged it straight into Piggy's Mac when he came up to San Francisco, to the Chophouse [Jason's studio], and we were just on a porch, just like on a nice autumn afternoon, chillin' on the porch, and going [imitating the sound of guitar], like that. So that's what happened. So we had all those pieces leading up to that. Then the Piggy stuff started happening [Piggy's health deteriorated as a result of suffering from advanced colon cancer]. We knew we had to carry on with things. We had put together 23 songs as the four of us. So these first ten, he and I worked together, we recorded the bass on those, so we had those 10 finished - lyrics, bass… the four pieces - not the overdubs and all this stuff. So over a little bit of that time, he was at home and he pieced together the solos and the things that you hear on the record now. We had all those things on a computer when he passed. Then we asked Glen Robinson, who did the 'Nothingface' album - the biggest one for VOIVOD - we said, 'We've got this much money. Could you please come and help us?' 'Cause he knows about the situation, the heart and all that. So he said, 'Yes, of course.' 'Cause he's a bro - part of the early circle and that kind of thing. So we took what we had. We knew that we… the nucleus of it was that practice bass track and that practice guitar track, and we had to be very careful about how we doctored that up, because if we went in and did too much $3,000-a-day studio, fancy trickery stuff, it would really take the purity away, it would mess with what was supposed to be. You've gotta do the best you can with what you have. And we had to stick by that rule. So Michel went in, with no click track or anything - our bass track and guitar track weren't on a click track, so the tempos and things were all over the place - there's nothing solid like if you were to do a real album in a studio where everything is straight up, so he had to… as he recorded, with Piggy's stuff blasting through the stack but him playing as a ghost in the room. So Michel's in there by himself playing along and trying to vibe and weave as we go slower, faster or rush through parts or whatever. And then Snake had a lot time this time to develop all the lyrics, so he put the stuff on top of that afterwards. Both those guys did their stuff in about a week in a real studio on top of that rough tracks we had. So that's the result of this very unorthodox way [of doing things]. We just had to finish it with what we had, and that's what we will do on the next 13 [tracks] as well, because it was really some of Piggy's last lucid wishes to make sure that everybody gets to hear those ones we did together. He did leave a lot of acoustic stuff behind and things like that, but those 23 songs that are. . . The other ones are coming and they the next of the one-two punch, they are that same stuff."
Metal Machine: So there is a plan for the rest of the music that was recorded to come out eventually?
Jason Newsted: "Eventually. We don't know when. We've gotta see. We've got a new record company, we've got new distributors, we've got a new world, and that kind of thing. So let's see how it goes. According to the anticipation so far, the respect that's been shown from all corners of the world for Piggy that we… we don't know if we would have ever seen that they would show that otherwise if this wouldn't have happened [referring to Piggy's passing], which kind of sucks, but it's cool now that it's happened that they have shown it. So we're happy about that, we're proud about that. We're gonna go with that. The people in the know, the people that give a shit about this, they WILL hear it, you know what I mean? And that's all that matters. I'm not having any grand expectations about it - that it's gonna be this super-giant album or whatever. All that I care about is the people that Piggy cared about hear it - that's it."
Metal Machine: And if the result is that maybe you're gonna get a little more [attention] because of the tragedy that happened, in the end it is the music that is going to be the ever-lasting thing.
Jason Newsted: "That's right. And it's also a thing where we're not doing this, on the cover, 'In memory of… R.I.P.' and all that. That's not how it is, man. Everybody already knows the deal. It IS his music, it's all his seeds. We just kind of enhance his ideas - that's how it's always been in the band. Whoever happened to be the bass player at the time, or whatever, that's what they did - they enhanced Piggy's ideas. That's already granted. There's no giant memoriam thing that's taking place here. It's just that people will pay a little bit more attention because you do appreciate shit once it's gone. We know that, man. How many times has that been said? A million."
Metal Machine: VOIVOD is one of those bands that are so revered musically that didn't make a trillion dollars but are the staple for so many other bands that became successful. How did Piggy's passing affect you afterwards? Did you think, 'Alright, no more VOIVOD. This is done. It's over.' Obviously not, because you guys are continuing, but what was your initial reaction?
Jason Newsted: "The first part of your thing… VOIVOD IS an innovative band, have aways been and have continued to be able to do that somehow. It's one thing to do it in the beginning, but to keep doing that? Piggy and Away started jamming together in 1979. And they're still sounding like that today. Are you kidding me? There could be some good bands - KILLSWITCH [ENGAGE] and SHADOWS FALL and all these cats - and they can cover the ground that they've covered so far and all that, and [this is not] meant in [any] way to take anything away from those people, but they do not have that many years in it. They can't change that. That cannot be taken away from VOIVOD or added to KILLSWITCH. It can't happen. That much experience, that many shows, that many times around the world, that much recording - all of that comes with time. That's why it sounds like that, OK? So getting to the thing about Piggy, the effect was different on different people. I was only really close to him for a couple of years. These other guys, like we were talking about, Michel has been playing with him since 1979 - I mean, that's your whole life to be with someone. I mean, your whole life that you could actually think about things and make music and be capable enough - he's known him that whole time and made music with him that whole time. So he's been affected hugely - there's no way that you and I could even figure out how to describe it. And Snake, as the big, tough guy that he is - 'cause he is - he's been really kind of gutted, too. And there's no way you can't be. This thing, this victory that you hear is an accomplishment that was so important to help heal, because the cut's way, way deep and it can never be healed all the way - ever, ever - but it certainly can be cheered up along the way, and celebrating the joy. This guy's left all this music that you could turn up super freakin' loud any time you want and always go to him and he can always come to you. And there's still more of it to come in the future - the electric stuff that we talked about that the band made, and also all the other music that is still mysterious to us. I've been told there is something like 40 tracks he left behind of acoustic stuff and different, crazy, trippy stuff and he was definitely trippy, so… We haven't even sat down - the three of us - yet to listen to that to see what that's all about, so who knows what he left behind?!"
Metal Machine: Does VOIVOD have any plans to possibly tour on this record - at some point, somehow, some way - maybe some special shows, if not a full tour. Have you guys spoken about that at all?
Jason Newsted: "I don't think a full tour could be possible at this point. We're in the first week of March of '06, and I don't think that that could be in the cards at all right now. You cannot say impossible, but it would take an awful lot. What I maybe had a vision of is that if we have one grand show in Montreal and you have eight guitar players or ten guitar players - Andreas [Kisser] from SEPULTURA and Josh [Homme] from QUEENS [OF THE STONE AGE] and Dave [Grohl] from FOO FIGHTERS; people that love Piggy - and have them all come and do a couple of songs each, so they don't have to… 'cause learning that many VOIVOD songs, you head will just fry. . . So we don't have to kill ourselves with going back and un-learning and learning all those songs and having somebody trying to take that much on… So if you have that many people being able to take on that task of one man - kind of like GOV'T MULE did with the 13 bass players to fill Woody's shoes; same type of thing with this… So if we could get those guys, one show in Montreal, really well organized, really proper and tasteful and all that kind of thing, man, it could be awesome. That would be a good dream to be able to fulfill."
Watch the entire 34-minute "Metal Machine Video" episode featuring the Jason Newsted interview at this location.