During a candid January 28th interview with journalist Martin Carlsson, portions of which appeared in the Swedish newspaper Expressen, former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted revealed interesting facts about his departure from METALLICA, James Hetfield's battle with addictions, the infamous Playboy feature, the postponement of VOIVOD's next album, the formation of a dream metal band with members from SEPULTURA and EXODUS, and much more. BLABBERMOUTH.NET exclusively brings you the entire interview, word for word:
If James said, Look, I was in a bad place and I didn't handle the situation correctly, would you reconsider your decision and rejoin the band?
Jason: Oh yeah, sure. But it has to be understood that I am my own person and I still have other things outside of METALLICA. In order to keep myself living the way I wanna live, I have to have my freedom and stuff like that. So there would have to be a few different perimeters, but I would never say never on something like that, because it's too special and I've spent more than half my life working on that f.cking thing. There you go!
Realistically, do you think James would reconsider his position and call you up?
Jason: Hmm(sighs) Oh, boy, that's a tough question , dude. Maybe after some time, yes. I think there are some very valuable things that he would like to say to me, that we haven't gotten together on yet, that maybe have nothing to do with the band, which would be beautiful. He could just tell me some things as a man to a man, friend to a friend, brother to a brother. That would be really f.cking great. That's what you do first. It would have to go in steps, it would have to go in phases, in a way that we re-establish our friendship before we worry too much about what would take place with the band. We know we've got that, we know we can do that sh.t. We've done it together a lot. But this other thing is very new to us, these emotional tests. The things that he's went through in the past year with his family and stuff, I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy. I have no ill feelings towards this guy. He's probably the person and [his songwriting in METALLICA is] the music that I respect the most. That's still there. As an instrumentalist in heavy music he's the best, and to be able to play with him is an honor. That's all there is to it. I've always felt that way about it and I will always feel that way about it. He taught me a lot of sh.t and help me develop my playing style and become who I am as a musician. I have great respect in that way. So hell yeah, I'd jam with METALLICA any day, it would just have to be right, you know.
When you announced that you were leaving METALLICA, the reason you gave was problems with your neck. You still claim that was a major factor, but at the same time you say that you're willing to return. So if you were to go back to METALLICA, you would still have the neck problems, right?
Jason: Yeah. That damage is done and there's nothing I can do about it. A body is built the way a body is built. You only have so much cartilage and bone (laughs). I would have to make the effort and it would have to be done a little differently. We wouldn't be able to do the grind, 250 shows a year and sh.t like that. It couldn't happen like that for me anymore. I would have to know that I was physically able to do it. In my mind and in my heart I would love to be able to do that some day. If my body was able to go along with that, great. I would hope that it would follow along with me, but right now or maybe in the past year which you've probably read before I just don't know that I would be able to do it exactly like people know me in METALLICA and that's the way I have to have it. If I can't be that person, the performer that people know, I don't wanna do it in METALLICA. ECHOBRAIN is a different demand physically in that there's so much more playing in ECHOBRAIN, really finessing the instruments opposed to METALLICA just thrashing it out. METALLICA is a very physically demanding music. We maybe make it look easy, and people think they can sit on their couch and play Enter Sandman going I love that song! That's great, you can play the notes. Performing the song with the intensity and the fire night after night, not everybody can do that. It's something that is valuable and it's something I have to be very careful about and that I would be careful about. You're asking me straight-up how my mind and my heart feels, and I'd love to go back and jam with those guys some day. But so much just went down, Martin, that you have to think about all the year that we had together and what's happened this last year because of it, the changes and stuff. So much damage has been done within people, you know, and you just have to be careful with this stuff. It would take a long time to heal, but I don't think it's impossible.
Were you surprised by James' battle with alcoholism and other addictions or did you see it coming?
Jason: I think that one thing that really needs to be cleared up, that I'm not sure how it's been misconstrued, is that the other addictions have nothing to do with substances. As long as I have known him, he has never touched anything other than alcohol. I know for a fact that he's never done any kind of amphetamines, cocaine or anything like that in his life EVER. I know he's never done LSD or ecstasy or any of that shit EVER. Any of that thing that people think has to do with drugs is completely wrong. As far as the alcoholism thing, he's always liked to drink. Think about it, it's f.cking METALLICA. Alcoholica, that was us, that's what we do. That's part of the lifestyle and it finally caught up with him. Now he's a father of three children and he has to look at life a little bit differently. You can't be going out drinking vodka every night. It's something that happens. Just like with anybody, it's common sense, man. You have to make certain changes in your life to retain your strength, physically and mentally. That's what he had to do. As far as him not handling his booze F.ck, I never saw it, he was always fine. It just wasn't like that(cringes) alcoholic, I don't know. It had to do with the breaking up of the band, too, and some other personal things. Emotionally, he maybe was really drunk with, I don't know, with sadness, tense things or stress. It kinda caught up with him all at once. But he's not a weak person, as you well know. He's a very strong person. It's just what had to happen for him to keep himself together and for him to able to go on.
Mentally, how were you affected by the split from METALLICA?
Jason: It was a huge depression for a while. At least three months of just solid depressionnot wanting to eat, sleep and sometimes not even wanting to listen to music, which is really f.cked up for me. You can just imagine, it's like getting divorced from three wives at once. Not just that, you're getting divorced from yourself in a way, too. You're taking a piece of yourself and giving it away or turning your back on it. It was a lot of tests and I'm glad ECHOBRAIN was there for me to be able to put my energy into and the SPEEDEALER stuff and all the other stuff I kept myself busy with.
You've actually publicly recommended Joey Vera (from ARMORED SAINT/FATES WARNING) to replace you in METALLICA. Don't you think they would need someone who's slightly younger and more hungry?
Jason: No. It has to be someone who's seasoned and it has to be somebody, I feel, who's in the circle of the band already and that knows the band already. It has to be someone who's been through a lot of the business already. These guys you're talking about in METALLICA are all 38 and 39 years old and they're already been doing this band for more than 20 years. You can't have a 20-year-old guy come in and play with guys that have had the band for 20 years. It doesn't work. It worked when I when I was 23 and they were 23. They re-started it and got a fresh, hungry guy in there. But now so much has past and there's SO much money involved, things like that. There's a legend established that rules millions of dollars a year. You can't just bring some kid in and include him in that stuff when he hasn't earned it. You have to have somebody that's earned it and that's all there is. Joey looks young, he's in very good shape, he's very smart, he has great production skills, he's a great player, he has great energy. He almost had the gig before, the last time. He was among the last three guys that were gonna get the gig. They're been friends forever. In this day and age, being a fancy and hungry player doesn't mean sh.t. You have to be able to be a businessman, you have to be a people-person and there's so much it takes to be a, whatever you wanna say, pop musician these days. It would be tough for a 22- or 23-year-old kid that never tasted it before to step into something of that magnitude and be comfortable and be able to get the respect from Hetfield. That's a big, big hill to climb.
In actually sounds like you're talking about yourself.
Jason: Yeah, maybe (laughs). Joey and I are a lot alike. I didn't think about it like that, though (laughs).
You told the Dutch magazine Aardschok: I happen to respect acts that tour 300 out of 365 days in a rented van. I want to work with bands that are loyal to their roots. Some perceived this as you dissing the Load-era of METALLICA.
Jason: Oh Jesus, no! There's no disrespect to METALLICA at all. It's too bad people have to read that shit into it. I was speaking specifically of SPEEDEALER. The last four years they have done 300 shows a year out of a van and that's the band I chose to work with. I get a hundred demos every few months, people going 'Please work with this. Can you produce this?' This is the first band that just kicked me in the head and said they deserve it and showed it by their road work. I wanted to work with them because they've been together for 12 years and they're still playing the old-school speed metal. It really makes me proud that guys that are in their thirties can still really feel that and go for it and take it to the people. I like that a lot. That's what I was speaking of METALLICA went where it needed to go, as far as progression and that kinda thing. They made those steps that they made and there's no turning back on that. That's how it goes. I like the older stuff better, you like the older stuff better.
How do you know?
Jason: Because 99.8 per cent of people like the older stuff better. If you're different, that's cool, but most of the reactions I get from all the people I've met is that they like Master Of Puppets more than Load. I mean, what the f.ck, so do I. But it doesn't mean it's bad. I think all METALLICA records captured that time and those moments. It really captured the feel of the band at that time. They're all so different from each other, as far as the production, the songwriting development and all that sh.t. There's no way to scuff that sh.t, don't do that.
Talking to you today compared to a few years ago, it's so obvious that there are no limits as to what you can say.
Jason: I know. Isn't it great? (laughs)
In METALLICA, did you ever feel I can't publicly say what I want to say?
Jason: Of course, in a big machine like that, everybody has to play for one cause. [You have to be] after one vision, [and] you have to try to make one thing work. When you're promoting the band and being a representative of the band you have to do certain things and say certain things to keep it rolling. METALLICA was always very good at, as you know, keeping people thinking everything is just cool as sh.t. That's a secret to show business. Actors, comedians, musicians... that's what you do, that's what promotion is about. You gotta keep everything looking real good on the outside. People wanna see the shiny side up and the music good and the glossy pictures and all that kinda sh.t. You gotta keep that sh.t floating. Just as managers would keep bad things hidden from me, I keep bad things hidden from the public. You can't wear everything out on your sleeve like that. Everyone would know everything and you wouldn't have much of a career.
All of a sudden the interview in Playboy magazine came out and the facade started crackling. What happened there?
Jason: What happened was that a media guy who's really good at sensationalism, which is what he's supposed to be doing and why he's hired by those people to do what he does, blew it all out of proportion, so that people would read in the things that they did. That's something that he (sighs) It got all blown out of shape. He used the quotes that were really not the best ones, but that suited his purpose. He tried to inflame something, he's a journalist working for the biggest f.cking magazine in the world, and that's what you do. You do stuff that people like to read, so that's what he was doing. Very understandable.
Wasn't it a case of him being at the right place at the right time when sh.t was hitting the fan?
Jason: Yeah (hesitating) And also, something very interesting: he did the interview with everyone individually over three months time or something. Much can change in three months among people that live an accelerating lifestyle like that. So much can happen. He talks to one guy when everything's peachy, he talks to another guy when things are sh.t and he talks to another guy when things are in-between, and it comes out like that. It's easy to add that stuff up when you really look at it. Everything happens for a reason and it needed to happen to churn things up.
Do you think people will approach ECHOBRAIN with an open ear or as the METALLICA dude's new thing?
Jason: How I think it's gonna be is the first interviews and the first reviews are gonna be 'METALLICA's Jason's new project', that kinda thing. That's obvious, that's our big foot in the door, that's our advantage. As soon as they hear Dylan sing, the next reviews will talk about his voice, the music and stuff like that. It's so different from METALLICA, it's such its own thing and the voice is so f.cking incredible. That's just the way it is and that's the way it's gonna be. So I am hoping that people come at it with open minds and open ears. I know there's gonna be the guys that just like the heavy stuff that think I'm gonna be coming with a heavy record. They'll maybe not dig ECHOBRAIN and that's fine with me, there's room for everybody. That's just not what's important to me anymore, man. What's important is me sharing the music with whoever really wants to share it. There's always gonna be people who go [impersonates a loud metal head] C'mon man, [play something like] 'Master Of Puppets'! Whatever, man. Been there, done that. This is a different thing. Listen to the SPEEDEALER album when it comes out in May and you can see that metal is still cool with me (laughs). I have [my collaboration with] VOIVOD [coming up] in awhile and Andreas (Kisser, lead guitarist with SEPULTURA) and I are gonna do a project with metal guys. There's a kinds of sh.t going on.
Tell me more about the project you're putting together with Andreas.
Jason: We've been doing projects for years. Since '93 or something we've been talking about our dream metal band. One day when we have the time, we're gonna do it and that's all there is to it. People have so much to offer and ECHOBRAIN just happens to be one of the things we're working on that we're putting out there. There's gonna be a lot of heavy stuff and a lot of different kinds of music coming out. There are some good guys out there that I want to get together that need to be together playing. I think I'll probably call up Tom Hunting from EXODUS to play drums [in the dream metal band]. You know, the regular thing, old-school metal. The real sh.t, none of this nu metal BULLSH.T! We all know we helped invent it (laughs, refers to nu metal). Do you know what I mean?
Totally. You're looking at releasing projects like IR8, QUARTETO DA PINGA and TREE OF THE SUN through your label Chophouse. What kind of projects do you have lined up?
Jason: There's tons of it. You named a few of the good ones. That's more of the heavy stuff. We've established Chophouse Records and the plan is to share that stuff with people eventually when we can get around to doing it. I want everybody to hear that noisy stuff. There are no limits, no limits, man. All that stuff you mentioned was done in 1995 or 1996, so there are hundreds of hours of music since that time. There's stuff [I did] with [STRAPPING YOUNG LAD's] Devin Townsend, we've always kept our thing going, with Gene Hoglan from DARK ANGEL [and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD] playing drums. That's pretty ugly and scary stuff. The VOIVOD record is on the backburner and I really wanna do that at some point.
What do you mean by backburner? Isn't the VOIVOD album happening this year?
Jason: It depends on what happens with the phase of ECHOBRAIN, 'cause we plan on touring the record and all that kinda sh.t. We'll just see if it's possible to get the VOIVOD thing done in the winter time or something like that. Maybe pull those guys away from the snow in the winter next year and make a record. Give them a break, you know. But I think there has to be a lot of developments for that anyway, 'cause we want it to be extra special. I know that [VOIVOD guitarist] Piggy's got a few songs, so I know that it will find its way. We have some good stuff on tape, 'cause they've been down here [at my studio] and we've done some projects before, Piggy, [VOIVOD drummer] Away and myself. We have two different demos that I don't think anybody's ever heard. There's some good sh.t, so we have a lot of stuff in existence.
Who are some of the dream musicians that you'd like to play with that aren't as obvious as some of the ones we've mentioned?
Jason: PJ Harvey, Thom Yorke (RADIOHEAD) and Chris Slade, the drummer from AC/DC.
That's surprising. Everyone was just raving about Phil Rudd returning to AC/DC to replace that bald guy.
Jason: Oh man. Well, people got their head up their ass, 'cause that guy is a bad motherf.cker. Who else is out there? Ziggy Marley, Steven Marley, DJ Shadow, Q-Bert from INVINCIBLE SCRATCH PICKLES. He's a really multi-talented guy and does movies, but he's the king of turntables.
What are you're expectations of touring with ECHOBRAIN? That must be somewhat of a scary prospect.
Jason: No, I'm mostly very excited. My expectations are that the band is gonna play good. If people that appreciate good music still get into it, which I think they will because no matter what language you speak I haven't seen or heard one bad reaction, I'm happy. My expectations are not great in that we're gonna sell a zillion records or be big any of that huge touring thing or anything close to what the big bands have done. We're just doing what we do and what comes to us comes to us. That's all. We've got a plan and we're gonna do it ourselves whether anybody helps us or not, so you're not waiting around for big record companies or any of that bullsh.t. My expectations are that I'm gonna have fun playing this music that's a little bit different and it's really a great challenge to me. Every day it's a challenge to play this music with these guys.