Original FLOTSAM AND JETSAM Drummer Recounts Band's History

On October 31, Metal Blade Records will re-issue one of THE classic albums of its catalogue — FLOTSAM AND JETSAM's mighty "Doomsday for the Deceiver". The album will be re-released as a three-disc-set — two CDs and one DVD. It includes the original version, a remixed version (by the album's original producer, Bill Metoyer), demo tracks and a DVD.

Original drummer Kelly Smith was nice enough to provide some inside information on FLOTSAM's history and the upcoming release:

The Beginning – Stage One

"In 1982 I had put together a band during my early high school years, PARADOX. It was two guitar players and myself — no singer or bass player. The usual makings of an every-day early stage garage band. So we decided to run an ad in the local paper since we didn't know any bass players. So a few called back but no one stuck, than I received a knock at the door. Here stood a curly haired guy with his black Explorer bass guitar in hand. So we met and proceeded to the back porch of my parents' house. We practiced for a few months and then Jason [Newsted] asked 'Do you know of any other guitar players that like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and the like?'"

Stage Two – New Lineup

"I asked around and got a hold of the next set of guitar players that would eventually turn us towards the path of FLOTSAM. Kevin Horton [rhythm guitar] and Mark Vasquez [lead guitar]. We started to learn all sorts of great music: UFO, IRON MAIDEN, MÖTLEY CRÜE, JUDAS PRIEST, and TED NUGENT. At our first gig professionally, as DREDLOX, Jason sang lead and had acquired a friendship with Jeff Newsome who at the time was running sound for UFO on the road. We played at the infamous Mason Jar lounge in Phoenix. I'm sure a lot of you who have been through Phoenix have been there or played there. So anyways back to the story. We played that evening and we were so loud that we knocked eight glasses off the bar. We didn't get paid and the owner fired us on the spot."

Stage Three – A Singer Evolved

"We made a decision that a frontman might suit us better for the music we were playing. I was in summer school and I remembered seeing this guy in my class who sang in the talent show earlier that year. He sang a lot like [Rob] Halford although what he sang at the show wasn't metal he was still an awesome singer. So I asked him if he wanted to audition. He had to learn four JUDAS PRIEST songs in four days. I am not certain but this is the list as I remember it:

01. Desert Plains
02. Hot Rockin'
03. Victim of Changes
04. The Green Manaleshi

"So we played on his back patio for his audition. He kicked ass like no one we had heard or seen. We put him on two-week probation. Later on he took a denim jacket cut off the sleeves and wrote '2 WEEKER' on the back. We joked about that for years. Shortly after [Eric] A.K. joined the clan, we wanted to get another lead player in the band. We were heavily influenced by the dual lead scenario of the bands of the era — IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and the like. We found Ed Carlson from a rival band in Phoenix called EXODUS (it's not the same one you're thinking of; I think every city had an EXODUS then). We also decided that we should change our name to THE DOGZ as DREDLOX didn't suit us at all. Ed joined the band and played his first show with DOGZ after only five days in the band. We played at the local ice arena with local heroes SURGICAL STEEL. As time went on we developed our own repertoire of music and locally we started to get a name for ourselves. We played with artists like ARMORED SAINT, RIOT, EXCITER, MERCYFUL FATE, ALCATRAZZ featuring Yngwie Malmsteen and many others."

Stage Four – Transformation

"So at this point the lineup was:

Eric A.K. - Vocals
Jason Newsted - Bass
Mark Vasquez - Lead Guitar
Ed Carlson - Lead Guitar
Kelly D Smith - Drums

"In 1984 or late '83 we decided another name change would do us some good. We had written a song back in the DOGZ days called 'Flotsam and Jetsam'. It was written from the Tolkien trilogy of two drifters in the story. We were getting stronger locally and writing more and more. During this time I was in deep in my addiction to cocaine and then it happened. I was indicted for the sales of narcotics and sent to prison. Not long, 30 days in D.O.C. During my time in prison, Mark decided he wanted to go another direction and left the band. Jason and the remaining members sought out Mike Gilbert, who at the time was 17 years old. He was in the local band called THE KIDS. So when I got out of the clink they had already started to write songs together."

Stage Five – New Direction

"Before Mike Gilbert, Mark had been the main writer in the band. Jason was always the lyrics guy with musical input as well. Now that Mike was in the band and things were starting to make the final turn towards the sound and feel of FLOTSAM is known for. I was very resistant to the new wave of metal that was appearing. I was still in the MAIDEN/PRIEST stages of music. Now METALLICA, ANTHRAX, S.O.D., MEGADETH and METAL CHURCH were coming up in the scene. I remember it clear as day when the band was pushing me 'play it faster' and I was mad that I had too. I grew up with Neil Peart and RUSH as my idol and now there was no room for that. In fact it was the writing of the song 'Metal Shock' that this happened. The first song Mike wrote for FLOTSAM was 'I Live You Die'. Pretty amazing, huh? We started getting more speed metal songs under are belt. Jason was doing the business part of things at this point. We used to play at the local club The Bootlegger. It became our home. Gloria Cavalera (manager and wife to Max from SOULFLY, SEPULTURA) was the former owner of the Bootlegger. She had a 'Battle Of The Bands' at her club and the band that won broke up. Gloria gave the studio time to us. She was the one responsible for the making of the 'Metal Shock' demo, which eventually got FLOTSAM signed to Metal Blade Records and of course led to Jason's departure into METALLICA.'

Stage Six – Evolution

"After the demo was completed, Jason came up with a plan to get some of the people around us to invest in us and duplicate the demo and send it out to magazines, fanzines, radio stations and record labels. We also sold them through Zia Records, a small local chain in Phoenix. All the proceeds went to the promotion of the band. So we made our first MTV-like video, 'Hammerhead', in Jason's apartment living room. Really, no kidding!!! We used to practice there as well in a room just off to the side of the apartment. We also recorded live video from the Bootlegger which we sent out to Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records. We had finally gained a record deal with Metal Blade Records. It was amazing to us."

Stage Seven – Revelation

"In the winter of 1985 we went to Los Angeles and started recording 'Doomsday for the Deceiver'. We had a tight budget (12,000.00) to make the entire record. A time period of two weeks total. I had two days to record my drum tracks and I had fifteen stitches in my arm five days prior. Life was chaotic but it was good. We were making the first record of our lives. It was very surreal to think from the back porch to this point how it all worked out the way it did. So on July 26th 1986, FLOTSAM was unleashed on the world with a label behind them. We had Roadrunner, the best metal label in Europe, supporting us as well. Some of you may remember that in 1986 we were the first band in Kerrang!'s history to achieve the six-K rating. As a band we had never at that point even toured any farther than California with MEGADETH on a few shows and at the Country Club in L.A. It was amazing how we were buzzing the scene. So it was working well and the BUZZ was BIG."

Stage Eight – An Open Door

"On September 27th, 1986, the world of metal suffered a terrible blow. Cliff Burton had been killed on the 'Master of Puppets' tour in Europe. No one could believe it. It was strange as we had seen METALLICA in Phoenix only months before. That night I stood in front of the stage banging my head with Cliff up above on stage and now he's gone. They had been on tour with W.A.S.P. in the States. We all wondered what would happen now. Then METALLICA announced they were going to audition to replace Cliff. Jason had been working with one of the A&Rs from Elektra keeping an open dialogue since 'Doomsday' had been released. Mike Alago, who was responsible for signing METALLICA to Elektra Records as well as METAL CHURCH, ROB ZOMBIE and many others in metal, was a factor in helping Jason get the audition as well as Brian Slagel and a few others. Mike Gilbert and Kevin Horton helped Jason to learn the songs so he could go in finely tuned for the job. Jason is not a person that fails when he sets his mind on a goal. He had been through a lot up to this point. He even stayed in a 10 x 20 steel warehouse that we rented to practice in. He was jobless and homeless and in Phoenix where it gets up to 115 degrees. He lived on only peanut butter sandwiches and whatever he could scrounge up. So now he is looking at the ultimate gig. He wasn't leaving without the gig. As you all know, he made it."

Stage Nine – Moving On

"The last show that Jason played with FLOTSAM was exactly 20 years to the day of this release. That's right — October 31st, 1986. There is a picture from that night inside the anniversary box set. Quite ironic that it ended up this way. Let me reassure you it was not at all planned this way. He was and is an awesome choice to this day for METALLICA. It is unfortunate that they had a falling out."

Stage 10 – And So On

"Since his departure, we created the second masterpiece, being one of the fan favorites, 'No Place for Disgrace' (on Elektra Records, 1988). Jason was a co-writer on three of the songs on this record as well. These were written before he left to join METALLICA.

01. No Place For Disgrace
02. N.E.Terror
03. I Live You Die

Other Albums include:

"When the Storm Comes Down" (MCA, 1990)
"Cuatro" (MCA, 1992)
"Drift" (MCA, 1995)
"High" (Metal Blade, 1997) (last record with Mike Gilbert and Kelly D Smith)
"Unnatural Selection" (1999) (Craig Nielsen and Mark Simpson enter the band)
"My God" (2001)
"Dreams of Death" (2005)

"When I got the remix copy of 'Doomsday', I nearly cried at the performance and the realization of how great a band we were at that time. We practiced nearly every day for at least 2-3 hours and even more after Jason left as we wanted to be the best metal band as well as the best musicians we could be. We lived it, we ate it, and we breathed it in and made it a part of each of us. I hope it is that way with you out there. I am very proud that I was a part of this project and had the chance to play with such awesome musicians and work with great talent behind the board.

"Enjoy the anniversary of 'Doomsday'. For us you have made the path along the way more than great. It is unexplainable.

"As fans and believers of FLOTSAM, YOU FUCKIN' RULE. We thank you!!"


Posted in: News


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