Jason Newsted’s body of work reads like a who’s who of hard rock and metal acts but he is most widely recognized as a former member of Metallica who along with Newsted were inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Jason’s newest project simply titled “Newsted” released their debut EP in January of this year and is set to hit the road in support of the release this month. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Jason recently about the EP, the recent addition of Staind guitarist Mike Mushok and if he really is the new lead singer of Slayer.
Adam Lawton: You have worked with a number of amazing artists and bands. Was doing a self tilted project something that was always in the back of your mind or was it a more recent thought?
Jason Newsted: I have been doing projects for a long, long time. My studio Chop House has been going now for about 21 years. Over that time I have had the privilege of playing with lots of people. During some of those sessions we took things further like with Echobrain and Papa Wheelie where we actually released material to the fans. “Newsted” is a much different project than those in the past. I never had a thought of putting my name on a band but it was something that just sort of transpired. I am now quite happy that it turned out that way. Things really came out of doing a few shows with Papa Wheelie where I had a lot of fun just singing and playing. From there I went and did the 30th anniversary shows with Metallica and that lit my fire in a big way. I was completely overwhelmed by the reception I received from the fans as it was not something I had expected. I have certainly heard the crowds cheer a few times over the years but this was fucking overwhelming! I realized then that music was what I should be doing. I had never really stopped creating art and music but those performances really got the fire going again. About 5 or 6 weeks later I got together with the original line up of Flotsam and Jetsam and we did some weekend shows. We just kept looking at each other in disbelief as we all were still alive and smiling. 31 years later we were all still rocking stuff we hadn’t played in ages. That was a lot of fun and gave me time to sort of exercise my options and see who would be the best fit for me to chase things with again. The Flotsam thing was cool however logistically it wasn’t going to work out. I had been playing with Jesus Mendez Jr. and Jessie Farnsworth for about 5 years prior and we had quite a few chops under our belt and I really took pride in those guys. I ended up writing a bunch of songs from top to bottom with my IPad and then sent them out to my boys. They brought those songs back and that is sort of what you hear on the EP. We started off as a power trio and since recording those first 4 songs Mike Mushok of Staind joined the band and now we are a 4 piece. Mike has been in the band for about 7 weeks and we have already completed our LP. We will be delivering 13 songs to the record company in a few weeks and starting this Friday we have a bunch of shows lined up that will take us to 17 different countries.
AL: How was it that Mike was asked to join the band?
JN: Everything with this band has been very positive and because of that good things keep happening to us. Mike came recommended from a few people who I really have a lot of respect for in the business. I had been putting together a short list of people who I wanted to audition and I definitely had an idea of who I wanted in the band. I was looking for someone who was a hard working, honest and an accomplished musician. This band was not something I had to do. I could have just stayed at home and sat on the porch all day. I am doing this because it is something I want to do and it is something the people want me to do.
AL: What have you done to get yourself back in to the mind set of going out on the road again?
JN: Physically you have train like you would for a marathon as that’s what life on the road is like. Being the front man now I am fulfilling a lot of new roles. I now am not just playing bass but I have a bunch of other stuff going on that I must do on the stage. That part of things is both exciting and challenging for me. Mentally the thing that is getting the best of me now is the thought of being away from my wife. We just got married 6 months ago and things are still very fresh. To have to leave her now is kind of fucked up. Before I may have just had a cat or a dog so the only thing that was on my mind was just going for it. Nothing came before the band or the music and I had gotten used to that thought process. Things are a little bit different now with the new responsibilities I have. Plus I have grown up a little bit. Not much but a little. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and being able to see everyone.
AL: What has been the biggest change for you since stepping in to the front man position?
JN: I have to do so much micro managing now. I like to be in control like everyone does but in the big band there were two very serious control freaks. In that situation I just assumed my role as the dude who was the live guy/people person who took it to the fans. In the new band I am responsible for everything. From booking hotels and travel arrangements to making sure I am represented in the media correctly. I am responsible for all of that. How I am represented when I am not around is very important to me. This is a really giant thing for me so the people I have put together to help me are still learning how I work and how I want things done. Hopefully in a year or so I will be able to step back from a few of these roles and let those people take over a little bit. In Metallica I never knew about all the detail stuff as there were tons of people handling that stuff. Things are considerably different these days and there are a lot more roles to handle other than just having my name on the thing and being the lead guy.
AL: What type of creative process have you taken on the material that has been recorded thus far?
JN: All of the seeds are mine. The skeletons of the songs were all created on my IPad with the Garage Band app. I build everything and then give it to my boys. They will bring it back and then we all work on it collectively. This newest batch of songs Mike got to work on from the inception. It has been equal parts all the way around and everyone puts in everything they have.
AL: Can you tell us about the first group of tour dates the band has booked?
JN: The first batch of 14 shows is to bust the rust off and to help the band get warmed up. We want to get things together in front of our core audience before we take things to the big stages over in Europe. Anybody who gets to see one of these 14 shows will be very lucky. I would love to be playing and watching from the crowd if I could. These shows are going to be really fun. After these 14 shows in smaller venues we go to playing Sonisphere and gigs like that. We are hitting all the big shit so we have to get ready. (Laughs)
AL: Has there been any talks of performing at the Orion Festival this year?
JN: Not this year. We will be in the middle of France during that time. I would really like to get firing on all cylinders and then some before doing something like that. If we ever get the chance to do something with Metallica I want to make sure that I am ready to fire it off. I want to be strong! I would like to have 90 shows or more under my belt before playing with those guys. I have something to prove in that way. If those guys ever notice that I have this going on and they decide to listen to it for a minute or two I want them to take notice. That’s not a vengeful thing it’s a brotherly thing that I want them to know I am alive and well.
AL: In the past year or so you have started appearing off and on with Metallica. How did those communication lines re-open allowing for you guys to work together again?
JN: We are still business partners for the rest of our lives. We all worked together to create this giant thing together. As far as talking on the phone together that’s something that won’t happen and never did happen. When I was in the band I think I may have talked to Hetfield on the phone 10 times in 15 years. Talking on the phone is something that just doesn’t happen. I talked to Lars way more than that as we had a different line of communication. As of right now we aren’t really talking. We sort of get our information about each other and our families through different people. I am more interested in how their families are doing and that type of stuff. We are probably better friends now than we have ever been. Everyone is very chill and sort of found their place. Things are all good.
AL: What type of reservations did you have when it was first mentioned about appearing with them again?
JN: At first I had thought I would just get up there and play a few songs and then Robert would come up and play some new stuff with them but when I heard that we would both be up there playing together I wasn’t really in to the idea but, things did work out. For me things were only sour in the very beginning. Maybe the first 4-6 months of sour and then I got so busy with my own stuff. 12 years have now passed and we both are doing great. I feel I did the right thing and made a serious sacrifice in order for everything to continue. I hope someday those guys will realize that my sacrifice was for Metallica to remain in the world. I am thankful for the opportunity I was given and I will always be supportive of them.
AL: Can you put any of the claims made to rest about you replacing Slayer front man/bassist Tom Araya?
JN: (Laughs) That is something that was so funny. I had fans and friends coming up to me the day after that was announced cheering me on and congratulating me. I had no idea what was going on. We are doing some shows with Slayer in Europe so I thought they were just excited that we were going to be on the same bill. Then I find out that they thought I was actually joining Slayer. This all started because some of our fans think our drummer Jesus looks like Tom. So then it turned in to me leaving my band to front Slayer because Tom left Slayer to drum for my band. (Laughs) It’s fucking awesome!
Click here for Jason’s official website
Newsted Tour Dates:
4/19 & 4/20 Walnut Creek, CA @ Red House
4/23 San Jose, CA @ San Jose Rock Shop
4/24 Fresno, CA @ The Starline
4/26 Sparks, NV @ The Alley
4/27 Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
5/1 Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
5/3 Las Vegas, NV @ Vinyl
5/4 Mesa, AZ @ KUPD Ufiesta / Quail Run Park
5/15 Battle Creek, MI @ Planet Rock (w/ Wilson)
5/17 Pontiac, MI @ The Crofoot (w/ Wilson)
5/18 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge (w/ Wilson)
5/21 New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
5/22 Cambridge, MA @ The Middle East Downstairs (w/ Wilson)
5/23 Asbury Park, NJ @ The Stone Pony (w/Wilson)
Also be sure to check out our review of Jason’s EP titled “Metal”