Jason Newsted on New Band Dynamics, Besting Justin Bieber on iTunes + Tour Plans
In the first part of our exclusive interview with Jason Newsted, he discussed his new EP ‘Metal,’ as well as the influence of his former Metallica bandmate James Hetfield, among other topics.
In Part 2 of our interview, Newsted delves into the relationships he has with the members of his new band (which aptly goes by the name Newsted), the satisfaction of beating pop star Justin Bieber on an iTunes chart and plans for future releases from his new group. Read Part 2 of our Jason Newsted interview below:
How much of the sound of this new material came down to the fact that you did this as a three-piece. There are certain points where I hear almost jazz-like drumming and then it just turns around and kills. And interaction and response like that sometimes seems to come more easily when you have three guys that are focused on each other and locked in.
Right and these three people, you know, the one thing that’s the most valuable in any [grouping of] players is the years that they’ve spent together and how they’ve learned to become one and how they learned to become that gelling thing, like any great band that finds that place. So we’ve been together for long enough and we all have enough chops under our belts from previous [bands] and other things that we’re able to do that. Now that we have five years together as a trio, we know what’s going on and [guitarist] Jessie [Farnsworth] and Jesse [drummer Jesus Mendez] have 10 years together playing, so you can’t deny that stuff.
And that’s why it does sound the way it does, the way it syncs up like that. You can’t replace that. It’s the very most invaluable thing to have in a band. I could have put together a supergroup — and I had it all drawn out and everything and I still might [do that] someday — but that’s not what’s going on here for these songs. These cats are hard workers — they’re disciplined and they’re not drugged and they’re ready to go at it with me. They’ve paid their dues and it’s time for some credit for them.
Being able to live vicariously through them as they [experience things for the first time], like when we finished the video and they saw the first clip the other day, they were just freaking out. And I remember that feeling, you know? And I’m really happy for them in that way.
If I got supergroup guys — people bring in their baggage and they also bring in the stuff that we were just talking about. How could we get in all of those years with the guys you want to put in the supergroup if you already spent all of your years with another group? You wouldn’t have that [same feeling]. There’d be great music and everybody’s like a virtuoso and great players and all of that kind of thing, but in order to get that real, real long sink your teeth into it kind of riffs, it takes a while to gel it.
It seems like it’s very important for you to make music with friends these days.
It’s definitely important to get along with everybody. That’s really the thing, now that so much time has passed and I’ve played with lots of people. If I’m going to get serious about something, it has to be people that I really dig that are strong in their own right — go-getters and all of that. Jessie Farnsworth — the guitar guy — he’s done his own records, writing all of the songs, lead guitar guy, frontman — all of that stuff on his own. [He’s] very accomplished.
Jesus has been in all kinds of different bands, for a long, long time. They’re already accomplished in their own way, to step up and support me and believe in my vision and all of that kind of thing. It’s very helpful to have people that are that in tune with it and still are that hungry. I don’t really have to be hungry, but I am and that’s kind of cool.
What were the lyrical drivers for these songs? Looking at the lyrics, there’s a lot of different things going on, topically.
I’ve been writing lyrics for a long, long time. You look around you and see what you’re taking in from all of the data that’s in front of our faces all of the time. And that’s kind of from different stories and different things that mean something to me personally. ‘King of the Underdogs,’ there’s a little personal story vibe in there. ‘Skyscraper’ is about terrorists and you’ve gotta read in between the lines there.
‘Soldierhead’ is for all of our military service personnel guys and girls … you hear such crazy stories about all of that and I met so many thousands of soldiers in my life traveling around the world and they’ve always been so supportive of the metal, so that’s my tip of the hat to them. I’m glad that everybody loves the song for what it is, because it can represent something for all of us as they represent us.
‘Godsnake’ is a little bit deeper and it has to do with judging people. I’ve made the mistake in my travels of judging people and then getting really slapped in the face with it. I think [that’s a problem] in our society with modern day [society] anyway, at least in North America, with reality shows and all of these things where people are almost encouraged to judge others.
You know, ‘The Biggest Loser’ and this guy and this addict and this person [let’s] judge these girls for being too skinny and these girls for being too beautiful and blah blah blah. We’re really more than ever, encouraged to judge and I think that this one is about: don’t judge – be careful. If God came down as a snake, how would you judge him?
I have my notebooks and stuff and I’ve been writing poems for a long, long time. So I just pull stuff out that makes sense to me and adheres to the music. It has to tell the story. I don’t want to do any wasted words anymore. These aren’t Flotsam lyrics anymore, you know? [Laughs.]
This is the first of a three-pronged release plan. How representative is the material on this EP in comparison to the next two EPs and ultimately, the full album that’s going to come out?
That’s a good question — I can’t give up too much! [Laughs] I’ve got a little plan.
It’s all heavy music – like we started our conversation – it’s all heavy music. The logo says “Newsted Heavy Metal Music” and that’s what all of the 11 songs are. Some are more musical than others — some are heavier than others, some are more metal than others, but they’re all three, every one of them, [made up of “heavy music”], so that’s all I can really say about that.
The plan is to do three batches and depending on how the fans respond to it — how long the legs are on each one — I’ll release them accordingly. But we’ve got them already recorded. They’re already done.
Anthony Focx came in and helped us record. We just went in for a couple of weeks and did 11 songs. He’s the guy that worked on Aerosmith and the Metallica stuff for ‘Guitar Hero,’ so that was a big deal that he came in and helped us out and captured our thing, because he pretty much put the mics on, turned the light on and we just went for it. We were able to capture the moment, so we were lucky in that way for sure.
So, will the final album going to lay out in the sequence that we’re hearing it on the EPs?
Yeah. The full plan is that like today, being the initial release day for the iTunes download….which is No. 1 today on iTunes by the way. I’m pretty psyched up about that. Actually right now, I have three albums that I played on in the Top 10 in iTunes.
We’re No. 1 and ‘Justice’ is three and ‘Black Album’ is seven or something like that, so that’s kind of crazy. I did something right there along the way.
So anyway, we do the iTunes release first and [now you can visit] NewstedHeavyMetal.com [to order] the actual CD package with lyrics, and that will happen each time. So it will be available to start shipping physical copies, two weeks after each iTunes release. And then at the end of that when the final one comes and it’s the culmination of all three EPs in one thing, it will be out on vinyl with some of my artwork and all of that stuff. So it’s kind of a grand plan and I want to have it out in all forms eventually, however each individual likes to take their music on.
That’s my ultimate goal is to have it out on CD, vinyl and for iTunes.
And it seems like all of this material is coming out conveniently with the last round arriving just in time for you to hit the road for summer touring.
Yeah, that’s kind of the plan. I’m getting a lot of offers now and some pretty cool ones. People are coming with respect and that’s what has to happen. It doesn’t have to be big money, because that’s definitely not what it’s about this time. As long as we’ve got good gigs and we’re at a good place on the bill and my band is safe with decent accommodations and the venues are reputable, we’ll take it wherever we possibly can.
With the current state of the industry, it seems like everytime you make music, you’re forced to adjust to all of the things that have changed since the last time you put something out. Putting this new material out in stages, was it difficult to break it up into pieces instead of just putting it out as a full traditional album? It was actually easier and better this way and seemingly more comfortable. I think there’s about 30 or 40 percent of the old avenues left that I knew when I stepped out on the top of the metal mountain. It was different then. Things had just started coming with piracy and all of that stuff and it was just a different world when we went out with ‘Black Album’ and ‘Load’ and all of those things, it was a very, very different world.
So now there’s 30 or 40 percent of the same old ones, where you’ve got to take it to the people, no two ways about that and then the 60 or 70 percent that’s all new avenues that I need to maybe unlearn some of the old ones and relearn the new ones. And I’m trying to embrace it, like we were talking about with the social media stuff and all of that, getting it out to the people and reconnecting with the fans is the main thing first. As long as they know that it’s there and that I’m going to be playing somewhere, they’re going to show up – I’m confident of that.
There’s a lot for me to learn … a lot of unknown territory for me as far as the marketing stuff and the live stuff, so I’ve got some good people in my corner. We have a team of four people right now, including myself, and we got the EP to number one [on iTunes] the first day with just the four of us coming out of the Chophouse.
We just passed up [Justin] Bieber an hour ago and the freakin’ overall charts went up to 15, ahead of the Beatles and Bieber and all this other stuff and that’s pretty crazy considering our little metal show [that’s happening] out of my garage, you know? So we’ve been able to harness it pretty good. I’ve actually been quite enlightened by all of this.
I repelled the technology for years and years. I will always keep one big black boot in the analog — you’re not going to get that out of there — but the other one, I am reaching it out and stepping on new ground and there’s a whole lotta new stuff going on for me with this thing, man. [There’s] new roles to be played. I’m going to be the frontman. Sometimes I’m going to be playing guitar and fronting — most of the time I will be playing bass and fronting — but we will switch instruments onstage and all of that crazy stuff to keep it interesting.
So, playing guitar in front of people when I’ve just got a very much Roky Erickson approach to guitar — I know two chords and I rock it up and down the neck as hard as I can instead of [stressing about] placing it in the right places and the other guys put the color on it. I don’t pretend to be a great guitar player, I just know how I can do it and I just do it that way. The bass player [position] is a different thing because I feel very comfortable that way and when I get up to scream with it on, I’m feeling strong. But it’s some new roles that I’m assuming here, for sure.
The ability for you to announce something like this and have music out only a couple of months later probably hearkens back a little bit to your DIY beginnings as an artist. The only difference is that you’ve got the social media to help spread it now instead of having to take a tape to everybody that you want to hear about your band.
You are insightful. You think about this for a second, man, if we go for a 60 year ride back right now. ‘53, B.B. King [is] driving around the B.B. King Review in a nine door Checker cab station wagon thing, with “B.B. King Review” painted down the side.
He drove that thing around with his people and they had their record [or] 45 selling out of the trunk or whatever [and they were getting] a nickel per song or a quarter per show and [building up fans] one person at a time [with] a juke joint here and this place there, back of somebody’s place … all of that — and you have to do that today again, except that you’ve got the Internet and social media to let people know that you’re going to be there. That’s the difference.
It’s hard to sell any music or anything [like that], you get out and get as many copies sold as you can, but mostly, it’s going to be stolen and spread around the world and you just have to accept that. The new way and always way to do it, is to take it out to the people. You have to be determined to work hard, take it to the people and just let them know that you’re coming. That’s the only difference. But it’s gotta be your CD sold at your show, your t-shirt sold at your show, your trinket [with] your emblem, your Newsted Heavy Metal pendant [is] sold at the show and I know that. That’s just going to make sure that we cover the gas and stuff.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our exclusive Jason Newsted interview, in which he talks about his current relationship with the guys in Metallica and more.