Jason Newsted: 'A Lot of People Can Play but It Doesn't Mean They're Cool'
Legendary bassist had a chat with UG about his way of a musician, his different bands and what "Heavy Metal Music" is really about.
Posted on Aug 23, 2013 02:26 pm
Back in December 2012, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted revealed that he was putting together a band of his own. He had been part of Flotsam and Jetsam, Voivod, Govt. Mule - and of course Metallica - but for the first time he was going to front his own band as singer and bass player. About a month later, he released "Metal," a four-song EP that featured guitarist Jessie Farnsworth and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr. Eight months after the EP dropped, Newsted put out "Heavy Metal Music," a full-length album bearing the moniker Newsted. Joined by Staind guitarist Mike Mushok, the record represented the first time Newsted had not only written every note of music but was the lead singer on all the tracks.
"Heavy Metal Music" is not surprisingly an aggressive and brutal record. At the same time it is melodic and - as Jason describes it - singalongable. The songs are stylistic by-products of watching and working alongside writers and players such as James Hetfield and Denis "Snake" Belanger, the singer in Voivod. Additionally you can hear Newsted's acknowledged influences such as Judas Priest, Motorhead and Black Sabbath.
Newsted is an intense individual and his responses would many times come out in long and brutal gushes of passion and honesty. I reminded him that wed spoken 11 years ago and broke into the interview.
UG: You've spoken about using GarageBand to write all the music that would appear on the Heavy Metal Music album. Was that an important tool for you?JN: For sure. I've been working on the same Tascam four-track machine for decades really. That's what I learned on because it was the easiest for me to get the ideas the quickest.
New technology really has been helpful in putting down your musical ideas?
This has changed the immediacy factor by quite a few percent. As long as I have my guitar in my hand, the ideas pretty much fall from the sky and then I just grab 'em. Because GarageBand is so bass player-proof, I can put a drum track on there and put the bass thing on there and a couple of guitars like first chair guitar and second chair guitar. Melody, vocal line and everything like that in a matter of 20, 30 minutes I get the skeleton of the thing together.
Just like a painting - the canvas is empty and I look at it, I attack it and whatever ends up happening I step back and go, "Holy sh-t, that was in me?"
It's amazing you can put ideas together so quickly.
No chance for it to be ruined by taking too much time or chance for a great idea to escape because you didn't take enough time or didn't have it quick enough for you - you weren't able to get it recorded quick enough and it got away from. That kind of thing. So this kind of solved all of that for me. This is the first time I have sat down seriously with my mind on writing full songs from top to bottom in my entire career. All of the tracks from top to bottom for the first time.
When you first started writing for what would eventually become songs for your own band, did you have a specific idea for the kind of music you wanted to make?
I just let it happen and did not over think it at all. Over time as a creative person - any creative person in the world and all through the generations - when you tap into the stream of consciousness (of) creativity, you're able to make that stream the more you make the channel the clearer the channel becomes. As the years goes on you're able to tap into it easier and easier and more successfully. That's what's happening now. You sat down to write and didn't filter your ideas in any way? It's the culmination of all of the experiences I've had the privilege of taking part in in my career playing with some heavyweight motherf--kers: Warren Haynes, Zakk and Devin Townsend. Not droppin' names but just sayin' these are the guys I played with. I got really lucky and tried to soak it up like a sponge when I was around any of these very, very gifted virtuoso type of people.
You were influenced along the way by all the different musicians with whom you've played?
Now this is me regurgitating all of those experiences for the first time - tapping my well for the first time. I have a very deep well and I'm 32-years in of listening and playing and have all that to regurgitate. So this is just the beginning of that and it really comes down to that. There is no over thinking and I sit down and let it happen and whatever happens happens. I do not think, "This one's gonna be fast. This one's gonna be slow. This one's gonna be heavy and this is gonna be down tuned. And this is gonna be this or that."It's a difficult thing to try and not categorize and not to write in a specific style.
It has nothing to do with that and whatever happens happens. Just like a painting - the canvas is empty and I look at it, I attack it and whatever ends up happening I step back and go, "Holy sh-t, that was in me?" That's what happens to the songs too.
Was all of the music for the album new?
There are a few songs on this "Heavy Metal Music" LP that are older that I dug out from the archives of the Chophouse. "Nocturnus" for instance was born in the '90s and it refused to die. Its riff came back in my mind just like when you got a good riff, man, and it won't leave, it won't go, it won't go away and it'll always come back? Whenever you pick up a guitar and it keeps coming back? Those things that stream out to live, "Nocturnus" is one of those riffs. So there are a few that were written in the '90s from those old things I brought back from the underground that wanted to live.
From the very beginning when I was nine years old, I got like a Sears student guitar. I didn't know how to put my left hand on the instrument or to tune it or anything.
There's a couple riff ideas that I wrote for the Supernova project - "Skyscraper" and "King of the Underdogs" came from the writing of that time that I was gonna submit songs for that project that I never did. So there are three or four from previous times but the majority of them are written on the GarageBand thing under a full moon.
Is that true?
That's kind of my trip and I've done that for a long, long time at the Chophouse. If you look at the Chophouse logo, you see this full moon in the logo? We always play music under the full moon and it's the heavy magnet that brings out the heaviest metal. That is true. So the music I wrote for the "Heavy Metal" LP in January and February was under full moons and that music was composed on the GarageBand in those weeks. Maybe it's a little trippy for some people but it's the absolute truth.
You've been a songwriter in one form or another going all the way back to Flotsam and Jetsam.
Always wrote songs, yeah. From the very beginning on my very first instrument when I was nine years old, I got like a Sears student guitar, a six-string guitar. I wrote from the first days. I didn't know how to put my left hand on the instrument or to tune it or anything. I would just play right hand only. I would compose songs and write songs about Jesus 'cause that's what I knew about at the time. I'd just write about animals and Jesus and stuff like that. I'd write the string number that I'm hitting, "One three three five three two one" and then just write little words underneath there and stuff. So it's been happening for a long, long time - 40 years I guess.
When you got into Metallica and only ended up writing three songs - "Blackened," "My Friend of Misery" and "Where the Wild Things Are" - was that frustrating?
I don't know. I think people read way more into this than ever existed. It kind of makes me crazy. I came into that band under very strange and ugly circumstances and assuming the role I had to assume to make the band as great as it could be. Everybody had their role in that band to play and nobody could do each other's role - you gotta do your own in order for the whole thing to roll around.
Just being in Metallica was more than enough for you?
I was just totally out of this world happy to be a part of my heroes and to be a part of my favorite band. I really wasn't hugely concerned about writing credits and things like that. I also was pretty ignorant to publishing stuff and really that wasn't my concern at the time. Whether it was out of ignorance or newness or innocence or whatever it happens to be or just sheer excitement. I was the live performer - I like writing songs and that's fun and neat and everything - but really all I give a sh-t about actually is about taking music to the people and it always has been that way for me.
I like writing songs and thats fun and neat and everything - but really all I give a shit about actually is taking music to the people.
You love the performance side of things?
In Metallica that was my thing and that's what James always said too: "That's the live guy." That was always my thing before he ever said it. That was the role I assumed and that's my trip. There was never really any kind of competition about writing songs or anything. I only looked up to the songwriters in Metallica and tried to make their good songs great and reinforced it with my bass stuff. That's really all there was to it. I had such mad respect for Hetfield and his writing and these guys. There was never really that kind of thing where I was like, "Oh dude, I didn't get a song on there." It wasn't really like that. I would like to think so. It just wasn't like that.
You mentioned earlier about the amazing guitar players with whom you've worked. What did you see in guitarist Jessie Farnsworth that lit you up?
It's more about being cool first and more about being a bro and being able to hang out and deal with my shit and all that kind of thing. Because there's a lot of people that can play and there's a lot people that have nice drumsets and there's a lot of nice shiny Les Pauls and big stacks and shit like that. A lot of people can play but it doesn't mean they're cool. You know? It's a matter of finding somebody you can get along with and so Jesus (Mendez Jr., drums) and Jessie and me got a lot of years together of getting along and just jammin' improv slabs of metal and stuff. As soon as we finally put our noses to the stone to get focused on it, it was pretty obvious it was gonna happen. We'd already put a lot of years in learning each other's styles and gelling together so that was already done pretty much without us even knowing it by all the hours we'd put in at the Chophouse. Before there was any focus on anything real.
You brought in Mike Mushok for the "Heavy Metal Music" album. What attracted you to him?Mike Mushok is the same thing - he's a very good person and hardworking, motivated, clear eyed and disciplined. The important part is when it's time to work we work hard and we go in and go hours and hours like that to make it happen. But when it's time to get our drink on and have a good time and get f--ked up together and all that stuff, we do that too. We don't do it before we play but we do it when we decide to do it. It's really important in a band to be able to do that with your brothers. Those are the main important things.
You can hang out with somebody in the band but they still have to be able to play.
If you're asking about the musicianship or the prowess of the instrumentalist, it's not always that. A lot more of it these days is somebody that can deal with everything you have to deal with in this world at this point. Then somebody that can support me both mentally and brotherly and all that besides being a great instrumentalist and a good singer like Jessie Farnsworth. There's no weak link in this band. Jessie Farnsworth fronts his own band as a lead singer and the main writer of his band, the Backstabbers out of Fresno, California. He's his own dude in his own band. It's like a second frontman in our band. Our vocals together I think is very special and something a lot of metal bands as heavy as we get that don't have that. Very few bands have the vocal stuff we've got going. So that's what Jessie brings.
Mike Mushok is a very good person and hardworking, motivated, clear eyed and disciplined.
What's it like playing with drummer Jesus Mendez Jr?Jesus and all the years we've played together, anything I can throw at him of any style or any sideways timing or f--ked up things, he can always react to it. It's all about contrapuntal playing and he's always able to throw something in an action/reaction thing back to me for us to make music for more than 10 years now. Those things are really, really important. We've proved it with our fun jams before we had to get serious about the jams.
Was the "Metal" EP meant to be a testing of the waters?
Absolutely. When the EP was invented in 1968 or '71 or whenever the hell it first came out, it was meant to be a sampler, a primer of what's to come on the full-length record. That's what we did with the "Metal" EP. That's exactly what it was. Clutch and Down did it and on iTunes you can put out an EP and you don't have to do a full album process or the tangible product or all the manufacturing costs or any of that stuff. You just kind of check on what the people are diggin' and if anybody gives a sh-t about your music anymore and that's what I decided to do. I was away from it for so long and I'd always repelled the social media thing and all that 'cause I'm an analog dude. So now I'm trying to embrace it and it's a wonderful thing. I'm trying to learn from it every day and that's just trying to adapt to this new world that I haven't been in for a while.
Can you rundown the music on "Metal?"
We took two songs - "Soldierhead" and "King of the Underdogs" - over onto the LP so we gave 'em the direction we were gonna go in. I think the 22 minutes that are on the "Metal" EP are very indicative of what's to come and it covers a lot of ground. "Skyscraper" is the stony metal kind of rock anthem with a great freakin' slabby groove thing. "Godsnake" is down tuned heavy holy shit. "...Underdogs" is like this bouncy, singalongable thing and "Soldierhead" is a straight thrash metal song. So we're showing we have all of this ground to cover but it's all heavy metal music.
The Metal EP was recorded as a trio with you, Jessie Farnsworth and Jesus Mendez Jr. But you brought in Mike Mushok on second guitar for the Heavy Metal Music album. Did you always see Newsted as a two-guitar band?
Like the first one thing we talked when I composed on the GarageBand, I always composed first and second chair guitars. There was always the absolute plan to perform as a four-piece band. If it was ever gonna go live and if the EP and the testing of the waters was successful and we were gonna perform the songs live, it was always gonna be a four-piece plan. That was always the plan. On the "Metal" EP Jessie plays guitar and I play guitar.
My whole trip was that it really comes from a more absolute genuine and almost maybe innocent place.
Back in 1968, Iron Butterfly released their first album and called it "Heavy."
I remember the cover. I remember the photo.
Everybody was saying, "How can you call your album Heavy when there are bands around like Zeppelin and Hendrix?" So it's interesting you'd call your first solo album "Heavy Metal Music." It's a great record title but one that may have caused some backlash?
(laughs) I love it, I love it, I love it! No, there's no chip on my shoulder, dude. I have nothin' to prove to no f--ker. I really don't have to worry about that so much. My whole trip was that it really comes from a more absolute genuine and almost maybe innocent place.
There's a lot of respect in that title?
From a metal kid's heart in the way that from age 23 to 38 I was in a band called Metallica, right? I was taught by the people - the crew, managers, the band, the family of Metallica - to have a worldwide view. From day one, it was a global outlook. Metallica was worldwide web before there was a worldwide web and that was always taught to me that the band always approached it as a world thing. World domination. I've played in 50 or 52 countries in my career and I think all the languages, dialects, sizes, shapes, sizes and colors and ethnicities of people, no matter what language you speak, heavy metal music is heavy metal music. Newsted is Newsted. If you've been in touch with any hard rock music in the last 30 years, you know what those words mean together. That's pretty much my deal.
Have fans or critics misunderstood the title?
It didn't have anything to do with teasing somebody or going, "Oh, look at me - heavy metal music." I know Slayer's out there. What? F--k me, man. I know Slipknot's out there. C'mon, what? I know Sepultura rules. I'm not saying, "Hey, I'm heavy metal and nobody else is." I'm saying, "This is heavy metal music. This is my approach after I've had 30 years to take it in. To be taught from the greatest teachers and to play with some of the greatest players that have ever played in our music. The inventors of our styles of music."You've played with some of metal's kings.
I did a record with Tony Iommi a couple of years ago, didn't I? I mean think about this sh-t. It's my regurgitation of what my take on heavy metal music is. It's also a bold statement in the way I want it to be very clear to everybody what I'm doing this time. Because I have played with Echobrain and I have played with Govt. Mule and DJ Shadow and Sepultura and Tina Turner and all these other things. So why don't we make it very clear what's gonna happen this time all across the world. No confusion.
There's a lot of people that are heavy and a lot of people playing metal but not everybody plays music.
Do you take on different personalities when you play with various musicians? Do you tap into different emotions fronting your own band than you would performing with Tony Iommi for example?
The foundation of the conviction is the same and it's always been the same. OK? But say for Tony's scenario, I had to come in with the greatest respect that I have ever shown at any time in any recording in my career so far. You come in in a very humble way. Like, "OK, man. I will do my best for you, Godfather." Really. Still I'm standing on the very strong ground of the same conviction when I had the Newsted band but this is my sh-t. I get to decide what I say in-between songs to the people; I get to decide what I say in the songs to the people. It's my voice and my name and my throat and my sweat and all that. It's a very different kind of approach that I would take to Tony's thing because I come into Tony's thing with my head down. I come into this thing with my f--kin' chin up and read to kick a-s. So there are differences but the ground is still the same that I'm launching from.
"Heroic Dose" was the first track released from the "Heavy Metal Music" album. It's a big rocker with dueling guitars. Why did you choose that song?
With "Heroic Dose," I wasn't sure what the single was going to be. I had three different ideas of what it was going to be. This has all happened quite fast. Our band's been together about five months and everything that's happened that we're speaking of is happening now. New managers, new agents, new licenses across the world to help get this music to the people and I rely on this new team to give me an objective view on what singles are gonna hit in which places around the globe. I think we've got 11 separate licenses for this record around the world and some people are taking "Soldierhead" to the people first and some people are taking "As the Crow Flies" to the people first. Some people taking "Long Time Dead" to the people first and in North America they're taking "Heroic Dose" to the people first. That in itself gives me a lot of hope that there's much of a difference of opinion that those songs are all strong enough to lead the pack. So that's pretty bitchin'.
There is a musicality about "Heroic Dose."
As far as the "Heroic Dose" thing, it's very representative of what the album encompasses. 'Cause it's very musical, which is the number one thing. Music is the most important. There's a lot of people that are heavy and a lot of people playing metal but not everybody plays music. The music is the most important part. So it's a very musical thing and heavy, catchy and singalongable and all that kind of thing. And representative too because I think the lyric content of that song is for everybody and everybody can relate it to their own circle in one way or another. That you gotta take your chances and stand up for yourself. "Heroic dose/I take." I'm not afraid to take a heroic dose and I come back a better man for it.
Dave Mustaine talked recently about not being afraid to incorporate melody in thrash metal. Your comment about the music being heavy, catchy and melodic reflects that same attitude. Right?
Yes, and I do like the new Megadeth thing too. Melody is very important because we said just a minute ago there's a lot of cats that can go super fast and play their different levels of thud in their records and all of that and it's all real cool and there's a time and a place for it. But for me as the time has gone by there's gotta be musicality to it. And as my mind gets more open to more styles as I get older, it doesn't matter to me what genre it's coming from - if it's good it's good. There's all there is to it.
So you would listen to other styles of music?
If there's an Eminem song that's good, it's f--kin' good. The Lil' Wayne song is f--kin' good and that's all. There doesnt have to be a, "He's that color and he comes from this city and he does that and this is what he does in his personal life. And blah blah blah." Who gives a f--k? Is the song good? Is it musical? Then good, let's roll. That's where it's at. You shouldn't ever have to think about something like a painting or a song. Either it hits you or it doesn't; either it moves you or it doesn't. There's no need to over think it.
As the singer in Newsted, has it taken you some time to find your own voice and style as a vocalist?
For sure. It's been 10 or 12 years that I've been trying to get to an actual singing voice. Ever since I stepped out of Metallica, I've pretty much come away from just the Cookie Monster only type of approach. It started with Dylan Donkin in Echobrain. We started messing with Echobrain in 1998, 1999 and this kid was Jeff Buckley incarnate as far as his voice goes.
You were a big Jeff Buckley fan?
He had never heard Jeff Buckley and that's the reason I put so much money in it was for that simple fact - he'd never heard the guy and he sounded just like him. I was such a huge fan. So this single guitar accompaniment for a nice voice on a Buckley or a Neil Young song or something like that is something that really appealed to me. I started trying to do it myself and I started trying to mess with it and take notes from Dylan. He was trained very early on to just know naturally about all harmonies and building vocal walls and amazing things.
Dylan Donkin was a really good singer.
We talked about this earlier in our life (Jason referred to our first interview years ago) so you know Dylan's mom used to write songs for children and taught Dylan all those harmonies and stuff. From age six, he sang backgrounds on her recordings for the kids so he learned all those melodies and harmonies over time. He tried to show those to me and I tried to soak 'em up.
There doesn't have to be a, "He's that color and he comes from this city and he does that and this is what he does in his personal life." Is the song good? Is it musical? Then good, let's roll.
Was that a difficult process?
I tried to learn a Neil Young song and sat there and accompanied myself and actually tried to sing a little bit. To see if I could stretch out and not be afraid to make some mistakes and stuff and not be afraid to fail like that. I went through that for a while and when Papa Wheelie started kickin' up and I was playing guitar in there and playing slabs of guitar chords. Being able to just hold the chord and sing over the top and actually start trying to sing loud through the mic and not just accompanying on acoustic. So that started melding into playing heavier music with Papa Wheelie and sing and sing.
Papa Wheelie was where you first really stepped out as the lead singer?
Yeah. Six years went by, eight years went by and I was trying to hone that. In the meantime, Snake in Voivod is my greatest teacher for the vocal thing. Hetfield does really great on lyrics and no question about it. But I think Snake is actually better and Snake is the best in my opinion as far as weaving the words and taking the voice as another instrument in the band and not just something that soars over the top of the music. But something that's within and weaves the words around and makes sense. Being that English is his second language, there's no fodder and there's no wasted words. So being effective and making every word count with the weaving.
Then your main vocal teachers in a sense were James Hetfield, Dylan Donkin and Snake?
Between those things like Dylan, Snake and James's foundation, that's where I kinda took it from. As I got more comfortable with holding the guitar chord and singing and finding that melody over that guitar chord, then I morphed that into the bass lines. And as you listen to the Newsted songs you'll hear that they are call-and-response compositions. So it's riff and then I sing, riff and then I sing. It's like vocal and then the band answers. That's how most if not all of these compositions are. So that I can still lay down the bass line and keep the concrete going and still be able to have a melody line in the vocal going that has nothing to do with the bassline. So that's really quite a challenge. Every day we go out and play right now it's a challenge for me and I welcome it wholeheartedly.
Developing that sympathy between the hands the voice while playing bass is very difficult.
Yeah, bass and singing is just out of this world. Guitar and singing all day long is no problem. But bass and singing? Whew.
You think of singing bass players and Geddy Lee comes to mind.Geddy is number one, yeah. Phil Lynott. Lemmy. Lemmy also builds his same waycall-and-response.
Paul McCartney?McCartney as well.
There are some great bass moments in "Soldierhead" and "King of the Underdogs." Have you been able to get your bass ya ya's out on this album?
Yes (laughs). More than ever before. This is the most supported and the most happy I've been in band - I can tell you that right through and through. It feels like I got people behind me that really support my vision. So it's kinda like levitating around the stage pretty much every and just kind of floating around.
It must feel amazing to be able to play what you want to play and not be stifled at any point.
But yeah, being able to reach out and people are paying attention to what I play. I've got my rig together and it sounds all f--kin' ugly and beautiful at the same time. You know what I mean?
Your bass sound on the album was very cool. Admittedly there were times in Metallica when it was a bit difficult to hear what you were playing.
For sure, right.
You've always used a pick on bass?
Yeah, for live stuff I always play with a pick. I do some recording with my fingers. There's been a few songs in my career that I've recorded with my fingers like "Unforgiven" and things like that.
Even going back to the Flotsam and Jetsam days, you were already rocking it with the pick.
I wouldn't be able to do that with my fingers. There's only a few cats that can do that. Like Robert (Trujillo) can, maybe Steve Harris can but there's not very many guys that play that fast with their fingers.
You mentioned earlier that "Nocturnus" was an older song you had?
Yep, it's probably 20-something years old that idea and like I said it just didn't want to die. So it deserved to live loud now.
How would you describe the sessions for "Heavy Metal Music?"
We all played together. This is the first worldwide release album from the Chophouse after 22 years. So it's a pretty big landmark for us. To record the drums we all played together and jam it out and get the live vibe as much as we can. I do the bass and keep whatever I can from the bass we recorded. Then whatever I don't like I'll go back and either fix it or just replay it. Most of the stuff is one or two takes; most of the drum stuff is one or two takes.
I don't plan on competing with any bands - that's not the deal. It's not about competition. It's about taking music to the people and thats that.
What was it like recording the bass tracks?
Most of the bass stuff, I think I did all the bass in probably two days. So it's just quick application and the real deal right now with warts and all. The human factor is so important in this day-and-age 'cause so many f--kers remove it and take the life out of the music. Because of the digital stuff, they want it to be all perfect and crap. I am exactly in the opposite boat. I don't want to do that.
There is an organic quality to the music. You can tell Jesus is playing a real set of drums and not...
...Yeah, triggers and everything sampled up and everything like that. We'll use some of the things and some of the technology that's at our disposal to capture it. Like we'll capture it on Pro Tools and do all those things but as far as cheating? F--k that. Nope, not gonna do it.
As the producer, did you learn from some of the people you worked with along the way? Bob Rock?
I was not paying enough attention back then to learn any of those techniques or anything like that. I smoked way too much pot back then and I was way, way too excited about what was happening around me to be thinking about that kind of thing. I picked up maybe a couple miking techniques and stuff but as far as compression and all those tricks Bob used and everything, I got no idea, man. I know what I like when I hear it and I know what I'm after. I know what I want it to sound like and I try to get as close to that as I can and know when to say when. Like the most important thing in life - knowing when to say when. So there you.
Would it be accurate in describing "Futureality" as having a Black Sabbath vibe?
Yeah, for sure. I think all of the teachers and the influences are very, very plain to hear and see there. "Soldierhead" is Motorhead and "Futureality" is Black Sabbath. "Heroic Dose" is Judas Priest and you know what I mean? It's just pretty obvious with all of our great teachers and how far they went into our psyche for us to spit 'em back out this many years later. And for them to play such a big part in what actually the result is from our hands and our hearts. So it's easy to see the teachers but they are the right teachers so there you to go.
Talking about Sabbath, have you heard the "13" album?
They can do no wrong. You can't tell the inventors what to do or what not to do. You're not gonna tell Thomas Edison he's got the wrong f--king filament in the light bulb. Are you?
You touched earlier on playing with Tony Iommi on "Out of My Mind" from the Who Cares project. That was really special for you?
Absolutely surreal kind of thing when the absolute teacher and inventor of our style calls you up and let alone knows your name. And tracks your ass down and actually play bass on a song to help benefit kids to learn music. I mean how many more layers of awesome do you need? That's, "Holy crap." You go, "OK, do you wanna come play on a track J?" I'm like, "What time? What time you need me there? Tonight? What time?" There was not even a breath in-between. Let's f--kin' do it.
Do you still have a relationship with Sepultura?
I try to. I'm still a great fan and I always will be. I still listen to them before I go onstage every day. "Dead Embryonic Cells" every day. That is a special thing and Andreas's solo record ("Hubris" I & II)is still in the shuffle on my CD player. It's been there for probably two years and it never came out. So that's kind of where that's at. I'm a great, great fan of Andreas (Kisser). Between him and Devin and Mike Mushok, those are the three very, very serious guitar players I have the most respect for.
Were you a Staind fan?
Nope. I knew they existed and I knew they had American radio power. I knew they were from that frame and I knew their timeline but I did not know they were so heavy in the beginning. I didn't know Mike was a virtuoso absolute f--king shredder. I had no idea. I don't think a lot of people did until these last couple of months. Now they know and when they listen to this record, he's finally got to unleash his sh-t he's been working on for 30 years. There's nobody that plays guitar more than Mike that I've ever been around. Every waking moment when he's not eating or sleeping he's playing. I'm not exaggerating.
Playing with Mike Mushok and Jessie Farnsworth feels completely different than working with James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett?
For sure. Different gelling and a different mutual respect factor. There's all kinds of different things that exist to make this happen. Coming into the Metallica thing, I was coming in with my eyes wide open and jumping into a band of my heroes. All of a sudden I've become their peer and I'm like, "OK." So that was the ground I was standing on for that whole time in that band. I had so much respect for these guys. I spent a bunch of time learning their songs and playing them in Flotsam and Jetsam (laughs) before I got in their band. So that was kind of a different thing when I'm looking around going, "Holy shit. Really? Wow, this is loud."Certainly that's not how you feel playing with the guys in Newsted?
With these guys it's very much an even, even keel right across the board. If anything they're looking up to me a little bit and that feels good.
You're now out on the Gigantour with Megadeth and Black Label Society?
It is very cool, dude. Dave and I have been friends for 28 years now. There has always been a good friendship and there's never been a down part of it for us. Which is a pretty cool thing to say because you don't get to have that many friends for that long. In 1985, he gave Flotsam the first opportunity to play outside of Arizona and our first chance to play in California. That was opening for Megadeth in 1985. Here we are 28 years later and I'm still a opener and supporting him. We're still alive and laughing and kicking ass so there you go. That's like a success story.
And Zakk Wylde is always cool.Zakk, yeah. We've got some history. We definitely crushed a few f--kers in our day for sure.
How does it feel having completed the "Heavy Metal Music" album and touring to support it?
You're in a good place? That's true. Yeah, definitely. I wouldn't have probably said that if we had this interview in the middle of April as we were just finishing the record. I'm not sure how I would of predicted what was to come. But now that we're four months into this show-wise and we've played 17 countries now already for all these people, this was destiny. This was karmatic - this was absolutely meant to happen. This had to be. There was no way this could have all fallen into place like this. Everything working the way it's worked and all the positive energy and overwhelming positive response of reviews to the music and the reaction of the people around the world so far to the music. I could never have imagined it would be so successful. So that is a wonderful surprise. Because I really am trying to keep low expectations that are reasonable so I can have quite a surprise. Instead of setting myself up for some grand fall. I don't plan on competing with any bands - that's not the deal. It's not about competition. It's about taking music to the people and that's that. There's room for everybody, man. Like we said before if you're good, you're good and that's it.
We speak every 11 years and it's always a pleasure.
Whether we need to or not.
Play and sing all the good notes out there.
I'll try my best. You know. I appreciate your help, man. Thank you. Cheers.
Interview by Steven Rosen