Perhaps the best way to start off 2013, at least according to Jason Newsted, is to just hit the ground running by releasing a new EP of songs after roughly three years of musical silence. Unless you’ve been living in a cave on the moon since 1986, metal fans would be well aware that Newsted took a hold of the bass playing role in Metallica following the death of Cliff Burton, and occupied that slot for 15 years before shocking the metal community and departing in January 2001. This split was well documented in the press, as well as the documentary “Some Kind of Monster,” and no doubt left both sides with chilled emotions towards one another. Metallica ventured their own way while Newsted briefly played bass for Ozzy Osbourne and dove into Canadian metal veterans Voivod as well as his various other projects that have circulated since the 1990s. In 2006, a shoulder injury would sideline Newsted for a few months, but he would join Metallica at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for both the ceremony and performance in 2009. In 2011, he would appear again with metal pioneers Tony Iommi and Ian Gillan for the Whocares EP, in addition to the few appearances with his band Papa Wheelie opening for Kyuss Lives.
Newsted might have been busy with his painting and various musical endeavors, but by and large he was relatively quiet in the public’s eye. In a ‘no rest for the wicked’ type of mindset, Newsted wasn’t going to sit still, or even let his shoulder injury sideline him. “I still kept going, playing music whenever I could,” he says. “I designed all kinds of things with slings to fit my guitar against my body so I could still play and fingerpick.”
Then comes December of 2012, when Newsted’s website hits the internet and the public is graced with the news that the musical juices he’s brewed for the last short while have culminated in his new solo project, titled Newsted, which is set to release a total of 11 songs this year, in three separate batches. In a video posting on his website, Newsted introduces a clip of his new project while stating that there will be no press releases or big announcements, just strictly postings on his website and a grassroots word-of-mouth approach. “It’s the best way to get this going,” explains Newsted to ZT over the phone. “I’ve learned over time that all of the time that I spent sharing with all the fans over the years, I always took that time as a balance and a fuel to create those relationships, they are all coming back 1000 fold. There was so much positive karma and feedback coming from the fans, new and old, that I wanted to make sure that they understood that they are a part of this. Everybody was so jacked up and happy to see me that I was overwhelmed with the positive vibes and I said ‘I want YOU guys to help me first, let’s see how this rocks.’ This is part of my plan, tactically; to get the word out in the ways that I can that’s still pure. I want to make sure that I talk to everybody, and that I talk to everybody on Facebook. Each night I designate time after the studio to make sure to answer people and keep that going. The contacts that I’ve been making with people for 30 years I just picked back up again.”
Being the workhorse that he is, Newsted states that he took the reins of this band and its music from the beginning, with a little from the new technology that has appeared recently. “I composed some songs on Garage Band, I just starting warming up the computers and got my first iPhone this year and all this crap,” states the workaholic. “I’ve been an analog guy for all this time and fighting for it ‘til the death and still fight for it in the studio. With this stuff I started composing on Garage Band and put all these songs together, wrote all the parts and play drum machine and stuff. Then I gave them to these guys to learn their parts, then they came back into the Chophouse and we started to rehearse.” Despite being the main composer of this project, he certainly isn’t alone. Rounding out his trio are Jesus Mendez Jr. on the drums and Jesse Farnsworth on guitar and bass, with Newsted also switching guitar and bass roles as the songs dictate in addition to all of the vocals. “People always wanted me to sing, and now I’m doing it. Singing for real, not the cookie monster crap. It’s exciting for me dude!” For any band to gel or formulate pure music, there still has to be a personal connection, and Newsted elaborates that his partners in crime are no mere acquaintances, but rather musicians he’s known for quite some time. “I’ve been playing with these guys for about 5 years as a trio, and playing with Jesus for about ten years in my studio, the Chophouse. He’s been in the camp for probably about 14 years or so, he used to work for Metallica and he worked for Echobrain [Newsted’s first post-Metallica band – ed.]. And now he’s doing this thing with me.”
During the past 11 years that he has been out of Metallica, Newsted has appeared to have kept his strong stance against critics and naysayers. “There’s plenty of music for everybody, no need for negative crap. I don’t think I have to prove anything to anybody at this point,” he explains. “It just doesn’t matter. I don’t look at that the way I used to ya know? Now it’s like ‘dude, you are not going to write anything I haven’t seen. When you make an album that’s better than mine, let me know.’” While explaining that the Voivod material is perhaps what he is the most proud of, Newsted also elaborates that he is especially proud of his lyrics on these forthcoming songs. “I love languages and double and triple entendre. When you see the lyrics you’ll understand, and the people that do understand language a little bit better will see all the things, and give yourself a minute with them and see all the things that come out of one sentence. That’s the thing I’m proud of the most because you can read into it whatever you want to read the most. And those are the best kinds of lyrics because you can say ‘he’s singing about MY shit’ and ‘how did he know that about me?’ Everybody can relate.”
With an impressive resume like Newsted’s, one would expect a grandiose release with multiple packaging options and merchandise galore, but he clearly isn’t interested in any of this and is instead opting for an initial iTunes only release, with the first four songs hitting the internet back in the first part of January. “The idea is that it’s going to be in three batches. At the end of the third batch you can complete, on iTunes, you can just push the ‘complete album’ button so you don’t have to pay for anything twice.” But for the die-hard album collector, there will be an eventual album release later on “album-wise, CD-wise, vinyl and everything, will be the complete form of the whole artist vision, or whatever you want to call it. All 11 tracks.”
Prior to release date of the first EP, the track “Soldierhead” debuted via “Eddie Trunk Live” on SiriusXM. The track is pretty much what you would come to expect from this man. “It’s Newsted, Metal, you know what you’re going to get.” It’s energetic and high octane with a relentless rhythm, along with the lyrics that Newsted is proud of. In a world where metal bands are just out to top one another with more blast beats or amazingly technical riffs and solos, it’s certainly a breath of fresh air to hear a straight-forward kick-ass track. “I’ve never painted myself in a corner,” Newsted adamantly declares. “I’ve always been known for playing thrash metal – banging and going fast has been my forté. But, it’s also known that I reach out and try to go to other places and I don’t do just one-dimensional stuff. I’ve got big black boots in the metal FOREVER, and then I’ve got one out exploring what else is there. But that one is always in the metal.” To accompany this single, the band spent roughly 16 hours filming a video that Newsted bluntly sums up with “I want everyone in the corners of the globe to have access to this video. It’ll be my calling card from hell. Or heaven, whichever.” The track “Soldierhead” is indeed a great first punch from this project of Newsted’s and one can only twitch in eager anticipation of what will come next when you hear the man describe the remainder of his songs by saying “Just the last couple of years, I’ve started realizing what songs were and how they were constructed properly. I’ve always just played metal and blasted it out and the guitars and the bass played roughly the same thing. Now I see what the orchestra of the band can be, no matter if its three players or four or ten.”
The hope of Newsted hitting the road in support of his new material is certainly a possibility, but for now, he just has to take it one step at a time, seeing as he’s eyeballs deep in every aspect of this endeavor. To put it in Newsted’s words “I might have bit off this huge bite, not sure of how big it was, and now I’m kind of seeing it. I’m chewing on it and going ‘ooooh shit!’” Through further explanation, Newsted states that offers are always present, but it has to be the right situation for him to jump into, especially in regards to his band, and his vast network of contacts always keep an eye out for live prospects. “We have a lot of promoters and stuff coming out these last few days, especially since they’ve heard the music, trying to get me all kinds of offers,” he says before summing it all up by simply saying “We’ll believe it when we’re neck-deep in it. In this business you’ve got to be very, very careful. People can make a lot of dough off this, and they have to be the right people if they’re going to share my hard work, then they have to work their asses off too.”
Newsted and his band will no doubt have a busy year ahead of them with three sets of new songs set to be released to a salivating public. You as the listener and reader are certainly willing to jump along for the ride, but Newsted still firmly maintains “I’m doing it because I want to do it, I don’t have to.” Anyone familiar with Newsted’s hard work will no doubt expect a solid and pure offering of music that has his stamp of approval before it goes beyond the studio. At the end of the day, he sums it up best by saying “I have reasonable expectations about this thing, not lofty ones, and whoever wants to share it, I want to share it with them. And anyone who doesn’t, peace!”
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