After starting out in Flotsam and Jetsam, Jason Newsted was thrust into the spotlight when he was chosen to be Metallica’s bassist following the death of Cliff Burton. Since his 15 year tenure with the band ended in 2001, he’s remained active, playing with Voivod and Ozzy Osbourne, among others. Yet despite staying busy, the bassist more or less kept a low profile. That all ended last month, when he announced that he was back. He launched a website and dove into social media, setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts, but more importantly, announcing he’d formed a band, simply titled Newsted. Their first work, an EP with the equally straightforward title Metal, was released last week, where it quickly took up residence at the top of iTunes’ metal charts. We caught up with Newsted about what led him to form his new project, his thoughts on playing Metallica’s Orion Music + More festival, and how the music industry has changed in the 30 years that he’s been in it.
It seems like, at least from the outside, that everything came together very quickly with this project. Was that the case?
I started jamming with our drummer, Jesus Mendez, about ten years ago, actually. And then he brought in Jesse Farnsworth, our guitar player, about five years ago. So the trio has about five years under its belt of improvisational metal jams that we do at my Chophouse Studio. Last September, we started getting serious about it. I composed 11 songs for this offering, and we went in and knocked that out in a couple of weeks. This four song Metal EP is the first batch of those 11.
Will the four songs on the EP be on the full length?
That hasn’t been determined yet. We’ve got a bunch of songs, and we’re trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to put it out. We were talking about a plan with another EP and an album to follow, but I’m thinking it’s just going to be an LP now. Things have changed the last few days with management and offers for shows, so we’re trying to get a timeline together. It’s possible “Soldierhead” would still appear on the album, but there would be a bunch of fresh songs as well.
So the trio has been together for five years. Why did it take this long to release something?
All three of us have a bunch of musical things going on, so when we could get together over those five years, we did. Maybe five or six weekends a year. So hour for hour, not a whole lot of them put in, but we would do sessions for eight or ten hours at a time. But as far as it coming together, Jesse has his own band that he fronts and sings and plays guitar and sings in, and Jesus has his own thing. They stand on their own and do their own things away from my thing. We’re all busy with our separate things – I finished a Voivod album, and did a project with Tony Iommi, and did a bunch of paintings. So we just stayed busy, and this is one of those things that was in that time, and we really put the nose to the stone over the last six months and focused.