Former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted was interviewed on the August 29 edition of the SiriusXM satellite radio show “Eddie Trunk Live”. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On his decision to shut down the NEWSTED band in early 2014 and go silent for more than two years:
Jason: “All that time [recording and touring with NEWSTED] was incredible. All through that time, pretty much from fall of 2012 all the way through making the record, getting Mike Mushok [guitar] in the band with Jesus [Mendez Jr., drums] and Jessie [Farnsworth, guitar] and making all that music and taking it around the world and going to play Donington again and all that cool stuff happened. We went and did a European tour and then we went out with [MEGADETH‘s] Dave [Mustaine] and Dave [Ellefson] there for the Gigantour and had some fun in the States and did all that. We had such a great time with the guys that were assembled as the NEWSTED band; those were true musicians as brothers. That’s the real deal. We got done with that tour about middle of August 2013, and I had come home from the tour and I wrote the second NEWSTED album. I made CDs for the boys, their copies for them to learn the eleven new [songs]. And so we were planning to do some other big shows, and there was all kind of cool offers coming through, and I was really trying to field it the best I could, wearing all the hats and all the shoes at the same time and everything. [I was] trying to get some help from certain management agencies, but it was quite difficult, and I have high expectations and conditions and standards and all that stuff. A couple of different elements came into play. The manager that had taken us on to take the NEWSTED band around the world, help us get all those gigs and everything, he had gotten on the ground floor with a band called FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE, who became gigantic in the country music world — beyond gigantic; like Grammies and holy business. I think they actually beat Elvis Presley‘s record for a single being on the charts for the longest of all time. So things like this. He came to us honestly and said, ‘I’m not gonna be able to be in your corner anymore, because I have to go with these guys and do this. You understand?’ I said, ‘Yes, I understand.’ So that came into play — a little bit of a wobbly situation there in the handling. And we booked to do the Australian shows, the Soundwave [festival] in February  that [promoter] AJ Maddah had for, I don’t know, a dozen years or so, he had it going.
“It’s a very interesting story. AJ Maddah was one of the biggest promoters in the Pacific Rim for the last decade and a half or something like that. He started out as a young man. I didn’t know this about him until he came to me at Donington, now called the Download festival. We were getting ready to play. I was in my last thirty minutes, getting ready for the stage, so all the doors [were] closed and nobody [could] come in. The boys were doing their thing. The manager comes in and says, ‘There’s somebody here I’d really like you to say ‘Hi’ to for a second.’ So I come back out and get myself back together and presentable. And he says, ‘Hey, man, I wanna take a second of your time. This is AJ Maddah from Australia, and he does Soundwave.’ I said, ‘Hey, man, nice to meet you.’ He goes, ‘Well, we’ve met before.’ I said, ‘Really?’ He goes, ‘When I was 16 years old, we followed METALLICA around when you guys came down to Australia to play,’ and it was one of my very favorite places to play. And he said, ‘You were so cool to us. You got us passes and backstage and you invited us to the next shows to follow you guys around, and we got to know Big Mick,’ our sound guy, ‘and all that stuff through time, and you guys were so cool to us. And I remember you asked me, Jason, what I was gonna do, and I told you I was gonna go in the music business. And you said to me, Jason, ‘AJ, if you’re gonna do that for real, bro, and you’re being serious, get behind the lights. Get behind. You’ll have a lot longer career if you handle the people going through the lights and you’re behind. You’ll have a better chance of making something happen.’ So he was telling me all this, that ‘you were so cool to me, and you told me to go in music that way, and now I’m the biggest promoter in the Pacific Rim.’ And he says, ‘I’m 40 now.’ And I’m, like, ‘Okay, dude.’ And he says, ‘I really like the NEWSTED band, and I’d like you guys to come down and play for Soundwave for me.’ He’s looking me in the eyes. And I’m, like, ‘Of course, bro. Okay, after that story.’ I thought this guy was gonna come here and say, ‘Hey, my favorite song is this, and my little brother loves the band,’ or something like that. But he drops this on me, and I’m, like,’ Dude, what time do you want us there?’ That’s my attitude right there. I couldn’t wait to take NEWSTED to Australia. He said, ‘Man, I’ll put you on the main stage. You’re gonna be doing this and this and this.’ He looked me in my face. And I said, ‘All right.’
“In its day, [Soundwave] would draw fifty thousand [people] to Adelaide and seventy thousand to Sydney. And it would always have the most awesome acts of all diverse array of really popping stuff — dance stuff and heavy stuff and everything in between, and it was really successful for a long time, but logistically quite a nightmare. And he was trying to always call the biggest bands from the West to come out, the biggest bands from North America, the biggest bands all over the place, to try to get this thing together and get that many people to show up. So as the shows grew closer in February, all the logistics from their side started going quite haywire, and the promise, or the word, of a handshake, of him saying [we would get to play] the main stage and all these different things, that was changing rapidly, and I couldn’t get straight answers from across the world. So getting those answers from that place a day and a half behind or ahead, all this communication became pretty much a headache. And I could not get any real answers of where I was gonna take my boys, when I was gonna take them, and who I was gonna be playing with and what time and on what stage. And I’ve been in this for long enough that I’m not gonna do that. We’re sitting here, and they still don’t know, so we’re gonna go over there, and what happens when we get there, if they can’t tell me now? So there was no way I was gonna take my boys into all that stuff, so I just pulled back from it, and they couldn’t give me any answers, so I ended up pulling out of that thing. So after all of that weird political whatever the heck went on within that hubbub of that show, I got really disheartened. I had the record ready, I had it ready to record, and we were trying to make a decision right there. So that takes me into March of 2014. And I’m trying to decide whether I’m gonna put some more money in, get Mushok back out to live in Cali for another six weeks in a house with us and trying to make the record and do those things, or I’m gonna try to book some more shows or take a minute and get a proper manager. The agent was still trying to help in getting those gigs, but he really kind of got blown out because I pulled out of those Australian shows. It was my own money I had to pay back for forfeiting the contract and all that. Everything for the NEWSTED band or these labors of love is always my dime. I do it ’cause I choose to do it, with my money, but after a while, it gets to the point [where it’s like], ‘Hey, man, I need to make sense with the dough for us to get respect, keep the legacy going and all that at the same time, and I always had to consider that. And so, getting into March and April [of 2014], [I was] trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it. In the meantime, my mom got real sick. So as those weeks transpired through spring of 2014, everything changed priority-wise, perspective-wise, all that type of stuff, started switching. So everything, including the NEWSTED second album, including any kind of other things that were gonna come up and any other projects I had or any other plans that I had take the fifth, twelfth, eighteenth-row backburner so that we can do what we need to do.
“I was not interested in letting anybody know about anything. It was nobody’s business, really, about any kind of social media things or what was going on within my people or any of that, and so I just didn’t really wanna bother with any of that until I had the energy and presence of mind to be able to talk to you today about it and let people know that I always appreciated their encouragement and their positive vibrations they sent to me. People just have to understand that when these type of things come in your life that you really do get some heavy, heavy perspective. And so that’s what changed for me.”
On how his mother’s illness and eventual passing in March of this year inspired his current acoustic-based projects:
Jason: “What transpired was I had to keep playing, and she knows I had to keep playing. So I picked up the acoustic and started doing what I was able to do when I was just hanging around her, and started learning my cowboy chords and started collecting my songs. This was about the beginning of summer of 2014. So I would play certain songs for her, kind of choking through ’em — a bass player playing heavy handed on the acoustic guitar and just banging these cowboy chords out and learning Johnny Cash and Neil Young and George Jones and some more popular things like that. And by now, a couple of years later, I’ve dug in a lot deeper than that, but it was originally inspired by that thing, where I’d play mom songs. And she wouldn’t necessarily remember, the next day or the next couple of days, which ones I’d played for her, and so she would react to certain songs the same way each time she heard them as if she was hearing them the first time. And so that kind of showed me which ones to chase, that showed me which ones had the groove, which ones my voice fit with, and all that. That’s how I started collecting my songs. I had to keep playing music, of course, but the way and the form that it had to take was me with an acoustic, one voice, working through those songs as I had to put everything else on hold.”
On whether launching a new band like NEWSTED was harder than he thought it would be:
Jason: “Yes. I didn’t really know what to expect, ’cause I’d only ever know one kind of thing, and we [METALLICA] were in the middle of helping pioneer it and kind of invent it as it went. And so making the rules and setting the standard is different than having to live by those rules later. And those rules kind of changed a bit or had to be altered or… No, no, that’s not true. The rules are the same, but there are a lot more people having to follow those rules and willing to play for less money and do things for less money following those rules. So that’s kind of what came down. There’s so many bands. We were talking about Download earlier, or some of the other bigger festivals we went to, and places that I played with METALLICA at the end of the ’80s, early ’90s, all those festivals, where we would take five or six bands, if KISS or DEEP PURPLE was headlining and we were second or third down the bill and MÖTLEY [CRÜE] and BLACK CROWES and whoever else was on the bill — PANTERA or something — and then that five or six bands would bring sixty, eighty, one hundred thousand people to Donington. Six bands. And then when I went with NEWSTED to Hellfest in Clisson, France, over three days [they booked] sixty bands to bring sixty thousand people. Sixty! Ten times as many bands to bring the same amount of people. Ten times as many bands to share the money to logistically have to deal with this and be on nine stages and compete for that dollar. So those things are not anything I could have predicted like that; I just wasn’t aware enough of those kind of things and didn’t pay attention like that. And I look at that, we were very courageous and maybe a little stupid and ballsy all at the same time — naïve even — after that, because, like I said before, I was only conditioned to the higher-level stuff, second- and third- and top-on-the-bill type of thing. I kind of skipped over any of that van touring or any of that stuff. I went right into METALLICA from my truck, from FLOTSAM [AND JETSAM]. So I had to kind of go backwards, unlearn and relearn at that stage. People were incredibly respectful because of the part that I did play in the big monster and giving us good slots on some of those big festivals — playing right before [IRON] MAIDEN on a couple of things. I mean, there was some pretty cool stuff that I could have never predicted on a first time out. But it was much more difficult than I could have predicted.”
Jason left METALLICA back in 2001 but was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, along with Ulrich, guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and the man who replaced him, bassist Robert Trujillo, in 2009.
Newsted‘s latest endeavor is a pair of acoustic groups, including the CHOPHOUSE BAND (named after his four recording studio facilities around the U.S. and featuring a fluid roster of players), which has several shows scheduled in early September.