THE MAN WHO CAN’T SAY NO TO OZZY,
CAN PAINT WITH BOTH HANDS,
AND KNOWS WHEN TO BRED BUNNIES.
GOING TO PLAY AGAIN?
WOW, LET’S GO!
Authors: Karolina & Daniel Karbownik
How has the tour been going so far? Do you feel good as a frontman and the lead singer?
Yeah. It’s new responsibilities and stuff like that. I’m reallyhaving a good time. Newsted is surely becoming a premier name in heavy metal music industry.
How do you feel about it with the band being named after you?
I’m very surprised and overwhelmed by the positive response we get from the people. It makes me feel like I did something right all those years working hard in all those different bands. It’s all getting back to me. People are very happy to see me and I’m very happy to see them, too. It’s been a long time and it just feels good to be back.
How does being in this band compare to your time with Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne or Voivod?
All those experiences were wonderful and certainly made me who I am today as a musician and as a person, travelling round the world and things like that. But this is the first time I’ve ever put a band together myself from the beginning, because I’ve only ever joined bands that already existed. I’ve always came as a new engine or a new blood in all of the bands I’ve been in. This is the first time I’ve ever got to pick the members myself. My own music, that I compose from the beginning, my own lyrics, my own voice, my own face, my own name. It all makes me really powerful. I feel like I have a kind of control that I’ve never had before. The support system I have within the band – I’m very proud of the people I’ve put together and I think it’s a good band with focused, disciplined people that are behind me. They believe in me. It makes me feel very strong and that’s the difference – I have a lot more control in this band than in any other band I’ve ever been in.
During your shows you play some new songs fromyour upcoming album and some fans already know those songs from Internet bootlegs or YouTube. Is it ok with you or would you rather like them to hear your new music live for the first time?
Everything with this band happens so fast. Usually there’s a grand plan – you put out a record, then you plan a tour and all that kind of things so people can get familiar with the music that’s played on the radio. This band just kind of happened. It just kind of fell from the sky. I did some demos, somebody got a hold of the song Soldierhead, they played it to a New York city radio guy called Eddie Trunk, who runs “That Metal Show” and a bunch of other radio stuff and everybody loved Soldierhead and it came out and they booked me 60 shows before I even had a band together. It was like – “Jason’s gonna play again? Wow, let’s go!” Before I even had everything together, they’ve already planned out everything. I’m trying to see what’s happening and we’re releasing the LP, so we’re playing it for the people. But I like it in the way they’re hearing the songs for the first time and still appreciating it just for the music. Just because of the power and the feeling of the music in combination with how happy they are that I’m playing again. So far it’s been very successful, considering it’s the first time everybody hears it.
Your new album’s title is simply Heavy Metal Music. Is there anything left in this genre that attracts you?
The reason I keep everything simple like that and to the point is that it has to be a global view, it has to be a worldwide outlook. Like I’ve always been taught in Metallica. All my formative years – aged 23 to 38 – I was in Metallica. I was taught always to have a global outlook. You have to make a title everybody can understand no matter where they live and what language they speak. I wanna make sure they understand what music this is, because I’ve played many different styles in the last 10-15 years with Gov’t Mule, Echobrain, Sepultura or DJ Shadow. All different styles in music. I wanna make sure that they know what they’re getting this time and old school heavy metal music is what I am, it’s what I’m made of, it’s what I’ve helped to build in this world. I’m attracted to it every day, it thrills me every day and I think the fans of heavy metal music are more loyal and committed than in any other style. There’s no way any country fans or pop music fans are gonna stand in the mud up to their knees to listen to Slayer. Only metal fans are that true so people keep going back to it no matter what.
Were there any particular challenges during the recording of Heavy Metal Music in terms of delivering certain sound or expressing your personality?
When I made the demos, they were all very honest. I made my music under the full moon, the two full moons in December 2012 and January 2013. I wrote new songs. It just comes out, it just happens. I don’t overthink it. I let the gods push it down from the sky and give me the music. That’s all. I just open myself up to it and I channel it and it becomes that. So automatically it’s gonna have my personality because it comes out of my brain and my hands, these are my words and my voice, so that’s the personality part. I got a lot of help from the guys that are in my band. I give the seeds of the song. I start up by planting a seed, I say what I would want this composition to be. And then they come and put their stuff and we harvest the fruit together. And that’s how those songs become what they are because I wouldn’t be able to make them that wonderful without those guys. I give them ideas and they take it and make them wonderful.
You’ve played with the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne, you’ve worked with Ian Gillan and Tony Iommi, Voivod and Metallica. Do you still have any dreams concerning music?
Actually, I have. Of course I’m open to playing with any musician at any time and I still get offers all the time to play with people. I’m always open to those things. I think in the future I will still make many kinds of music with different people, whether it’s heavy music or pop music or whatever it ends up being. I’m always going to do those things. But this is my fourth absolute queer dream that I get to live right now. Because Metallica was a giant dream, it made everything possible in my life. They gave me the opportunity to live my dream, so I’ll be forever grateful to Metallica. I never say anything negative about Metallica. I’m only a fan and a brother. I’ll always be a part of Metallica and Metallica will always be a part of me. That’s just the way it is. Then Voivod were my heroes for so many years. So getting to join their band and actually being a part of songwriting and the producer of their records – that was just an honor and a dream at the same time! Then Ozzy – that’s the Godfather. When he calls you and asks you to play, you just show up. That’s like a fuckin’ dream! More than a dream. A hero asking you to be a part of his band. He helped create our music. That was really special. And in this one I get to do my own thing after all that hard work and all the sweat I’ve put out, I get to have my own thing and call the shots. I decide who talks between the songs, I decide what the band is gonna present and what I’m gonna say to the people about how happy I am that we’re together. That we’re playing metal music. Heavy=happy. The heavier the songs, the happier we are. That’s what is important to me. I’m only four months into this dream, our band has only been together four months. Mike Mushok joined on 21 February. We’ve just passed the four months point and we already have EP, LP, world tour and all this stuff happening very fast. It’s very dreamy. And the Tony Iommi thing – I’ve played with half of Black Sabbath, that’s really crazy.
You once said your heroes were Geddy Lee and Cliff Burton, yet you present a very different style of playing. Is it because you didn’t want to be compared with them? To me, your style is much more like a mix of Lemmy, Gene Simmons and Dee Dee Ramone.
Thanks. It just happened. When you take in any information – you read a book, you see a movie, you hear a song – you take it in as your inspiration. Then you spit it back out of your mind, out of your mouth and hands, and it becomes whatever it becomes. I have two older brothers – one 5 and the other one 8 years older than me. So I heard Jimi Hendrix when I was 9 years old. I heard Black Sabbath when I was 10. I heard a lot of cool-ass inventors of our heavy music when I was a little kid. And a lot of funk music, like James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire – that bass-dominated soul music. I heard a lot of that too, because I lived by Detroit, so I heard a lot of black music. And between those kinds of things, like Ted Nugent and those early bands, that’s where my interest in bass started. Then I started listening to Black Sabbath and those bands to learn the actual notes on the instrument that became that part of the style. Then Lemmy came along. I’ve always played with the pick anyway, but he made it ok. I played with a pick through a guitar amp before I heard of Motörhead. So it was Steve Harris in the early 80s, Lemmy in the early 80s, then Cliff Burton comes along and all those people that helped me to form the style that I have. I’ve never really listened to Dee Dee Ramone in that way, but now that you’ve mentioned it, it makes sense. Lot of those things influenced me without me even knowing it. It’s just the culmination of all those heroes and trying to learn their songs year after year. Your style just becomes what it is. It’s the same with painters or writers or anybody like that. You take on your heroes’ styles and make it your own.
You mentioned painters. I know that you like painting. Do you sing while painting or is it a perfect time for you to chill out without music?
The painting came around because I had some very severe surgeries on my shoulders and I wasn’t able to play the bass. I had to find something else to do with my time while I only had one arm for over 4 years, from 2005 to 2009. I only had my right arm for 4-5 months, then I only had my left arm for 5 months, then I only had right arm again. So I had to learn to use both of my hands the same. All the paintings are done with both hands. I learned to paint because I couldn’t play. Then I realized painting was the other thing I feel purpose in, the only thing I could stay up for days and days working on painting, just the same as I work on songs and music. I can stay up for days, not even knowing that the days go by. I’m just so involved in art. So painting is the only other thing that makes me feel that way. It’s very special. And now people pay $15000-20000 for my paintings. I’ve never really planned on that but I’m happy that it came into my life.
Was it also you who came up with the band’s logo and album cover design?
That’s right. Of course.
Can you give us an insight into your inspiration and the whole painting process?
Well, there are certain painters that I like and Picasso is my very favorite. I like Jean Michel Basquiat and Jean Dubaffet. Those are my top 3 painters, so it’s abstract art with creatures, text and writing, big paintings – 6×12 feet – giant expression. That’s where it comes from but I always listen to music, I watch Bruce Lee movies, all those types of inspirations when I create the paintings. I don’t ever decide what the painting’s gonna be, there might be a little bit of a subject and I write some words on the canvas that take me somewhere. But just like with the songs, I just let it happen. Whatever happens, whatever comes out, comes out. These aren’t all masterpieces, just like the songs are not all masterpieces. But the ones that are great, the ones that rise to the top – they find themselves, they create themselves. The songs scream out to be played. “I wanna be alive.” Certain ones keep coming back to you. It’s the same with the paintings. You just have to listen to that thing in the air.
You grew up on a farm, your parents had animals. Do you still have this love and passion for animals?
Oh yes, very much. Probably more than ever in my life. Back then, when I was a young man, I lived on a farm and life and death with the animals was a pretty common thing. We raised animals for food, we raised them to eat and to sell, so that was a very different thing. I could take a lot of blood and a lot of hard shit with the animals as a child. Now, I don’t do as good with that. I’ve got more difficult time when an animal is sick, I’ve got more difficult time when I see blood on an animal. It’s not as easy as it used to be. I’ve got more compassion for animals that I’ve ever had. I still have two small rescue dogs at home, and a rabbit that lives in our house with us that is fully trained, like a cat. So I still have animals around me whenever I can.
Speaking of your childhood, what were you like as a kid?
The same, actually. Crazy, very energetic. I had a great business ethic as a young man, because my grandfather and my father were both hardworking farmers. You had to work really hard to be anything. You had to work for everything you had. So that’s still in me. By the time I was nine years old, I was like an entrepreneur, I had my own business of selling eggs from my chickens. I’d sell bunny rabbits at Easter and at Christmas. I’d have bunch of rabbits and I knew when to have them bred in order to have babies at Easter, and I’d keep all of my own bookkeeping and accounting, like it’s 60 cents for eggs. I was nine years old. So I’ve always been a kind of a motivated, energetic kind of person and once the music kicked in, when I was 12 or 13 and first heard Kiss, everything changed and I’ve put all that energy and focus in music ever since that time. It’s been many years that I’ve been chasing the music thing now.
Do you share this opinion that bass players are the wildest of all musicians?
It depends. There is a certain union within us, a certain camaraderie, like we’re a team. I’d say 97% of bass players get along with each other. You can’t say that about other instrumentalists. Singers are singers, they’re usually pretty stuck up and big egos, and they think they’re the greatest thing. Guitar players pretty much have that kind of attitude. And drummers… I don’t even know what to say about drummers. Drummers are just drummers [laughs]. Bass players seem to have a brotherhood that no other instrument has. Maybe that’s because we think differently and are a bit wiser [laughs].
Maybe that’s why I married a bass player [laughs].
Maybe so, maybe you know something more than other girls [laughs].
Ok, last question. What are your next plans after you release the album?
We finish up our European festival tour this weekend, Graspop is the last show on the last day of June. Then we go home for 4 days, back to San Francisco. We start up Gigantour with Megadeth on 5 July and we go for six weeks through North America. The LP comes out on 6 August, so it will be the last week of Gigantour when the record’s out. Offers have started coming in for continuing tour. I’m predicting we’ll be going out the end of September and pretty much all of the fall and winter. I know that there’s a big European tour scheduled for November. We’ve just signed for Australian tour in February and Japanese tour before that. So it’s gonna be a very busy time taking music around the world. Just like the old days.
Ok, thank you very much. It was a huge pleasure talking to you.
Thanks. Nice talking to you, take care.