2003.04.08 perfectpitchonline.com Jason Interview
In 2003.04.08, the now defunct perfectpitchonline.com zine published this interview with Jason Newsted.
New Shoes to Fill
As the bassist for both Ozzy and Voivod, Jason Newsted is proof that good things come to those who rock.
By Erik Fong
If you think you’re busier than Jason Newsted, then congratulations on being absolutely wrong. After joining Voivod and earning the bass slot in Ozzy’s backup band (recently vacated by Rob Trujillo, who left to take Jason’s old spot in Metallica), Jason’s real fun has just begun. First, Voivod comes to San Francisco with Sepultura for an April 18 performance at the Avalon Ballroom. Then the Canadian thrash legends immediately head north to Canada to open for Ozzy, where Newsted will pull double duty. In June, U.S. fans can see Jason continue to perform twice every night at Ozzfest – once with Voivod on the second stage, and again to close the show with Ozzy. And that’s not taking into account the hours that Jason puts in promoting the new self-titled Voivod album, adding to both official Voivod web sites (voivod.com for current info and voivod.net for archived band info), and keeping the wheels churning at his Chophouse Records label.
We managed to chat with Jason and get a status update on his snowballing career. We’re pretty lucky to have gotten time with him – word on the street is that he’s so busy, he’s scheduling his craps three weeks in advance.
[This interview originally appeared on Shock Waves Online, but my ego can’t allow me to restrict such a great conversation to one web site. Special thanks to Bob Nalbandian -ed.]
Perfect Pitch Online: These are exciting times in the life of Jason Newsted. I’ve seen an insane number of interviews with you lately.
Jason Newsted: Yeah? Am I good? Do I have myself together?
PP: Yeah, you sound very excited. So, are you completely sick of interviews yet?
JN: No, man. I like interviews. I always learn; other people get me to look at things differently. If I were to count how many I’ve done in my career, it’d easily be in the thousands. But I’ve always learned something from people because everyone’s got a different way of looking at shit. So interviews are cool with me.
PP: Yay. So, how are you feeling?
JN: I’m pretty energized. I’ve been playing a lot of bass, so I feel good about that. Whenever I can put in at least a few solid hours in a day on my instrument, then not much else can go wrong. There’s a lot of demand on my time right now.
PP: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you’re interested in playing some Sabbath tunes with Ozzy. Have you presented your dream set list to him yet?
JN: I’m pretty new to the camp as far as being able to say certain things. You don’t necessarily say the words – like “I want to play this song” or “I want to play that song” – to Ozzy. First you work it out with Mike [Bordin, Ozzy’s drummer] and Zakk [Wylde, Ozzy’s guitar player], then you rock the song when Ozzy’s in the room. Then he hears it and he says, “Fuck! That sounds good!” or something like that, and he’ll think a little bit more about playing it.
PP: Do you remember the first time you ever heard Voivod?
JN: Yeah, I do. It would have been on the Metal Massacre compilation in 1983 or 1984, whenever that particular one came out. Their sound was so abrasive, yet very identifiable, and they’ve always maintained that, which is super cool. Their approach was always something that made me a bit jealous – but the sound that became their trademark was created from necessity. They were raised 200 miles above Montreal, somewhere in the ice. Piggy’s got an amplifier and a guitar, he’s the only one who knows how to play, and nobody wants to sing. Somehow they form this band to stay out of trouble, and end up recording the bass, guitar and vocals all through the guitar amp because that’s what they had. They always seemed to have things that other bands didn’t at early stages. They had cool art because they had a gifted artist. They had a concept, or two or three or five – cool, brainy stuff that was above and beyond other bands. The lyrics wove a different kind of picture. Back in the day, we [Flotsam and Jetsam] were quite envious of the things that they had. We didn’t know that they were as hard-pressed as they were. We just knew that they had really incredible, out-of-this-world music.
PP: In the music that you write and perform, what’s the most important element that you try to convey?
JN: Stability. In order to get your foot tapping, for you to be able to sink your teeth into a song, it needs to have some kind of stability that makes you groove and draws your primal instincts to it. That’s what I’ve tried to develop over time, and I think it really started coming into play when I met Bob Rock. He taught me about frequencies, and how I could get big boomy bass and still have clarity. Once I started learning that, I really wanted to create that concrete foundation.
PP: Zakk Wylde said in a Metal Sludge interview that the longest he’s gone without showering is 23 days.
JN: Fuuuuuuck. Jesus Christ, really? [laughs]
PP: True story. With that said, who’s the best smelling member of Ozzy’s band?
JN: Ozzy. Yeah, even better than me. Ozzy takes pretty good care of himself. I think he could outrun you or me right now. He probably runs about 5 or 6 miles a day.
PP: Wow. So, when’s the last time you took a break?
JN: It’s been a while. Probably around Christmas, for a minute. I went to Arizona, hung out with the Flotsam guys, listened to the Voivod album, had a drink – that was relaxing. With the Voivod album, we finished it on December 4 and the plan was to have it out on March 4, so every waking moment was spent trying to make that forward motion happen.
PP: Are you satisfied with your career?
JN: Yeah, I’m still waiting for someone to punch me and wake me up. It just keeps going. A couple years ago I was going to back off and actually thought about retiring, but it keeps calling me back, and I’m going to keep going back as long as it calls me. I really think it has something to do with the good vibes that I feel I’ve spread through my performance and through the time that I’ve spent with fans.
PP: It’s true, good karma always comes back.
JN: I think that’s really what it is. If I went into it saying, “Call me up cause I’m such a great bass player!” and all that – I can hold my own and I can do that stability thing that we talked about, but there are a lot of guys who can play circles around me and that ain’t what it’s about. There aren’t very many people in the land who can stand up with legends. You have to be able to hold your own. It can’t just be anybody. So that makes me feel really good. That’s a huge successful thing, to have the singer of your favorite band of all-time call you out in person, by name, not to audition, but just say, “You’re in my band now, you dig that?” He already counted me in the band before I even went and played with him.
PP: So there wasn’t even an audition?
JN: I insisted on going in and playing some Sabbath so he could hear me. I had to have him look me in the eye and say, “I want you to play in my band.”
PP: What’s next on your “to do” list?
JN: Whatever comes. There are some more musical things I’d like to do, there are still some people I’d like to jam with, and a dream would be to see Voivod play in front of a whole lot of people. That would be great for those guys. I don’t need it for myself as much, but I’d like to see those guys get their well-deserved reward. That would be nice. I have other life goals that don’t involve music, and maybe when I back off from music a little bit I’ll chase other things.
PP: What are your non-music goals?
JN: It all has to do with art – writing, painting, things I’ve done for a long time but just never had enough time to pursue. I have poetry – things that are designed for songs, but they’re always poems first. I gave Snake probably 25 pages of that stuff when we were making lyrics for the record – stuff to filter through and see if he could piece anything together that he liked.
PP: What’s the most expensive meal you’ve ever bought?
JN: I think it might be the meal that [Metallica] charged to my bill in Japan when I’d been in the band for like, 9 days. We were in the restaurant of this big hotel. It was the first time I had sushi and sake. They all split and left me with the bill. I had no idea about currency exchange. I was straight out of Arizona, I had no [world experience]. All of a sudden I was in Japan – I didn’t even get to go to Europe first to ease into it. [laughs] There were so many zeros at the end of the bill because of the yen exchange. I was spun, man. And I was still just a hired hand at that time. If you were to go back, check that bill and do the currency exchange, that could have well been the most expensive meal that I paid for, and that’s before I’d made any money in my career. [laughs] I’d never thought about that before. See what I told you about interviews?
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