Artist: Voivod – Jason Newsted
Label: The End Records
Bassist Jason Newsted is someone who the Metal Community knows very well for as history shows the musician left his band Flotsam & Jetsam to join the mighty Metallica (1986) and after several albums and tours as their longest tenured bassist, he would depart from the juggernaut and find himself a member of the very cult favorite Metal outfit Voivod (2002). His membership found a new level of attention and interest in the ever-referenced & influential Metal band who while revered, never received the level of acclaim that mass media could offer. After appearances on Ozzfest and a rebuilding interest in the band by a wider public, tragedy would strike as guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour would be stricken with and succumb to cancer. Piggy recorded demo music up until his death, as he was determined to return stronger than ever but sadly this would not be the case. His death caused the remaining players to decide how best to move forward with his music and the decision was made to complete Piggy’s demoed work and release it all to his fans as his final music. Together with Pete Pardo of the Sea Of Tranquility, I attended a listening event hosted by The End Records where we would hear the completed work – a Progressive Metal opus entitled “Katorz”. After the album had completed we had some sit down time with Jason, and discussed life, music and what will become of Voivod now that Piggy has left us. Below is the transcribed conversation.
KP: Ok, we are set to go. So you were jamming with Friends last night since you were in town. Late night?
Newsted: Yeah, and at that point, one song becomes thirty minutes and you’re to the point of “hey it sounds great too” (laughs).
KP: After beer, almost anything sounds good.
Newsted: Or whatever the choice was by that point. So, what the F is that thing? (He points to my recorder, which I am amazed draws continual attention at interviews).
KP: This is my usually working voice recorder, which I need to remember not to press the wrong buttons on again this time (Jason examines it a little closer as I explain its functionality as being a radio, voice device, mp3 player and data drive).
Newsted: That’s cool, soon we will see Glenn (Robinson) record the whole album on something like this.
KP: Yes, if it doesn’t turn off in the middle of interviews it’s wonderful.
Pardo: So let’s discuss this new album “Katorz” a little bit, it certainly has a great level of musicality to it and a certain Progressive nature.
Newsted: Yes, there is a lot more musicality to it but it still has that “beautiful weirdness” but there is some kind of a cool appeal like good old American Rock & Roll.
KP: There’s a lot of that heavy sound that you grew up on in particular.
Newsted: Oh yeah Sabbathy and Skynryd and so on.
KP: Yeah, and even some of the thrashier stuff you did with Flotsam & Jetsam.
Newsted: That’s true actually, a blues-based American Metal type of thing with this crazy kind of Punk singer sneering over the top of total psychotic guitar shit.
Pardo: So how were you feeling since you joined this band a couple of years ago after a lot of changes in your life and your career, then you do the Ozzfest tour and Piggy passes away. You record this album which sounds great but you’ve decided that you couldn’t’ continue on without him, so I wondered what the thinking was like with all this.
Newsted: Well in this situation especially, these kinds of things make you think quite a bit deeper about things than usual. I mean life in general you walk through a take a deep breath sometimes but this would not be approached in the same way as any cycle that we know of in any other band at any other time that we had been involved in. You know, you go and do the demo, you put the album together and then you do the press and blah blah blah blah. So we had started out ok and all of those first steps were all the same. We got Michel to record the demos with two microphones in the garage and Piggy was recording with his Marshall cabinet in his frigging bathroom. He flies out to California and records my 10 Watt bass amp into his Mac. So the guitar stuff that he made is what you hear, and the bass stuff that I played that day in the rocking chair that’s the bass on the album. There aren’t overdubs and there is no doctoring in the studio trickery and all that shit. If you look at this in Pro Tools there aren’t edits all the way across the damn thing – it’s just the music. So Michel came back in and just like he did it the first time without any click track magically did the drums, bobbing and weaving on it as it went because there was no click. As we slowed down, or sped up and twisted he had to kind of manipulate it to work. Snake had a lot longer to develop these lyrics than he had for the last record. On the last one he was still writing shit down as he was singing it. On this one he had a machine on his own that he could try out effects at home to make it how he wanted it. That’s pretty much one of the major differences for us on this record. He leads us through this with the senses of a snake by twisting through all this shit, not just like a singer who sits and says “ok this part rhymes with that and so on” like a regular singer.
KP: I felt a great dynamic between you and Michel on the record as well, and what is impressive to hear is that you did this both on separate occasions and not together. It does truly sound like you guys sat down together in the studio and hammered this out.
Pardo: I agree, because while Piggy’s guitar work always stood out, you two guys sound great from the moment that the first song begins.
Newsted: I’m not sure how that ended up being like that but I guess it just ended up that we were chasing it with the right reasons and all that seemed to show through. I guess if it was bullshit that it would have been different.
KP: Yes and it really has such a live sound.
Newsted: Yes and that’s amazing because when you go into your mode of lets say writing a novel or whatever it is you do and it really is your passion ok and you set up your shit with your favorite drink there and your favorite pen and your favorite colors – whatever it is you are doing it’s your shit. When I record. Hey, I set up my scene man. I got the sub-woofer right here that’s been on every album I ever recorded and nobody hears it, I just feel it when I put my foot on it and it rolls through my bones. It becomes you and you become its, that’s what fuckin’ happens when I’m deciding to turn on my gear and present my instrument to the world – that’s how I set my shit up! Now this album was recorded, as far as the bass stuff, on an amp about the size of this (points to something small nearby) on the porch, in a rocking chair literally sitting there with a glass of lemonade you know. It was just Piggy and I and this so the intensity of it wasn’t this “we’re making a fucking record and it has to be perfect” and instead it was “we’re chilling and we’re trying to figure out this arrangement”. So all of a sudden that’s all we have and it still sounds like this “roar”, so we had to do something right somewhere along the way. It’s not something that I can really explain as to why the shit’s tight, its just we are really familiar with the music because we created the other parts initially so when it came time to actually put it onto a tape – while we were in different places it just worked.
KP: I think it shows up as a testament to your talent level. Piggy notwithstanding everyone knows what he can do and what he was capable of. Yourself, well you are an industry veteran as you’ve played consistently every single day for hours and hours. You never stopped and this is from even before you were in Metallica and it shows. I mean you were one of the tightest Metal bass players that I had ever seen. It’s nice and heavy and it has that delivery, and Michel is a very heavy and accomplished drummer and his style is unique and different from a lot of drummers, he has some great subtlety that many others done.
Newsted: His musicality is out of this world.
KP: Anybody can play fast, but not everyone can play well.
Newsted: Anybody can play just beats to, and just playing beats isn’t where it’s at either.
Pardo: So what are your thoughts on the next year in the life of Jason Newsted, I mean obviously you guys are going to get the album out, promote it and then you have the other one, which you said you all hope to have ready in about a year or so. Where do you go from there because obviously without Piggy this band is not going to continue as a touring thing. So what does Jason Newsted do once this is all completed?
Newsted: Well you know, it was pretty much five years ago when I was thinking of bowing out gracefully because I had done some other things and had done Echobrain and I always played by my own rules and figured maybe it is time to semi-retire or something. But I kept getting pulled back in you know. Because you try to move on, but then I get a call from Ozzy and what are you going to do because you can’t say no to this kind of stuff so you go for it. So this next thing like we talked about before can’t be the same cycle process because the aspirations and the process is not the same. It’s not like a touring album or a solo album instead you have to view it as an accomplishment. Think of it as a mountaineering expedition, and you are ¾’s of the way up and you gotta make it to the peak but ¾’s of the way up, your leader – the main cat that knows the most about the shit dies. Your choices are that you go back down to the base camp with your tail between your legs saying, “Oh we didn’t make it”. Or you go to the top, plant the flag for the team and the fallen comrade and go “we fuckin’ did it yeah!” and with that, we chose the latter. We chose to do this for Piggy because during his last days it was one of the things he had said to Michel, was to make sure to complete them. So this is done out of respect, and it’s going to sell a lot of records and heard by people who do care. It’s going to be great man, because good music is out there and people will hear it eventually. If the music is out there and its crap, then it aint going to matter anyway. So let’s tell you what’s going on – there is some giant shit happening actually. I am always keeping my projects alive, I jam regularly where I can be really loud and scream, all that but an offer has fallen into my lap over the last ten days that is really fuckin’ big, and I really could have never imagined or dreamed of. I can only tell you that by Tuesday of next week you guys will know. It’s going to be big but I can’t tell you yet about it at all since it can’t be announced early. Just be ready, as it’s really going to be big
– Jason pauses for several moments as if he was going to tell us but he doesn’t and just re-stresses that the news will be big.
KP: You’re going to replace Gene Simmons in KISS aren’t you (everyone bursts into laughter)
Jason: No, nothing that stupidly ridiculous, but it was a good joke. There is not much else I can tell you except to watch for what comes to light next Tuesday.
KP: so you know Pete talked to Michel earlier and….
Pardo: All I am thinking is about what next Tuesday is going to hold for us.
KP: You realize by not telling us we are going to come up with as many wild scenarios as possible.
Pardo: Yes, like he is joining Black Sabbath or forming a new band with the Voivod guys etc.
Newsted: OK, the three biggest selling American bands over the last fifteen years are represented in this and that is all you get.
KP: The riddle of the sphinx is easy compared to that one.
Newsted: And this has nothing to do with Creed as a generalization, but the bands have nothing less than four or five platinum albums. Nobody under that caliber is involved and nobody is under the age of thirty.
– At this point our time runs out and he must do the next interview so we take a quick photo and thank him for his time. The news that was to come that following Tuesday was a little later than we thought and ended up being that Jason would be part of a musical reality show. The show would follow the premise of last years “Rockstar: INXS”, where the Pop Rock outfit found a new lead singer to replace the deceased Michael Hutchence. The viewing audience would vote on favorites and lead the band to a new front man. This time around there is no replacement singer, but instead a new one for a newly formed super group that would involve Gilby Clarke (Guns ‘N Roses), Jason Newsted (Metallica) and Tommy Lee (Motley Crue). It would again see the involvement of Dave Navarro as part of the expert panel. The question lies in whether this will fly or maintain viewer interest – we can only watch and find out.
Official Website: http://www.voivod.com/