Nobody's more surprised that Jason Newsted will be playing again with Metallica this weekend than...Jason Newsted.
Newsted was the Metallica bassist from 1986, when he replaced the late Cliff Burton, until he left the group in 2001. He tells Billboard.com that he had modest expectations for his role in the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction on Saturday in Cleveland. "I just planned on going, looking good in my suit, hanging out with my family, going up and getting the award, making a nice speech...," he says.
Then, last Thursday, he got a call from drummer Lars Ulrich that changed things.
"He said, 'We want you to rock with us,' " Newsted recalls. Ulrich told him that Robert Trujillo, Metallica's current bassist "'is not gonna play at all. we want you to play.' And my first question was, 'How's Robert with that? How does he feel about that? I don't want to create any kind of negative anything. I want this all to be proper.'
"(Ulrich) said, 'No, he's with it, man. He wants to be there as a fan, too, and wants to see the 'black' album (1991's 'Metallica') band'...It's all good. Everybody's agreed to it. Let's rock!' 'OK. Let's rock.' "
Prior to the Ulrich's call, however, Newsted says he had no qualms with the current version of Metallica playing at the ceremony.
"I felt strongly they should go as that band and represent Metallica," Newsted explains, "because they're strong right now, together. Those four guys in Metallica are out there knocking the shit down, standing tall, able, prowess, chops are in order...There aren't many times the Hall of Fame can induct a band that's fully capable like that."
Newsted is shipping in the amplifier rig he used during his tenure in Metallica, as well as the Sadowski five-string bass that he notes "has played more songs for Metallica than any other bass instrument in the world." The group plans a sound check/rehearsal for Friday night, then will play "something old (and) something new" on Saturday -- though both songs will be from Newsted's tenure with the band. "One louder than the next -- that's all I know," he says with a laugh.
Newsted has a full compliment of family members coming to the Hall of Fame ceremony, and he's also looking forward to "just an unbelievable family reunion" with past band, business and media associates who Metallica is flying in for the event.
"It's just a major celebration for us," says Newsted, who produced and played on the upcoming Voivod album, "Infini," which is due out in June. "I'm freakin' over the moon, man. It's another...well, the biggest feather in the cap so far, I guess. The Grammys are feathers all around the cap, but this one will be a little bigger, I have a feeling."