To Jason Newsted, playing bass isn't as much a gift as it is a continuously sharpened talent. Much like food and water, plugging in and jamming is unrivaled sustenance in his life. It was for this rea
To Jason Newsted, playing bass isn't as much a gift as it is a continuously sharpened talent. Much like food and water, plugging in and jamming is unrivaled sustenance in his life. It was for this reason that toward the end of Newsted's tenure with Metallica, the dedicated musician sought the best of both musical worlds. When not recording or touring with his metal giant day job, he wanted to pursue other musical projects, such as his side band EchoBrain, for no other reason than to maintain his chops.
But this creative moonlighting of sorts wasn't what the other members of Metallica had in mind, so in the winter of 2001, the bassist surprisingly quit the band to save his sanity and, in his mind, his career.
"I gave them an offer first, and that is what people haven't included in the story too much," says Newsted. "I went in with a proposal saying, 'I would like to take a year off and I'm going to pursue EchoBrain.' James [Hetfield] had a kid that was four months old, and Lars [Ulrich] had a kid that was six months old. I'm like, 'You guys go be with your babies. You've already been away from them for a tour, go be with them.' I was trying to be compassionate, I thought. They didn't hear it. I said, 'Take one year off,' and they said, 'Nope,' before it even entered their thought process. So, I said, 'Okay, I'm walking away then.' And they were pretty flabbergasted, actually. They didn't think I would ever do it."
In terms of extracurricular activities outside of Metallica, Newsted mentions Hetfield's love of hot rods and tattoos as an example of how the lead singer unwinds with his personal time. For Newsted, his relaxation comes from playing music.
"They didn't see that I need my music and those other things to make me feel alive," he says. "Metallica was spending very little time with the guitar plugged into the amp and the amp turned on and blasting loud. It just was not happening and it was not what I needed in order to play music and keep myself as good a bass player as I want to be. After 15 years of working in that band, I couldn't see how me working on an hour of music in EchoBrain, that had nothing to do with Metallica ... it sounded nothing like Metallica, didn't say Jason Newsted from Metallica on the cover, or [anything] like that."
"It was always just that band and that music," he continues. "I wasn't trying to ride on their laurels, and they just couldn't see it. That was the thing -- they questioned my loyalty. And I was always the first one to the gig and the last one out of practice. And even at practice, I was early. That's how I did [things], like an athlete."
Unfettered for the first time in nearly two decades, Newsted retired to his desolate Montana ranch to contemplate his future. For one week, the Michigan native found himself in a deep depression regarding his unexpected announcement but before long, he was in tour rehearsals with EchoBrain. Currently, the alternative metal act is recording its sophomore disc without Newsted, who is now a full-time member of thrash/metal legend Voivod. That group recently released a self-titled disc on Newsted's Chophouse Records label.
Throughout his career, Newsted has had an amazing penchant for not only meeting his peers but becoming a member of their bands. This was the case with Metallica, Voivod, and now Ozzy Osbourne, as Newsted has replaced Ozzy's former bassist Robert Trujillo, who is now Metallica's full-time bassist.
For most egos, this soap opera situation would not only be uncomfortable but acrimonious. However, Newsted and Trujillo are friends, which has made the transition for all parties involved that much smoother.
"I'm glad that it was him, somebody I have respect for and somebody that takes care of themselves," Newsted offers. "He's probably a more musical bass player than myself, and when he hooks up with James, it is going to be awesome. I think they are going to be a force to be reckoned with, big time. I've got more of that thrashing kind of playing style and he's very musical. It is going to be a cool thing. It's too bad he couldn't have played on [Metallica's upcoming disc 'St. Anger']."
As for his future, Newsted says Voivod will definitely record another album, and he's been told by Ozzy that he'll be included in any future recordings, including Black Sabbath material. Perhaps others in similar shoes would want to distance themselves from their erstwhile group, but Newsted has come to terms with Metallica regarding the past, present, and future.
"I'm a one-quarter member of Metallica for the rest of my life," says Newsted. "I'm a business partner of Metallica for life. That will never change. And I'm a fan of Metallica again. And I'm rooting for them big time. Any of these younger metal bands that talk s*** about Metallica, all they are doing is shooting themselves in the feet. You have to root for Metallica because they have an opportunity to spearhead this movement again, just like they did 20 years ago. So, the better they do, the better the rest of us do with our metal music."