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JASON NEWSTED - METAL EDGE 1997


Gerri: So what stage are we at here? 

Jason: We have about one week to go, maybe ten days to go in the mix. We're real close. We got 10 songs mixed out of 13. Lucky 13. 

G: Okay, 'cause I heard six. 

J: Yeah, that six that we chose was to let you kind of see the spectrum, that we covered a lot of ground there. 

G: How would you characterize the seven that I didn't hear? 

J: They all fit within the parameters of the ones that you heard. I'd say if you go from the one end of the spectrum with "Fuel" and then the other end of the end of the spectrum with "The Memory Remains" and everything in between, those things would all fall in there. If you have to have some kind of real easy description, it would be something in the vein of "Sad But True," "Harvester of Sorrow," grinding kind of Black Sabbath 1997 vibe. Groove-heavy thing with a bit more focus on experimentation as far as the vocals, not necessarily just throwing effects on, but actually vocal stylings. James is going more towards a real singing voice other than just yelling and stuff. Everybody really experimented a lot this time. Coming in, it's a very different way to make this album because the legwork and the pre-production stuff is already done. The hard stuff is already out of the way. When we did the Load sessions we recorded all the drums and rehearsed together. We kept the drums and that's it. Everybody came and redid everything else for these 13 songs, but this time we didn't sit down together in a room and rehearse. 

G: You didn't have to start writing like you normally do. 

J: Right, that 3-6 months work was already done. A shortcut and also a very abstract way of having to do an album because the tape is just coming to you with drums. I got my own room set up, you know, like Bob Marley posters, Hendrix posters and black lights and lots of subwoofers, my little home away from home. That stays there for all of the recording. James has his room with hot rod posters, Kirk has his. 

G: And you pass the tapes along? 

J: Right. It's a puzzle. See, it's a puzzle that has to be pieced together. We have all the pieces available to us. We already know what the end product is, what we want it to sound like, we already have the idea. You put all kinds of effects on that stuff, but don't get too far from this. Try to not mask it. You want to keep that main idea. So we all knew where we were headed. 

G: It's like filling in a coloring book in a way. 

J: Exactly, stay in the lines and maybe goin' outta the lines sometimes. We already knew where we were going so it was a lot easier in that manner and everybody just kinda pieced it together. 

G: But once again, you're under deadline pressure to finish. 

J: Always at the end it's like that. Actually, this was probably the first time we've had a real time restraint since maybe Kill 'Em All, or . . Lightning. Originally we wanted to do all the songs on a double album, and then we didn't want to miss out on Lollapalooza, so then we did that tour, then we came back to finish this record, but it's still all the same project. We still have to see it through from our initial idea. But you know, we went on tour and we met all these people, read all these books, listened to all this music and had this one more year of life, and hopefully we're better players because of it, more well-rounded people because of it. A little more finesse, you know. So we come in with that much more added to it. 18 months more technology has developed. New toys to mess with. Bob Rock working with other bands in the meantime, bringing more that he learned, to teach us to apply what we already know. This record damn well better sound a little bit better and a little more powerful, a little more precise. If you have the financial capability and the technology at hand and you don't apply it and make it sound better the next time, then what the fuck, you're not going to learn. You're not going anywhere, you're staying in the same place. The next record has to sound a little bit cleaner and a little bit more powerful, otherwise we're not doing it right. 

G: So when did you come in here? 

J: June. As soon as the tour was done we started with this and we knew that we had to get these songs done in this amount of time. 

G: Because it had to come out by November. 

J: Right. We already knew that. That was part of the plan. 

G: Was it on purpose that you picked the 18th, Kirk's birthday? 

J: It all works out pretty well advertising-wise and sales-wise one week before Thanksgiving. So we had a deadline and for us that's cool. In this day and age where we're really spoiled and already got some dough and everything's pretty cool, now everybody's kind of casual about things, it's good to have deadlines so that we still have a challenge before us. It keeps our nose to the grindstone knowing that we have to accomplish something, and then when we do we feel a sense of gratification. 

G: Did any of the songs turn out very differently from what you originally had in mind? 

J: The Memory Remains." It wasn't a jammy kind of thing that it is now. It was intended to be more like an epic kind of ballad, anthemic kind of trip. We brought in different instrumentation, a hurdygurdy and a violin in the background. James is playing a $45 Sears Roebuck guitar and I'm playing some really to be more like an epic kind of ballad, anthemic kind of trip. We brought in different instrumentation, a hurdygurdy and a violin in the background. James is playing a $45 Sears Roebuck guitar and I'm playing some really cheap thing and Kirk's playing some cheap thing and Lars is playing mounted tambourines and three drums. 

G: Why did you re-record "Unforgiven?" 

J: I'm seeing it as a sequel. At first I'm going, "Guys can we do that'?," you know, the same thing again. And then I heard the lyrics and I go, "That's a totally different song." The beginning of it starts with the same three chords and then after that it's a whole different beast. The title for that and most of them, except for maybe "Bad Seed" and "Fuel," are working titles. 

G: Is "Devil Dance" still on it? 

J: Yes, it is on there, and I'm not positive that's going to be the title, either. You know, lyrically, say 80% or 85% of it's brand new. Initially, James hums the melody line so we know where it's gonna go. But when it comes to actually putting the words down, sometimes we don't even see 'em until the people see 'em. I'm recording "The Memory Remains," the last song I'm recording today. I finally saw the lyrics last night. 

G: Do you feel weird about that? 

J: No. I love it. We're fans of Metallica that way, see. It isn't like, "You guys can't see 'em," it's when he gets 'em done then they're there. We wait around with baited breath just like the kids do. It's a real cool freshness that way. 

G: A lot of the fans had a lot of strong reactions to Load, thinking it wasn't heavy enough. The old "Metallica sold out" thing. What's your reaction to that? And was there any kind of intent to make Re-Load heavier? 

J: Well, first of all, it certainly wouldn't be done because people told us to do it, because somebody reacted in the way they did, If ten people listened to the record there's ten opinions. I would pay attention to every one and go, "Wow, I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna do that, I wanna make everybody happy," but you can't do that. We don't have to do that. We don't have to prove anything to anybody. The only thing we have to prove is to ourselves, and that's what we can accomplish the next time and make the record better—from trying to be better players, applying the technology that's at hand, learning from Bob Rock, all those things. Trying to be a better and bigger band. You know, just better for ourselves. All the reactions, it really wasn't a surprise because the photographs started it out. People saw these photographs, they freaked, and I freaked too, as a fan of Metallica. Because it didn't look like my Metallica, the Metallica I know and what was a part of me. 

G: What did you say to your band-mates at that point? 

J: I argued. I said, "No I don't want to do this." I argued it from day one that I did not want to do those photos, that I did not want semen on the cover, that does not represent Metallica. We're not homosexuals, that's not something that I am into. I don't think we should put on eye make-up. That's not me. I don't agree with that. 

G: So you were out-voted? 

J: Everything is a democracy in this band. Everything. And so therefore we paid this guy umpteen thousand dollars to come out, this photographer, to do these photos and to create a mood rather than "Here's Metallica standing in line for the 500th time." So for the first time we have stylists come and do a photo session. I have to go with this because we've agreed, these guys talked me into it. 

G: But you didn't have a good feeling about it. 

J: No, it was not 100% at all. You know, it was not me but I had to go with it because we were trying to create a mood. So when you see this photograph and you're sitting in Kirk's dining room with Cuban pimp suits on, smoking cigars, everybody's hair's cut, all that type of thing, people are expecting to see us walking down the street in these clothes. "Oh my God, that can't be the same people that created 'Damage Incorporated."' 

G: The image change coupled with a change in the music had everyone crying "sellout" and "they've gone alternative." 

J: Right, jumpin' on the wagon and thinking that we tried to be like everybody else. Selling out is doing what people want you to do. That's selling out. 

G: But do you think the change was too much too soon? 

J: Totally. And also, as far as the music, it was an awful lot to try to digest in one sitting or five sittings. I mean, it's really complex music for people to listen to one time and go, "Jesus, that's shit." That is just ridiculous. I mean, 16 months later and I'm just now starting to let some of it grow on me. The record now is selling thousands each week. People are catching on, "Oh now I get it." So it took them a while, and I knew it was gonna happen. They see the music is real. A lot of bands still play real fast and they do it well. And that's okay, we've already done that. We helped invent that. We can do that as good, if not better, than everybody else, but we have more to offer than that as well. We're more than just metal, okay. That's the thing. [Fans] want us to be just in this little thing right here, and we're not happy with that. I love playing "Battery," "Whiplash," "Damage." Those are my favorites too, don't get me wrong now cause we're in the same boat with that, but you have to realize and respect us for being musicians and wanting to grow. A band that is together for 15 years and creates a legendary type of status, you can't just measure 'em by this number here, this number there. You look at the big picture. And you have to respect that, If you want just the fast stuff, back Napalm and RATM, whatever, go to their shows, buy their t-shirts, but don't disrespect the guys that helped invent that fast stuff that these guys learned from. All we're doing is doing what we feel. I mean, that is for real. But it's better when they say we can't, because then we want to do it that much more. "You can't go on playing at this place, you can't do that, you can't sell out that show, you can't do that," well, we'll see. 

G: Hindsight being 20/20, would you have done anything differently? 

J: There's a couple photos that I don't like, but as far as like the album cover, I appreciate it now for what it is because I see it now: blood and semen, those are the two life forces. I see that as positive now, so I like it. 

G: What's the new album cover going to be? 

J: It's very similar. It has the same artist and there's blood involved. It looks like it's tied in because it is the same project, it has to be seen through. And the inside is the same type of busy-ness as far as a lot of photos, but there are live photos, behind the scenes photos, "Here's us for real, eatin' breakfast." Candid behind shots that you would expect. And also some trippier, artsier, shadowy photos. A little bit more surreal type of photographs. 

G: Do you know what the single is yet? 

J: No, not until we get all 13 of them mixed. 

G: Possibly "Fuel" or "Bad Seed"? 

J: Both of those. "Unforgiven" is huge but I think it wouldn't be the first single because you want to come out with something that pretty much takes people by the throat. 

G: Which songs did you have a hand in writing? 

J: "Martini" is the only one I'll have my name on. 

G: I know that James writes all the lyrics, but is there anything you want to say about some of the song subjects? 

J: I'm not sure, I ask him what this stuff is all about and he just says, "Every song's about murder." That was just his answer to give me all the time. But I think maybe half of them are about murder and the rest, there's a couple of manipulation things that he likes to sing about. And also maybe a couple of other elements closer to home. 

G: You mentioned experimentation before... 

J: Yes. Everybody really got to go for it. I played different guitars in different tunings and this thing called a virtual guitar, a VG8 unit, it has 2,600 different sounds in it, violins and cellos and horns, every possible sound you can think of. I used it on three or four different songs, I can't remember exactly which ones. Whether the freaky sounds that you're making now are going to make it on the album or not, whatever, but you're able to do it. Everybody got to plug in all their pedals and do whatever they wanted to do to enhance the song. 

G: And Bob Rock has to coordinate all of this. 

J: He has to be three people at once. He has to go everywhere. He has to be with everybody as it's going to tape. We have three rooms going full, with full sets of machines in each room that copies two 48 tracks in each room. He has gone way beyond anything he had to do before, I'm sure. 

G: Having worked with him before must make it a little bit easier, right? 

J: People gain confidence in each other more and more as you go, but also you learn about people's quirks. It's not all positive you know, there has to be gnashing otherwise it's not possible. Everybody's such strong individuals...we're all very different. 

G: Have there been clashes? 

J: Especially in the last three weeks, when the mix comes down. 

G: Do you think the musical climate is improving for heavy music? 

J: Rock 'n' roll will never die. And it really is that old cliche, how everything comes back again, but when it goes down to hide it comes back morphed into a stronger thing like a roach that goes and adapts against Liquid Plumber. It eats it and gets bigger. So when it comes back on a Metallica album it's certainly a different beast. An enhanced beast. Not still sounding like '92, but a different album cover on it. New metal. Here is what the state of metal is in '97, right here we're representing it the best we can. Flying that flag high, you know. We may be one of the only ones left over still flying it, but we're gonna fly it because it's what we know. 

G: Despite what Lars has said in the past? 

J: He does that so the people will go "Fuck!" That's what Lars loves to do, stir it up. He knows when to push my buttons and jam me a little bit, what to do, and I know the same with him. We do that just to stir the shit up. There's no way you can say that we're not metal because of what he has already put on tape himself on drums in the past 15 years. 

G: Do you think that you're going to use the Internet to promote the album? 

J: Every day we go more and more into that with the fan club. There are more web sites for Metallica than any other band in the world and the four guys in the band are getting more and more computer literate. I am the bottom of the totem pole as far as that, though. I started out as the guy who had the computer. Now everyone else is right there and I stopped using it. I use it to keep track of logs, keep track of all our projects. And I go to the Internet and see what they say about Metallica. Mostly I use the computer to learn, to get information. I went on last week to find a private dog trainer. It's an incredible thing and if we don't keep up we will be left behind. So it is important for us to keep it fun and be able to learn from doing it, like working with the fan club and responding to the kids. You know, all we have to do is sit there and watch. You put the guy with the pro [opinion] and you put the guy with the con in a little room together, and you let 'em go at it. They totally selfpolice. One kid will say, "That is so weak. How could they ever do 'Mama Said"' or whatever, and another kid will say, "Please respect the musicianship. Listen to the music, respect that. Listen to "Damage Incorporated," turn it up loud, and then listen to 'Mama Said' and see what these guys have to offer. Look at the depth here." 

G: Between the time you finish recording and the end of the year, what do you have planned? 

J: The plan is to do TV appearances and big promo stuff to push the album. 

G: I know last time around you did some private club shows for fan club members. Will there be more of that? J: Yeah. More in that vein. Nothing that's been nailed down. We have talked about trying to do big free concerts. A few of the major cities, maybe five around the world, not just America... Maybe Brazil, London, Mexico City, San Francisco and Chicago. Something like that. 

G: When? 

J: November. And we'll do Saturday Night Live December 6th. 

G: Are you excited about it? 

J: Totally. We got offered to do it in 1988, and the week before we were going to do it James broke his arm for the second time. Since then we've tried to get in there but our timing and their timing are the worst. Nine years later we get our opportunity to do it. 

G: Do you know what song you're going to play? 

J: We're going to play two songs and I would say "Fuel" will be one. It's one that we play with a lot of confidence and we've already played in front of people. I say play one new song and one maybe from the Black album. Maybe something from Load. 

G: Any other TV appearances? 

J: Billboard Awards, maybe. Then the first 21/2~3 months of '98 are gonna be off. March 28th starts up in Australia. We haven't been there for six years. The Pacific Rim, you know, Thailand, Malaysia and whatever we can fit in. We do some places that have been waiting a long time. And we do European festivals in the summertime. And if they don't have one we'll make our own metal festival, call up Corrosion, call up Machine Head, call up whoever. 

G: What about the States? 

J: Not till the end of the summer. Amphitheaters, a quick 25 shows. Then we have some places that have offered that we've never been before. South Africa and India. I'm just getting goose-bumps thinking about South Africa. We are going to make it worth our while. We're gonna go and play five shows in Johannesburg and take eight days and go up to Kenya and you know, safari. 

G: Are there any plans to make a CDROM or an enhanced CD release? 

J: It's popular right now but we probably won't do that on this album. That would be more of a special release type of thing. Maybe we would do a couple of B-sides and a couple of cover songs, something like that. 

G: Have you recorded any new B-sides? 

J: We've been kicking about a lot of different ideas for B-side songs that we're gonna record. I'm not gonna tell you, but people are gonna freak. 

G: There have been rumors of a Black Sabbath cover. 

J: No, it's too obvious. 

G: And another about covering Credence's "Run Through The Jungle" for a tribute CD. 

J: Now that's a little more like it, but we'd keep it for our own. That's more the direction we're taking. A little more obscure. We want heavy songs. 

G: Any soundtrack participation since Spawn? 

J: We've been asked to be in a lot of soundtracks before and this time we thought that we could do something a little bit different. The Moby remix with Spooky and Kirk playing with Orbital, it wasn't so common and we could make it special by being included. 

G: Were you happy with the results? 

J: I have mixed feelings. We sent in the tapes and there was like 20 hours for them to work on it. There wasn't enough time, he just had to get it on tape. Next time, I'd have to go and be with the guy. I'd take my own groove box. I'll get my own sampler. I'll learn from him and maybe he'll learn from us and we'll have something cool. Electronic music plays such a big part now. I don't think it has enough power to be "the next thing," but as far as using it to your advantage in the music, it can be a big help and it can be something that can make you that much more powerful and that much more precise.

 

 

 

 

 

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