How can one resist speaking with the former bass player of the most influential metal band ever: Metallica. Jason Newsted took the time away from touring for a short and sweet interview about Voivod and about his ties to Southern California.
MX: Going back to the 80ís era of Voivod, it seems like there was a change, around Nothingface. With you (Jason Newsted) in the band now it looks like thereís another change that happenedÖ How do you interpret that?
JN: Um, the next phase of Voivod you know, Voivod Mark III. It was something that was definitely supposed to happen and something that weíve been talking about for quite a few years as our friendship has grown. From the first time we started playing serious music probably in 1995 or something, we knew there was something worth developing. So when Snake finally came back in with us in September of last year it was too much to deny, thatís all there was to itÖ the next step this band was supposed to take. You know I think they were actually gonna shut it down and just let it be what it was, a beautiful legend you know but itís just a little too cool and loud and we wanted to share it with everybody one more time.
MX: Did you push that a little bit forward?
JN: I think so. As a fan of so many years, it was really important to me to get in a good effort and put my money where my mouth is and effort and time to see if these guys could get some attention that theyíd long deserved and thatís all Iím doing. Iím giving it my best shot and if it happens it happens and it doesnít then we know we tried.
MX: How has your being in the band changed it musically speaking? Is it significant or just an evolution?
JN: Itís probably a little more direct now; itís a pretty simple equation. If youíre a listener of Heavy Metal music it is a simple mixture of three parts of Voivod and one part Metallica.
MX: Thatís what I noticed.
JN: Itís still a bit of the atmospheric vibe but not as much of the psychedelia and science fiction vibe of the past of Voivod. Itís not really a concept album or anything. Lyrically itís more about the here and now you know, and musically it still retains the cool Piggy dissonant chords and the voice that makes it what it is, you know, the real voice of Voivod, those things are all still intact, but it does have a lot more of an accessible approach for a lot more people to listen to and understand.
MX: Yeah, I donít like to use the word straightforward necessarilyÖ
JN: ďNot as weirdĒ (laughs)Ö Theyíve always been real weird you know.
MX: They were out there on a couple of albums.
JN: Theyíre more of a musicianís band. Theyíre more a playerís band from respect for that kinda view.
MX: I used to play in a band back in í87 where the drummer was nuts for Voivod and kicked double bass just because of it.
JN: Yeah, thatís still the way that Michel is very much so, heí makes sure that it has to have double bass in every song. Their styleÖ somehow theyíve managed to hold on to this hunger for such a long time after being beaten down time after time and mishandling and mismanagement and bullshit you know. Theyíve really come through it and still want it; they have not ever tasted the true rewards that they deserve. They had a little bit if success with Nothingface, a few bucks here and there but nothing that you could ever say, ďWow, I make a living playing my musicĒ. Hopefully we can eventually do that.
MX: Chophouse (Records) is working out for you?
JN: Yeah, Chophouse is a cool thing because Voivod is always a priority. Thereís not anything where thereís an old roster with a bunch of other bands and theyíre only the priority for a week or something. Theyíre always priority. Itís a lot better that way. The deal that Iíve worked out with them contract wise; they see money off the first sale of the record. Itís not like they gotta wait around and recoup like the regular record companies. They have probably one of the best record contracts that exist on this planet.
MX: More of a licensing contract?
JN: Itís more of a thing where we just share evenly; Iím not taking the money that I invested in initiallyÖ Iím not taking back off the top from them; Iím just letting us all share, more of a labor of love thing.
MX: What ties do you have to Southern California?
JN: The first album s that I recorded with Metallica (Garage Days Revisited / And Justice For All) were all made in So Cal, the first Flotsam & Jetsam album was recorded here, the Black Album, etc. I would say that itís pretty importantÖ James (Hetfield) came from Norwalk; all the seeds of Metallica were planted in that area. Itís something thatís pretty much home really when it comes right down to it.
MX: Have you lived in the area before?
JN: Iíve lived there for months at a time while we were working on albums and things. Maybe the most, six months at a time. A lot of friends from way, way back, people that still stay true to the Metal. So thatís something you can always rely on pretty much in those spots like So Cal, people come out for Metal.
MX: When you talk to friends down here, what do they tell you, if anything, about the So Cal Metal scene?
JN: Iíve heard nothing in particular about anybody thatís rising or huge or anything like that. I just know that the climate for our music in places where people give a shit is really rising. The 20 year cycle that this music has traveled, and like most popular music travels, in 20 to 22 year cycles. Thatís whatís happening now again. Metallica has a chance to lead the pack, spearhead this movement again right now with the new album coming out and all that kind of thing. So thereís a lot of commonality here, a lot of familiarity of what happened in the first movement. It all came from Southern California.
MX: So you really think Metallica can lead this ďnew waveĒ?
JN: I really do. If anybody can do it, Hetfield can do it. He will not be denied. You can burn him, break him or whatever and heíll come back and kick your ass. And I still believe that. Heís still my hero and still someone I look up to greatly and he wonít be beaten. You have to know that. If you know him, then you know that the album will be big and the band will be big again.
MX: Is there a little bit of blind confidence in you related to that?
JN: Not blind, itís absolutely wide-eyed and Iím a fan now, Iím a fan. Iím giving you opinions of a fan and it feels pretty cool. Iím the only human on the planet that can do that actually. I was a fan first, then in the band for 15 years and now a fan again.
MX: There are a lot of fans that donít necessarily see that. Itís interesting to get a completely unique perspective.
JN: Itís really sad. People need to see that we need to root for them. If youíre in a band and youíre playing Heavy Metal and youíre talking against Metallica you should shoot yourself in both feet. They are the ones that are going to give you a chance. Theyíre the ones that in the past two decades have broken down the walls for your music to even be heard. Even to be able to even play in a fucking clubÖ For your music to even have a chance on local radio or anything, you better wake up. Itís smart for you to root for MetallicaÖ If youíre not rooting for Metallica then youíre not rooting for yourself. Itís important to get behind them because they would be the ones to break down barriers and make sure that we can go to the places that we need to go to.
MX: Would you consider that to be the message for Southern California Metal bands?
JN: Itís important to pay respect to the people that made it possible for you to play your fucking music! So just do it, the way that we respect Black Sabbath, Jimmy Hendrix and those kinds of things, the people that taught us. We need to show the next generation to have respect for the people that taught you, because if half of you cats tell me that you didnít learn from Hetfield I know youíre lying to my face, donít give me that shit you know.
MX: Any last words for people out here?
JN: Keep it heavy, keep it Metal!
Vince Levalois - MetalXtreme Magazine