The pursuit of heaviness has fueled Jason Newsted for over 30 years. As an integral component of Metallica, Flotsam and Jetsam, Voivod, Ozzy Osbourne’s touring band, and countless other fan and critical favorites, he’s among the metal world’s most fearless adventurers. Now, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and six-time Grammy winner is charting new territory—for the first time fronting his own band, the explosive power quartet Newsted.
Matching and exceeding teaser EP Metal (which bowed at #1 on the iTunes metal chart), Newsted’s debut full-length assault, Heavy Metal Music, is likewise short on pretense and long on crushing riffs. Be it the throwback Sabbathian strut of “Ampossible,” the breakneck gallop of “Long Time Dead,” or the full speed ahead charge of breakout single “Above All,” the 11-song behemoth (due early August) is sure to cement the quartet’s place as one of metal’s hungriest outfits.
Newsted will flaunt their metal mettle on the road all summer, as Staind guitarist Mike Mushok joins an already impressive fold (rounded out by guitarist Jessie Farnsworth and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr.) on Megadeth’s formidable Gigantour.
“I never really knew Staind had that kind of capability, but [Mike’s] a shredder,” Jason marveled in a recent interview for Revolver. “The kind of dimension he adds to this band—it makes the heavy heavier. I mean, I’m writing songs from a bass player-on-guitar standpoint, and he comes in and adds all this color to it.”
Indeed, Heavy Metal Music is the product of Jason’s long hours learning and performing with rock’s greats—Warren Haynes, Zakk Wylde, James Hetfield, Andreas Kisser—yet never losing sight of his old-school sensibilities.
“I could’ve pulled superstars together, but it wouldn’t be the same belief,” he stresses. “These guys support me. We hang out before we jam, we hang out after we jam. We have dinners, we have drinks, we vibe like brothers.”
Still, today’s elation is the product of years of struggle. In December 2004, Jason had his first major shoulder surgery—one of many intrusive procedures, as he had to deal with one arm overcompensating for the other for three and a half painful years. In his downtime, always artistically insatiable, he took solace in painting, and became rather successful at it, making some “pretty thick lemonade out of what I was given,” he laughs.
But “the itch” to get heavy again didn’t strike until Metallica’s 30th anniversary shows in San Francisco in late 2011. Drummer Lars Ulrich enticed Jason to perform, dangling the carrot of participating idols like Rob Halford, Geezer Butler and Mercyful Fate.
“I’ve been in front of some big crowds, but I hadn’t tasted sweetness like that for 10 years, at least,” Jason admits. “I had an epiphany the third night: I’ve got to get back to this. I can’t ignore my feelings. How dare I?”
“So far I’ve gotten to live three dreams,” he muses. “Metallica, Ozzy and Voivod—those were all dreams for me. I’m 50 and working on my fourth dream now. I feel great and grateful, and I’m only halfway through.