When a veteran rocker calls in the midst of doing a major North American tour, it’s pretty common for him to use terms like amazing and awesome in response to the journalist’s tried-and-true icebreaker: “So, how’s the tour going?”
But when Jason Newsted rings in from Normal, Illinois, between stops on the latest Gigantour—which features his new band, Newsted, along with Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah, Death Division, and headliner Megadeth—he doesn’t sound like he’s in prime promotional mode.
“Uh, it’s okay,” he replies halfheartedly. “It’s okay. It’s um, you know, lots of travelling for short sets, but we’re makin’ it happen. It’s all right.”
You get the impression that the 50-year-old Newsted—who’s spent time in the trenches with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Flotsam and Jetsam, Voivod, and, most famously, Metallica—would be much happier playing all the songs off his band’s upcoming album, Heavy Metal Music, instead of just a handful.
And you can’t blame him. A listen to the 11-track earbuster—slated for release on August 6—reveals a glorious gift for the headbanger set, with enough killer riffs per second to make Tony Iommi blush. Joining bassist-vocalist Newsted in the group are former Metallica roadie Jesus Mendez Jr. on drums and guitarists Jessie Farnsworth and Mike Mushok. The latter axeman, formerly of Staind, has only been in the lineup since March.
“He brought in this pretty serious prowess,” reports Newsted, “so I was greatly impressed. He’s got a lot more than what Staind has ever offered on the radio, for sure, and he’s just now being able to unleash.”
While Newsted is clearly enthusiastic about the capabilities of his new quartet, his outlook is tempered by a realistic view of today’s challenging music biz.
“Whatever happens with it, I’m ready for,” he claims. “It’s very much a labour of love, so if the people want to keep appreciating and we can make it happen on the road, then I’ll keep takin’ it to the people as long as my bones keep workin’ and people keep demanding the music.
“But it has to make sense,” he adds. “It’s much harder than it ever was before. Even like 10 years ago I was out with Ozzy, and so much has changed since that time. It takes a lot more money to tour, and you work twice as hard for half as much.”
Speaking of the Prince of Darkness, when Newsted was touring with him on Ozzfest 2003 he paid the bassist the ultimate compliment, comparing him to “a young Geezer Butler”. Since Newsted describes the 64-year-old Butler as “my greatest teacher”, it’s kinda surprising that he’s only heard one track off the much-ballyhooed new Black Sabbath album, 13. But he doesn’t flinch when asked his opinion of it.
“I think that the inventors can do anything they want,” he declares, “and nobody can say anything otherwise.”