Greg Prato of Songfacts spoke with former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. Excerpts from the interview appear below.
Songfacts: Who would you say are some of your all-time favorite songwriters?
Jason: Well, metal-wise, heroes like Black Sabbath – Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, that kind of thing. And Rush as songwriters. Even like Derek St. Holmes from the Ted Nugent Band, great songwriter and great lyricist, melodies and lyrics. That’s my original teacher pile, when I was 12, 14, 16 years old, my original teachers.
And as I’ve gone through time I have a lot of respect for the guys of Muse, who have fantastic songwriting abilities. Kings of Leon, great songwriting abilities. Lady Gaga, great songwriting ability as far as melody and lyrics go. I’m not so much about her band’s boom-boom computerized stuff, but as far as lyrical melody, fantastic.
There’s quite a few. I like Mastodon – I like the honesty of their songwriting, the rawness, the ugliness, but still with a little bit of sense of humor in the vibe within the lyric and within the songwriting. I like that a lot: when they don’t take it too serious. That’s very important.
The Slayer guys, I love what they’ve put together. Of course, Metallica has done some really cool shit. Voivod’s done some amazing arrangements. Gov’t Mule has done some amazing arrangements – Warren Haynes, very good songwriter. Zakk Wylde, great songwriter. There are a lot of people out there that I have respect for in that way.
Songfacts: I remember reading an old interview with you and you said that you were a big fan of also the old stuff from Motown, as well.
Jason: Oh my God, yes. Anything with James Jamerson on bass, there’s no way you could do any wrong with that, because those are the records that I wore the grooves out of first as a young man, like a lot of people of my generation. But definitely the Motown thing had a lot to do with inspiring me with the bass-dominated arrangements.
Songfacts: I’m surprised more metal musicians don’t go back and study those old albums by the Motown artists.
Jason: I was fortunate enough to be brought up in Michigan, so there was a lot of that music being played all the time on the radio and in my household by my older brothers. Now that I go back and analyze it, I think it played such a giant part in me gravitating towards the bass in general, and maybe the aptitude of songwriting and what sounds good, like what the flow is.
It’s all about the flow. It’s all about the feel and the toe tappin’ without you having to think about it, and that’s what that music was king of. It was infectious. You had to tap your toe to that music.
Songfacts: One of my favorite songs from when you were a member of Metallica was Blackened, which is a song that you co-wrote. What do you remember about your contribution to that song, as far as writing it?
Jason: That was a very special time in my life. This was when James [Hetfield] and I were first becoming friends. He was someone I looked up to greatly before I joined the band – we all did. Anybody in any other bands, even the guys in the bands around us, even Exodus and Violence, we all looked up to James. He was just a special gifted person, still is.
So we were getting to be friends and we’d stay over at each other’s house or apartments, and we’d take care of each other’s animals when we went on vacations and these kind of things, got to be pals.
We were in my one-bedroom apartment. I had my little four-track Tascam set up in the corner of the bedroom, and we were jamming on our guitars, just playing through some riffs. And I played that Blackened riff, and he goes, “Dude, what is that?” Because it was really pretty crazy. The original thing is a very fast alternating thing. Man, it’s pretty tricky, actually. I mean, the one that ended up on the record is pretty tricky, too, but the original one is really tricky.
He picked up on that and we recorded that bit. And he goes, “Let’s build it to this, and build it to this.” It was a moment. I was actually composing a song with James from Metallica and he was approving my riffs and saying, “This is going to be a Metallica song.” That was a big, big moment for me. We had already been on tour together, and so I had a giant Damage Inc. tour poster on my bedroom wall right above my little station where I had my speakers and my little four-track and the two or three guitars in my collection.
And there we were, I could paint that picture for you very plainly. It was a very, very big moment for me, because I was getting approved from The Man to have my first chance on having one of my compositions on a Metallica record. So that was a very special time.
Songfacts: This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of the Justice album. I’m sure a lot of fans were hoping, that Metallica was going to put out the album again as a reissue and bring up the bass. Would you like to see that happen as a possible reissue?
Jason: It’s their band and if they decide to do that, that’s all good with me. You know, over time there’s been so much hubbub over this thing and people make so much out of it, but whatever it is that they make out of the blend of the whole thing, to me the album is perfect. Kill ‘Em All isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect. And Van Halen I isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect. …And Justice For All isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect. Because it captured that time for those people.
And going back and changing things and doing “the Sharon Osbourne thing” [replacing previous musicians’ recordings with newer ones, as evidenced a few years ago with reissues of Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman], going back and re-recording albums that were already classics, I’m just not sure about all that stuff.
So if they decide to do a remaster and they bring up the bass frequencies or the low end frequencies and all that, right on, man. Send me a copy and I’ll blast it just like anybody else, just like a fan of Metallica. But for what it is, it does just fine. It still sells a lot of copies every day and I’m pretty happy with the outcome of the whole thing, actually.
Considering what I knew about playing bass guitar at that time, I’m not surprised it’s as low as it is, really.
Songfacts: I recently interviewed Michael Gilbert from the band Flotsam and Jetsam, and he mentioned that he’d like to work with you again. Would you ever entertain the thought of maybe doing some shows or a new album with Flotsam and Jetsam at some point?
Jason: Well, I wrote a few songs for their new record, Ugly Noise. I gave them the title for the album and lyrics for the main song and all that kind of stuff. That’s all my stuff, so I contributed to the last one. They have actually asked me this week to play on the No Place for Disgrace re-recording, and now we’re in the same territory of the last question again. I don’t believe, really, in that kind of thing, going back and re-recording stuff. It just doesn’t seem right. It seems like stepping backwards to me, and I want to move forward.
I was up until 5 o’clock this morning working on a new song that Mike Mushok and I have together, and I really think we have something with this one. So I have enough of my own stuff going on and I’m moving forward with new material.
So bless them for going back and doing No Place, and that’s all good. But I won’t be taking a part in any of that. I’ll always be a supporter of Flotsam and Jetsam, but I’m not going to be in their band or anything like that.
Greg Prato of BraveWords recently spoke with guitarist Jake E. Lee about the reasons for Red Dragon Cartel’s underwhelming live debut, several Ozzy and Badlands memories, and his admiration of Tommy Bolin. Portions of the interview appear below.
BraveWords: What were your thoughts of the first show at the Whiskey A Go Go the other night? It seems like fans on the internet were pretty critical of singer D.J. Smith’s performance.
Jake E. Lee: “Yeah, I knew that was coming up! (Laughs) Boy, yeah, this is a different age from the last time I played – you had a bad show, you just pretended like it never happened and eventually, it would go away. That doesn’t happen anymore. And that’s why I was on your site (BraveWords) the other night, I think it was after the San Diego show, I decided to…because I had read all of the stuff that was said about that first show, and I was like, ‘OK, we did pretty good in San Diego. I wonder if there is any redemption in us at all.’ I think it took me to your site first, with the apology thing from Darren (D.J.). Yeah, that first show, I blame myself mostly, because we were under-rehearsed. The show just kind of popped up. One day, ‘You have a show coming up, at the Whiskey.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ So we didn’t have time to prepare, because I always wanted to rehearse the band two to three weeks comfortably, to be prepared for the first show. We didn’t really have that kind of time – because two of them are Canucks and we had to get visas and get them down here. We ended up having five days to rehearse. The rehearsals were great, but I think we kind of burnt ourselves out, because we would rehearse for like eight hours straight, wake up, come in, rehearse for eight hours – and trying to figure out what songs we would play. You do that for five nights in a row and then have a show the next day, you get a little burnt out, and that’s not the way I want to do the first show. So we were a bit burnt. And then we had to wake up in the morning, go down to LA. So everybody was tired. And like I said, these are weak excuses – but it’s my fault. I should have put my foot down and actually said, ‘Either we’re not doing the first show, or we’ve got to figure out a way we can rehearse for two to three weeks comfortably instead of cramming it all in.’ So that first show, a little shaky. And with Darren, he’s a lead singer and they’re usually cocky – I’m stereotyping, but it’s true – lead singers don’t get nervous. He admitted to me afterwards, he said, ‘I was really nervous. I’m ‘Jake E. Lee’s new singer;’ I’m following in Ray Gillen’s footsteps. Our first show is at the Whiskey A Go Go.’ He tired to calm himself down with some drinks and it wasn’t the ideal first show. But I can guarantee you that that particular performance will never happen again, because Darren…and nobody is going to beat themselves up worse than Darren did, even though there were a lot of attempts on the web! Because they were brutal on him. And he read them. Like I said, nobody is going to kick themselves harder than him. But he got kicked pretty hard. We did the San Diego show, and he didn’t have a drink and he was on his game that night. In San Diego, we did a lot better. Yeah, that first show…the good thing about that is it’s only going to get better – there’s no possible way it could get worse. And so every show after that, it’s going to be an improvement. That’s trying to look at the good side of things. And we’ll never be scrutinized as hard, either, as much as the first show at the Whiskey A Go Go. We’re never going to be under that magnifying glass again. Everything is just going to get better from here on out. Because during rehearsals, we sounded great. We had to learn the songs quick and there were mistakes, but they were ‘glorious mistakes’ – they were mistakes made with a rock n’ roll attitude. So I just figured we were going to be fine. But yeah…are we done I hope talking about that first show?” (Laughs)
BraveWords: You mentioned before the break-up of Badlands. To the best of my knowledge, you’ve never gone on record as to what caused the break-up.
Jake E. Lee: “We all got along great…until the end. By that time, we got dropped by the record label, and we were kind of hurting financially. Because of that, and because I think Ray knew he didn’t have a lot of time left (Ray passed away in 1993 at the age of 34, from AIDS-related complications) – even though that was never specifically stated at that time – he kind of started to want to write material that he thought would get us on the radio and make us a bigger band. I was on the other side. I was like, ‘I don’t give a fuck, I don’t care. We don’t have to be on the radio. This is a great band, I love playing in this band. I just want to play music. I don’t want to play something to try to become something.’ Anyway, there is that friction there, and the fact that we weren’t making any money. Rehearsals and songwriting, we were in studios, and they’re billing us – so we were actually getting in debt. It finally just came to a head one day. I don’t remember…I think it was kind of a mutual thing, or Ray said he quit, and I said, ‘Fine, you’re fired.’ It all ended much uglier than it needed to. But I did contact Ray just before he passed. We made up. And I miss Ray to this day – every single day I miss him. Not just as a singer, but as a brother. I’m glad I was able to talk to him before he left. In fact, I called him when he was in the hospital, and I wasn’t able to actually talk to him – I talked to his cousin, who was in the room with him. Because by that time, he wasn’t able to speak. But she told me – because they had discussed it before – that he wanted to get back. He told her, ‘I miss Jake. We were a good team, and I hope someday Jake will call.’ So then when I did call, she was all excited. He was very happy that I called, and I told her, ‘Tell him I miss him. Let’s do something – when he gets out of the hospital, we’ll get together and start working on something new.’ He was excited about that. But he never got out of the hospital.”
BraveWords: I seem to recall rumors that there was talk of an Ozzy reunion sometime back in the ’90s?
Jake E. Lee: “At one point, I think it was in the mid ’90s, Sharon was in town and called me. And I hadn’t talked to her since…when I got fired. She said, ‘Jake, how are you doing? Let’s get together.’ Because I have a daughter, and she has daughters, and they kind of grew up together during the Ozzy years. She said, ‘Let’s get together and have lunch.’ So I went over there and we talked, but that never came up. I guess just the fact that we were talking may have helped spread that rumor. But right around 2005 or so, I think she called me again, and just out-and-out asked me, ‘Would you be interested in playing some shows and maybe doing the next record with Ozzy?’ I just wasn’t prepared for that. She threw me off balance, and I said, ‘Well, that’s a lot to think about. Can you call me back tomorrow? Give me 24 hours to figure it out.’ She said sure, and she called, but I still hadn’t figured it out, so I didn’t answer. (Laughs) So I figured she’d call the next day, but she never called back. But I don’t think it would have worked anyway, because by that time, I figured out, ‘OK. I’ll consider doing that but I want credit for Bark at the Moon – I want credit for all the songs I wrote.’ That would have been my stipulation. So although I never got a chance to say it, I’m sure things wouldn’t have worked out, because I don’t think she’s prepared to give that up for some reason – I don’t know why. But that’s when they were having a lot of problems with Zakk (Wylde), and it might have even just been a case of where she wanted to go to Zakk and say, ‘I talked to Jake…get your shit together.’ That might have been the reason for that call. Who knows? I don’t know.”
BraveWords: A few years ago, I did a book about ex-Deep Purple/James Gang guitarist Tommy Bolin (Touched by Magic: The Tommy Bolin Story), and I seem to remember once hearing you were a big fan.
Jake E. Lee: “Tommy was the reason why I wanted to get a Strat. I just loved him. When I was in a cover band in San Diego, we became probably the biggest cover band in San Diego at that time, and it was called Teaser – because that was his first album title. Yeah, he was a huge influence on me. I loved his tone. I even saw him with Jeff Beck in San Diego on that tour where he ended up OD’ing (in 1976). I saw him on that tour. And my big regret is I knew this girl who knew people backstage, and she said, ‘I can get you back there. Do you want to meet Tommy?’ And I was feeling all bashful all of a sudden. ‘Maybe next time.’ And, there was no next time. So I have a big regret that I didn’t just man up and go backstage and meet him. I wish I had.”
More musicians have been announced for the Randy Rhoads Remembered: A Celebration Of A Legend, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, January 25th, 2014 at The Observatory in Santa Ana, California.
Current musicians scheduled at appear are:
* Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake) * Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) * Phil Demmel (Machine Head) * Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) * Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) * Kiko Loureiro (Angra) * Rowan Robertson (Dio) * Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions, Electric Sun) * Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses) * Brent Woods (The Moby Dicks, Vince Neil) * Kelle Rhoads (vocals) * Phil Soussan (Big Noize, Ozzy Osbourne (bass) * Neil Turbin (Deathriders, Anthrax) (vocals)
Plus the Madmen house band featuring:
* Stephen LeBlanc (Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, The Moby Dicks) (keyboards) * Robert Mason (Warrant, Lynch Mob, Ozzy Osbourne) (vocals) * Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake) (bass) * Brian Tichy (S.U.N., Whitesnake, Foreigner, Ozzy Osbourne)
From the creators of Bonzo Bash, Brian Tichy and Joe Sutton bring you yet another celebration for an icon.
Tichy and Sutton, in conjunction with Randy Rhoads’ brother Kelle Rhoads; the Rhoads family; Bonzo Bash guitarist/former student of Randy’s, Brent Woods; as well as one of Rhoads’ dearest friends, rock bass legend Rudy Sarzo, have come together to put on the ultimate tribute celebration in honor of one of the the most influential and brightest stars the world of rock guitar has ever seen.
Andy Greene of Rolling Stone spoke with original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Portions of the interview appear below.
RS: Tell me your first reaction to the news that KISS made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ace: It’s such an honor. I’m so excited. I learned about it last night when my assistant called me. I didn’t sleep very well afterwards.
RS: Did the news surprise you?
Ace: It surprised me, but when I saw all the people we were up against I had a feeling we were going to make it in…It should be a great evening. I’m really excited and looking forward to the night.
RS: I spoke with Gene a couple of hours ago. He said he’s willing to play with you and Peter Criss that night.
Ace: Okay. That sounds like a great idea.
RS: Are you open to that too?
Ace: Absolutely. Are you gonna want us to put makeup on?
Ace: It’s been a while for me.
RS: It’s been over a decade, right?
Ace: The last shows I did with KISS was in Australia around 2002.
RS: You have no hesitation about walking back onstage with Paul and Gene?
Ace: Not at all. I think it will be great. I think it will be great for the fans to witness and a lot of fun. I recently performed with Peter at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York for Eddie Trunk’s 30 years in broadcasting celebration. That was a lot of fun. I hadn’t performed with Peter in 12 years. We all still have it.
RS: Gene mentioned that next year is the band’s 40th anniversary. He said he didn’t want a reunion tour, but I got the sense it was somewhere in his mind. Would you want a KISS reunion tour?
Ace: It’s something I haven’t even entertained or even thought about. I hadn’t even realized that next year is the 40-year anniversary. Right now, I’m focusing on my solo career. I recently signed a two-album deal. I’ve been in the music for the past three months.
RS: If a tour was offered to you, would you think about it?
Ace: It’s something I would consider if it was presented in the proper way.
RS: Gene was praising you when we spoke, but in other interviews he will call you a “cancer” or a “loser.”
Ace: I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with Paul and Gene. We parted company on more than one occasion, but there’s always been mutual respect and admiration. I think somehow the press plays it up that there’s a lot of hate between the members. It’s really completely blown out of proportion.
RS: But he called you a “cancer” recently.
Ace: A cancer? I wasn’t aware of that. What does it mean?
RS: I guess that you’re somehow a poison.
Ace: [Huge laugh] I think he gets frustrated that even though they have a replacement for me in the band, fans are continually bombarding him and saying, “Hey, you should get the original guitar player back. Ace is still number one.” He gets that constantly. It has to be frustrating to him and Paul.
RS: Are you insulted that somebody else is in your makeup?
Ace: Well, it’s a choice that Paul and Gene have made. I know the fans aren’t happy with it. I read the comments on the Internet. Paul and Gene have lost a lot of fans because of the move they made. It is what it is.
I’m not happy about it. Most of the comments I read by fans say that, “If you’re going to replace Ace, you should have created a different character.” That’s what they did with Vinnie Vincent when I originally left the group in 1982.
RS: They have Eric Singer in the Catman makeup and he’s singing Beth.
Ace: I didn’t know he was singing “Beth.” [Laughs] You know, a lot of the fans I talk to just tell me they aren’t going to go to the shows anymore. I know concert attendance hasn’t been what they’ve wanted this past year. It is what it is.
RS: Gene has implied he doesn’t believe you are sober.
Ace: That’s kind of juvenile. Does he have blinders on? I know he’s spoken to several people that I know that he knows that have seen me and done business with me over the past several years. I don’t believe they are telling him that I’m not sober. It’s been over seven years for me and I can’t see myself going back. But all I have is today. One day at a time.
RS: I imagine it’s going to be emotional to stand at the podium with the three other guys in the band.
Ace: It’s going to be intense, but it’s going to be great. I don’t foresee any negative vibes. I don’t foresee any bad blood. I think that myself, Peter, Paul and Gene, we’re the four guys that started the group and brought it into international success. I think that sometime in the late 1970s we were listed as the number one group in the world by some polls. We achieved what most people only dream about. I’ll never forget it. And that’s something nobody can take away from me.
Def Leppard is planning a Viva Pyromania residency in Las Vegas in 2014 while also preparing to record an album of new material in Dublin.
“The Vegas thing was amazing,” guitarist Phil Collen told Billboard, referencing their Viva Hysteria residency at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. “We’re also going to be doing Viva Pyromania at some point at the end of next year.”
Pyromania, the 1983 release certified 10 times platinum in 2004, was the Sheffield, England hard rock band’s breakthrough album.
Def Leppard gave eleven Hysteria concerts in Las Vegas in March and April before heading to Europe where they played Hysteria in its entirety at Hellfest in France and continued to have revelations about the album that contained Pour Some Sugar on Me,, Animal, Love Bites and Armageddon It.
“When we were rehearsing we realized how much went into that,” Collen said on the red carpet after the finale of The Voice. “It’s a rich and expensive sounding record. It doesn’t sound like it now, but it was very experimental. Guitar parts that you only did once, you had to revisit. And you have to get into it.”
Adds drummer Rick Allen, “So much time went into recording that record. It is so deep and complex. Every time we play it, there’s a new way to do it.”
The specter of their ’80s heyday looms over Def Leppard any time they venture back into a studio, the last time being 2008 for Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. Collen and guitarist Vivian Campbell agree they have a unique balance to be mindful of whenever they do new material.
On one hand, they hope to record a fair amount of the record live as they did with 1996’s Slang, an album under appreciated at the time of its release. It has only sold 367,000 copies, according to Soundscan.
“You paint yourself into a corner with a certain writing style when you have a huge album,” Collen says. ” Slang is very raw — us playing live — and everyone hated it. You learn from that. You don’t want to cop out too much.”
Campbell says the band can over think the situation at times. “I think sometimes you just got to let it happen. The other side of the equation is the band is successful for a certain sound. It’s a brand like Coca-Cola and you’ve got to give the people what they expect. At the same time you have to move on.”
From the perspective of Collen, Campbell and Clark, the emphasis is on big vocal beds, loads of guitar and lyrics that singer Joe Elliott can get behind. As they’ve aged, they have been able to explore tragedy on a personal level and get beyond anthems for strip clubs and frat houses.
“In a way, the real craft to me is being ambiguous,” Campbell says. “Joe is the best person to keep the balance. I remember we were writing lyrics once on the X album. I can’t remember what the word was, but I (gave him lyrics) Joe looked at it and said ‘I’m not singing that word. That’s not rock ‘n’ roll. Sting would sing that word.’ Its gotta be a blue collar working class vernacular. (Otherwise) it’s not rock n roll. You’re Bob Dylan or Bono or something.”
Def Leppard’s appearance on The Voice was in part to promote the broadcast TV debut of Def Leppard: Viva! Hysteria on AXS TV on December 29th.