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NEWSTED, JASON


VOI VOD: THE (JA)SONIC REVOLUTION

by Dr. Abner Mality

What manner of man would leave the ranks of the most popular heavy metal band to ever exist and join a cadre of French-Canadian mutant rockers? Who would give up the cushy existance of being a bass player in Metallica to the uncertain life of bassist for Voi Vod?

This man would. He is Jason Newsted, now known as Jasonic. And he's loving every minute of it!

As you will soon learn, it may have been Jasonic's destiny to play with Voi Vod. But heavy metal has always been a part of Mr. Newsted, going all the way back to his first band, Flotsam and Jetsam. From the mild notoriety of F&J, Jason was catapulted into the white-hot light of stardom when he was chosen to replaced the late Cliff Burton in Metallica. And for the last 15 years or so, Jason held down the bass duties for the mightiest metal band of all time. But always lurking in the recesses of his mind was the specter of Voi Vod.

Well, Newsted finally decided to make a break for it, throwing away the safe but stagnant career in Metallica to pursue his dreams with Voi Vod. The Canadians had always been a strong presence in the metal underground but never really one of the big boys. With the addition of Jasonic and the return of their original vocalist Snake, that may all change. Their new album, simply entitled "Voi Vod", is a breath of fresh air in today's stale metal scene. It's catchy, it's heavy, it's original and it reintroduces to the public a band who have always done things their own way.

So let's venture into bold new frontiers with Jasonic (who we learned as we were going to press was going to be Ozzy's new bassist as well!)...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Your new CD "Voi Vod" is like a reintroduction for the band...

JASON NEWSTED: That's right, that's just what it is. We have a new kind of band together now, y'know. New force, new life, new blood!


WC: You get to be the new guy in a band again!

JN: That's right, I'm in some familiar territory right about now.

WC: What's the new record going to sound like?

JN: Have you heard anything yet?

WC: I've got a 3 song sampler. I have to say, I was surprised by how catchy the material was. It has a real rock and roll vibe, with almost a punk feel in spots. Is that the vibe going through the whole album?

JN: Yeah, I think all the things you're describing can fall under the heading of honest music, true music. It's true to what we do best. Voi Vod has always been a very innovative band with a very identifiable sound. And that continues. We picked up right where the album "Outer Limits" left off, the last album that Snake, Piggy and Away made together. It's very listenable. I think this sonically may be the best
record in its continuity across the whole hour of music. It's very direct...there's not much of the psychedlic feel that Voi Vod has sometimes had in the past. When you said it was rock and roll, I like that description. It's heavy metal music, it's very guitar-oriented and that's the way it should be.

WC: Did it take you a while to get used to being in Voi Vod or did you click with them right away?

JN: We've known each other for a long, long time. They were on Metal Blade Records in the early 80's and my old band Flotsam and Jetsam was on Metal Blade the same time. We actually started playing music together in 1988 and we always kept in contact. When I would be on tour with Metallica, we'd meet up in a hotel room with drum machines and digital machines. We were always making noise and keeping it alive. Piggy [VV guitarist--Mality], Away [VV drummer--Mality] and myself have got quite a bit of music on multi-track. They came out here to the Chophouse [Jason's recording studio and record label in CA.--Me again] for a couple weeks at a time in 1995 and 1996 and we formed something called Tarrat.That was the basis of it. We've talked about being together on an album as a band for at least 10 or 12 years. So finally in March 2002, there was a 20th anniversay celebration of heavy metal in Montreal. Voi Vod was invited as the guests of honor. Snake played a set with them and told Piggy he wanted to be in the band again. They did some shows without me the first five months of last year. About June, Michel [Away's real name--Mality] and I started talking seriously about what was going to happen. Talk has been serious for a couple of years but we were getting down to scheduling studio time. We started trading music and trading tapes in July. They sent me about 6 song ideas with just Snake recorded singing in Piggy's bathroom...just cool shit! As an old fan, I was just jumping around, man. Hearing his voice back on top of those dissonant guitar chords...it was alive again. The Voi Vod was alive again!

From there, we built 18 songs. Piggy came out in September 2002 and for the next couple of weeks, he and I did all the arranging of the songs. And we pared it down to the 13 songs that you hear on the new record. We knew it was going to be 13, that was our goal. Snake and Away came out on Sept. 24, Piggy's birthday and we jammed really loud for the first time with all four of us. And it was really, really obvious that this was gonna be it. Three days later, on the 27th, I went on the radio and told the guy on the metal show I was going to be the new bass player in Voi Vod. The other guys had been listening to the radio in the other room. I walked in and they said "So you're gonna be the bass player in Voi Vod, huh?" and I said "Yeah, is that cool with you?"

WC: Did you come up with the nickname Jasonic yourself or was it given to you by the other guys?

JN: I've had Jasonic as the name of my music publishing company for many, many years. The guys have known me as that identity as we jammed through time so it's something that's always been there. Actually, I was really on their case about the first 3 weeks we were a band...what's my band name gonna be, guys? You guys have to pick it for me. Am I gonna be Lumpy or Dumpy or Squiggly or whatever the fuck? Michel just really loved Jasonic, he thought it was very Voi Vodian. He almost wished he would have chosen it first!

WC: Maybe it's another sign that destiny took a hand...

JN: Something like that. I'm definitely feeling that in a lot of ways.The way the bass sound wound up on the record was the kind of bass sound I always wanted to have. It was a sound I always chased, listening to Lemmy or Geezer Butler. That was the mix I always wanted when people made fun of me for playing with a pick and having a distorted sound. I just went ahead and did it anyway and it got me a lot further than them. That's my sound now and now it's demanded of me to play in every song with a distorted bass and it's a dream come true.

WC: It sounds like Snake didn't need to shake off any rust after rejoining the band, he just slipped right back into gear.

JN: He is a quite a poet and a serious artist and a very deep thinker. Michel and I both contributed a lot of material to the lyrics on the album this time. I gave Snake at least a couple dozen pages of stuff, some new and some old, and Michel gave him his usual alien/wormhole/blackhole type of stuff. Snake just mixed it all together and it came out like it came out. He tells these wonderful stories and it's fantastic.

WC: The science fiction concept of Voi Vod has always been a constant throughout the years. Is that something you enjoy and get into?

JN: I'm not into as much as Michel is, certainly. He's all the way into another world. I think that part of Voi Vod has always intrigued me like it has many, many other fans. There's some elements that it was really important for us to retain and that was one of them.

WC: I thought it was really cool that you sent me a hand-written note to go along with the sampler you sent me. That suggests you like to get your hands dirty and get involved in the music business. Has that been missing until you joined Voi Vod?

JN: Well, I've had my label Chophouse Records going for several years now. Up until about 8 months ago, Chophouse Records was just me. I did all of the mailing and all of the layout and those things. Now I've actually got a couple of people on staff so I can concentrate on the music more. The handwritten note is something that's important to me. It's important to keep in contact with people. It's the same thing I do with the Echobrain project [melodic rock band that Jason is also a member of--Dr. Mality] , it's the same thing I'll do with all the music I hold dear. I don't know how many people know this, but everything that is now happening with Voi Vod is completely paid for by me and is coming out of my pocket. The money that I saved from playing with Metallica is the money that makes it possible for Voi Vod to be a band again. I've spent that money wisely. I'm very serious about it and more importantly, I put every waking moment into it. I don't have to do that. I'm not doing it to make money because if I were doing it to make money, I'd have quit a long time ago. Echobrain lost serious, serious money. I don't have huge expectations for Voi Vod. We do what we do and we do it the best we can and if people grab on to it, that's great. I take part in everything, every aspect of the everyday shit like making sure the envelopes are addressed correctly, the labels are right and that I make contact with the people that give a shit about the music, like yourself.

WC: Yeah, it was amazing that I got a handwritten note from a guy who has sold, what, 50 million records?

JN: Actually it's 85 million.


WC: Oooops! I don't want to shortchange you...

JN: (laughing) Actually, I just found out about that yesterday myself! It was in some fucking press release and I never knew it in all my life! I didn't really count 'em all! I just said it to you like a smartass because I just read it less than a day ago! But as far as the note goes, I'm really glad that it did what it was supposed to do. I'm doing this because I want to make sure good music is out there. Seems to me, there's a lot of fodder out there now, a lot of crap.

WC: I think it's time for a change. Nu-metal is on the wane...

JN: It's really shallow...

WC: There's a lot of Creedish type alt-rock...

JN: I'd have to kill somebody, man. I can't take that!

WC: The thing about your new material, I can actually hear that being played on the radio.

JN: That's right, man. And it's still powerful and it's still real metal. But a lot of stuff is too good for the radio, in my opinion..

WC: Creatively speaking, when you left Metallica, did you feel kind of like you were let out of jail?

JN: No,no,no, it was never anything that severe.

WC: But I understand that any independent project you worked on during those years was forced into the background...

JN: Yeah, certainly. You can understand. With a band of that status, you have to be careful with those kind of things. As we got into the 15th, 16th, 18th, 20th year of the band, I said "You guys, what the hell difference is it going to make if I release on these side records I've been working on for years with people that are super talented? How the fuck is that gonna affect Metallica?" They seemed to think differently and that really bothered me. That was just one of the things. There was a lot of underlying shit.

WC: Certainly the pace of their writing and recording is glacially slow. For a really creative person, it's got to be galling to have 8 years between records.

JN: Well, you gotta remember that Metallica is one of the hardest touring bands of all time. If you say there's a five year gap between albums, that could be 600 to 700 shows. So it wasn't like we were sitting around with a thumb up our ass. There was a huge demand for people to see the band live, that's how they got to where they are. Now I would have liked to create more things and spend more hours with my hands on the instrument and the amps turned on. You know, the real thing. But there's so many things that take you from that quality time, so many demands on your time. Stuff like, "well, you've gotta do a video here, you've gotta do an awards show there, blah blah" and it starts getting crazy. The time that you have to take a breath, you want to go and take that breath and not jump right back in and play a bunch of amps cranked up to 10.

WC: Any tour plans as of yet?

JN: We're gonna start on April 10 in America and then go to Europe. We're not sure who is going to accompany us. We have a couple of different ideas but we're concerned with making the package worthwhile and keeping it metal. We want to encourage this form of music that we helped create. I don't want to worry about diversification as of yet, taking a mixed bag of bands on the road with us. We want it to be a metal show.

WC: There were 2 Voi Vod albums where Snake wasn't the vocalist ["Negatron" and "Phobos" featured Eric Forrest on bass and vocals--Mality] . Will you be playing anything from those albums live?

JN: Not until later in the touring. The first set lits will consist of songs from the Snake eras only. I think that as time goes on, we will pick a couple of songs from those albums, but there's so much in the Snake repertoire that's more important to play first. We've got to pick 15 songs or 20 songs or 24 songs depending on how long the set is. And we've got 13 brand new songs that we've written together that we want to share with people.

WC: What was your Spinal Tap moment?

JN: (sighs) Okay! Woodstock, I think it was 1994. Not the one where they burned everything down but the cool one. We [Metallica] were set up on the big circular stage. You know, where they have the band set up on one half and play while the other band is on the back half and then the shit revolves? You don't have too much set up time in between acts, you've got a quarter of a million people out there and you don't want to get them restless. They keep the shit revolving with a 15 minute changeover. We weren't supposed to have pyro but we insisted on having pyro. There was a big hub-bub about who was going to have fire and who wasn't going to have fire. Now the pyro, the amps and everything had to be confined to a certain area. We usually get spread out over considerably more space. Now the stage revolves and we start off with "Enter Sandman" with that big opening. It's about a minute before the music actually starts. The pyro was too close to the bass amps...and the guitar amps, for that matter...so when the pyro goes off...BOOM!...the safety circuit on the bass amps shuts the bass down. Right when the biggest note of the night is supposed to hit, the bass amps are not on. And this is something I have no fucking idea about. It's the biggest concert of the year and the biggest entrance of the year and the bass is deader than a doornail. It's like, "am I on? What the fuck's going on?" Well, they turn the switch on and the bass comes back on and then the pyro goes BOOM! and the bass dies again. Well, it ends up that Aerosmith goes on after us and they're all mad because we used pyro. They use pyro, too, and there's a big stink about it.

The next show that we go to is 5 or 6 days later because we were on a festival tour. James' guitar amp starts acting up like 4 songs into the set of the next show. What the fuck's going on, man? It was a residual effect on the tubes of his amps from the pyro at Woodstock. It's like something that would happen to Kiss. "We've gotta have our bombs, dude! More pyro, man, more smoke! We don't need amps!" (laughter).