Metallica wouldn't let Jason Newsted go public with his side projects, but now he's got his own label and he's unleashing nearly every note he's put to tape since 1994.
"Over the next few years we're gonna release [everything]," promised Newsted, who's recorded material with members of Sepultura, Faith No More and the Melvins. "We have maybe 10 or 12 [projects] in the can for people to hear. About every couple of months we'll bring it out. It's a lot of things [that] were done up to the point where I left Metallica."
Newsted said he's going to release the projects in chronological order, a process he's already begun with a split EP featuring IR8 and Sexoturica. The latter — Newsted, Exodus drummer Tom Hunting and Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser — came together in 1995. The three IR8 tracks — featuring Newsted, Hunting and Strapping Young Lad singer/guitarist Devin Townsend — were recorded in 1994.
A couple of years ago when the IR8 material leaked to radio, it caused a lot of conflict in the Metallica camp. "That was the first time [frontman] James [Hetfield] and [drummer] Lars [Ulrich] got kind of bent about playing other music with other people, or that somehow it would hinder Metallica's forward motion. Which I understood at that time — we were kickin' pretty hard."
Newsted said he doesn't see a lot of forward motion with Metallica now and that it was primarily the band's tight control over his outside projects that caused him to leave the group in January 2001 (see "Bassist Jason Newsted Leaves Metallica").
"They have to recognize the four beings that make up this one great entity, and it wasn't like that. I didn't feel like the respect was shown. I keep chasing music all the time and they kept saying, 'Don't do that! You can't do that!' [But] that's how I live. You do whatever you do, you race cars and you raise children. That's how you live. ... I don't stop you from raising your kids or say that's wrong. Don't stop me from raising my music or doing my music."
Newsted re-emerged with Echobrain (see "Newsted, Fans Feel 'Wicked Good' At Echobrain Tour Launch") before joining veteran Canadian thrash band Voivod (see "Jason Newsted Says His New Band Can Kick Metallica's Ass"). He's also released CDs with Papa Wheelie through his Chophouse imprint, named for the studio in San Francisco where his projects originated.
Newsted started jamming at Chophouse with ex-Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin and his brother in 1992. The only rule was "you're supposed to play something you haven't played before," Newsted explained. "From that time, we've put in all kinds of combinations of people. There could be an avant-garde jazz saxophone player ... and a rock guy and me, and we all just make the soup up. ... [We're] not allowed to do overdubs in the Chophouse. What you play at that moment, warts and all, that's what you capture and that's what we keep.
"Every minute I had between Metallica tours or something like that, we would put something together," he said. "It was our escape. It was a place that we could go to remember why we're doing it."
For Newsted, it's all about doing whatever he can to retain the initial feeling that excited him as a 19-year-old bass player in Flotsam and Jetsam. "I never looked at that music, even with Metallica, as a job. That just wasn't my thing. It was important for me to retain that feeling, I had to fight it. It was a challenge, because the other [Metallica] guys would be kind of blasé about things sometimes and I had to make sure to keep myself up."
Other Chophouse projects slated to surface soon include the Black Sabbath-like Tree of the Sun, which features Townsend, the Melvins' Dale Crover and ex-Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder; the "full death metal" Blastula; and the Satanitones.
"I have learned more about the business in the last 18 months than I ever did in 14 years in Metallica," Newsted said of being the Chophouse Records honcho. "When you're in Metallica, you've got a bunch of people working for you and you're protected as the artist. ... [It's] not just being the bass player anymore and showing up for the photos. It's like a whole damn thing — bass player, photos, songwriting, producing and record company, seeing it all the way through from start to finish."
The IR8/Sexoturica split EP is available through the Chophouse Records Web site.
Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by Iann Robinson