NORTH HOLLYWOOD, California — Anyone who was feeling sorry for Jason Newsted after his split with Metallica can stop now.
Not only is he a full-time member of seminal thrash outfit Voivod, but he's also the new bassist for Ozzy Osbourne, replacing Robert Trujillo, who split to join Metallica. And on Monday Newsted received perhaps the greatest compliment possible from the Ozzman himself.
"Jason reminds me of a young Geezer Butler," Ozzy said shortly after playing a four-song rehearsal, his second with Newsted, for a select group of press.
Still sweaty from banging through "Believer," "No More Tears," "Crazy Train" and the seminal (and once again timely) Black Sabbath tune "War Pigs," Newsted was visibly beaming as Ozzy compared him to Sabbath's legendary bassist.
"There could not be a bigger compliment. [If someone said], 'Here's a million dollars' [or] 'Here's this compliment,' I'll take this! That's it. [Butler] is my #1 teacher in life. And only he," Newsted said, a wide smile stretching across his face as he pointed to his new frontman, "gets the right to say that. He's the only one!"
Newsted left Metallica roughly two years ago (see "Bassist Jason Newsted Leaves Metallica"), resurfacing in Echobrain (see "Newsted, Fans Feel 'Wicked Good' At Echobrain Tour Launch") before joining up with Voivod for their latest album (see "Jason Newsted Says His New Band Can Kick Metallica's Ass").
Metallica recently announced the addition of ex-Suicidal Tendencies bassist Trujillo to their lineup (see "Metallica Have A Bassist: Ex-Ozzy Player Robert Trujillo"), and it wasn't long before Newsted was invited to start jamming with Ozzy's band. Jack Osbourne recommended Voivod for the second stage at Ozzfest, Ozzy explained, and a light bulb went off in Sharon Osbourne's head (see "Metal Musical Chairs: Ozzy May Hire Ex-Metallica Bassist").
Together with ex-Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin, who's been with Ozzy for eight years, and guitarist Zakk Wylde, Newsted said he honed his back catalog arsenal before Ozzy ever stepped in front of the mic. "I really wanted to be prepared for Oz, so when he walked in the room he could call out whatever song and I would be able to hit it."
What he didn’t realize was that on his first day with Ozzy he'd be under the watchful eye of his predecessor, who was on hand to rehearse for his final gig with the band. Before the day was over, Newsted found himself giving Trujillo tips on Metallica songs like "Battery" and "Damage, Inc."
Newsted — whose relationship with Trujillo stretches back a decade to when Suicidal Tendencies were friends and touring partners with Metallica — called Ozzy's outgoing bassist warmhearted and strong.
"I'm not sure that anybody else could have worked for Metallica," he said, "because he has the girth, as it were — that strength, mentally and physically, to deal with what has to be dealt with in that band. He's familiar with this caliber of an operation. I think it worked out the best for everybody involved."
"I'm the happiest man in the world today," Ozzy proclaimed. "I'm a strong believer that it was destiny that I end up playing with Jason. I don't believe in tarot cards or crystal balls, but I believe that somebody, before you're born, maps out your life. And it was destiny that Metallica end up playing with Robert Trujillo. I'm not pissed off with anybody. ... It's so nice to end a relationship nicely for a change."
When Ozzy mentioned that he couldn't wait to make an album with Newsted, the bassist's eyes widened and he grabbed the metal legend by both shoulders.
"Dude, if he's telling me the truth right now, if he really wants to write ... songs, it's going to be f---ing crazy! I'm telling you right now, it's gonna be out of this world. If I get an opportunity to write bass behind his vocals? Working with Zakk? It's just going to be sick, man, that's all I can say."
For now, Newsted will join Ozzy on this summer's Ozzfest outing as well as several Canadian dates. He'll also perform with Voivod, who will play "something from each album," according to Newsted, while supporting Ozzy in Canada and co-headlining the Ozzfest's second stage.
"This is a huge opportunity for both [Metallica and Ozzy] to prove themselves again," Newsted said. "It can be a cool thing for the next era of both of the biggest metal bands America has seen. ... It's going to be an incredible summer."