They’ve admired each other’s music for years but had never played a note together until last month. Now, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, Voivod/ ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke are rocking out in front of the cameras in their made-for-TV supergroup, Supernova, taping the second season of the Mark Burnett reality show “Rock Star.” And they’re under the gun to find a new singer and create some killer songs.
“We only had nine days to jam before the red light went on in the studio,” said Newsted, who considers the whole process a trial by fire. “Now we have a total of 45 days to form the band, write the songs, develop the songs, record the songs and mix the album. That’s called asking for miracles.”
Sure, but that’s part of what’ll make “Rock Star: Supernova,” which debuts July 5 on CBS, so entertaining. Deadlines are looming, and everyone’s under immense pressure. Not only do Supernova have to choose the right vocalist — as INXS did in the first season — they also have to establish their own musical chemistry in order for the band to click.
“I’m looking forward to watching the band evolve and seeing how that process comes about,” said ex-Jane’s Addiction member Dave Navarro, who will return to co-host the show with Brooke Burke. “INXS were already well-known, and they were already a solid unit. Watching Tommy, Gilby and Jason learning to work together is going to be very compelling.”
Fortunately, the bandmembers did some homework. Before getting together at Clarke’s home studio to rehearse for the show, Lee and Newsted recorded some musical ideas, then traded tapes to get a sense of what their collaboration might sound like. Both were excited by the results and jammed on some of the ideas at Supernova’s rehearsals.
“It’s quite futuristic-sounding, and there are some cool styles,”
Newsted said. “Tommy is coming from a very hip place with a lot of electronica and crazy, heavy beats covered with his real drums. And my slabs of [bass-playing in the styles of] Kyuss and [Black] Sabbath are in there. Then you’ve got Gilby’s rock and roll guitar over it all. So the balance of elements is really f—ing cool.”
Sadly, many of the singers around the world who have auditioned for the show aren’t aware of the members’ pasts and probably never even heard of Kyuss. In a recent DVD interview for TV Guide, the band talked about some of the singers who have showed up with inappropriate material, including folk songs and Janis Joplin covers. “What about [the singer who did Elton John’s] ‘I’m Still Standing’?” Clarke asked his bandmates. “That was just wrong.”
So what are Supernova searching for? “We’re looking for that person that’s gonna stand in front of the three of us and just be mean,” Clarke told TV Guide. “Someone who’s just loud” (see “Tommy Lee Hopes ‘Rock Star’ Finds Dangerous, Scary Singer” ).
Once a singer is chosen, Supernova will enter the studio with producer Butch Walker to record an album. Walker previously worked with Lee on his 2005 solo album, Tommyland: The Ride, and has also produced and written for Pink, Avril Lavigne, Sevendust and Lindsay Lohan. Newsted said Walker will likely help shape the songs, but he stressed that there are no musical guidelines.
“We don’t have to fill any shoes — we’re building the shoes,” he said. “No one really knows what it’s going to sound like, and we could do anything. We have a very unique opportunity here. A lot of new bands are starting supergroups, but none of them are being created on national network television, so this is going to be huge.”
A full North American tour will follow the release of the record. But while Supernova will function in the studio and on the road as an actual band, Lee and Newsted are keeping their day jobs. Lee is still an active member of Mötley Crüe, and Newsted plans to enter the studio with Voivod in early 2007 to record the last batch of tunes by their late guitarist, Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (see “Voivod Guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour Dies Of Cancer At 45″ ). Actually, one reason Newsted accepted the offer to be in Supernova was to plug his other ventures.
“It’s a good chance to really pimp some serious Voivod and also my studio, Chophouse,” he said. “The first show airs July 5, and Voivod’s new album, Katorz, comes out July 25. So I’ll certainly be wearing some Voivod clothing during the weeks leading up to the release of the record and following its release, and I’ll be mentioning the band in various appearances.”
Things could always change, but at this point Newsted doesn’t seem to be thinking that much about the long-term potential for Supernova — he’s more interested in how the TV show can promote Voivod.
“Really, you can’t buy this kind of publicity,” he concluded.
“Somewhere between 20 and 40 million people around the globe will watch this show every week. If I got together with the guys in Metallica and we put all our money together to advertise, it still wouldn’t come close to what they’re spending to plug this show, which is backed by Verizon, Microsoft and Honda.
“We got invited to play a private party for Bill Gates a couple days ago: That’s how crazy this world is,” he laughed.
“And that’s a chance for me to wear a Voivod shirt in front of these mother—-ers. So, I’m liking this. I’m liking this a lot.”