From the Archives : Jason Newsted

WHEN I HIRED HIM TO BE BP’S FIRST assistant editor, Karl Coryat was a 23-year old neophyte.

From Sept/Oct 1991

When I hired him to be BP's first assistant editor, Karl Coryat was a 23-year old neophyte. He’d never worked at a magazine, but he had impressed me with his writing samples, his knowledge of recording gear, and his wide-ranging (if somewhat bizarre) musical taste. Karl grew quickly in the job, and when this issue rolled around he convinced me that it was time for him to write his first cover story, on Jason Newsted of Metallica.

Karl recalls meeting Jason: “It was the first time I’d been to a rock star’s house, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. He lived in a large suburban home in a wealthy neighborhood. His living room was immaculate, with all of this overstuffed furniture and knick-knacks and things. It may have been completely untouched. But one small room upstairs was the ‘music room’—painted black floor to ceiling, and crammed with gear and strange artifacts from his travels. We did the interview in there.”

Newsted had taken over the bass chair in Metallica after the death of Cliff Burton in a 1986 tour-bus accident. Burton was a wildly unconventional and much admired player, and Karl’s story included a nice memorial to him, with quotes from bandmates Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and James Hetfield. Newsted played in Metallica for 15 years before departing, somewhat acrimoniously, in 2001. He was replaced by Robert Trujillo, whom we had featured in an August ’94 cover story—also written by Karl—when he was raising eyebrows with his slamming style in Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves. —Jim Roberts

How did you get into music?

There was always music around; my parents and my two older brothers played records all the time. This was in Niles, Michigan, so we listened to a lot of black music—Motown, Jackson 5, Earth, Wind & Fire, that kind of thing. As I got older, I started getting into bands like Kiss, Foghat, REO Speedvwagon, and Ted Nugent. Then Black Sabbath came along, and then Rush, which was a huge influence— Rush was my favorite band for years. I really looked up to Geddy Lee.

Did he inspire you to start playing bass?

It was more Gene Simmons; he was it for me. My friends and I wanted to be Kiss— just like all the other kids at the time. I liked Simmons the best, so I got a bass: a Kay SG-lookalike with a Gibson amp. I never played it, but I’d go [plays a swooping slide up and down the neck] a lot. I didn’t know how to tune it or anything, and I put it in the closet for about five years. When I was in high school, I picked up the bass again and started messing with it. I didn’t really dig anything at the time, so I was searching for something to get into. I started jamming with some guys, and it grew from there.

Were you entirely self-taught?

Yes. I took one lesson when I got my bass, because my dad said I had to. But after that, I was on my own. I jammed along with Gene Simmons a lot; “Parasite” [Hotter Than Hell, Casablanca, 1974] was my favorite tune. F# rules! You can come from anywhere— start at A# flatulent, come down to that F#, man, and you’re there!

When did you decide to turn pro?

I was 18. I had become a hoodlum, and I quit school to play in a rock & roll band full-time. We decided to leave Michigan and head west in a U-Haul—we just drove blindly, with all our shit in the back. We ended up in Arizona on Halloween of 1981, exactly five years before I joined Metallica.


Man(Ring) & Machine From May and June 1991

ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT working at BASS PLAYER was the access it gave me to both musicians and instrument makers. As a freelance writer, I had done many artist interviews and profiles, but I hadn’t had many opportunities to talk to bass builders and learn about their work.