Jason Newsted Reveals First Time He Upset Metallica With Side Project Involving Devin Townsend
Jason Newsted's desire to pursue his Echobrain side project while still being an active member of Metallica ultimately led to his split from the band in 2001. Friction developed even earlier, however, when he and Devin Townsend began working on music together in 1994, which upset the other members of the legendary thrash group.
Upon joining Metallica in 1987 after the death of bassist Cliff Burton, Newsted endured a considerable amount of hazing from his bandmates and, most infamously, his bass tracks are rather absent from ...And Justice for All, the 1988 album on which he made his 'Tallica debut.
Throughout his four-album tenure in the band, Newsted's songwriting contributions were minimal at most, a drastic change from his days in Flotsam and Jetsam where he served as the primary songwriter on their Doomsday for the Deceiver debut.
Between the release of Metallica's 1991 self-titled album (better known as 'The Black Album') and 1996's Load, Newsted built a home studio dubbed The Big Rigour Chophouse and, in '94, he invited Devin Townsend over to check it out and work on music together.
In that same year, Townsend formed Strapping Young Lad and had just come off a breakout stint as the singer on guitar virtuoso Steve Vai's 1993 album Sex and Religion.
"This was the very origins [of internal tension in Metallica]," Newsted told Metal Hammer in a recent interview.
He further explained, "I had just established the Chophouse in '92 and by '94 we had all the gear. Devin came down at the age of about 22 and was an absolute fucking maniac...dude, an hour-and-a-half of sleep a day for a whole week! And every time he would pick up a guitar you get, 'Widdle widdle widdle' and you're like, 'Dude, where in the hell did that come from?! Now play it backwards!'"
Together, they formed the group IR8, which also featured drummer Tom Hunting of Exodus fame and recorded a three-song demo.
"It was the first real project we took time to track in the Chophouse. It's just drum and bass, Devin doing some mad guitar solo over the top, I go in and scream the vocal - done. Raw production, but an incredible accomplishment, because I always wanted my own studio," the bassist went on.
This didn't sit right with other members of Metallica, though, and Newsted recalled, "The guys got wind of it and Lars said, 'You gotta come up to the house.' I didn't really know what it was for, so I take my bass and go up there: 'What's up, guys?' 'Dude, you know you're in Metallica now, don't you? You can't just be making music and sending out tapes to whatever fucker with whichever fucker. You do understand that, right?' 'Oh!'"
It caught him completely by surprise.
"I didn't realize at all! I didn't know about the politics — I was just sharing some metal with my friends! I pretty much broke down on that day in front of Lars and James. I was like, 'I'm sorry, it won't happen again!' And that was the first time," Newsted concluded, lightly referencing the friction around his Echobrain project that came later.
Flash forward to 2022 and Metallica's own Kirk Hammett just dropped his first-ever solo release, the Portals EP. In an exclusive interview with Loudwire, the guitarist detailed how releasing music outside of Metallica is a different animal today than it was 20-25 years ago.
"Back then, with Jason, the excuse was that we didn't want it to dilute the effect of Metallica or whatever. Bro, at this point, nothing can dilute what we have. Nothing can. It would have to be so big, you know? I mean, nothing but our mortality. And so we all now realize that, and see each other as just four guys who are artists, musicians that want to express themselves," Hammett said.