Jason Newsted Says He Knows James Hetfield And Lars Ulrich’s Formula To Make New Songs

During a conversation with So! What, Jason Newsted recalled getting in the studio with Metallica and gave some details about their recording process. While discussing how all Metallica members would toss their ideas on the pile of riff tapes, he noted that James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich would choose the ones that would go together best.

Jason Newsted is one of the most appreciated former Metallica members. His friendly and forgiving approach towards the band and their past experiences have earned their fans’ respect and love. As you may know, Cliff Burton was Metallica’s bassist from 1983 until his passing on September 27, 1986. The young bassist passed due to a bus accident in Sweden while Metallica was on The Damage, Inc. Tour in support of the ‘Master of Puppets.’

Burton’s passing really affected the band members, and it took them quite some time to process their feelings. Metallica hired Jason Newsted in October 1986, without having had a chance to grieve, and unfortunately, Newsted became the band’s ‘whipping boy.’ The band’s former psychotherapist revealed that the band members grieved very unhealthily and channeled all their anger to Newsted. Thus, he ultimately quit in 2001 as he had had enough.’

Nevertheless, Jason Newsted managed to bury the hatchet with his former band members, and they now seem to be on good terms. Following the rerelease of Metallica’s iconic ‘Black Album’ in September 2021 in honor of its 3oth anniversary, Newsted has given several interviews and shared his experiences with the band. In his recent interview, the bassist gave some details about Metallica’s recording process and his contribution.

Metallica is famed for its pile of riff tapes as fans know that they would get in the studio, check out the riff tapes that the members had brought in, and figure out how to combine them. Jason Newsted said that this was how they worked on new music but added that Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield would often call the shots. They would pick out an idea and try to ‘build it into a blossom of some kind’ but require their help after getting the seed going.

Newsted admitted that it took him some time to understand their rules and formulas. He didn’t understand how recording ideas on tapes worked, and thus, instead of a done song, he would just record a riff or a baseline and toss it in the riff pile. However, it seems like his tactic worked since the first song Newsted co-wrote with Hetfield and Ulrich was ‘Blackened’ for ‘… And Justice for All’ which was his debut album with Metallica.

The interviewer asked the following question:

“What do you remember of the riff tapes? How did those get contributed to, and what were you contributing.”

To which Jason Newsted responded:

“Yeah, so I was learning their rules as they were or their formulas. Because we had only, recording-wise, messed with live stuff as we’d record these ideas and some stuff on our own or with the band, get a tape, and there would be something that James and Lars were doing really quick, so those became some riff tapes. I had only recorded the ‘Garage Days’ thing with them, and that was other people’s songs, and so we hadn’t really done anything showing ‘this is how Metallica does it in the studio.’

James and Lars get tapes. You put your riffs and ideas on the tape that all got put in the pile, like you’ve heard million times, and then those guys pull one out, and they take an idea and try to build it into a blossom of some kind with our help once they have the seed going. So I made up a couple of riff tapes with half-done songs. I wouldn’t have put guitar tracks on yet. I wouldn’t even have put click on it or anything. I would just be the base rhythm or whatever.

So, I didn’t know yet about the full… or at least half-realized ideas to give them. Like first chorus, middle eight, or something like that. Even though Metallica’s songs were never like, first chorus middle eight stuff. Still, just that general idea of song arrangement and composition would not have been in my head yet to be able to share it with them. All I could do was give them an idea and a riff that would become something else later.”

You can check out the interview below.