Former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted has paid tribute to Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, saying that the iconic MOTÖRHEAD frontman was “almost [his] savior” because Lemmy “made it okay” for Newsted to play bass with a pick.
During a December 29 appearance on Ozzy’s Boneyard (SiriusXM channel 38), Newsted said about Lemmy: “I had a couple of very good, genuine Lemmy experiences. I didn’t spend a lot of hours [with him], but the ones that we did were very powerful — for me at least. Like when we did THE LEMMYS — METALLICA called themselves THE LEMMYS [to play Lemmy‘s] fiftieth-birthday [party] in L.A. stuff like that. There were certain moments that were very special for all of us, I think.”
He continued: “I was trying to think of what I could say about him. It’s really hard to put it into words. And everybody’s quoting things from songs and titles of songs and all that all made sense, but I didn’t wanna say ‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘my’ and all that crap; I really didn’t want to. But he was such a big part of us, all the bands that I’ve been in. And especially as a bass player that played with a pick and stuff, he was kind of almost my savior in a way, because I always got messed with because people thought I should be playing with my fingers and I didn’t, and he made it okay, and somehow that was something very special for me way back then. So that’s how he touched me. Everybody’s got their own story, but that’s my direct connection. Then, of course, he influenced METALLICA so much as a band, and just attitude-wise, for everyone. But that’s my personal touch right there.”
Asked how he first discovered MOTÖRHEAD’s music, Newsted said: “I came up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and at that time, it was a pretty small-record-[store] kind of thing, and a few bands around or whatever. And there was a small cut-out section in the local boogie record store there, and there were seven or nine records, and two or three of ‘em were MOTÖRHEAD records. And I always went right to that bin. And the first one I got was ‘The Goden Years’ EP, I think, that had ‘Stone Dead Forever’ and some other stuff on. And then I went from there to, I think, the first MOTÖRHEAD, and then ‘Ace Of Spades’ right after that came in also as an import into Michigan from England. So it was so special in that way too, ‘cause it came from such a long way away and it was so powerful in so many ways.”
He continued: “I just felt connected somehow with the world — like the world is bigger — and it helped me realize that the world was bigger. It was one of the first things that helped me realize that the world was bigger, ‘cause I had to pay extra money for that record that came a longer way, and these guys were straight from England, and the record was straight from England.”
Newsted also talked in more detail about Lemmy’s influence on him as a bass player. He said: “I always wanted to kind of sing lead and play bass and stuff. And what happened with me is I injured my finger so severely early when I was playing with my fingers that I couldn’t play with my fingers for a long, long time, and I had to play with a pick, and that’s kind of how I developed my style out of necessity. But I always played out of guitar amps, ‘cause that’s all that was available, and so I played with a pick out of guitar amps, so my sound was already kind of like that. So when it came through that [Lemmy] was recording like that, that made it just that much more… Then I puffed myself up that much bigger, once he showed up. So it was like somehow he had my back without even knowing it.”
Recalling his first meeting with Lemmy, Newsted said: “I was telling my wife last night when I heard the news [of Lemmy’s passing], ‘cause I was just really sad and breaking down a little bit. And I was telling her the first time I was in METALLICA for a couple of months, and we had gotten back from touring, ‘cause I jumped right in and we were on the road. And I came back to Northern California for just a couple of days, and MOTÖRHEAD was playing in Berkeley. And [the METALLICA guys] already knew [Lemmy], and he already knew the boys, and he’d call James [Hetfield] ‘Jimmy‘ and stuff like that, just to mess with him, ‘cause he didn’t like it. But I was really excited to meet Lemmy; I was really jacked up, ‘cause he was my hero, man. And those guys [were like], ‘We’re gonna introduce you, man. We’re gonna introduce you.’ So we get back there, and I was just tongue-tied, but I went up and introduced myself. I said, ‘I’m Jason Newsted. I’m playing bass in METALLICA now.’ And he goes, ‘I know who you are, you cunt!’ Like that. [Laughs] And I’ll never forget those words, man… forever. I hope I never, never forget them. I hope I can tell that story to whoever cares a million years from now. Like, ‘Lemmy knows who I am!’ That was so huge of a moment for me. That was my first moment, my first actual physical moment with Lemmy. He embraced me. It took him forty seconds to have me in his arms — and in his heart, man, like that. I had him in my heart, for sure, at that moment.”
Lemmy, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Christmas Eve (December 24), learned two days later that he was afflicted with an aggressive form of cancer. He died two days later, on December 28, at his home in Los Angeles.
Lemmy had dealt with several health issues over the past few years, including heart trouble, forcing him to cut back on his famous smoking and Jack Daniels habits.
The band was forced to cancel a number of shows last year, although they did manage to complete one final European tour on December 11.