Jes Farnsworth always wears cool band shirts, that’s a fact… and just another good reason for us to interview him. The guitarist for former METALLICA member Jason NEWSTED’s band has been quite busy this year but he found the time to answer our questions. He tells us about his history, his experience with JETBOY, NEWSTED’s recent European tour and his own band The BACKSTABBERS.
How did you get into music? What were your first records? The first shows you attended?
I got into music at an early age. I was born and raised on the east coast in Connecticut, which I think has alot to do with my strong influence of NYC Punk and RNR since NYC was just a few hours away. As early as I could remember my mom (of all people) would be blasting Ramones, Clash, and Pistols records in our apt. The thing that really got me started was my Uncle who played Bass in my all time favorite band, The Reducers from New London CT. The Reducers were to me everything I love all in one. Their style was attitude driven pub rock / punk / rock n roll with great hooks and melodies. They didn’t have a bad song! It seemed like every weekend from the time I was in a baby stroller on, we’d go catch a Reducers show. The thing that set them apart from every other band was not only did they have tons of great original tunes, but they had an extensive catalog of cool cover tunes by bands like Dr Feelgood and Chris Spedding, to the Clash and Ramones just to name a few. They had 3 records out in the mid 80’s and they never really left the turntable in my house. My dad had a killer record collection and also exposed me to a lot. I think a lot of my Metal influence came from him. Judas Priest, Maiden, UFO, Black Sabbath, AC/DC were in regular rotation on his mix tape in his car growing up and he always had a killer stereo to boot, so it made it that much better! The first big concert my dad took me to was Ozzy on the No More Tours tour 91. This was around the time that I started my own collection as well as got my first guitar, so I think my first few CD’s and Cassettes I ever bought were Ozzy – Diary of a Madman, Metallica – Justice and Black album, Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast, Guns N Roses – Appetite, Kiss – Alive, and a few Hair Metal bands of the time that I don’t wish to name Haha!
We first met in 2010 when you were touring with JETBOY, when did you join them? How did it happen? Was it your first time in Europe then?
I joined Jetboy in early 2010 as they were gearing up for the release of their Off Your Rocker EP. I was vaguely familiar with them at the time. I had the Feel The Shake cassette when I was younger, and I knew Sam Yaffa was once in the band so I was intrigued. I had read they were looking for a rhythm section a few months prior and didn’t think much of it since I’m more of a guitar player by trade, but I told my friend Jesus Mendez (drums) about it. Turns out we had a friend that knew the band and was able to set up an audition for himself and recommended me to come try out on bass. I was hesitant at first, but we learned 4 or 5 tunes and went up to San Francisco and jammed with Billy and Fernie and it went well. A few days later we got the call to join and a few weeks after that we went down to LA and had our first rehearsal as a full band with Mickey Finn. We played a handful of shows with that line-up including a few festivals in the US and then booked the European tour. Mickey was unable to do the tour at the time, so we got a friend of mine DK Revelle to sing. I had been to Europe a few times before on vacation, but this was my first time touring over there. It was a great experience and we had a blast!
How did you get the opportunity to play with NEWSTED? Were you into METALLICA and FLOTSAM & JETSAM as a kid? Playing a song like “Whiplash” in front of METALLICA fans must be something!
I got the opportunity to play with Jason through Jesus Mendez. He and I had already been playing together in several projects for years. He had first met Jason about 15 years ago while doing some local crew work for Metallica. When Jason left Metallica to do Echobrain, he got the gig as the drum tech for the tour. Not long after that the two of them started jamming for fun at Jason’s studio The Chophouse. A few years went by and I got invited to jam as well. The three of us would get together and do some weekend jams a couple times a year for the last 4 or 5 years. Last year Jason was approached to record a few songs and he called on us to be a part of it. It all happened pretty quick, we spent all of September rehearsing and went in the studio in October for about 10 days and laid down 6 tunes. At this point we had no expectations or plans other than to put out an EP. We weren’t sure if we were going to play live or how it would be received by the people. Once word got out,the whole project started building momentum fast and the next thing you know we’ve got a manager, we filmed a video, and we were back in the studio again recording a second batch of tunes. Once the EP was released in January we started talking about playing live. Soon after we got a US club tour and a European Festival tour booked. We added a second guitar player in February, recorded a 3rd batch of tunes to complete a record and started rehearsing for live shows. This was all pretty surreal for me. I definitely grew up listening to Metallica and had a few Flotsam records as well. Jason was always my favorite guy in the band. He had that presence, just pure attitude and energy, he always gave it his all. I always loved when he sang Whiplash with Metallica, so It’s definitely a treat to get to play it with him. It’s always cool to see the crowds reaction when we rip into it.
You’re just back from a European tour with NEWSTED playing many big metal festivals, how was it? Have you met many bands you like on these festivals?
Europe was amazing! I never really thought I’d get a chance to do something of this magnitude. I remember getting an AC/DC live at Donnington video when I was a kid and thinking holy shit! I wanna play in front of a crowd like that! I’m used to playing small clubs in front of basically no one, so to go from that to this huge stage in front of several thousand people is crazy. The funny thing is, it still makes me more nervous playing in front of a small crowd standing right in your face than when your playing for 10 thousand. It’s almost so surreal that I feel like they aren’t really there. Hellfest in particular was the one show that stands out to me as one of the highlights of the tour as far as crowd size and reaction/participation. It was really cool hanging out backstage at all these shows amongst all these legendary bands. A few cool moments for me was meeting Steve Harris and Adrian Smith from Maiden, Brian May from Queen, Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks, Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy, as well as the guys from Krokus and Accept and hanging with some newer bands like Red Fang and Mastodon.
You are now on the GIGANTOUR in the US with bands like MEGADETH and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. How is it goin’? Are these shows very different from the ones you played at the big European festivals (to you and in general)?
The Gigantour shows are going pretty good. It’s a lot different than Europe however as far as the crowds. There are six bands on the bill and we go on pretty early so you never know what to expect when we hit the stage as far as how many people will be there. Playing early in an amphitheater you get a lot of people scattered about and sometimes it’s tough to win them over. But it doesn’t matter if there are 5 people or 5000, we’re gonna put on the same show and crush ’em. The backstage atmosphere is great. All the bands hang out together and get along fine. I’m having a great time on this tour.
You have your own band The BACKSTABBERS, can you introduce it? Any new release planned?
The Backstabbers have been going for about 4 years now. We are a trio. Myself on Guitar and Lead Vocals, Kevin Thomason on Bass and Vocals, and Wade Krause on Drums. We are heavily influenced by late 70’s early 80’s Punk, Rock n Roll and Powerpop. To keep it exciting we never play the same set twice and always throw in a few covers of whatever we are listening to the most at that particular moment. Kevin and I are always discovering and turning each other on to new and old bands and it’s pretty much what keeps our inspiration and momentum going. There’s not many bands if any in our area playing our style, so when a cool band comes through we usually get on the bill with them. We’ve played some cool shows with bands like Nashville Pussy, The Supersuckers, The Vibrators, The Hangmen, and Peter Case just to name a few. We released our first EP “Full Blast!” last year which you can find on iTunes and our Bandcamp page. We’ve been on a little hiatus since I’ve been busy the last few months with Newsted, but we plan to get back at it when I get a break. We do have several unfinished recordings in the works and a stockpile of original material to choose from so there will definitely be a new release in the near future.
Tell us what these bands mean to you (how you got into them, favourite songs/records, etc.):
As I said in the first question, my parents were always cranking out the first 4 Ramones albums on the turntable growing up. They were infectious, every song was a hit! They pretty much set the standard in my mind of what a good song should be. If I had to pick one favorite album, I’d say “It’s Alive” best represents what they were all about. There is no way I could pick a favorite Ramones tune, they were all classics!
This band to me was just raw and dangerous. Stiv Bators was unpredictable on stage. I just loved the dirty rawness of the first album. If I had to pick a favorite tune I’d go with “What Love Is”
A great band. Michael Monroe is an over the top frontman. I love the energy they put out on stage. We had the chance to open for Michael Monroe with Jetboy a few years back and I was blown away by how great his band was. I would have loved to see Hanoi back in the day. The first album I ever got by them was the live album “All Those Wasted Years” so I’ll have to go with that as my favorite. I love Sami’s bass lines. Some of my favorite tunes are Tragedy, Malibu Beach Nightmare, and Motorvatin.
TOM PETTY & The HEARTBREAKERS:
I’m a huge Tom Petty fan. He is a great writer and The Heartbreakers are some of the greatest musicians I’ve ever seen. Mike Campbell is a big influence on me for his simple melodic memorable leads. They are one of the few remaining great american rock bands and I try to see them as often as I can. This is one band I can’t pick a particular album as a favorite. If I had to pick one tune as an all time favorite, I’d go with “I Need To Know” That song always kicks my ass.
One of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen. Motorhead bridge the gap for me between Punk and Metal. I’m a big fan of the classic lineup with Fast Eddie and Philthy. Once again I’m gonna go with the live album “No Sleep Til Hammersmith” as my favorite. Iron Fist, Overkill, The Chase is Better Than The Catch are among my favorite tunes. We often close the Newsted shows with a 2 song encore of We Are The Roadcrew and Love me Like A Reptile which are really fun to play, and stylistically right up my alley.
Last bands you’ve enjoyed watching live?
I’ve enjoyed seeing quite a few bands in the last few months: Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Red Fang, Accept, Tom Petty, The Buzzcocks, Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse, and The Rolling Stones just to name a few…
Do you have any favourite album at the moment? Any you’ve listened to a lot while travelling from fest to fest?
It’s hard to pick a favorite album. Kind of depends on my mood. I often go to bed with one favorite and wake up with another. I’ve been really into The Replacements lately, and I’m stoked about their upcoming reunion shows. Some albums always in constant rotation for me are the first 2 Iron Maiden records, Ace Frehley’s 78 solo album, Kiss – Rock and Roll Over, the latest album by The Hangmen – East of Western, The first Clash record, Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell, as well as pretty much everything by The Hellacopters and Imperial State Electric.
NEWSTED’s debut album will be out in August. What’s next for the band and yourself?
After this tour wraps I think we are gonna take a little time off and recharge ourselves. We’ve been working pretty hard for a year straight. I do know we will be heading to Australia and possibly Japan in the near future, as well as another trip to Europe. As for me I plan on playing some shows with The Backstabbers and working on a few other projects in the down time.