Apparently, heavy metal guys bond over cooking shows.
Former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted was watching Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" in August at his Walnut Creek home when Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme was making a guest appearance. It got Newsted thinking about Kyuss, Homme's band when Newsted first met the rocker in the early '90s. Which led to him thinking about his former bandmates in his old side project, Papa Wheelie, with whom he shared a love of Kyuss.
"They showed (Homme) in the studio with a couple dudes we know," Newsted says, sitting at his kitchen table. "I was like 'Who gets me like that?' So I call Steve..."
"And guess what I was watching?" says drummer Steve Wiig, sitting next to Newsted.
"So the next day we get back in the saddle," says Newsted.
With Newsted on guitar and vocals and Joe Ledesma on bass, Papa Wheelie made a record in 2003 and played one show, then faded away as Newsted took on other projects, including playing with Voivod, a stint touring with Ozzy Osbourne, and appearing on the reality show "Rock Star: Supernova." He spent the last couple years painting and doing a few small projects.
Now Papa Wheelie is back jamming at Newsted's Chophouse studio and doing some local gigs, including a free show at 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 12) at Red House in Walnut Creek, which will be taped for possible release, should the band decide it's good enough. They're also playing the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco on Nov. 19 with ... wait for it ... Kyuss Lives (with original members, minus Homme, which explains the name change).
"The plan was to take some of the jams and turn them into songs," says Newsted. "We had 50 or 60 ideas in four to six hours. It was stream of consciousness. Just like painting. We're getting away with a lot because we're calling it punk rock and doing it live."
The band is firmly rooted in friendship. With Wiig, it goes back to the '90s when, as a young guy from Michigan, he managed to work his way into Metallica's inner circle, lugging gear, filming shows, flipping lyrics for singer James Hetfield and eventually becoming drummer Lars Ulrich's assistant. He moved to California about a decade ago to work with Newsted and ended up playing drums for Papa Wheelie.
"Steve was the kid who was following us around," Newsted says. "Then he started videotaping some shows and it was like "Check out the brain on Steve.'"
Ledesma and Newsted became friends when Newsted started coming into his Alamo bike shop. The two talked about old thrash bands they loved. Newsted eventually gave him a bass and told him to start learning.
"He gave me a dose of playing" says Ledesma, who has since sold his shop and now sells real estate. "So when he'd get back from touring, I'd be chomping at the bit to show him what I could do."
Last month, Newsted paid tribute to the 25th anniversary of joining Metallica by taking his Papa Wheelie bandmates to Tommy's Joynt, the San Francisco hof brau where Metallica told him he was in the band. "We sat in the same booth," Newsted says. "It gave me a certain introspection of 25 years ago. I still feel it. It's the same thing, just the calendar has moved."
Newsted's gone full circle and is enjoying himself. There's no pressure. He's carrying his own gear and playing small rooms where he can see faces in the crowd. Fame doesn't matter; playing does.
"I want people to see the ferocity of it, the purity of it," he says. "If we do more (shows), it has to go in stages. We've got to earn it. It's more important to be good than famous. I got to climb the mountain for a while, so I can say that."
If you go: The Red House show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday and is free. Red House is located at 1667 Botelho Dr. in Walnut Creek. Go to www.papawheelie.com for more info. Papa Wheelie also plays 8 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Regency Ballroom with Kyuss Lives, the Sword & Black Cobra. The Regency is located at 1300 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco. Tickets are $28.50 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com.