Jason Newsted used to dunk his Metallica basses in saltwater to test their sweatproof-ness
Bass testing, but make it wild.
Image: Mick Hutson / Getty Images
In the latest episode of extreme (sweating) problems requiring extreme solutions, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted shows just how far he was willing to go to make sure his instruments were adequately “salt-water proofed”.
“For Load, I used a ’58 P-Bass and a 1981 Spector NS 4-string,” Newsted told Bass Player magazine. “The Spectors were built really well, played well, and sounded excellent, but I had a lot of trouble with sweat getting inside. All of my instruments had to be salt-water proofed.”
“We’d done an outside show on the last tour, and by the end of the gig, there was one functioning bass out of six – bad news,” he said. “And when a bass going through 250,000 watts of PA all of a sudden shorts-out, people are not happy.”
“When I was trying to figure out who was going to build my basses for the tour, I’d have to test each bass. I’d fill up a big tub with super hot water, dump in some salt, and submerge the bass. Then, I’d take it out of the tub and put it in front of a coil heater for a few minutes. I’d repeat this same process three times with each bass. Then I’d beat the crap out of it for a while in my studio, and finally I’d let it sit on a stand for a couple of days. Usually, the bass corrodes and doesn’t play anymore. None of the basses passed that test except for the Sadowsky.”
Speaking of the two’s eventual partnership, Roger Sadowsky, master luthier and founder of the esteemed Sadowsky Guitars said, “Jason voiced his concerns about moisture and reliability. Apparently some of his basses were having an intermittent output, and when his tech would remove the output-jack plate, water would literally run out of the control cavity!”
“It turns out the humidity levels at the shows are so high from the heat, water runs down the front of the amplifiers! And moisture was building up inside the control cavities from condensation,” he explained, adding that the solution was to “put a thin rubber gasket on the back of the control-cavity plates and underneath the football-shaped output-jack plate.”
“We also sealed the holes going from the pickup cavities to the control cavities with silicone sealant to keep any moisture that might come in through the pickup routs from flowing into the cavities.”