2016 Flotsam and Jetsam interview with Eric AK Knutson
Arizona’s Flotsam and Jetsam have long been one of thrash metal’s underrated bands. The group’s first two albums, Doomsday for the Deceiver (1986) and No Place for Disgrace (1988) are influential thrash masterpieces. Despite that, the band is more often remembered for their original bassist, Jason Newsted, leaving to join Metallica. This spring, Flotsam and Jetsam celebrates its 35th anniversary, and releases its twelfth slab of triturating metal. Metalholic recently caught up with vocalist Eric “AK” Knutson to talk about the new self-titled record, as well as taking a look back at the band’s debut album which turns 30 this year.
Flotsam and Jetsam evolved in fits and starts in Phoenix back in 1981. Knutson signed on early and is the only member of the band to appear on every record. Guitarist Michael Gilbert has also been around since the band’s debut record, but he took a decade long hiatus at the turn of the century. With the new record, due out May 20 on AFM records, Knutson and Gilbert are joined by one-time member, guitarist Michael Spencer, and new members Steve Conley and drummer Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall). Knutson talked about Spencer’s return to the band as well as the newest members:
“There’s a couple of songs on there that Spencer wrote for No Place [for Disgrace] back in the 80s that never made it to the record that we kid of revamped and put on this new one. The remaining songs were half Steve Conley and half Mike Gilbert so they put a lot of input into this new record. Bittner’s drumming just brought everything up to the next life level from where it was when we wrote everything. He’s really been a huge addition.”
The new album is arguably the band’s strongest since their early years. Many of the tracks have a feel that harks to the band’s 80’s albums, yet still maintain a strong modern foundation. The direction of the record developed partly in the studio, but the guys also had some idea of where they wanted to go with it as well.
“We’d been talking about going a little more old school with the writing for a couple of years now,” offered Knutson. “Actually right after Ugly Noise came out we started talking about maybe we should start listening to some older school stuff and kind of head that direction. Then once Spencer, Bittner and Conley got a hold of the writing process it kind of just naturally went that way.”
Flotsam and Jetsam released one of thrash’s iconic albums with Doomsday for the Deceiver, 30 years ago in 1986. It marks the only album bassist Jason Newsted recorded with the band before departing to join Metallica. We asked Knutson what he remembers about making that first record:
“Wow. My head was in the clouds back then. I thought I was going to be Steven Tyler or Michael Jackson or somebody. I just thought I was going to be huge. We had an album deal. We were in Hollywood recording. I was just on top of the world. I really don’t remember most of it. (Laughs) I remember Newsted getting arrested and us sitting at the West Hollywood jail waiting for him to get out. I remember almost all the vocal sessions from the first record, but a lot of it is just a party blur. We had a bunch of our friends with us out there and we were just living it up. I think it was kind of our downfall. We should have paid more attention to the business end of things and the producing end of things, and we kind of just went and did our own thing and left everything else to everybody else. So looking back I wish I would have paid a little more attention to my own career, but those were some good, good times back then. You could do anything and get away with it. It was just drug after drug and woman after woman and alcohol after alcohol, and you didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen tomorrow. Now of course everybody realizes how dangerous all that crap is.”
You can listen to the full interview with Eric AK below as he chats about some of the songs on the record, including the ones that resurfaced in new form from the 80s. He chats about album sequencing and the current state of the music industry, as well as the band’s homage to Iron Maiden. You can also read our review of Flotsam and Jetsam here.