Ken’s Retro Pick – FLOTSAM & JETSAM (1986)

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I can remember the way I came across Flotsam and Jetsam in 1986.  It was after bassist Jason Newsted joined Metallica that I found out he came from Flotsam and Jetsam. I immediately went down to the record store and picked up a copy of Doomsday for the Deceiver. It was today while I was walking on the beach listening to my tunes when the song “Hammerhead” came on and I thought Flotsam and Jetsam would be a great choice for my retro pick.

The band’s original name was “Paradox”, and the group was founded by drummer Kelly David-Smith and guitarists Mark Vazquez and Kevin Horton, until 1982 when bassist Jason Newsted joined.  Jason had come to Phoenix with his band “Gangster” from Michigan on their way to California, but Gangster broke up while in Phoenix.  Kelly and Jason (also doing the vocals) played their first professional gig as “Dredlox” together with guitarists Mark and Kevin.

Kelly saw ‘A.K.’ (Eric A. Knutson) singing “The Goodbye Girl” at his high school talent show. In 1983 they were in the same summer school class and Kelly asked Eric A.K. if he wanted to audition. They put him on 2 week probation and then Eric A.K. joined the band. Due to the provisional nature of his membership, the band referred to Eric A.K. as “the 2 weeker.” Ed Carlson, from local rival band called “Exodus” (not to be confused with the California Bay Area thrash metal band of the same name), also joined in 1983 after Kevin left the band. The name of the band changed into “The Dogz”, but it didn’t last long. Eventually the band renamed itself  ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’ after writing a song inspired from a chapter of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers.

They created their own video Hammerhead from the Metal Shock demo: “We taped it in Jason and Ed’s apartment living room. We also made a live video from the infamous Bootlegger in Phoenix.” Those combined with the demos made a good impression on Record labels and after they contributed to the Speed Metal Hell II and Metal Massacre VII compilations, they got a deal with Metal Blade Records.

Then Flotsam and Jetsam recorded their first album in Los Angeles with producer Brian Slagel. The release of Doomsday for the Deceiver was on July 19, 1986. It was the first in Kerrang!‘s history to achieve the 6K rating.

Bassist Jason Newsted, who was also the band’s main lyric writer, departed soon after to join Metallica, replacing their bassist Cliff Burton, who died in an accident. On Halloween night 1986, Jason played his last gig with Flotsam and Jetsam. The band had asked another local bassist Phil Rind of  Sacred Reich to fill in Jason’s place for a short time. They then hired Michael Spencer from the Sacramento band Sentinel Beast. Flotsam and Jetsam signed with Metallica’s label Elektra Records before touring Europe with Megadeth in 1987.

I now give you my all time favorite Flotsam and Jetsam song, “Hammerhead”.

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