Bassist Jason Newsted moved to Phoenix and had a band with the name "Gangster". Then Jason met drummer Kelly Smith, who already had a band named "Paradox". Jason (also doing the vocals) and Kelly played their first professional gig as "Dredlox" together with guitarists Mark Vasquez and Kevin Horton. Kelly saw Eric A. Knutson sing at his high school talent show and one summer they were in the same summer school class. Kelly asked if wanted to try out and it was on. Eric A.K.'s arrival was in 1983 and Ed Carlson was following the same year after Kevin left the band. The band name 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.
We made our live debuts in local clubs and in California and had the opportunity to play with bands such as Megadeth, Armored Saint, Alcatraz, Malice, Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Riot, Autograph. Mark left and the 17 year old Michael Gilbert joined the band in 1985.
Flotsam and Jetsam released two demo tapes in 1985, Iron Tears and Metal Shock. We created our own video "Hammerhead" from the Metal Shock demo in Jason's living room. We also recorded live video from the infamous club Bootleggers. Those combined with the demos made a good impression on Record labels and after we contributed to the Speed Metal Hell II and Metal Massacre VII compilations, we got a deal with Metal Blade Records.
1986 - 1988: Doomsday for the Deceiver
Then we recorded our first album in Los Angeles with producer Brian Slagel. The release of Doomsday for the Deceiver was on July 19, 1986. Many considered this album as a milestone in the history of thrash metal and we were the first band 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. Flotsam and Jetsam had asked another local bassist Phil Rind, "Sacred Reich", to fill in Jason's place for a short time. We then acquired Mike Spencer from Sacramento band "Sentinel Beast". The band signed with Elektra Records before touring Europe with Megadeth in 1987.
1988 - 1992: No Place for Disgrace and When the Storm Comes Down
Mike Spencer lost his position to Troy Gregory in 1988, and in May the same year the band's second album No Place for Disgrace was released. It is considered as a strong metal effort by many metal fans. A video was shot for the cover song of Elton John's hit "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting". We were support act for King Diamond in America and toured in Europe with Megadeth and Testament.
We signed with Major label MCA Records and began to work on our third album When the Storm Comes Down, which was released in May 1990. Unfortunately we lost the impact of the songs due to the production, nevertheless our single "Suffer the Masses" got good radio play.
1992 - 1995: Cuatro
Troy Gregory left the band shortly after for Prong and the band had to find a new bassist once again, eventually hiring Jason Ward to fill the role. Right from the start Jason was an integral part of the writing team and his ideas and riffs were integrated in the songs for Cuatro , our forth album. This album, released 1992, was Flotsam and Jetsam's first record with producer Neil Kernon and he made the record a sound-wise masterpiece. Eric's vocal perfomance on this album was more powerful, aggressive and convincing than before.
We made some efforts concerning the promotion: four singles were released and videos were shot for the songs "Swatting at Flies" and "Wading Through the Darkness".
1995 - 1999: Drift and High
Flotsam and Jetsam's fifth album Drift was released in April 1995, with three singles released off of the record. Drift became one of our most mature and successful releases. It was a big step in our career and it is a very special record for us, we got what we wanted to do out emotionally and musically. Jason dedicated it to his older brother Jeff, who died in 1993.
During our tour with Megadeth and KORN we had been dropped from MCA and returned to our former label Metal Blade Records.
Our album High was released 1997 and soon after Michael Gilbert and Kelly Smith left the band. Their positions were filled by guitarist Mark Simpson and drummer Craig Nielsen.
1999 - 2002: Unnatural Selection and My God
Unnatural Selection was released in 1999 and Mark Simpson took a short break. He joined the band again in 2000 to record a new album, My God , and most of the songs were written by Mark. At that time Eric A.K. had founded a country band, the A.K. Corral and left the band. Though Flotsam and Jetsam did not disband, there was a long break at that time. We found a new singer in James Rivera who took over vocal duties live, but later we felt no one other than Eric A.K. could be our singer and Rivera left the band soon after.
2002 - 2006: Live in Phoenix and Dreams of Death
During 2002 and 2003 we were active only sporadically, but Eric A.K. rejoined for live dates in the Phoenix and Los Angeles areas in 2003. A live recording of these shows was released in 2004 as a live concert DVD under the title "Live in Phoenix". Signed to the CRASH Music label in May 2004 and with Eric A.K. joining the band again officially, we hit the road with Overkill and Death Angel for a series of concerts in Japan that sold out venues with capacities of over 1,000 people.
Spring 2005 we returned to the studio to work on our new album. The lyrics were mostly inspired by Eric's nightmares. This resulted into a concept album entitled Dreams of Death - like track 2 of No Place for Disgrace. The album was released July 2005.
2006 - present: Live in Japan and Once in a Deathtime
The live DVD "Live in Japan" was released in February 2006 and shows our concert in front of thousands of screaming fans at the Cita Club in Tokyo 2004.
Doomsday for the Deceiver was re-released in November 2006 by Metal Blade Records to celebrate the album's twentieth anniversary. This set (2 CD and DVD) includes the original recording of Doomsday and a re-mixed and re-mastered version and also the two Flotsam and Jetsam demos. The bonus DVD includes rare live material, an interview filmed at Kelly's High School and a photo slide-show.
In Spring 2008 Metal Mind Productions remastered and re-released our albums
When the storm comes down
Cuatro (including 5 bonus tracks)
Drift (including 3 bonus tracks)
Dreams of Death
In March 2008 we were touring in Europe and played at the Metalmania Festival in Poland. This show was filmed and released as DVD "Once in a Deathtime" in July.
Midyear 2008 we were signed to Driven Music, founded by Brian 'Head' Welch from KORN, and now formally distributed by WARNER through its Ryko Distribution.
In March 2010 former and original guitarist Michael Gilbert has rejoined the band after Ed Carlson has officially decided to no longer tour or record. He leaves the band in friendship and is a brother to all of us and his unique musical genius will be deeply missed.
The release of our tenth studio-album The Cold (the last album with Ed on guitar) was on September 14th 2010 and we believe it's one of our best and heaviest! We know that it's a much anticipated release by our truest fans!