Interview with JP Gaster, drummer of Clutch
By Adam Dickey
Jean-Paul Gaster, the drummer for Clutch was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his day to answer some questions for Denver’s Dirty. Clutch will open for Lamb of God at Red Rocks Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 24 at 7 pm. Doors open at 6:00 pm. Tickets are still available with prices ranging from $33.50 – $38.50. Day of show door prices will increase, ranging from $40.00 – $45.00, so be sure to get your tickets early.
Q: It’s been about a year since we spoke with you guys…what have you been up to?
A: We’ve been on tour quite a bit. We released Psychic Warfare and that did really well for us. We’re excited because it did so well and it’s on our own label, so for us that’s a big step forward. It’s exciting to be able to be able to release a record on your own and have such great success. We’ve just been working and touring…thats really what we do, first and foremost. We are a live band. We’ve done several tours off of Psychic Warfare and now we’re getting ready to go back out with Lamb of God.
Q: There’s a lot of freedom that comes with having your own label. How is recording under your label different from previous major labels?
A: We have the ability to release records as we see fit when we want to and the kind of records we want to. That’s great. Back in the 90’s we were on a lot of different major labels. Those years were frustrating at times…dealing with a corporate entity like Atlantic, Warner Brothers or Eastwest. It can be tiresome. There’s a lot of conversations that happen that have little or nothing to do with music. That is no longer the case. We’re able to conduct business on our own terms and focus more on music rather than the music industry.
Q: Have you guys ever toured with Lamb of God before?
A: We’ve done tours with them before. Most recently was “Sounds of the Underground” actually. Lamb of God is from Richmond (VA), which is just down the street from us, so in a lot of ways I think we grew up in the same area, listened to the same music coming up. It’s going to be great.
Q: You guys have your side project, the Bakerton Group, s that still active or do you just do it when you’re not touring for Clutch. Last time I spoke with Dan, he said that sometimes you will bring those songs into your Clutch set.
A: We have done that in the past. The Bakerton Group is an instrumental project that we do. We have not done shows recently, mostly because we’ve been so busy with Psychic Warfare. I think that’s probably going to be the case for at least another year. The Bakerton Group is fun. It gives us to opportunity to play some stuff that we don’t normally do with Clutch. I get to play some different kind of drumming which is fun for me….it’s an outlet.
Q: What was your favorite album to record? Why?
A: That’s a tough question. Each record is really kind of a snapshot of where the band was at the time. We’re most excited about Psychic Warfare just because it’s the newest thing we have done…the freshest thing we have done…and in a lot of ways I think it’s the best thing…..and by that I mean I think the songwriting was the best songwriting we’ve done. The band was playing great going into the studio. We reversed a tremendous amount, so the songs came out soft of effortlessly. Like I said, each record was a learning experience. Each record has it’s own identity. I do think that in a lot of ways, the self-titled record was kind of a breakthrough record for us in that I think we found a sound. Prior to that, we were experimenting and trying to figure out what exactly it was we were trying to do. I think with the self-titled record we caught our stride in a lot of ways. The recording process was great because at that time we were recording locally with an engineer that we knew very well, so it was a comfortable place. In a lot a ways, that record was an important record. One record that had surprised me recently is “Pure Rock Fury” because we were kind of in between labels at that point. A lot of times the stuff that’s going on around the band and the label can influence how you feel about a particular record. For a long time I had trouble wrapping my head around “Pure Rock Fury,” but I started listening to it again and I think that there’s a lot of really good production on that record and some interesting approaches to some songs. In particular “Frankenstein,” “American Sleep” was kind of a weird one. It was an odd time for us because we recorded that record before we actually signed to any label. We weren’t really sure where the record was going to go or if it was even going to come out. We tried a lot of stuff on that record. My feeling about that record at the time was that it was a tough record to make so it makes you feel a particular way about that recording. Now that all the years have passed I go back and listen to it now and I feel like there are some really cool ideas on there. I don’t think it was a production thing…I think it was where the band was at the time.
Q: Neil, the lead singer, lived in Denver for a few years. Do you have any special ties to Denver or the state of Colorado?
A: Red Rocks is my favorite venue in all of the country. Last year’s show (at Red Rocks) was one of the easiest shows I have ever played. By that I mean I just sat behind the drums and everything else just sort of happened naturally. There was a tremendous amount of energy in the crowd and the band was performing great. I’ve spent some time driving through the mountain with my wife. We spent some time in Fort Collins brewing a beer with New Belgium Brewery. It’s a beautiful state…we’ve played Boulder several times, Vail, Colorado Springs….great Mexican food in Colorado Springs.
Q: What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
A: One show that really stands out to me that was really a life-changing experience was seeing the Bad Brains at the 930 club in 1989. That was the first time I had seen the Bad Brains. I knew about them and how legendary they were for us locally because they were a band that was always around when we were growing up listening to music. I knew about them but had never seen them before. That show in particular made an impression on me…it made me want to be a musician. It made me want to be in a band. I figured that if we ever played the 930 Club, we had made it. All four of us (the band) were there.
Clutch is one of the world’s most respected and influential hard rock bands, released their 11th studio album PSYCHIC WARFARE on October 2nd which debuted at #11 in Billboard Top 200 as well as #1 in both the Rock and Hard Rock Charts.
What’s in store for the first part of 2016?
On Saturday April 16th, the band will be released a special limited edition 12” vinyl release for Record Store Day. The album contains two previously unreleased tracks from the Psychic Warfare sessions: “Mad Sidewinder” and “Outland Special Clearance”. These two tracks, specifically mastered for this vinyl configuration by Paul Logus, is on side A. The reverse side has a large scale etching taken from the Psychic Warfare CD booklet design created by Dan Winters. The jacket is hand numbered thick clear plastic showing the full art design, thus making this piece for Record Store Day 2016 a unique collectors’ item for all Clutch fans.
Also for the first half of 2016, “Clutch, the influential heavy rock band from Maryland has just announced new North American tour dates as “special guest of” Lamb Of God. The tour started May 3rd in New Orleans at the Orpheum and also features Corrosion Of Conformity on all dates. In addition to the Lamb Of God dates, the band will be playing select US festival dates and have added an additional Melbourne show on their March 2016 Australian tour.”
Maryland rockers Clutch have been pushing the boundaries that define heavy rock music since the 4 original members got together in high school. Clutch is an unmatched musical force that has been best described as “the quintessential American Rock Band”. Clutch released their tenth and latest studio album Earth Rocker via their own label Weathermaker Music on March 16, 2013. The album entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #15 giving the band their highest chart position to date.
Clutch’s Earth Rocker reached #1 on the Rock Chart and #4 on iTunes’ overall Top 100 album chart. Earth Rocker was awarded “Album of The Year” by Metal Hammer and garnered a Top 10 spot on Rolling Stone’s “Top 20 Metal Albums of the Year”. Rolling Stone further enthused: “Four Maryland lifers — road dogs who’ve been grinding since the early Fugazi administration, cranking out seething admixtures of jam-band chops, careening blues-punk riffs and singer Neil Fallon’s nerdy, piss-taking wiseass lyrics — release their hardest rocking set to date. Look for a go-go break (and some clever punning on the phrase “drop the bomb!”) on “D.C. Sound Attack!” Inspirational verse: “If you’re gonna do it/ do it live on stage/ or don’t do it at all.”
The band formed in 1991 and proudly have the same unit in place 25 years later.
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums
Dan Maines – Bass
Tim Sult – Guitar