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Clutch’s JP Gaster Talks New Album, Wino – Win A WeatherMaker Shirt!

Posted by on May 28, 2009

clutchinterviewClutch has been a force in the rock and metal world since their formation nearly 20 years ago. Their unique sound has inspired many to look into guitars, keyboards and harmonicas for sale and play themselves.  They’ve progressed from a punk/hardcore band to the all-encompassing sound of their latest album – and first Clutch album for their own WeatherMaker Music – Strange Cousins From the West (out on July 7). Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster spoke to Metal Insider about their progression as a band, their preferred touring situation, and the death of Wino bassist Jon Blank.

We’re giving a Metal Insider reader a chance to win an exclusive WeatherMaker Music shirt! To be entered to win, just leave a comment stating what your favorite Clutch song is. One winner will be picked at random on Friday, June 12. Double entries will be disqualified, open to US residents only.

On Strange Cousins From The West, it seems like the band went back to a more guitar-centric sound over the keyboards and harmonica that were on the last few records. Was this a conscious decision or more just the natural evolution of Clutch?

I think it’s the evolution. I think we’ve always been unafraid to change things up. We decided to bring the band back to a more basic format, and consequently, the tunes became more focused. I think there’s a lot more emphasis on the guitars this time around, which is a good thing. We’ll probably use those elements, keyboards and harmonicas and whatever else, in the future, it’s always fun to experiment. I think that each record is the response to the last thing we recorded, and it’s always unintentional. There’s no meeting where we say ‘we’re going to strip this one down and sound like AC/DC.’ More than anything, it’s just whatever music we’re listening to at the time, what everybody’s moods are, the bands we’ve been on tour with, and one way or another, all of those things go towards influencing what the next sound is going to be.

In addition to headlining quite a bit, you’ve also played festivals like Bonaroo and gone on the road opening for Coheed and Cambria. What’s the difference between doing your own thing and being a band on a festival or opening for people that aren’t necessarily there to see just you?

 

Since the beginning, we’ve always tried to play with bands that weren’t necessarily just like us. That goes back to the days of playing with Monster Magnet, Pantera, Sepultura, Prong. These are all bands that we’ve listened to at some point, but didn’t necessarily sound like. One of the best tours we did early on was the Marilyn Manson tour. We were convinced that your average Manson fan would have little or no use for Clutch. It was an interesting thing, it was long, three months and close to 80 dates. The next tour we did, we went out, and there were a whole bunch of Marilyn Manson shirts there. It goes to show. You play in front of 5 or 800 people a night, and of those people, maybe they’ll bring 12 friends next time, and that’s how it goes. It’s a slow build, but we’re not afraid to play in front of anyone. It’s a lot of fun to play a festival. Most of the time, you’re going to play in front of a band where most of the fans don’t know who you are. We look at it as a challenge. We just get out there and try to put on the best show that we can.

You’ve run the gamut from independent to major to independent to owning WeatherMaker Music. What are the advantages of being on your own label?

 

It’s easier to make records knowing that there’s not going to be any pushback from the label, whether it’s about the material you want to record, or when the record’s going to be released, or how much the record is going to cost. All of these variables go into making a record, and it can be really stressful. It’s very empowering to know we can record whatever we want to record and release it. We’re looking forward to being able to do different projects, different experiments and make different kinds of records. It’s going to be better for the label and the fans. Again, Clutch fans have a really diverse sense of music, and they’re very appreciative of different kinds of things.

Are there any plans to put out anything other than Clutch-related projects on WeatherMaker?

 

Not yet. We made an agreement that we would not even address something like that for two years, until the label was really up and running. On the one hand, it’s really exciting to think that we could put out our buddies’ bands. But the whole thing about being on a label and having to deal with the label execs, I don’t ever want to be in the position where I’m like ‘hey, it was really fun putting out your last record, but it didn’t sell anything, so we don’t want to do another one.’ I feel like the music that we make as Clutch and Bakerton and whatever may come from that core entity is going to keep us really busy. So while the idea of putting out someone else’s music is exciting, it opens up a whole can of worms, and that’s a part of the industry I really don’t want to deal with. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Are there any current drummers you really pay attention to?

 

In the rock or metal scene, there’s not a lot of super exciting guys out there. I always go back to Brann Dailor of Mastodon. He’s a phenomenal player with tons of chops. But still has a great feel for the drums. On the Sounds of the Underground tour, we had the opportunity to see Gene Hoglan play, and he’s a great example of what great metal drumming is. A lot of bands we play with these days rely on triggers and huge drum kits, but to me, that’s not really where it’s at. It’s about having more of a groove. As far as drummers that I really pay attention to outside of the metal scene, I really like Stanton Moore a lot, I like Johnny Vidakovich, who actually gave lessons to Stanton. I had the opportunity to study with him one afternoon, and that was really exciting. I like groove guys mostly.

After playing on the Wino album and doing some shows with him, his bassist Jon Blank died. Did you know him well?

 

We had a brief but really successful run in Europe. It was an amazing experience, and when we got back, John passed suddenly. That was shitty. Its one thing to rehearse and learn some songs with a guy and make a record, but it’s a completely different thing to actually go on tour, especially with a bass player. The way I play, I very much rely on having a solid bass player there, and believe in the concept of a rhythm section. Over the course those few weeks, I really got to know him and he got to know me, and we understood the way each other moved and what to listen from the other guy. When Jon passed, it was shitty, because we’d done a lot of work and really made some headway and better understood each other. That got taken away prematurely, and I’m really still pretty upset about that. It’s shocking, but this is rock and roll, and this is what happens. It’s not all awesome. Drugs are bad and stay away from them.

There are a lot of people that view Blast Tyrant as a turning point for the band. Do you agree, or just see it as a natural progression?

 

I think it’s been a natural progression, but I certainly can’t discount the influence of Machine, who produced the album. I think we learned a lot from that guy, in fact, more than we thought at the time. Up until then, it was really a struggle for us to put records together because we were constantly thinking about songs that might get the label excited about wanting to make a record. As time went on with these labels, it started to get more and more difficult, and we started to question ourselves as to how to put songs together. We learned by working with Machine that it’s really not that difficult. You’ve just got to think about a few good parts and really concentrate on what’s happening lyrically. I think there was also an evolution of my own playing around that time. I realized a drummer’s role could not only be a rhythmical one, but also you could also complement what the lead voice was doing, whether it’s vocals, a guitar solo, or marimba. Whatever the lead voice is saying, it’s up to me as a drummer to respond to that and better support that lead voice. That came from Machine, and I don’t know if he ever intended for that to be a lesson, but that’s something I walked away with from that session, and it’s very important.

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Categorised in: Contests, Interviews

  • Kevin

    I never really paid attention to the song titles I’ve always listened to them as albums. But the snappy one for me right now is Electric Worry. I dig the Johnny Lee Hooker vibe…alot! I went to a recent show in Toledo, Ohio to see JP kick it out! I’ve been really studying his chops lately for my own influence. It was so packed that I never got to actually see the band. Now I realize that listening to the grove is where it’s at… seeing them is just the bonus!

  • Travis

    Soapmakers!

  • Sorry guys, I can’t pick one. I’ve never been able to. There is not one song I don’t like. Clutch has been my favorite band since I first heard them. Best band ever invented.

    Long live Clutch!… and The Bakerton group!

  • tmc

    new stuff is great but what about songs like high calibur consicrator and imputus they are fantastic at its most basic level

  • dave

    Impetus!

  • Hands down: “Oregon”. That song is incredible and even more incredible live. La Curandera and 50,000 Watts as runners up…shyte! Usually I just listen to complete albums, but those are my picks.

  • Scrod O’

    Gullah.

  • David

    Rock and Roll Outlaw

  • Stowie

    Sea of Destruction is one of their best rifts. In all honesty I can’t pick one.

  • Carroll Conry

    Passive Restraints It just never gets old!!!!

  • Dave N

    Hmm, love em all, there’s not one bad C! song. But, if I have to pick, I’ll go with Big Fat Pig. Such a good story song with great lyrics as always.

  • Kyle

    Rock N Roll Outlaw

  • Rock n’ Roll outlaw

  • only RED HORSE RAINBOW save us.

  • Mark

    Yikes, they’re ALL good….but I’ll say “I Have The Body Of John Wilkes Booth”, simply because I just heard it again, and still LOVE it.

    This one I had, it stood right on up to me
    tore out it’s hook and declared itself a prodigy
    this one I had, it turned bright like the sun, whirled around three times
    and departed with the dove

    What cool lyrics and awesome music in 98% of their songs

  • Jason King

    I’ve been a Clutch fan since I saw them at The Back Room in Austin Texas in 1994. They have consistently turned out some of the best music in the history of rock since their conception. Picking a favorite song is a tough thing to do. I almost feel like I could line up the CD inserts and throw a dart at them to hit a favorite song. Clutch is a truly unique band with fantastic talents that continue to blow me away to this day. “Animal farm” has always been a favorite, not just because the song totally rips but that night at The Back Room, Neil bent down and shared the mic with my friend and I on that track – kick-ass! These days though, I’m gonna have to say that my favorite is a tie between “Opossum Minister” and “In The Wake Of The Swollen Goat” Although that”s probably sure to change with the release of the new album – I’m SO stoked!

  • Josh Smallridge

    It changes with mood and situations… but there is always one song I can go back to over and over and get excited about and that’s 7 Jam. When Neil busts out the lyric “So the I smash the palace like the son of Samson…” everything in the song comes together and makes me want to go nuts!

  • Jason -Gods Green Earth

    hmmm so many songs to choose from, especially for a 15 year fan of the band. right now im just gonna say “Oregon” from the slow hole to china album of b-sides. i just love the “story” that Neil tells in this one… and of course i dig the music itself. just another great song from a great band!

    oh yeah.. my band Gods Green Earth has been called “the perverted clutch!” lol

    check us out at myspace.com/godsgreenearthnyc

    thanks!

  • Shane Biggs

    One night along time ago, me and my friends were having our (Bubba and mine) birthday party. Thats when I heard my first clutch song that is still as great as the first day I heard it. “JESUS ON THE DASHBOARD” Spacegrass. The day after the party my friend made me a copy of the self tiled album CLUTCH. That car ride home From Jacksonville IL to Granite City IL change my life. I went straight to Vintage Vinyl and bought all the CD’s I could and that day Elephant Riders was released. I bought Impetus, Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths, Clutch, Elephant Riders and placed a order for Pitchfork. Thank you Bubba and Chris for showing me the way. I seen all the shows I could and can’t wait until July 12, 2009 Pop’s Sauget IL thats were I’m taking both my daugthers (Becky 12 years ols and Brandy 10 years old) to see their first concert. Becky loves Electric Worry and Brandy loves Cypress Grove, but know alot of others. They can’t wait, Thanks Pop’s and Clutch for an all age show. Their first concert it may as well be the best band in the world LONG LIVE CLUTCH!!!!!!!!!!!! P.S. thank Clutch for all the years of rocking.

  • Mr. Flannery

    we’ll i’d hate to admit it but i just got done spinning the new Clutch album AGAIN!!!!!i know… shame on me but it’ fell from sky into my stereo!!!!how can anyone resist
    i will be buying 2 copies of it when it comes out …it’s that good my friends!!!
    it’s what you all want … it’s a CLUTCH record…. seriously these guys can do no wrong !!! simply amazing!!

  • Gordon

    Gnomes Enthusiast

  • has anybody said American Sleep? (does anybody remember Molt?)

  • jacob

    immortal

  • Wade Boatman

    Fav song mobgoes wild

  • Larry Botman

    when vegans attack

  • Joe Blowner

    Me Shiny Cadilackness

  • Kattie Howell

    The soapmakers

  • Angie Boatman

    Texan book of the dead

  • Phil Doyle

    David Rose

  • Marc Dudek

    In the wake of the swollan goat

  • Jeepin LS

    One favorite Clutch song? I cannot even pick one album I prefer over the others. Why not ask which position I prefer to have sex?? The great redheaded one has asked me that for years, the answer he gets it “all of them!!” How about a fav from each album?? I apologize for wasting your time, but I cannot possibly lie to you and all the gearheads by picking 1 song.

  • Alex

    Gotta go with Oregon. That is one dope track that never gets old!

  • Adam Wright

    Favorite Clutch song is probably The Soapmakers…just because it gets stuck in my head and I can’t get it out…that and I love the lyrics and melody. Plus it doesn’t hurt that it’s the only Clutch song my girlfriend really likes.

  • HighTechAmish

    (In the wake of) The Swollen Goat! I went to see them on my birthday last year and they actually played it. Coolest present ever.

  • Azure

    The first Clutch song I heard was Binge and Purge on an old radio show played after midnight on Saturdays, The Powerzone W/Dr.Death. I was in 7th grade at the time. I saw Clutch live for the first time with Limp Bizkit and Sevendust at the Beaumont Club in Kansas City (I still swear thats me yelling Space Grass just before they play Brazenhead on Pure Rock Fury) a disco ball blew up over JP’s head, the stage was smoking, folks were in awe, and they just kept playing. It is hard to narrow a song down to just one when it seems Clutch has been with me my whole life. I’ve had a lot of great adventures listening to Brazenhead, Ship of Gold, Big News 1 and Escape From the Prison Planet. Sigh, but Oregon takes me places where I always seem to be eh, happy, victorious I dunno. For now I’d say Oregon

  • Jerry F.

    “Open Up the Border” Always puts me in a good mood!

  • Chris Iguchi

    Spacegrass.

  • Richie Boy

    Rapture of Ridley Walker….Killer Groove!

  • Scott Chapman

    Depends on the mood I’m in, but “Big Fat Pig” always gives me a smile…

  • Aidan Robertson

    animal farmmmmmm

  • ky

    7 jam…….kinda liking the new one “minotaur” though, got a killa bass grove i can’t get outta my head

  • gud

    (too little too late?)

    HIGH CALIBER CONSECRATOR!!!!

  • Big Tricky

    The only thing better than a Clutch show is a Clutch show where the band opens with “Who Wants to Rock?”. So that’s gonna have to be my pick.

    Who Wants to Rock?

  • 2 Tall

    To pick only one song and label it as my favorite would be like picking out one of my children as my favorite over the other two. Nothing good can happen out of this. As many of my fellow gear heads have spoken, my favorite song varies almost daily. That also holds true for my kids. However, if I must choose, commodore 64 represents the groove that is Clutch. Its one of the 3 or 4 different hidden tracks on Elephant Riders.

  • lon wilkinson

    soapmakers

  • ttam

    the drifter

  • Barent

    Trying to pick a favorite Clutch song is like deciding which limb I like best. No real way I can do it. There is Clutch for every mood and situation.
    Most Listened to song: Red Horse Rainbow
    First Song: Space Grass
    Favorite Song Live to date: When I saw What would a Wookie do (Tiny bar in Canada and had never heard that song before)
    Favorite show in general: !2-31-2005,12-31-2008 my 19th and 22nd birthdays
    Song I have never heard live and wish I had Binge and Purge
    And my favorite song (which i have never heard live either) The secret track on The Dragonfly

    Of all the times I have tried to answer who is my favorite band it is always you at the top. Can’t wait till July 10th

  • Tim

    “(Notes From the Trial of) La Curandera”

    Blast Tyrant is probably my favorite Clutch album, and that song just kills.

  • VJenks

    05

  • VJenks

    The Elephant Riders