Every time that Clutch rolls into Pittsburgh a few things are guaranteed: 1. The show will be packed 2. There will be mass quantities of beer consumed at said show and 3. drummer for Clutch, Jean Paul Gaster will put on a drum clinic just by playing with the band.
No matter how many times I have had the opportunity to speak with JP, there always comes across a sincerity and thoughtfulness that you do not get from every “rockstar”. The Clutch guys are different; they are blue collar Maryland men with amazing work ethics. JP is no exception. In fact, when I first called him he was unable to answer because he was practicing drums. First off, one does not hear that often from a seasoned pro and secondly, he called me back right away and apologized. Trust me this is an anomaly when it comes to interviews.
Clutch plays Pittsburgh’s Stage AE October 1 with guests Zakk Sabbath and Kyng. Before one of the most killer line ups of the year comes here I had the pleasure of chatting with JP.
You have a tremendous work ethic and constantly work on your craft.
I spend a lot of time practicing. I very much enjoy it. It’s the kind of thing that the more I do it the more I’m working at it. Its kind of a process.
Do you still take lessons from people?
I have not taken lessons for roughly year or so. The last time was when I got together with Johnny Vidacovich we spoke in great detail about brushes and that was pretty eye opening for me. I’m always checking stuff out paying attention to stuff, maybe even getting on YouTube. You can pick up a lot of stuff and I try to take advantage of it.
Your style is very much “less is more”, serve the song. Is that the type of playing that you are attracted to looking at those videos?
Very much. When I was younger I may have tried some pyrotechnics, but I was never really drawn to that style of drumming.
Psychic Warfare has been out for around a year and Clutch played Pittsburgh just before the album was released. You have just returned from Europe and have been on the road for a long time. Does it get tedious at this point?
Well, there is an element of that but I don’t think tedious is the right word. It gets draining, it can be difficult. In fact this last tour was physically tough. There were a lot of fly-in dates, going to the airport, get a couple hours of sleep, do a gig and then go right back out to the airport. You know if you do that several times in a row that will kick your ass. There is a lot of downtime too in between shows, that;s tough being away from home on a tour bus with a ton of other guys, but more often than not its a blast. You know give me a break, you get to play music for a living, you get to go all around the world, that’s an amazing experience. It’s the best job in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Psychic Warfare is your 11th record, how have you evolved with this album?
Well, each record is a different snapshot of where the band is at any given moment. What I mean by that is musically, personally, business wise too. So each one has its own identity, we make a point not to repeat ourselves, challenge ourselves, experiment with sounds, sometimes you get way way far out there because that’s where the creativity is. But then again having said that, we are the same four guys playing the same four instruments, there is going to be that element that at some point it’s going to sound like Clutch. We might be writing something and I’ll say well it sounds like this or this sounds like another song from a particular record. But at the end of the day it’s all four making music, I think we got those fucking terms down and you just accept who you are.
You guys just put out a video for A Quick Death In Texas. A pretty fun video, but did you have fun making it?
Well, yeah. It’s the closest thing to acting that any of us have ever done and we had great costumes and got a little “pissed” at the office, that helped us get into character. It was a good experience, it was fun, its something we hadn’t done before. We tried to make it tongue in cheek and we got to play cowboys, kind of ridiculous!
Classic Rock Magazine has Psychic Warfare as a nominee for album of the year. How does it feel to get industry awards like that?
There are two sides to that, it’s a bit demonstrative. We struggled for many years and it maybe has not been until the last three records that people have really taken notice of the band, but we have also had a lot of loyal fans since the beginning and for that we are grateful. The fact that we can attract that kind of attention and release on our own label is sweeter, for so many years we had to be on other labels. We are able to have our own label and for the fans to perceive Psychic Warfare as well as (they have), that’s incredible for us as a band.
What do you think the biggest mistake Clutch has made in their career?
I remember clearly having gotten the Pantera tour in like 1998. We were all fans of Pantera at the time. We really compared ourselves at that time to more of a heavy jam band. Rather than get up there and play our heavier songs and try to make the best of it crowd, we found ourselves jamming and probably we should have played a more straight up kind of a set. The fans were spending a lot of time trying to accept us and we spent a lot of time trying to be like The Band of Gypsies. And as much as I love that style of playing I think it kind of got lost on some of the fans, maybe we could have done a better job.
Kyng and Zakk Sabbath are coming out with you for this tour.
Kyng are friends of ours, great band out of California, very talented guys who just made a record with Machine who is our producer that we have worked with several times. I’m anxious to hear their new album. And Zakk Sabbath, give me a break! Zakk Wylde is one of the premier guitarists of our generation and him playing those songs (Black Sabbath) is going to be so great to see, he’s an incredible player and his band…Joey Castillo is playing drums and he is one of my favorite drummers from the Sugartooth days and Blasko (Rob Nicholson) is playing bass and we have been friends with him back to his band Drown, I think we toured with them back in ’98. We’ve known Blasko for a long time and I think it’s going to be a great tour with a great line-up.
What is going on with your side projects?
Yeah, I’m always trying to stay involved in different things. I just did a blues gig in Maryland. Next week I’ll be working with Mark Morton (Lamb of God), Yanni Papadopoulos (Stinking Lizaveta) and Chris Brooks (Lionize) on new material (for Mark Morton’s solo album). If things come up I try to do them because for me, it’s my passion.
You are known for your love of vintage gear. Is there a “great white whale” out there that you seek?
Well, I love the 1920’s era Ludwig Black Beauty. And they can be found but they are just very expensive. I need to stay off of Ebay. A couple beers and Ebay pretty much guarantees I am going to buy a new snare drum.
Really looking forward to the tour coming Oct 1 in Pittsburgh.
We’ve been playing Pittsburgh for many, many years. I’m thinking the first time we played there was in 1994 with Sepultura. Pittsburgh has been good to us. There is some great halls there and some great food. It’s kind of hard to beat.
Clutch – Psychic Warfare World Tour 2016
STAGE AE — PITTSBURGH, PA
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