Clutch's Jean-Paul Gaster Would Like to Be Ginger Baker's Drum Tech

Pretty Clutch.
Pretty Clutch.
Photo provided by New Ocean Media

Clutch has always been a prime example of "slow and steady win the race." After meeting in high school and forming the band in Maryland in 1991, the members -- vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Neil Fallon, lead guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines, and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster -- have never faltered. It's probably also attributed to the fact that the members' wide tastes in music, which spans everything for Black Sabbath to Bad Brains to Professor Long Hair, has helped them create a very solid, unique sound.

Most fans remember the band's first major taste of heavy rock radio airplay with their single "The Mob Goes Wild" in 2004. The song's music video was directed by Bam Margera an dfeatured such Viva La Bam co-stars as Ryan Dunn, Don Vito and Brandon DiCamillo.

Clutch just finished production on their eleventh studio album, and over the years have released an array of live albums and rarities, along with creating their own record label, Weathermaker.

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With a release date slated for fall 2015, the band recorded their newest album in Dripping Springs, Texas to work with record producer Machine at his new studio. There's high stakes involved, as their 10th album, 2013's Earth Rocker, was ranked on Rolling Stone's Top 20 Metal Albums Of The Year, and named "Album of the Year" by Metal Hammer magazine. However, Clutch isn't really worried; with their legion of solid fans, they never really have to worry about being fazed out.

Clutch is hitting the road with Mastodon for "The Missing Link Tour" and will head through Marquee Theatre on April 30.

New Times talked with drummer JP Gaster about the killer food in Austin, his proudest moment on the new record, and being Ginger Baker's drum tech.

Phoenix New Times: So you guys already finished recording your 11th album in Dripping Springs, Texas, correct? And it's in the process of being mixed?

Jean-Paul Gaster: That is correct. We recorded all the basic tracks and most of the guitars in Dripping Springs, and recorded the remainder at our studio in Maryland.

Since Earth Rocker was seen as one of the band's best records, what can you tell fans about the upcoming album, in terms of if there's a concept or unique elements you guys are incorporating?

The songs are a bit more diverse on this one I think. We covered some funk and bluesy things that we didn't get to as much on Earth Rocker.

What's your proudest moment on the new record?

I think the performances were very inspired and well rehearsed. We rehearsed the songs more on this record than any recordings in the past. The tunes have a very passionate feel to them I think.

It seems Mastodon and Clutch can compliment each other's styles very well. What are you looking forward to most on this long tour?

So far I've enjoyed watching mastodon every night on this tour. The guys play very hard and very well. It's very inspiring to watch them do their thing each night. They are easily one of my favorite bands we've had the opportunity to share a stage with.

Clutch has been around for almost a quarter of a century now. If you had to describe the band's core sound in three words, what would those be?

Rock, and, roll.  

The band's musical style brings a lot of things to the table, whether it's funk, metal, and jazz, sci-fi, or even an influence from novels. What decade of music could you see Clutch totally fitting into, prior to the '90s?

I don't see how we could fit into any other time than where we are today. We take inspiration from music of the past 100 years. Without that lineage to draw from we wouldn't be who we are. I think we fit best in 2015.

What's the modern marvel you'll never get over?

I like to record when I'm at home. I recently tried a new technique for placing overheads on a drum kit. The technique is called mid side, or MS. The technique was developed in the '30s, but not many people use it as it can be slightly confusing to configure. I tried it one evening just before we split for tour and was blown away. The clarity is almost 3-D. I don't fully understand how it works yet but I look forward to exploring that concept more when we get our next break. The Internet is pretty incredible, and the Apollo space program was too.

Name a band, an author, and a performer that's impressing you nowadays.

We released a record by a band called Lionize last year. I met them years ago when they were just kids hanging out at my drum teachers house. Walter was a great teacher but could be quite abrasive at times. I never understood why they voluntarily submitted themselves to his abuse and insults! The truth is that they were there to learn about music and how to be a musician. Walter taught those values better than anybody I've met since then. Lionize continues to work and play harder than most bands on the road today. Check them out.

My favorite author is Cormac McCarthy. I've read all his books, but Blood Meridian is my favorite.

A favorite performer would be New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich. I first learned about him by listening to Professor Longhair's Crawfish Fiesta. His street-beats style on that recording blew me away. He is still very active and I see him play whenever possible. Johnny can play any song in any style. He is a creative force that continues to inspire me.

Name five albums you would bring to a desert island.

This changes constantly but today it might be:

Larry Young's Unity Black Sabbath's Vol. 4 The Meters' Look-Ka Py Py Bad Brains' Rock for Light John Lee Hooker's Hooker n Heat

What band could you be in if you could, and what would you play?

Maybe it would be Cream but I wouldn't play. I would just drum tech for Ginger Baker.

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