El Jefe Speaks – Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch


Clutch has been riding high since last fall’s release of their album Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker). Being a band for over 25 years, the venerable act has seen trends come and go, but never wavered from their high energy rock music they love. They are also one of the few bands that has operated with the same lineup for most of their history, for which in this day and age, you need to give some props. We caught up with drummer Jean-Paul Gaster to discuss touring and performing, how Clutch makes a record among other topics. The band is heading out with Lamb of God and Corrosion Of Conformity soon:

Clutch are hitting the road soon with Corrosion Of Conformity, who are back with Pepper Keenan, and the band have already toured together extensively. What are you guys most looking forward to most about this run of dates?

They’ve been one of my favorite bands since I first started playing music, and this even goes back to the original 3 piece version of the band. When I watch Mike Dean and Woody and Reed play together, for me, it’s a little bit like looking back into history because those guys really formed that music that we call hard core, or sludge, or doom, or whatever you want to call that thing that those guys are doing. They really did it first and they did it better than anybody. When I watch those guys play, I think about that. I think about how long those guys have been playing together and the level of communication that goes on just in looking at one another or little gestures. That’s amazing, and then when Pepper joined the band, those guys wrote even more incredible songs. I’m very much looking forward to checking out their set every night.

Clutch by Evil Robb Photography (17)

Clutch, by Evil Robb Photography

Clutch has made a career of being a great live band. Musically they are almost another animal entirely how they bring it live from their albums. Jean-Paul explains:

That’s the point. My intention is to go up there and make music, make it be a real musical situation. We take chances on stage. We improvise. We try new things. The song itself is really just a vehicle for the playing. I try to make that performance a unique performance. What happens tonight is not what’s going to happen tomorrow night and what happened last night. For me, that’s a very special thing knowing that the folks in the audience are going to be treated as something completely unique. That’s what I would want, as a music fan, I love that. I don’t love going to see a band and knowing that the guy said the exact same thing last night and that the band is going to do that exact same thing just like they did last night. To me, that’s not rock and roll. That’s like a school play. That’s fine too. There’s great bands out there that do that really well, but that’s not interesting to me.


The 20th anniversary of the very first and much-loved Clutch album, Transnational Speedway (East West) was a few years back. Wouldn’t it be something special for the band and their fans if they represented that music on tour?


I think we’re probably just going to keep things business as usual. We’re going to get out there and we’re going to tour. A lot of bands get together, say, for their 25 anniversary tour and they go on tour. We’ve been going on tour for 25 years already.

If we did anything, maybe we’ll just take a year off. I don’t think we will.

Clutch, by Evil Robb Photography

Clutch, by Evil Robb Photography

Psychic Warfare came out last fall, seemingly on the heels of Earthrocker, which was amazing. Just a short time ago. Not only are are Clutch one of the most consistent bands around, they are stunningly consistent from album to album.

I think in some ways, there are some tunes on there that are related to what we did on Earthrocker. Let’s remember we recorded Earthrocker not that long ago. In some ways, the way we wrote the songs are similar. We learned a lot on the Earthrocker run. It was a good tour for us. We went to a lot of places. We played those songs in a lot of different venues.

Consequently, there’s a lot of energy we pull from those tunes. In some ways, the new songs are related. I do think this is a more diverse record. Earthrocker tended to be pretty consistently upbeat, and on this one, there’s a little bit more variables on there. We have some more dynamic happening. The tempos are a little different. There’s some blues-ier things on there, and some more funk based things on there as well. I enjoy playing that style. We’re very proud of the record. It’s going to be a fun tour.


Clutch Psychic warfare Front_Cover_Small

The band worked with their sometime collaborator/producer Machine on Psychic Warfare. From the artist perspective, having a producer that understands you, but can also give you a reality check is key. The artist perspective, it’s important to keep it. While respect for the man is industry wide, Machine’s personal style is said to be not for everybody. We asked JP why the band works so well with him?

I think the most important thing that Machine brings to the table is that he is able to look at the songs from the perspective of a fan. For us being around for 25 years, same guys with the same instruments, it can be tough sometimes to gain perspective. You feel like you’re swimming around in a fish bowl a little bit. You can’t see the forest through the trees. Machine is really good at doing that. He’s really good at listening to a song, looking at a song, and thinking about how a fan is going to hear that song. That perspective is invaluable for us.



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