Acclaimed guitarist for Lamb Of God, Mark Morton will release his debut solo album on March 1st, 2019th. Anesthetic will be a collaborative album bringing stars from across rock and metal such as his bandmate D. Randall Blythe, Alissa white-Gluz, Chuck Billy, Jacoby Shaddix, Myles Kennedy, Mark Lanegan, Jake Oni, and the late Chester Bennington among others. The project will release on Morton’s new label Wpp Records/Spinefarm Records. Blast the dope new single right now, ‘The Truth Is Dead’, feat. Randy Blythe + Alissa White-Gluz. Continue reading
In a new feature for Ghost Cult, we doing a new twist on the old “desert island discs concept. We are asking artists if they were leaving the Earth in a spaceship and never coming back, what music would they take with them for the trip. Our first traveler is Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch. JP’s chose says a lot about him as a fan and an artist:
“There are some records that are just part of my collection that they always get listened to, and John Coltrane’s Love Supreme is one of them. The Bad Brains’ Rock for Light would be another one. Black Sabbath Paranoid would be another one. The Allman Brothers at the Filmore would be another one. These are classic records that really stood the test of time, not only the songs themselves, but the performances of the records, and for me that’s really important.”
You can catch Clutch on tour with Lamb of God and Corrosion of Conformity. The band continues to support 2015’s Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker Music) album:
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For the first time in their career leading up to an album, Clutch really pulled back the curtain with a series of behind the scenes videos. Clutch discussed their writing and recording processes openly, a tried to articulate the intrinsic elements that makes Clutch what they are. It was refreshing. We asked Jean-Paul Gaster next about stepping out of the groups’ comfort zone collectively and what that added to the album:
I think we’re getting better at it. When we first got into this thing, we didn’t really know what the hell we were doing. Those things you are describing, those intangibles, you can’t really verbalize those things because you don’t really fully consensualize what’s going on. We’ve been around for so long, we’ve played so many shows, made so many records. I think we are better at those things, and just talking about the music. I think we are better at that as well.
With opportunity to talk shop with JP about drums, and knowing he is into a lot of Jazz and blues guys, and a lot of kinds of music that other people normally don’t call attention. JP discussed his favorite drummers, and who’s influenced him. He also mentioned, and who is contemporary that is influencing him now:
Early on, I had the opportunity to see some really great drummers that really formed the way that I look at the drums, my perspective of that. One of the first guys I ever saw was Elvin Jones, and I had the opportunity to see him play many times. I think one of the things that most inspired me about him was that for me, he was greater than just a jazz drummer. He transformed the way that people looked at the drum kit. For me he was very influential and continues to be very inspiring. I got to see a lot of go-go shows early on in Washington D.C. For me, that music is very important. I got to see great drummers like Brandon Finnely and JuJu House. These were guys who played incredibly strong groove, incredibly strong pocket. A lot of times when I’m up there playing, I still think about those guys. I saw Earl from The Bad Brains. He was great. We got to tour with some of my favorite drummers too. Igor Cavalera, from Sepultura. We did a tour with Pantera, got to see Vinnie Paul. These guys really informed the way that I look at the drums and these things just come out in the music today.
One thing about Jean-Paul that the average fan might not know is that he doesn’t single out brands that he is endorsed by. his philosophy of drumming is much the same as his approach to gear:
I don’t think you ever really reach that point. If you ever get to the point where you think to yourself man, I now everything there is to know about this particular drum or this particular style, it probably means that you don’t know anything about that particular style. For me, it’s about the process. It’s not about the end result. It’s not about “I’m going to do these exercises and I’m going to master this style.” That’s not really the goal. For me, the goal is to go through the process, to learn that stuff, internalize that stuff and then make it your own thing. For me, that’s never going to end. I never see an end in sight. Sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating, but I love it.
You can catch Clutch on the road with Lamb Of God and Corrosion of Conformity this spring.
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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 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.
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.
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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Most modern music careers go a little bit like this. Write a good (or even great) record. Become popular. Have that “difficult second album” syndrome. Get less popular but retain a fan base. Record a third album that might have an unexpected hit. Record the same album for the rest of your career until everyone gets bored. Split up and then return and do a tour where you play the entirety of your first album because it’s a “masterpiece”. Ho, and indeed, hum.
Thank goodness then for Clutch. Clutch aren’t like most bands. Wait: Clutch are not like any other band. Now into their 20-something year of making smart, intelligent rock music, Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker) is the eleventh studio album from the Maryland, USA residents. Psychic Warfare sees Neil Fallon and Co in the rudest possible health, invigorating and invigorated, creatively refreshed and simply staggering and swaggering.
With their last record, Earth Rocker (also Weathermaker) delivering a veritable feast of passionate, invigorating rock music that proved that straight up rock ‘n’ roll could appeal equally to heart and head, one may have anticipated that Clutch would return with a record that sounded completely different, as has been their wont. Contrarians to the last, Clutch have taken the quality threshold set by Earth Rocker and simply upped the ante. If Earth Rocker set a new high benchmark for the Clutch boys, Psychic Warfare is the call and response that you can only have dreamt of, such is its dynamic power and prowess. In short, it’s utterly brilliant.
Psychic Warfare leaps out of the speakers, hoists you by the throat and never lets up, not for a second; punchier and harder than its predecessor. It’s as if the band has been in the gym for a few months: it’s muscular, tough, ripped. Psychic Warfare sounds like the band are not only content with sounding like Clutch, they are revelling in it. This new album has an immediate, warm sense of familiarity, one that breeds total and utter content.
The spoken word scene setting paranoia of ‘The Affadavit’ gives way to the instant Clutch classic of ‘X-Ray Vision’ which is so infectious it should carry a biohazard warning. The rest of the album just gets better and better. There are more riffs than a guitarists’ convention running throughout: Tim Sult has excelled himself with licks and flourishes that are inspired and imaginative, frenetic and pulsating: just listen to ‘Your Love Is Incarceration’ or ‘Sucker for the Witch’ and you will understand just what I am getting at.
Clutch understand tone and dynamics perhaps better than any band operating today. It’s hardly a surprise that Jean-Paul Gaster is many people’s favourite drummer, such is his ability to bring depth, warmth and structure as well as light and funk to proceedings. In lesser hands, the forcefulness of these songs would feel oppressive, repetitive. In Clutch’s hand’s, these are songs that get in under your skin, make you dance and smile: it is a sheer bloody joy.
Psychic Warfare, like all the best Clutch albums (and, already, it’s amongst the very best of Clutch’s albums) is a record packed full of wizened characters, paranoia, liquor, esoteric cityscapes and name dropping of Stevie Nicks. I have no idea what’s going on in Neil Fallon’s mind but when he produces songs as strong and compelling as this, you cannot help but be drawn into his maelstrom of evocative storytelling. He is a master of American letters; Clutch are a band of sublime brilliance and Psychic Warfare might just be the album you’ve waited all year for.
Long may they reign supreme.
The second set of tour dates supporting last year’s highly successful Earth Rocker (Weathermaker) opus see’s Clutch riding a high having one again reaffirmed their status as one of rock finest live acts currently treading the boards.
The met is still disconcertingly quiet when support act Lionize begin their set, but their funk infected grooves impress punters early on. Chris Brooks and Nate Bergman deliver some rich vocal harmonies. Clutch’s Jean Paul Gaster even joins the band briefly on percussion yet while its clear their label bosses have been a forbearer for Lionize sound they retain a feel all of their own. Hell they even manage to get away with dropping a bit of reggae without sounding laughable or trite.
When father Neil Fallon begins the sermon the congregation has joined us in full swing. ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ lives up to its name, with frantic dancing breaking out en masse. Such is the energy that the Maryland quartet inspire that the crowd keeps singing even when Tim Sult’s guitar cuts out half way through ‘Crucial Velocity’.
The charm and charismatic presence of Fallon certainly means he is the wide eyed focal point yet the musicians around him lock into a groove that is irresistible. ‘The Elephant Riders’ makes a welcome appearance, making good on the reputation Clutch have of keeping their lives shows fresh and invigorating. The acoustic ‘Gone Cold’ provides a break from the raucousness allowing Fallon to show off his soulful side before a storming ‘Struck Down’ picks the pace back up.
Considering Neil Fallon was recently a whisker away from being unable to perform following an operation on his spine which meant a delicate operation which meant his windpipe having to be moved temporarily in the process his performance is, if anything even more driven and passionate.
A four song encore concludes with the one, two punches of ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘One Eye Dollar’ which leave many drenched in sweat smiling in unison. Tonight may not have gone without a hitch, but when you’re a journeyman act with a discography few can match and perform with such vigour and zeal you can do very little wrong.
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
PHOTOS BY EMMA STONE
For years Lionize had carved themselves a nice little niche. A small but dedicated fanbase that lapped up their unique brand of Clutch-style boogie rock combined with soulful Reggae that led to some cracking records. But times change, and with new album Jetpack Soundtrack (Weathermaker Music) the band look to be really trying to breakthrough to a wider audience.
The Maryland rockers are five albums into their career and all the core elements of their sound are still in place, but they’ve tried to push everything up a notch. Produced by Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and Machine (best known for his work with their mighty Blast Tyrant album), which can only help their profile, the music is far slicker than it was before.
Take ‘Breather,’ there’s still plenty of funk, but with more melody, bigger guitars, and the whole thing is just more polished than their previous releases. ‘Evolve’ is more of a hard rocker, with its galloping riffs and synths while lead single ‘Reality Check’ is a well-polished melodic number that sticks in the head for days.
The only bad thing to say about the album is that there a few forgettable ‘Lionize by numbers’ tracks. ‘Electric Reckoning’ and ‘Lazarus Style’ fall under this category. They’re not bad, they’ve still got all the elements of a good song and played with plenty of energy, but leave little impression once they’re gone.
There are still plenty of gems, however. Lionize are seriously good at making feel good music that infects the body and give you the desire to move, and that’s exactly what good rock bands should do. The title track, the southern-fried ‘Replaced By Machines’ and the cowbell-filled ‘Skynet’ are all highlights. And as ever, front man Nate Bergman’s lyrics are a highlight throughout. Micro Machines, Dinosaurs and Friend’s Rachel Green all make an appearance, while ‘Amazing Science Facts’ is full of lyrical gold such as “Did you know Alex Jones grows his own food at home without GMOs, wow what a guy.”
Jetpack Soundtrack is a quality record. Perhaps not as enjoyable as Superzcar and the Vulture or Destruction Manual simply because the songs aren’t quite as memorable, but there’s nothing bad on here. And even if it’s still not an improvement on what’s gone before, Lionize still stand apart in a genre of one.