Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch, by Evil Robb Photography
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:
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.
Clutch, by Keith Chachkes
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.
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
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
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.
As we dash towards the holidays and the end of the year Ghost Cult is feeling good about this season of giving. So we are giving our fans a chance to get to know our partners, peers, and friends from bands in the world of music. They will chime in with some guest blogs, end of year lists, and whatever else is on their minds as we pull the plug on 2015. Today we have Atli Jarl Martin, promoter and digital go to guy for Eistnaflug Festival, who happily lives with his 19 computers and has a huge affection for his ThinkPads, shared his list of favorite releases of this year with us.
It’s been a strange year for me personally and a bit hard to keep up with as many releases I’ve done in recent years, Nevertheless I managed to build a list of some 70 releases which I have now filtered down to my final Top 10, whereas the top 5 releases could have all ended up in my top slot. I guess that most releases that made the cut won’t come as a surprise to anyone that knows me, but I hope that there are at least a couple that you haven’t listened to yet, and might give it a spin. 2016 is looking tremendously exciting already, first and foremost with the release of Rotting Christ’s new album Rituals early in the year. But for 2015, here goes…
1. Thy Catafalque – Sgúrr (Season Of Mist)
Definitely the most delightful surprise of 2015. Following the incredible 2011 album Rengeteg, I became a huge fan of the talent and musicianship of Tamás Kátai, as this is a one-man project, and his vast and diverse musical wizardry is way above and beyond what most other musicians present. The musical direction Tamás takes on Sgúrr is hugely different than what is presented on Rengeteg and the earlier albums, one might say colder, bleaker and harsher, where ‘f.e. Jura’, a straight forward blisteringly fast black metal track made my jaw drop, as it was wholly unexpected. I can really say the same about pretty much every track on the album, which is a phenomenal roller coaster ride through amazing variety of styles and sounds. Just listen to ‘Oldódó Formák a Halál Titokzatos Birodalmáb’, a 15:21 minute ride through a sublime variety of styles and a showcase track on just how multi-talented Tamás Kátai is. A beautiful work of art.
2. Lost Soul – Atlantis: The New Beginning (Apostasy Records)
Yes, they fucking did it again. These Polish wizards, led by mainman Jacek Grecki, pretty much blew everyone’s mind back in 2009 with their absolutely phenomenal Immerse In Infinity album, which shared the top-slot on my list back then with my favorite, and ever so lovable Finns in Amorphis (more on them later). Lost Soul are finally back after 6 long years, but the wait was so worth it. Atlantis is every bit as fast and brutal, yet Grecki and his merry men have managed to push their music further into the technical and progressive realms, bringing you one, if not THE pinnacle of technical death metal offerings of all-times. Listening to this album leaves me dumb-struck with awe, every-single-time, such is the wizardry performed here. Perfection!
3. Melechesh – Enki (Nuclear Blast)
5 years after the release of the fantastic The Epigenesis album, and after a plethora of lineup changes, Melechesh return with Enki, yet another masterpiece of an album. Uncompromising as always, adhering to their sublime Middle Eastern music influenced extreme metal concoction, Melechesh apparently can do no wrong. While The Epigenesis took a tad more progressive turn, with sublimely heavy and thundering songs, Enki returns back to the faster, more intense songwriting as presented on their earlier albums, such as Emissaries and Sphynx. I was fortunate enough to finally see the band on stage last May, and the experience was mind-blowing. Among the best musical entities on the planet. Period.
4. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud (Nuclear Blast)
Amorphis, by Hillarie Jason
As a very, very long time fan of the band, their current lineup, starting with their absolute best album, Eclipse (2006), almost every album since has been a tour-de-force, showcasing the enormous capacity of the bands collective skills in songwriting and musicianship, as well as being one of the hardest working bands out there, as this is their 6th full-length album in only 9 years. Under the Red Cloud very much takes up the thread from the stellar 2013 album, Circle, but the band is in absolute top-form here, as every song on the album is outstanding. Songs like ‘The Four Wise Ones’, ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Dark Path’, and the phenomenal ‘Tree of Ages’, have made the album my most heavily rotated album from the band since 2006, and there is no letting up on how often I spin it. Masterpiece.
5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker Music)
Clutch, by Evil Robb Photography
Yes indeed, here‘s another super-hard working band which has been dishing out release after release of superior quality since, well, forever. Their 2004 album Blast Tyrant is perhaps my favorite rock album of all-time, and their subsequent albums, albeit all having different qualities, none really came close to it in overall groove and fierceness, until now. Psychic Warfare absolutely hits every mark of excellence that Blast Tyrant presented. Every song is superb, the lyrics are fantastic, and the whole album pops and clicks on every beat, every groove, and infuses that good old feeling of strapping on an air-guitar and do a bit of headbanging while singing along to Neil Fallon’s often hysterically funny rants and phrases. As I write this, there are only 2 days until I see the band onstage for the first time, and the anticipation for seeing the tracks from this album presented is making me all giddy. Woohoo!
6. Keep of Kalessin – Epistemology (Indie Recordings)
This is an album I actually had high expectations for, specially after hearing the 2013 EP Introspection, which was the first release from the band following Arnt “Obsidian C.” Grønbech taking over the vocal duties after Thebon‘s departure earlier that year. Their first full-length album in 5 years, I was supremely happy to hear that Keep of Kalessin is very much up to the task as a three-piece outfit, and musically, the album is a healthy blend of the more commercial aspect of 2009‘s Reptilian and the earlier fierce and blazingly fast Armada (2006) and Kolossus (2008). Stand-out tracks and passages on the album are many, but the pinnacle is most certainly ‘The Grand Design’, a track that easily rivals the best of their earlier works, and was absolutely amazing to witness on stage. The band is in top-form at the moment and I can‘t wait for the successor, just hope that I won‘t have to wait 5 years for it.
7. George Kollias – Invictus (Season of Mist)
This master of extreme metal drumming certainly has had a busy schedule in recent years, touring and playing with Nile, as well as releasing drum lesson videos and attending drum clinics, but there were a couple of his own songs available on YouTube, rough mixed and non-vocal demos. Very cool stuff, but nothing that really prepared me for the delicious death metal assault he put together on this first solo album of his. It is a showcase of enormous death metal talent, as Kollias plays every instrument on the album, as well as performing vocals, but the album also features guest performances from many prominent musicians, such as Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade (Nile), George Emmanuel (Rotting Christ) and Efthimis Karadimas (Nightfall), to name but a few. Overall a fantastic death metal trip, modern in technicality, speed, sound and feel, blended with a healthy dose of some old school riffing, but what really amazed me the most is Kollias‘ vocal performance, which ranks among the best I‘ve heard in a long time. Highly recommended.
8. Hate – Crvsade: Zero (Napalm Records)
Being a very early release this year, as it came out in late January, this album has had way more spins than many other albums on my list, but it is definitely to its credit that it ends up on my Top 10 list, as the re-playability of the album is phenomenal. Mainman Adam “ATF Sinner” Buszko and his band mates strengthen the already very impressive legacy of the band and their highly energetic style of death metal getting stronger with each subsequent album. One of my favorite bands for sure.
9. Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed (Nuclear Blast)
Another album I had really high expectations for in 2015, and they were not betrayed. Nile have been on a remarkably consistent roll since the release of Those Whom The Gods Detest in 2009, followed by At the Gate of Sethu (2012) which has since then bulldozed its way to being my second all-time favorite album by the band. The band pulls no left hooks here, plowing onwards and upwards with their instantly recognizable brand of death metal mastery. Super-heavy, blazing fast and tremendously well executed, track after track just thunders through and the confidence and coherence displayed by the band is absolutely why they are one of the biggest extreme metal acts in the world today.
10. Malevolent Creation – Dead Man‘s Path (Century Media)
Aaaah, like a warm blanket, listening to a new Malevolent Creation, one of my all-time favorite bands, is always a very pleasant experience. I’ve been following these old masters almost since the beginning of their career, and despite the very turbulent history of band members, they always manage to land on their feet, providing me with that deliciously violent old-school death metal that I love so much. Dead Man‘s Path is pure Malevolence, and the band and the music sound better than they have done since the magnificent Envenomed came out in 2000. No-one can destroy this Malevolent Creation.
As we dash towards the holidays and the end of the year Ghost Cult is feeling good about this season of giving. So we are giving our fans a chance to get to know our partners, peers, and friends from bands in the world of music. They will chime in with some guest blogs, end of year lists, and whatever else is on their minds as we pull the plug on 2015. Today we have Bidi van Drongelen, Dutch booker and manager who has worked with the likes of The Devil’s Blood, Saint Vitus, Ghost, In Solitude and many more. Every year a multitude of his bands get booked at the excellent Roadburn festival, and we have asked him what he feels were the best releases of 2015.
1. Klone – Here Comes The Sun
Great songwriting, amazing vocals, and a crystal clear though heavy production blending prog and post metal.
2. Ghost – Meliora
Ghost has it all to become one of the leading melodic heavy rock bands in the world
3. Bliksem – Gruesome Masterpiece
If you like Metallica’sMaster of Puppets of Death Angel’sACT III….with the a raw female voice like Doro.
4. Royal Thunder – Crooked Doors
Great atmospheric rock album with the amazing voice of Mlny Parsonsz
5. Tribulation – Children of the Night
Melodies of occult rock like The Devil’s Blood drenched with a satanic black voice which reminds of Satyricon.
6. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
Refreshing approach of doom & drone. ART with capital A!
7. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
8. Steak Number Eight – Kosmokoma
9. Melechesh – Enki
10. Enslaved – In Times
11. Clutch – Psychic Warfare
12. Thy Catafalque – Sgurr
13. Amorphis– Under The Red Cloud
14. RAM – Svbversvm
15. BRING ME THE HORIZON– That’s The Spirit
16. Mgła – Excercises In Futility
17. Baroness – Purple
18. Leprous – The Congregation
19. Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence
20. Hangman’s Chair – This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive
What year is it again? A new Star Wars movie is about two months away, Iron Maiden has a brand new album out that rules, The Muppet Show has new episodes on TV each week and other amazingness is happening. Somebody pinch me! Or don’t, because I don’t want to wake up if this is a dream. And for the kicker, Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, frequent touring partners for the last 25 years are out on the road together once again. Playing blistering sets each night for droves of fans, neither band competes with the other. Instead they live in their own bubbles of genre defining greatness. C.O.C., now rejoined by Pepper Keenan (Down), are rejuvenated by going down memory lane for a set consisting of songs from classic 90s albums such as Deliverance and Wiseblood (both Columbia). Although they occasionally toss in an 80s crossover classic, one hopes the band hasn’t abandoned its fruitful “COC trio” work they have been doing the last few years completely. Writing for a new COC album is ongoing and a release is expected sometime in 2016. In the meantime Clutch is just crushing on the strength of their bold new album Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker). Led by the indomitable Neil Fallon, the band has mined this new album heavily live, as well as the classics that have made Clutch one of the premier American heavy rock bands going. Captured tonight by Evil Robb Photography at Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in New Hampshire, you have one of the strongest bills of no compromise rock and metal heard anywhere this fall.
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.
Clutch’s ‘Psychic Warfare’ album cover art, by Dan Winters
Clutchhas announced today they are releasing their next album Psychic Warfare on October 2nd, via Weathermaker Music. Produced by frequent Clutch collaborator Machine (Lamb of God, Every Time I Die) will feature 12 tracks and will have cover are from renowned designer Dan Winters.
Clutch Singer Neil Fallon talks about the concept of the album:
“The title ‘Psychic Warfare’ is taken from the track, ‘X-Ray Visions”… “It’s a tale about an unnamed protagonist who is forced to seek refuge in a flop house motel. He is hiding from several nefarious psychic forces, the worst of which is his own sleep deprived paranoia.”
Clutch, photo by Susanne A. Maathuis
Psychic Warfare track listing:
01 The Affidavit
02 X-Ray Visions
04 A Quick Death in Texas
05 Sucker For The Witch
06 Your Love is Incarceration
07 Doom Saloon
08 Our Lady of Electric Light
09 Noble Savage Clutch
10 Behold the Colossus
11 Decapitation Blues
12 Son Of Virginia
Clutch has the following tour dates planned to support the release including this summer’s GWAR BQ, The Rock Carnival, The Aftershock Festival, Knotfest, and the Voodoo Festival:
Aug 15: GwarBQ – Hadad’s Lake – Richmond, VA Sept 04:The Joint – The Hard Rock Hotel – Las Vegas, NV special guest for Primus Sept 19:The Shindig – Carrol Park- Baltimore, MD Sept 20:The Rock Carnival – Oak Ridge Park – Clark, NJ Oct 24: Aftershock Festival – Sacramento, CA Oct 25: Knotfest – San Manuel Amphitheater- San Bernardino, CA Oct 31: Voodoo Festival – New Orleans, LA