At the Hellfest 2019, I had the opportunity to meet the drummer of Clutch : Jean-Paul Gaster. He’s really passionate by his work and, with his colleagues, they have a lot of ideas for the future of the band. I let you discover why in the following interview.

Hello, how are you? How do you feel to play here, at the Hellfest?

We love coming to Hellfest. The weather is always beautiful and we always get a chance to see some cool bands. The food is very good too : the catering. The show is always fun. So I mean what’s not to like. We love coming here.

We will begin with a simple question on your career, is there anything funny or impressive that happened to you or what is the most impressive or funny event?

Well I think just the fact that we’ve been able to do this band for 28 years : it’s impressive…. I suppose. When we started the band the intention really was just to play shows and to make some recordings. We were just doing that for ourselves. We didn’t intend for this to become a career. We didn’t really. We weren’t interested in making a bunch of money. We just wanted to do it for the music. And here we are. Yeah it’s been amazing and a beautiful ride. I’m grateful and fortunate and I still love it.

You will released a new album “The Weathermaker Vault Series”, what is the concept behind this album?

We released “Book Of Bad Decisions” in September and that was sort of a traditional kind of a release where we had CDs and vinyls. It did quite well. We were very proud but we were also very aware that the climate and the music industry has changed considerably.

So one thing we decided to try is releasing singles in a digital format only. They’ll be available for streaming and download and, at the moment, there are no physical copies available. The plan is to release digital singles every six weeks more or less and we‘ll do that for the remainder of the year. This way, we have new music that’s coming out on a more regular basis. We’ll see how that takes us.

What will you change to the new versions of those songs compared to the old ones? Have you changed your way of working?

No, the way the band works is pretty much the same. It’s a very collaborative process. It’s very democratic and we are very critical of ourselves. So, the great majority of material that we create; people don’t hear it. We try to pick the very best stuff that’s different than all the other stuff that we’ve done. So in that regard the process has not changed at all.

It was also told that you will do some covers, can we have a taste of which band we could find on this album? And/Or maybe an explanation on how did you choose the songs you will cover?

Yeah. Well the first one, “Evil”, is a recording originally written by Willie Dixon. He was a blues bass player and he worked a lot with the Chess Records musicians and most notably Howlin’ Wolf. So you probably heard a Howlin’ Wolf version of the song. Other bands have played it : most notably Cactus, a hard rock band from the United States that started in the late 60s and early 70s. They did an amazing version of that one.

It’s an amazing song to play. Super fun : the riff is just killer and I can play a whole bunch of drum fills.

Is there any idea of a release date?

Well “Evil” has already come out. It came out earlier this month (June) and then we’ll follow up with another single probably in July.

What is your favorite song among all your albums or the one you are really proud of ? and why? Will it be on this album?

The song I’m most proud of.… You know it’s hard to say : we’ve made so many records and each one of them really is kind of a just representation of where the band was at that moment. So the most recent recording, “Evil”, I think, is quite good. I’m very proud of the way the drumming came out on that one.

Prior to that, we released “Book Of Bad Decisions” and it’s a very dense album. That one has a lot of tracks on there and we spent quite a bit of time writing and arranging those songs. So I think in a lot of ways that’s probably the most condensed, most realized, clutch’s record.

How went your tour so far ? Is it any places that you still want to go?

Yeah of course. The band has not done a whole lot of touring in South America. We’ve done one show in Brazil. We’d love to go down there again. We love coming to France and we’ve done a few gigs here. We played in Paris and we played in Bordeaux. It would be nice to spend more time here and play some other cities outside of that.

You often share your setlist on Facebook and we can see that you don’t have 2 same setlists, how do you create it and how do you manage to choose which songs you will play among 12 albums?

Well it’s a very democratic process. Each night a different band member is in charge of making the setlist. We started with Dan on the first night of the tour and then myself ,then Neil and then Tim. Believe it or not , it’s an alphabetical order by first name. We’ve been doing that now for … I don’t know… 20 or probably 22 years. It makes it fun.

We have a wider range of songs to pull from. It keeps us engaged and on our toes. I don’t like going to see a band where they play the same setlist every night, they say the same stuff in between and the drummer plays the same fills. For me, that’s boring and that’s not rock and roll. So we try to keep it fresh for ourselves and for the fans too.

Me : Who will do the one of tonight’s show (Hellfest’s show) ?

I did it last night so Neil will do the setlist of tonight.

Is there anything you still want to acomplish? Festivals where you want to play, some artists you want to play with, …

Well of course. As a drummer, I’m always thinking about the drums and I’m always trying to learn new things, new techniques, new styles,... So, for me, that’s an ongoing process. I very much enjoy thinking about the drums and I realize more and more as I get older that the drums really has so much to do with what’s your mental state, your ability to sort of realize new concepts, and it’s less about the physical. Of course, seeing the way we play, you have to be engaged in that as well.

I’ve also picked up the vibraphone. I’ve been trying to learn that. I play a little tiny bit of mandolin as well.

We arrive at the end of this interview and as always, we leave you the last words of this one.

Thank you. Well we’re very excited to be here in France. We will return in December. And we look forward to see everybody again : please come to the shows. Check out the singles that are coming out and we’ll see you in December.

No shows are now announced in Belgium but we’ll keep you informed through our agenda if some shows are added.

Picture by David Gallard

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