Download Festival 2020 is going to be huuuuuge! No strangers to Australian shores, Clutch are returning for their only Australian show this tour and we are pumped to see them live. And before they fly down for a whirlwind of a time, we sat down with drummer, Jean-Paul Gaster, to talk everything from challenging themselves and fans, to not buying a Porsche.
JP! Thank you for jumping on with me. Are you guys at home in Maryland at the moment, or out and about as you guys tend to be?
We are home at the moment, yes. We actually had a rehearsal today. We got together and practiced a few old things, and wrote a couple of new things…
That sounds pretty promising. Although, when you say ‘old things’ you guys have been together for nearly 30 years now, so that’s quite a back catalogue you’ve got there to pick from.
Yep. We’re actually getting ready for the Ramblin’ Man Festival this summer in the UK. We’re gonna be doing three sets over the course of the weekend there, and one of those sets is going to be comprised of acoustic and semi-acoustic songs. So that’s probably going to take the most work for us to get together, so we’ve got an early jump on those. We rehearsed a couple of those, and then Tim had a couple of riffs and we got into those. So, it was a fun day!
That sounds pretty damned cool. Can we expect anything like that when you’re over here for Download Festival later this month?
You know, we change the setlist from night to night, so it’s hard to say what we’re going to put in the set. But knowing the way that we usually work, I’d bet that one of these songs could very well make it into the set for Download Festival.
That sounds awesome. And obviously, it’s going to be different to the way Australian crowds usually see you, in that it is a festival, and quite a lot of the people who will be there probably haven’t even had the opportunity to see you live before. So, I think the crowds may be in for something a bit unexpected.
Yeah, and I mean, we enjoy playing for folks who haven’t seen us play before. I think that’s one of our strengths, actually. Going back to the very early days of the band, we always made a point to play with bands that did not sound like us. Because of that we got to tour with bands like Marilyn Manson, Pantera, Sepultura, Prong, Bad Religion, Coheed and Cambria, Mastodon… you know, all sorts of bands that are certainly heavy bands or rock bands, but they don’t necessarily sound like Clutch. We each get up there and we just play as hard as we can, and there’s always a percentage of the audience out there who appreciates what we do. Because of that, I think we have a very wide-ranging fanbase.
Absolutely. And you say that there’s bands that you’ve played with that don’t necessarily sound like Clutch, but when you listen back through your catalogue… in a lot of places, Clutch doesn’t even necessarily sound like Clutch. You’ve touched on a lot over the years.
Yeah, absolutely. We try to do that, try to challenge ourselves and get out of our comfort zones… I did a little bit of that today at band practice, threw some stuff out there that people kind of looked at me like I had three heads there for a minute (laughs). But it’s all in the effort to just change it up and keep things fresh. That’s what’s kept us in this thing for so long, and it makes it fun.
From a band that has self-described as a live band that reluctantly records, it’s sort of interesting to see how every record evolves in that way. Especially with ones like Book of Bad Decisions, hearing how different that was to anything you’d done even in the last decade was very refreshing.
Well thank you! We like to take chances, and there’s always going to be some folks out there who are put off by it, but that’s been the case since the very earliest days of the band. I can remember when we released the self-titled record, and people were unhappy that it didn’t sound like Transnational Speedway League, so we’re kind of used to that at this point.
You certainly have a devout fanbase there, and people seem to cling on even through those changes, and endure. I guess that’s one of the things that you can give to an audience when you can get up and play for the love of playing, as opposed to, “Hey, we need to make a record because I want a new Porsche” or something.
Right! And, we’re definitely not going to be buying new Porsches anytime soon (laughs). No, we do this for the music, and we always have. In the early days of the band, when we were on the major labels, whether it was Atlantic, East/West, Columbia, dealing with those huge corporations were a headache, and it was a frustrating time. But we always just focused on the music, and that’s what got us through in those early days. It’s still what gets us through to this day. The challenge of creating something new, and then documenting that idea, and then playing that idea live, and seeing where that idea takes you, it’s something that I think we all appreciate, and it’s not something that we take for granted.
In that regard, you guys have always sort of struck me as a little bit like Rush… this larger-than-life band that just goes up there and jams out tunes for the love of doing it, and has an immensely prolific back-catalogue behind it. Do you see yourselves still doing this in say, ten, fifteen years?
Yes. I don’t ever see myself doing anything other than this. At the end of a long tour, I’m tired and I look forward to getting home… but I can tell you, without fail, within a few days I’m like, “Okay well, this was nice, but I need to start beating the shit out of my drums.” (laughs) That’s basically what it’s like. And it’s what it’s always been like. At this point I don’t see any of us doing anything different. We’re going to keep riding this thing out, and we’re going to keep on riding it out until we can’t ride anymore.
You know, that’s a fair enough call. In terms of the tenure of rock stars have, you guys are starting to get to be… shall we say elder statesmen of the industry.
We are certainly elders (laughs). That part is certainly true. The rock star part… I don’t consider myself one. When people say that, I tell them that if I was rock star, you would know it.
Okay fine, you’re a guy who just tours a lot and beats the shit out of stuff on stage for fun.
(laughs) We enjoy it, this is an amazing job. It’s something that we do not take for granted.
It certainly gets you to visit some interesting places. Hey, it gets you to come back to Australia!
We’re looking forward to it. Can’t wait to get back down there.
Wonderful! Hopefully Download goes well for you guys, and thanks for taking the time to sit down with me today, JP. I appreciate it. Hopefully you get to beat the shit out of some drums soon.
Cheers Benjamin. Great talking with you.
Interview by Benjamin Alldridge
Clutch play Download Festival Melb and Sydney next week
Download Festival 2020
Friday March 20th @ Melbourne Showgrounds, Melb
Saturday March 21 @ The Domain in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney – NEW VENUE