Interview: Clutch’s Jean-Paul Gaster Talks New Album, Plans for 2015 & Jane’s Addiction

Unquestionably, one of rock’s hardest touring outfits remains Clutch – a band that you can always count on to arrive (and return!) for shows in a nearby town. And all of the hard work has paid off for the band, as evidenced by their worldwide fan base, and the success of their last album, 2013’s Earth Rocker (which debuted at #15 on the Billboard 200 Chart).

Before a recent show in Huntington, New York, Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster (the gentleman spotted on the far left in the photo above) was kind enough to answer some questions for Alternative Nation – including when fans can expect studio album #11 from the band (which also includes singer/guitarist Neil Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, and bassist Dan Maines), among other topics.

There are only a few shows left for this leg of the tour. How have the shows been?

Great. We’re on the homestretch now. This has been a good tour for us, because we’ve been able to play some new material live. Creatively, we’re definitely focused on writing material – the follow-up to Earth Rocker. And so it’s been good to play some of these forms out in the live environment.

How was Riot Fest?

It was good. We did actually three of them. We did the one in Toronto, and that was a very nice day. We did the one in Chicago, and it was probably one of the coldest, wettest stages we’ve ever performed on. But it was great – I got to see Mastodon and Slayer, so that was fantastic. And then we did the one in Denver, and at least on a weather level, it was the complete opposite of Chicago – it was hot, sunny, and bright. So that was great. I enjoy playing outdoors because in a lot of ways, you get to play for people that normally wouldn’t see the band play. And once in a while, you get to see maybe some bands that you haven’t seen in a while, so that’s always fun, too.

The Shindig Music Festival is this Saturday. Which bands are you looking forward to playing with?

Jane’s Addiction is on there. I haven’t seen Jane’s Addiction in probably 20 years, so I’ll probably go over there and check those guys out. It is the last day of the tour, so I won’t lie, I’ll probably get in my truck and drive home with my wife afterwards!

I understand the band is set to begin working on a new album in 2015.

That is correct. We’re going to work with Machine again. He recorded Earth Rocker. We have a very good rapport with him. Earth Rocker was a tremendous success for us, so at this point; we’re kind of going with what we know.

Song titles? Album title?

There are some working titles; there isn’t an album title. Album titles are usually the most difficult thing for us to come up with. It’s usually the last thing we decide. We wrestle with that the most. It’s always been the case – even since the very early days. But the material is kind of all over the place. On the one hand, we sort of came upon an approach on Earth Rocker that we hadn’t really focused on, and those are songs that are pretty upbeat and have a very focused arrangement. The forms of the songs are easily played out live, so we’re definitely thinking about these kinds of things. But at the same time, the most exciting stuff for us right now is stuff that sounds least like Earth Rocker. So it’s pretty early in the process to really be able to wrap our heads around what kind of record it’s going to be. But that’s the exciting part about making music – you don’t really know what you have until you’re done.

If you had to guess, when will the new album come out?

I’m thinking summertime next year, maybe even early summer.

Are any of the new songs being performed live?

They are. For me, it’s an important part of the songwriting process, because I get to get a real gauge as to what rhythmically what’s happening with the tune. When you’re in the rehearsal hall, you’re just very much listening to what the other guys are playing and I’m trying to think of ways to best compliment that, and think about ways to make the song rhythmically unique to the other stuff we’ve been doing. The live scenario is a completely different thing. You’re very much feeding off the energy of the crowd and the excitement of playing a new song is always a good thing. So there’s a lot of things that I learn playing these forms in the live environment, that hopefully will translate to the studio recording.

Future plans? What’s in store for 2015?

It’s pretty much what we do – we make records and we tour. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen next year- we’re going to release a record and we’re going to tour. A lot of bands I think they might make an album and they’ll sort of do a short little touring cycle, and that’s the end of the record for them. We play a lot of shows every year. There’s a lot of places for us to play. And really, the live environment is what we do best, so I suspect we’ll play a whole bunch of shows next year.

Are there any places Clutch hasn’t played that you’d like to?

Well, we just got down to South America for the first time. We played São Paulo, Brazil, and that was fantastic. That definitely whet our appetite, and we want to go down there more. We want to go down to Buenos Aires. I have family from Uruguay – I’d love to go play there. And Japan would be a nice market to break into. We’ve been over there a couple of times, but not enough to really make an impact on the music scene there. So that’s something we’re working on, as well.

After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rollling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here, and shoot the shit with him at gregprato@yahoo.com.