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Clutch recently released their outstanding new album 'Strange Cousins from the West'. Their ninth effort is followed by a relentless month-long world tour, and masterdrummer Jean-Paul Gaster earlier took some time to answer our questions via email.

By: Menno | Archive under bluesrock

You've participated in quite a few summer festivals this year. Could you pick out some highlights? I can imagine that Hellfest was great with such a groovy line-up!
Without a doubt Hellfest was my favorite festival of the year. I saw some great drumming over that weekend. Vinnie Appice with Heaven and Hell was incredible. Tony Iommi's tone was outstanding. Dio is a living legend. He'll have those pipes for another 20 years! Saint Vitus was rad. Henry Vasquez did a great job making that band sound better than ever. A good drummer is key to the whole thing. Another favorite of mine, Mackie, played with Cro-Mags. Very classy and very fast! Joey Lacaze of Outlaw Order and Eyehategod is playing better than ever. New Orleans drummers have a unique approach to the drums. All in all a very inspiring weekend.

With bands like Down, Orange Goblin and Eyehategod on the bill, some nasty jamming surely has been going on backstage. Maybe some seeds were planted for future projects?
I like to keep myself busy. Wino has some new riffs kicking around. We'll get together when this tour wraps up and we'll start putting songs together for his new album. Per Wiburg of Opeth and I do a thing called King Hobo. I suspect we'll be trying to do another record shortly. Clutch is always jamming in between tours as well. I'll also build a deck on my break next month. My hands are full!

You recently did a European tour with The Bakerton Group as an opening act. This band consists of all Clutch members. How was it do play a double set every night?
I enjoy playing two sets a night. The Bakerton Group requires a bit more mental focus than the Clutch set. The music covers a lot of dynamics and time changes so its an excellent warm up. After the Bakerton Group set its nice to have a beer. I'll be pulling double duty on our next US tour. Wino will join us so that set will be a bit more physically demanding than the Bakerton Group. Wino's playing is very inspiring. It will be a blast and I get to play drums with my favorite players every night.

Was this a one-off experiment or will you guys be doing this on future tours as well?
The Bakerton Group can open for Clutch just about anywhere. I think this will be a regular part of our music.

The material of The Bakerton Group doesn't sound a hell of lot different from some Clutch songs. How did you decide what was going to be used for Clutch and what for TBG?
At the end of the day its still us four guys. We've played over 2000 shows in the last 18 years. We can't help but sound the way we sound. For us The Bakerton Group is a project for experimentation. For example, 'Life on Lars' off of the 'EL Rojo' album is a Mozambique beat with a son clave in the left foot. I am by no means a latin drummer but these are things I work on in my own practice routines. The challenge is to take the concepts and turn them into music. Another example would be the Purdie Shuffle in 'Work em'. Every drummer should learn that groove. Bernard Purdie is a monster.

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Why was there no organ-player in the band on you recent tour? The other two times I saw Clutch live, there actually was one. Did someone get fired or was it just a musical decision?
We enjoy a good time and a beer or two. However, the focus is always on music. Given the opportunity not all players will feel the same. It was time to make a change.

You used to tour with real heavy bands like Sepultura and Pantera in the States. Do you think that is what launched you back in the day?
We played with many different kinds of bands over the years. For every 2000 Pantera fans maybe twelve of them dug what we did and came back next time with a friend. A Clutch audience is a cross section of all genres and age groups. We are very proud of that.

Clutch seems to have a bigger status in the US than over here in Europe.
We've toured much more extensively in the States. It's been a slow build but Europe is getting better for us. We very much enjoy our time over there.

You've participated in King Hobo and released a great album last year. How have the responses been to this project?
We've had a great response from those who heard it. The best part of that album was that we got together on a Monday morning with no songs. By Thursday night we had an album recorded. It was an unforgettable experience. It was fun to be the odd man out for a change. These cats would talk about the tunes and arrangements in Swedish (de rest of the band comes from the likes of Opeth, Kamchatka and Beat Under Control, MR). By weeks end I picked up a few words. Those guys are so much fun to be around.

The King Hobo album introduced me to the late and great Baby Huey. He is a fairly unknown artist but got some attention because of King Hobo.
This was a song chosen by Per ('Running', MR). I was unfamiliar with Baby Huey until we went to record it. My only goal is to play the best drums I can. That means listening to LOTS of music. Per is like a musical encyclopedia. He always turns me on to some new jams. I first heard of Kamchatka thru Per. That band rules!

Is there a chance of a sophomore album being recorded any time soon?
Yes. for sure. When we find a break we will jam.

That's it for me. Have a final shout at the Dutch readers!
We look forward to returning to Holland soon. You guys have great food and beer, nice weather, and an appreciation for rock 'n roll!

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