Jean-Paul Gaster, Rock, Writing and the Moon

Hard to believe a week ago at this time I was around Bismark, ND, en route to play a show in Fargo. That little whirlwind rock trip, while freakin’ long, turned out to be pretty fun. I was pretty lame about taking pictures, though. Here’s one of a big truck parked outside the fairgrounds where the Morris show took place. I dedicated our song BIG RIG, from our 2002 debut album Get Mad, to it.


We drove 17 hours straight to get home; I was settling in at about 1:00 AM Monday morning. Monday evening was the 3rd week of the novel writing workshop I’m taking through the 406 Writers Workshop. It was another excellent class. We decided to change the format a little bit. Rather than meet weekly, we are going to meet once a month for the next 6 months and make it more of a full novel class as opposed to a first chapter. I am quite pleased with that, knowing that I will be expected to have at least one chapter a month ready for others to read well into the winter. Deadlines are excellent motivation.

Of course I think that’s too much time. I figure I can do two chapters a month on that project, and still keep my pulp serial novel thing I’m working on running at 1-2 chapters/month as well. Maybe it won’t all be polished, but I think the first drafts are just about getting them written. Less than that feels like a waste of time. The people I respect most that are writing for a living the kind of stuff I relate to are way more prolific out of necessity.

In my office, though, getting anything done at all can be a challenge, given the other denizens that tend to lurk here.

Talking with Jean-Paul Gaster

In addition to writing a novel chapter this week, I also wrote 2 record reviews for the Independent and a 1000 word article on the band CLUTCH, who are playing the Wilma on 7/26. Clutch is a fantastic band with arguably the best rhythm section in the business. Their latest record, Strange Cousins from the West, just came out on Tuesday and it’s great. As part of the piece I contacted their management and got to interview their drummer, Jean-Paul Gaster. He was a pleasure to talk to. I like talking to fellow musicians who are actually making it happen. I don’t want to say to much since everyone will hopefully read the article when it comes out next week, but JP was cool. Not only that, he is the drummer for my friend Wino’s solo group, so we got to talk quite a bit about that.

JP is also Julia’s favorite drummer. She was jealous when she found out I got to interview him. Here’s the exchange we had, which cracked me up:

From: “LaTray, Julia M”
Date: July 15, 2009 9:54:37 AM MDT
To: “Chris La Tray”
Subject: RE:

I’m so jealous. You make sure and tell him something. You tell him
he’s my favorite drummer, above Dale Crover….the way he lays behind
the beat and looks like he could be making a pancake breakfast back
there while he’s holding it down….it’s scandalous.

>>> —–Original Message—–
>>> From: Chris La Tray
>>> Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 9:49 AM
>>> To: LaTray, Julia M
>>> Subject:
>>> I’ll be interviewing Jean Paul tomorrow. That should be cool.


I did relay the message to JP and he got a kick out of it. Here is what he had to say about getting ready to make a record, a bit that didn’t make the final article:

I think one thing that has happened over the course of the last couple records is I think we are going into the studio a little more prepared. I have a little home studio that we use as our jam pad and we pretty much record everything. Everything we do, whether it’s a new riff that we’re kickin’ around or if it’s gonna be the final version of a tune, before we hit the road – we record all that stuff. So I think going into the studio we’re a little bit more prepared. We usually have something demoed out that pretty closely resembles what the final song is going to be . . . and we have also made a point too to have hit the road for at least a couple weeks to play the new songs live, and that has a lot to do with the way the songs come together in the studio.

And here is what he had to say when I asked him about recording, and why, since they are so DIY about everything else they do, do they even bother to use a producer at all:

Well, having a home studio, for me, is very educational in a couple ways. First of all you sort of learn what it means to record, and there’s so many things that go into recording whether you talk about microphones, mic pre’s, or you’re talking about whatever format you’re recording to whether you’re talking about using tape or you’re going straight into the computer – there’re a lot of variables there, and it’s really exciting when you first have all those tools available to you. What I learned over the years is the more I learn about recording, the less I’m able to actually do it. By that I mean it’s impossible for me to cut a drum track that ultimately is going to be an album when I’m also the guy setting the microphones up, working the levels, and keeping track of tempo and things. It’s really fun to record demos – I love when the guys come over and we just kick around ideas or sometimes we’ll make loops of things and maybe Tim will play to that and we’ll get some ideas from that. There’s a lot of experimentation that can go on in the pre-production process. But when you actually get in there to actually record the drum tracks, I realized a few records ago that my primary job there is as the drummer, and it doesn’t really make sense to do both jobs because I can’t really do it very well. I think there are guys that can do it, personally I’m not very good at it.

Maybe that stuff isn’t interesting to anyone but people like me, who just get a real thrill out of other people’s processes when it comes to art (which is probably why half the stuff I ask these interviewees never make the final piece), but I dig it. I like hearing about it, and I like talking about it. Clutch. Hell yeah.

Finally. . . .

If you are going to go see a movie, skip Harry Potter and go see MOON. It’s awesome.
MOON: Movie TrailerClick here for the funniest movie of the week

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