Presenting archival material from MusicTAP’s history, this interview, conducted in 2004, features the dynamic drummer of the band King’s X, Jerry Gaskill, shortly after the release of his solo debut, Come Somewhere. Since this interview, Gaskill has persevered, with solo work, with King’s X and life on the road, and medical issues that nearly took his life. Life has certainly changed for him, but it is interesting to look back on where things were fourteen years ago.
This interview is presented as was originally published.
Having survived years of recording and touring as contemporaries fell by the wayside, King’s X remains one of hard rock’s most reliable bands. Now, drummer Jerry Gaskill is stepping out from behind the kit and in front of the microphone for his solo debut Come Somewhere, released on InsideOut Music America.
Jerry took time out to give MusicTAP some insight to Come Somewhere, how the band is doing, where they’ve been and where they are going.
MusicTAP (Dw Dunphy): How’s touring going and are songs from “Come Somewhere” getting into the set list?
Jerry Gaskill: Well the tour is over now and it went well. We don’t do any of our solo or side projects live with King’s X. We did, however, play songs from all three of our new things happening between sets. We played my record and songs from Doug’s (Doug Pinnick, bass, and vocals) new record with my son playing drums which is yet to be released and also Ty’s (Ty Tabor, guitars and vocals) new Jelly Jam record also unreleased.
MT: The title, “Come Somewhere”… A play on words from “Going Nowhere”?
JG: I’m not exactly sure where the phrase “Going Nowhere” comes from so that wasn’t in my mind for the title. Nice thought though. Actually, I was talking to Wally Farkas on the phone and he asked me if I had come up with a title for the record yet. I said nothing definite yet but I’m sure it will come somewhere. And he said there you go. That’s your title “Come Somewhere”. And I thought how appropriate. It can mean whatever you want. And with a naked girl on the cover, it seemed perfect. Thus, Come Somewhere.
MT: For anyone only partially familiar with King’s X, you’re not just the drummer but a part of the thick vocal harmony, the band’s trademark. Also, you had a frontman spot on “Ear Candy” with your song “American Cheese (Jerry’s Pianto)”. With all that, has the transition from the drum kit to the microphone been easier than, say, a drummer known solely for drumming?
JG: Well I don’t exactly know what it would be like for someone who is just a drummer to do this. For me, I’ve been writing songs for some years now and it was a very natural progression for me to sing these songs I’d written. I enjoy singing and look forward to hopefully getting on stage as just the singer. I’ve written the songs and now I just want to sing them.
MT: “Come Somewhere” was surprisingly darker than I thought it would be. Could you tell us what was happening to shape such a direction? Also, how long has this album been in the making (in writing terms)? Are these songs that have come together over years or are they relatively recent?
JG: As for the songs being darker than you might have expected I don’t know. I find them quite colorful. I’m just saying the things I feel and have been through. I guess I’ve been through some dark things but when I’m writing songs, that is not necessarily on my mind. I find words that seem to fit the song and say the thing I want to say. Dark is something I think we can relate to as well as color. I only give what I have to give. Thank you very much…
MT: “Johnny’s Song” was co-written by your brother Herb. What was that experience like and had you both written together before? Also, the CD’s photography was done by Jerrimy Gaskill. A family project?
JG: Johnny’s Song was written with my brother Herb. I was visiting him at his home and we’d been hanging having a great time drinking Tequila or whatever it was and we got out some guitars. He’d been telling me he had some ideas and I said let me hear them. So he started playing that first part of Johnny’s Song and I immediately saw the potential. So I took one of his guitars to my Mom’s where I was staying and proceeded to come up with other parts. I was stuck on one spot and told him to just come up with another chord so I could run with it. We messed around with a few. Some were silly and didn’t fit but it was hilarious. And then finally he played this one chord which he said was one of his favorites and I said, “That’s it”. And I finished it from there.
I needed pictures for the record so I borrowed Doug’s digital camera, a very nice camera and asked my son if he would take some pictures. So he did. I liked them and they were used for the record. Two of the pictures were actually taken by my 12-year-old son Johnny. It wasn’t planned to be a family type thing but I’m glad it turned out that way.
MT: I love the song “Faulty Start” because I’m a sucker for three-part harmony. Is that difficult, or do you take a rough mix home after each pass and study it awhile?
JG: I’ve been writing these songs for a while and I’d done a lot of “studying” the songs on my own. I pretty much had the songs as I thought they should be before we recorded them. I just try to do what feels right to me.
MT: King’s X started out on the Megaforce label, distributed by Atlantic . Megaforce had some big names then including not only King’s X but Metallica, Testament, and Overkill. What was surprising was how upbeat your band was in relation to the darker metal of the rest of the roster. What was that like?
JG: Well basically Megaforce was the only label that showed any interest. It was a little strange for me being on a virtually heavy metal label. But I think we were just happy to have a record out there.
MT: Over the years, King’s X started dealing with more personal issues, including what the band wanted to be as opposed to what was expected of the band (or at least that’s my outsider’s impression). There is a marked departure of tone from “Hope, Faith, Love” to the self-titled album to “Dogman”. Any truth in this assumption or am I just uninformed?
JG: Well up until Dogman we had been working with Sam Taylor. So there is his influence in those records also. Dogman was our first record without Sam so in a sense it was like a new beginning and a certain type of freedom. Things change in life and that just happened to be where we were at the time.
MT: Are you a studio guy or do you prefer getting out “live”?
JG: I enjoy both. I love making records. I also love the live thing. For me being onstage is very natural. If I had to choose one I might say I’m more of a live guy but they both sort of go hand in hand. I don’t know that I would want one more than the other. Maybe if I was making loads of money off the records I might find myself desiring to tour a little bit less. But it’s always fun to be on stage. On stage, I guess I don’t have the time to analyze the music as much as in the studio so that’s a bit gratifying.
MT: The previous King’s X disc, “Black Like Sunday”, featured reinterpretations of some of the band’s earliest writing, even before “Out Of The Silent Planet”. What was it like going back there and how did that material seem to new-millennium ears?
JG: It was time for a new record and we knew we had all this old material lying around and we thought to take a listen and see how we felt about it. It seemed fresh and exciting plus we didn’t have to write new songs. I think it fits quite nicely in our career of writing songs and making records.
MT: On tour, are there some songs that you can’t wait to get back into playing and are there some that you wish you could never hear again?
JG: Yes that happens. But at the same time if we leave something alone for a while and bring it back later there can be a freshness about it that can fun and satisfying. Nothing in my mind is ever always fun. Or we can rework a song and make it interesting to us again.
MT: What was it like working with Ty Tabor in studio with your material, as opposed to group material? Did you find yourself more or less territorial since, in a way, there were “your babies”?
JG: We went to the studio both agreeing on the vibe. So it felt very natural to do the songs as I had written them. I was very comfortable working with Ty and having things as I felt they should be. It was my record and we both wanted it that way. Ty had wonderful ideas and I was very happy with his input. But ultimately it was up to me. I like that. I like it being all about me. Because I’m a selfish, horrible bastard.
MT: What influences Jerry Gaskill? What got you to King’s X?
JG: I have been into music for as long as I can remember. I started playing even before The Beatles came to America. And when that happened there was nothing else for me to do. They made it all clear. From there was Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk and Cactus and the whole late sixties and early seventies stuff. That I guess is what mainly influenced me. But the influences continue on till this day. I just learn what I learn when learning it.
MT: Typical cheesy interviewer question: you’re stranded on a desert island and you have to take along five things. They don’t have to be music related, but they have to be things you’d truly miss were you isolated for a long period of time (books, an item of great sentimental value, etc.)
JG: That’s a hard one because I just don’t know. I’d probably want a guitar, my kids, and girlfriend, my entire record collection, a nice house with all the amenities and a ship full of weed. But who knows.
MT: Has the experience of “Come Somewhere” given you the urge to do more or are you at a stage of, “Yeah, I’ll do it again sometime, but no rush”.
JG: Actually I’m ready to go. I’m ready for the next record. I’m ready to tour. I’m ready to keep Jerry Gaskill in the minds and hearts of everybody. Thank you…
MT: Who is, in your opinion, as close to a great drummer as it gets?
JG: There are so many great drummers. But for me, I can narrow it down to John Bonham and Buddy Rich. That to me is perfect drumming.
MT: What is important in the life of a musician, or any creative individual, in the public eye? Does he/she do it for his/herself, for the fans first, or is there a common ground where both give and take?
JG: Hopefully it all starts with the music. From there if fans become a part then that is important too. But when it gets right down to it, it should be about the music or whatever art form it is. I think a true artist will do what they do whether there’s money, fame, fans or whatever. But we all do have to make a living.
MT: Do you see yourself in a different place than you are now; different aspirations, goals?
JG: Like I said before, life is full of change. I find myself open to pretty much anything that life can bring. And with this change aspirations may change along with everything else. I’m just gonna try to do my best and hope for the best whatever that may be.
MT: Big heavy question: The world seems to be a scarier place now than when King’s X started out. Yeah, in the 80s there was the nuclear threat of Ronald Reagan’s America, but even that feels like a fond memory as opposed to current events. Do the world events and politicos affect-inform your writing, the band’s writing, or is there an effort to try to keep all that out of the work?
JG: I’m not a very political person per se but of course world events have a certain effect on practically all of us, in one way or another. I feel like I need to take care of myself and mine first and foremost. The world will go on with or without my input. But when I am confronted with something head on I will deal with it and that will, of course, affect everything I do.
MT: Do you stay in contact with Farkas, Doss, Huggins & Co. (Side note: this is a reference to the late, great Galactic Cowboys, a band that interacted very closely with King’s X)?
JG: Yes. I keep in touch with them. All three of them have helped me and believed in me for many years. They are brothers and friends.
MT: Open forum time: What is something that an interviewer has never asked that you wish they would, or is there a point you’d like to make, on any subject, that you haven’t had a chance to express (up to now, so take advantage of it)…
JG: I would love for an interviewer to ask me how it feels to have the biggest selling record of all time. That hasn’t happened yet. And I would tell people to do what you know is right. Be yourself. That’s where the power lies. Thank you and good night…
Please visit www.jerrygaskill.com for the latest Jerry Gaskill info.
Thanks go to Jerry Gaskill for his time and for making this interview possible. His debut solo “Come Somewhere” is available from InsideOut Records. Special thanks to Bret at Chipster for putting it together for us.