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27 May 2013

Jerry Gaskill

Jerry Gaskill is the drummer of the hard rock band King’s X. Most importantly he is a very determined man who refuses to give up despite all the obstacles that life has put in front of him lately. I mean, in 2012, the guy has suffered a severe heart attack and his house was completely destroyed but Gaskill is still going strong...even stronger than ever! In the wake of Gaskill’s second solo release we get in touch with him and learn all the details without failing to ask him about what’s going on in the King’s X camp.

 

Our sincere “thanx” goes out to producer/musician/friend D.A. Karkos.

Interview: Sakis Nikas

Rockpages.gr: Jerry, 2012 must have been the most memorable year in your life (although in most cases not for the right reasons). You had a heart attack and your house was completely destroyed. In the meantime, you got married...quite some things for a single year. First of all, how is your health now and please tell us how did you handle the whole situation?

Jerry Gaskill: I am probably the healthiest I've been in my entire life. In a wonderfully strange way I believe the heart attack is the best thing that could have happened to me. I'm quite a bit more aware of my body now. I've always said that we don't really know what's brewing inside there. I feel it's a good idea to have ourselves checked out periodically by someone who has studied the body and disease, namely a doctor. It could help to prevent something or it could be very encouraging to see how well we really are. I felt I was doing ok. I tried to eat somewhat responsibly. I was running and basically felt pretty good about things. Little did I know that I was literally dying; It was inevitable at that point but I didn't know it and it took me all the way down. I later found out that it had a lot to do with genetics. My mom had heart disease and my body is just a bit more susceptible to this type of thing. She's 82 now and she's doing great. She's happy, active and healthy. Also, my cardiologist tells me that my body just doesn't know how to break down cholesterol. Had my fiancé, who is now my wife not been there that night I wouldn't be writing this right now. It's been a year since it happened and as I look back on that day it's hard to even believe it took place. But it did and I'm thankful. I remember when I was in the hospital I determined in myself to be better than ever and now I believe I am. Not just my health but in many other ways as well. I see more clearly now that it's up to me to be or become whatever it is I want. It's become more of a reality rather than just a clever thought. I've had help and support from people all over the world throughout all of 2012. Without that I'm sure I would be in a different place than I am now. Yet, even before I knew of this incredible outpouring of love, I had, like I said earlier determined to be better than ever. That just made sense to me. I now have another chance. It was quite a road to get to be where I am and continues to be as I move forward. There was weeks of physical therapy and cardiac rehab. We got a dog in April and I fell in love with her. And of course there is Julie who is my best friend and my wife. I am overwhelmed by the love I've felt through everything we've been through this past year. We will both be forever grateful to our friends and family and fans. All I have to give back is the music I make and that I will continue to do...

Rockpages.gr: You are working on a solo album with D.A. Karkos. What can you tell us about it?

Jerry Gaskill: I can tell you that I wouldn't want to be making this record with anyone but Dan. I call him Dan but you can call him D. a. I feel 100% comfortable sharing ideas and seeing where we can take them together. Dan is a great talent and artist in a myriad of ways. He's a great singer, arranger, guitar player and a great producer. He believes what he does and does it for the love of music. When it comes to music, what's more powerful than that? He's also my friend. We're hoping to have this record out sometime this year. We're not on any schedule or time frame. We want it to be the best it can be. We both feel very excited about it. I can't wait to hear it myself. We just finished all the drums at Michael Wagener's WireWorld Studios in Nashville, which is another great ingredient in this whole thing. It's been in the making for sometime now and it really is gonna happen. With the help of Ed Frost and EmmJam records we're gonna finally make this record that we've had this vision for a few years now. We also plan on having some guest artists do some of their magic as well...

Rockpages.gr: Has the recent health issue influenced your overall approach in regards with the songwriting process (music and lyrics)?

Jerry Gaskill: I don't really think so. I just write when I write and it comes when it comes. As for lyrics, I think to myself I should maybe incorporate this experience into the lyrics. But once again, that's just not how I do things. Of course this experience has affected everything in a way so it will be reflected somewhere in the whole scheme of things. But I don't sit around thinking I should write a song about a heart attack or about Sandy. Well I do think about it but it just doesn't come out that way. There are other people doing that and I've been involved with several benefit situations to help those affected by Sandy and very happy to do it. But you never know, it could happen...

Rockpages.gr: From your perspective, will the new album appeal mainly to the average King’s X fan or will it reach out to a wider audience? 

Jerry Gaskill: Well I hope that it can reach a wider audience as well as the King's X fan. I'd like to think that my music and our music in this case (Dan and I) can stand as its own thing. I would love to have an entirely new audience with this music. But those are questions I really don't know the answer to. I make the music and if even one person finds something in there that makes them want to listen then I feel satisfied in some way. It still amazes me that I can do this and others find pleasure in it as well. I will always be thankful for that...

Rockpages.gr: Is it safe to say that it will be a natural continuation to your first solo album “Come Somewhere” although there is a 9-year gap between those two efforts?

Jerry Gaskill: I'd say it would be safe to say it is and also safe to say that it's not. It is because again it's me doing what I do. It's not because there will be new and different ingredient's in the mix. The main thing is that I'm working with Dan. Dan takes what I bring and puts himself into it in a way that I might not think about and colors the songs in what I think is a perfect direction. I love that Dan can do this. On Come Somewhere the songs were almost 100% as I wrote them. On this record I sometimes don't know myself where the songs are gonna go and I love it. Yet it always stays true to the original vibe of the song. There will also be some songs that come out just as they were written. Plus we will have some guest artists as I mentioned earlier. Needless to say we are very excited about this...

Rockpages.gr: I was always a fan of the motto: the simplicity of the song comes first! Being an accomplished drummer yourself, do you think that the secret of the success lies in playing from your heart or using as much technique as possible?

Jerry Gaskill: I think a combination of the two would be the ultimate way to go. But if I had to choose one I would definitely choose the heart. Technique with no heart is just that. Heart with little or no technique can be very endearing. Yet when it gets right down to it you will need both. The simplest sounding thing can be way more difficult than it sounds. Simple with heart and a true sense of feeling is very powerful. I think technique alone can end up feeling very stale and stiff. I'd say that most of the things we love is a balanced combination of the two. That's just my opinion. And that could change tomorrow or even later today for that matter...

Rockpages.gr: King’s X first incarnation was The Edge. What was really the main difference –musically or otherwise- between those two bands?

Jerry Gaskill: First of all we were much younger during The Edge days and we had two guitar players. I think the main vision was probably the same. We started doing only original music but quickly found out that it was very hard to get gigs doing only original. So we started doing some covers as well. The funny thing about us is that we would sometimes choose the most obscure covers that people would think were originals anyway. Then later we added some classic rock and some current hits. We never fit in. Just like now. I think though, when we became a three piece is when we finally realized that this is the band the way it should be. We never really set out to be a trio, it just evolved that way. I think we've always kind of done what we wanted and by the time we became King's X there was no turning back. It was full steam ahead. This is what you get and that's all there is to it. That's always been how we felt and approached things. We just had to take a few detours along the way just so we could keep it going...

Rockpages.gr: What’s going on in the King’s X camp? Do you think that you will work towards a new studio album in the near future?

Jerry Gaskill: Right now we're all doing things on our own. Dug has several projects he's working on. Ty has things he's doing and I'm working on my second solo record as well as doing many fun gigs around town where I live in New Jersey. As for a new King's X record...it will come someday. When it's time I believe we will all know it and then be ready to do it. I want the next King's X record to be the best King's X record. I don't want to put another album out just to put an album out. I want it to be the King's X record that is everything we have been and everything we are now in one. I just don't feel I'm ready to do that yet. But I will someday. Who knows it might even be tomorrow...

Rockpages.gr: I was always intrigued by King’s X variety of influences in your music. You have the progressive and funk elements combined to the classic hard rock style. Do you think that maybe this variety was a factor that you didn’t achieve more commercial success especially in the late 80s or early 90s?

Jerry Gaskill: I'm asked that question a lot in a variety of different ways. I don't know why we didn't become the biggest band in the world. Maybe we're lucky or maybe we're cursed. I don't know. I only know that we make the music that we believe in. If that doesn't get us this "commercial success" then I guess we never will. I'm thankful and can accept where I'm at in my career. I wouldn't mind having more money but I think I want it by being free to be myself. I really don't know how to be anything else and I just might be too old to hand that back at this point. I'd love to play to packed houses big or small. I'd just like to be comfortable in only making music. If this commercial success comes along, I'm very open to find out about it. In the mean time I'm just gonna be as happy as I can and keep piling up peace in my life...

Rockpages.gr: If I mention the name “Jerry and the Knights” which are the first thoughts that come in your mind?

Jerry Gaskill: I think of my dad and my brother. Jerry and the Knights was an all instrumental band I had with my dad and my brother from the time I was probably 7 until I was 15. It was a great experience for me to be a kid and yet be playing at many adult situations. We played wedding receptions, lodge parties, house parties and the like. I was around a lot of alcohol now that I think about it and I do remember some very funny characters in those days. We actually had our fans. We also periodically played at a children's hospital in South Jersey near Atlantic City. The children would be wheeled in on beds and chairs and be very excited that they were there. Afterwards we would visit others in their rooms because they couldn't come out. That was a very humbling and rewarding experience for me at such a young age. I think it helped teach me to be thankful for what I have. My dad always said that I wanted to be in a band so bad that he decided to put one together for me. Thus the name Jerry and the Knights. Sounds kind of classic...

Rockpages.gr: Lots of people don’t know that you once attended courses in college to become a Biblical Studies major. How important is religion and faith to your life?

Jerry Gaskill: The only part religion plays in my life these days is the fact that there is religion in the world. I adhere to no certain belief. I believe what I believe to be true and oftentimes I don't even know what that is. It seems to me that religion has taken the good things that have been taught by good intentioned people and defined it for it's own purpose which in essence takes away the very thing being taught. It's recorded that Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is within." That makes sense to me. When it gets right down to it, all we really have is ourselves and if we can find peace in that, to me that is true religion. No rules, no dogma, no one telling us that this is how we should live and conduct ourselves. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, to quote the Bible. That's just human nature. That's what we do whether we realize it or not. As for faith, that is also human nature. We have to have faith everyday of our lives. Faith to me is the unseen. We have faith to breathe. We have faith to walk. We have faith to talk. Whatever is, already is. I believe in that and I'm not here to tell anyone else what that is for them. I'm here to do that for myself. To narrow down a concept like God and mold it into a neat marketable package makes no sense to me. How can we as humans decide who and what God is if indeed there is a God? I'm not saying there is and I'm not saying there's not. You see, I just don't know. That is my hope. My hope is that I don't know. It's all way bigger than me. Yet at the same time, as a human being I can have the knowledge that anything is possible. I can know that it's bigger than me and that to me makes me a part of everything. I feel we can learn all about life through nature. Even Jesus used nature as an example to teach what many believe to be the highest of information. I can only take each day as it comes...

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