Jerry Gaskill: Hitting the Road of Life

By Caroline Paone

The three-piece band King's X has quite a long and varied career.

Respected by many for their expert musicianship and killer tunes they are still going strong. Lately, versatile drummer Jerry Gaskill has a lot going on, from working on a solo CD to several summer dates with his longtime band King's X.

After surviving some personal storms, a heart attack in 2012, the talented drummer is on top again writing, recording and doing what he does best…his own words “in a lot of ways, I’m better than ever.” In fact, when CRR spoke to Gaskill he was in the process of recording his solo CD with legendary producer Michael Wagner at WireWorld Studios. [Wagner has produced bands such as King’s X, Alice Cooper, Ozzy, Motley Crue, and Metallica, to name a few]. Gaskill is also working with producer D.A. Karkos owner of Underdog Studios also in Nashville. [Karkos is a songwriter/guitarist and vocalist in The John Corabi Band].

Jerry was living in New Jersey, near Sandyhook, when Super Storm Sandy hit. Gaskill has moved past all that and luckily his drums made it through the storm unscathed, and so did he! Check out our interview with the drummer, father, survivor, writer and all around creative person….

CP: So I know you were hit hard by Super Storm Sandy, did you lose your drum kit and equipment?

Jerry: Fortunately, the drums made it through. Very strange. They were in cases, but they still got filled with water. We poured the water out, let them dry out, and they are absolutely fine. Unfortunately, we lost everything else [Laughs]. But that turned into the one of the best things ever: the outpouring of love from family and friends, and fans from all over the world, has just been overwhelming to me. We’re doing better than ever now.

CP: You had quite a lot happen last year, a massive heart attack. So sorry to hear about that…how are you feeling now?

Jerry: I feel great. I’m literally healthier than I’ve been, maybe, ever. It took me down man, it took me all the way down. A lot of it is genetic, my body just doesn’t know how to break down cholesterol, and over the years, the main artery to my  heart got blocked…I was dying the whole time, but I’m doin great now though.

CP: Your first show after the heart attack was with King's X in New York City. What was that show like after recovering from a heart attack?

Jerry: We opened for Kansas in New York City. I remember thinking afterwards, “wow, I can do this.” It felt incredible to be up there knowing that I could actually do it again.  And it’s only going to get better from there, and it has gotten better since then. We’re going back out on tour in May. I did some shows around town here, which is a lot of fun for me. Just getting stronger all the time. It’s just up to me at this point how strong I want to be. I know where my body is. I know that it’s doing better now, and more aware of it. Up to me to keep it strong.

CP: So you’re going back out on tour with King’s X, what else have you been up to lately?

Jerry: I am working on my second solo record right now.

CP: Are you still in the recording process?

Jerry: Yep, we are still in the process, I just finished all the drums in Nashville at Michael Wagener’s WireWorld Studio, the legendary Michael Wagener. He did a lot of King's X records. Did all the drums there, it’s going to be incredible. Working with my friend D.A. Karkos. It’s great, he’s producing it he’s arranging, I think it’s going be a great record.

CP: How has the recording going and traveling to Nashville? How has that process been?

Jerry: I went there for a week, basically I had like five or six days to do drums and I was kind of nervous saying “Oh, my God, how can I do that all the drums in that amount of time. I am thinking “oh no!” I hope I can do it, I just hope I can do it. I’ve never played any of the songs on drums before. Wrote the songs with the band and had drum ideas programmed them in blah blah blah but I never played anything. When I got there, I did the whole thing in two and a half days, laughs. And I really feel I did great. I’ve been listening to the tracks in the last tow days, and I’m like, there’s gonna be some ok stuff.

CP: So are you doing other parts of it at Underdog Studios?

Jerry: Yep, pretty much everything except for the drums so far, will be at Underdog. And maybe some of the guest stars will be at a different place, but mainly it’s being done at Underdog Studios, which is owned by D.A. Karkos.

CP: What can you tell me about the recording? Is it going to be all instrumental? I know sing vocals.

Jerry: Yes. It’s going to have a lot of vocals, a lot of melody. And yeah it’s going be filled with vocals and harmonies and beautiful things here and there all throughout.

CP: Are you collaborating with anyone else? I know it’s a solo CD, but any guest musicians?

Jerry: Yeah, we do probably have some guest musicians, I am not going to say yet until it happens, until it’s been recorded, but I‘ve got people who want to do it. I am very excited about it.

CP: Are you releasing it independently? Or with a label?

Jerry: A good friend of mine named Ed Frost has a record company called MGM, he’s the executive producer of the whole thing, but it’s basically us doing it.

CP: How do you feel your playing has changed or evolved over the years? Are you inspired by new things?

Jerry: Well I hope I’ve grown a little bit throughout the years. And I am inspired by new things, I love Deftones. They are probably one of my favorite bands of all time. [Note, this interview took place before Chi’s death, so that is why it is not discussed here]. I got to tell Chi [Cheng] one time, “to me there’s the Beatles, there Dylon, and there’s Deftones.” And he went “oh man” and gave me a big hug. That’s the way I feel, I love Deftones. And I love the way A plays drums and I am inspired by a lot of the stuff but I don’t know how often really incorporate it into what I do. I always just find myself playing whatever it is I play. I have never been one to study or get in there and learn other people’s stuff. Maybe I should have but I never really did. Maybe that is part of why I have what people tell me is a unique style because I only play what I play. And when I try to emulate somebody it just comes out like me. Whatever, I just do what I do.

CP: When I’ve listened to King's X over the years, they always sounded bigger than a three-piece band. Do you like working a three-piece, or is that something you’ve thought about over the years?

Jerry: Well King's X is the band that I’m in, that we’ve started together, and believed in from the very inception. And we actually used to be a four-piece band at the very very beginning. The first other guitar player, after a short period time he decided to leave, and at that point we thought hmm why don’t we just be a three-piece, just be us, we’re the ones who seem to believe in this. And that’s how it basically happened. We didn’t necessarily say “lets be a three-piece band.” It just sort of evolved into that.

I actually do all kinds of things. Like just recently, I did this huge production of British invasion music with a guy name Glen Burtnick, there were like 30 people on stage a string section a horn section like six back up singers, keyboards, the whole thing. That was incredible, now I love doing that, and I like strippin’ it down with a three-piece, just being a rock band. The whole gamut of things, it just depends on what’s happening at the moment and what I give myself over to, and if I do give myself over to it, I’m going to enjoy it.

CP: Sounds like it’s all a part of being a musician and having that creative spirit?

Jerry: Yeah, yes. it’s really the only thing I know. I’ve never known anything but making music. As long as I can remember. Sometimes I think about that and say “what is it not like to make music?” I wonder what a person thinks who doesn’t make music.” [Laughs]

CP: I read you were just a toddler when you started drumming…

Jerry: Yeah, I was four years old when I got my first real drum. I wanted it even before then. My mom tells me that when I was two years old I’d be in the car just bangin on her head and bangin on the seats and just bangin on things all the time. I had a toy kit before that. There’s a picture of me I must have been four or five and I had these two girls next to me about the same age. Back then I must have been “hey, I’m a rock star, I gotta have the chicks too!” [Laughs]. I’ve just been playing as long as I can remember, it’s just inside of me and what I’ve always done. I don’t remember a time actually starting, it just kind of moved right in on me.

CP: I’ve heard King's X started out on the Christian music scene. The band was called Sneak Preview at first, were you guys a Christian-music band?

Jerry: I don’t know, maybe. We were never really a Christian band. We did have a Christian influences in our lives. I know there’s a lot of great Christian music that I learned. Had I not at one point in my life called myself a Christian or become a Christian, there’s just music I never would have known like Phil and Larry Norman, Keith Green. I would have never known that great music. But, we’ve never been as a team a Christian band. That’s exactly what we have not been. We realized at one point, that’s not who we are, that saying that we’re that actually takes away from who we actually are.

CP: So was it more of a label that got out there because you were on the scene?

Jerry: We were in that world to a certain degree too before we got together I mean I met Doug playing with Phil [Keaggy]. He had originally moved where I was to join Petra. So we had our roots in the Christian world. And we were at the top of the Christian world with like Phil Keaggy and toured with Petra and the Morgan Cryar band, which was another Christian artist. Star Song [records] believed in what we were doing so they invited us to Houston to meet his band and they would help us to get what they call a “real” deal, you know I in the real world. The Christian thing, I don’t know how to put it, it’s this thing that kind of like stuck onto us. Sort of a ball and chain dragging along with us all this time. Although we’ve never been that, but we have some roots in it--if that makes any sense?

CP:  Go it. It’s not like you were on a Christian record label or anything.

Jerry: We weren’t on a Christian label, we weren’t a Christian band. We realized that at the height, especially Doug and I, in this Christian stuff with Phil Keaggy it was like “Wow, this is just not where we belong.” This doesn’t even feel real to me. Nothing against the Christian people who believe that and do that. For me, that wasn’t true to me. That cut off a lot of what was true and as time went on, over the years, more and more and more I can’t call myself anything. I can’t possibly think I am this or I am that. And put myself within this confinement of things because that to me takes away exactly who I am and that is probably less Christian than anything, to take away who you really are.

CP: It’s like how Slayer must feel if everyone thinks they’re devil worshipers or something. [Laughs]

Jerry: They are. Aren’t they? [Laughs]

CP: [Laughs] I don’t know, they have a lot of tattoos…

Jerry: People are people. I have no spiritual or anything in my life. It there is a spirit, then I don’t give a shit. Whatever it is, it is what it is. And that’s where I find myself. Life is life. We have to find peace in ourselves and that’s all there is to it and if we can’t do that I don’t know what we’re doing just banging our heads up against the wall for no reason what so ever. It’s all about finding peace in ourselves and that’s the only thing that makes any kind of sense. And I think that’s what we are all probably trying to do. Even though We run away from it most of the time with religion and all the other shit we call finding peace. What do you think of that? hehe

CP: Yeah. Not spiritually, but after the heart attack do you feel like that has affected you as far as having a new outlook on life?

Jerry: Yeah, I do. I feel like I have another chance. I am more aware of my body and I realize “hey, this thing can give out on me.” If I don’t have that then I am not going to be in this world, I am not going to be here. Not a part of the people I love and care about and to share what that is me in this world. So we have to take of our bodies. I have become more aware of that. Life is just there for me now I can just I can see more clearly, it just makes more sense to be around and to what it takes to be here.
CP: I saw online that in the past you had written a short story.

Jerry: Yeah, short story. Have you ever read it?

CP: No, I didn’t but I’d like to.

Jerry: Well you need to. Should have read that before I called you. Damn. [Laughs]

CP: Sorry. I was looking for it. I clicked on one thing and could not find it right away. I would imaging it’s online somewhere?

Jerry: Yeah, It’s got to be somewhere online. Google it.

CP: Well my main question is do you think of yourself as more of a lyricist or a storyteller?

Jerry: I kind of see myself as all of that. I do have other stories I’ve written and I do someday plan on putting a book out of sorts. It’s not going to be like a standard novel or biography. Just me being me.  

CP: What are your plans for the solo record? Are you going to do a solo tour when the CD is finished?

Jerry: Well, I would really like to do that, at least a few shows. I would like to take this live. There are the King's X shows coming up. A run in Texas in May.

CP: I heard your son’s a drummer too. Is he in a band?

Jerry: My son Joey has band called Recovery Room. They are going to open for us in Houston. Check em out on Facebook or Reverb Nation. Great music. He’s a drummer of course. He’s also the lead singer. He is just I love the way he sings it makes me want to cry when I hear him sing. The melodies and the music that those guys are making. It’s just beautiful to me.

CP: Did you ever play drums with your son or record or anything?

Jerry: I’ve jammed with him before but not really anything to really speak about, just to have fun. Actually, I think I went into the city and played drums on one of their songs.

CP: You forgot about that? Haha

Jerry. Yeah I think I did. I don’t think they ever used it. That was back when they were working with Doug. It was actually Joey, Trent Moss, who has been a guitar player in Recovery Room and Doug. It was just the three of them at one point. I think I did that, and I don’t think I’ve ever even heard it. I think they lost it.

CP: Maybe he will give it to you for Father’s Day?

Jerry: That would be a nice little gift.

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