Music can be all the more rewarding to listen to when you know the incredible amount of work that went into it. Jerry Gaskill’s Love and Scars is not only a showcase of excellent writing and musicianship, it is a collection of hard-won tracks, composed and recorded over ten obstacle-filled years. DIXON DRUMS sat down with Jerry recently to discuss his epic release, and learn about the process, dedication, and passion that led to the songs in Love and Scars.
DIXON DRUMS: From start to finish, how long did this CD take to complete?
JERRY GASKILL: I started working with Dan “DA” Karkos back in 2005. When we first got together and recorded, right there I realized, “Wow, I need to work with this guy!” From that point we would balance recording these songs with other work, focusing on our tracks on the weekends. And then, of course, I died a couple times which tends to put a hold on things… [Jerry endured two heart attacks during the production of Love and Scars, one in 2012 and another in 2014. He and his family were among the thousands who lost their homes in 2012 to Superstorm Sandy, the second costliest hurricane in U.S. History.]
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally felt we had a great collection finished, and we released Love and Scars in 2015.
DIXON: What did you want to achieve in the making of this new album, in terms of sound and reception?
JERRY: I wanted to make a record that sounded like something I would want to listen to, which is always the case when I make music. I like to write songs that are sonically centered, powerful and smooth. I want them to have all the elements of music that I love, and in this case I feel we really accomplished that. I’ll often listen to my music and tend to be really critical and second-guess some decisions, but with Love and Scars listening is a real joy, and I hope the whole world will feel the same.
DIXON: What did you go through in terms of the funding, production, and writing?
JERRY: When DA Karkos and I got started we didn’t have a budget, so we had to record and work in spurts. For years we were really limited to working on weekends, but in 2011 I went to an Eagles game with my friend Edwin Frost. We got to talking about the record and how limited funds cut into our studio time and he asked, “How much would it take to finish the album?” Well, I told him a number and he said, “I can do that!” So we were finally able to record as needed.
The writing process is basically just me with a guitar, exploring and coming up with chords or playing the piano. Often a melody pops into my head and I go from there, and once I have something solid I then take them to DA and he’d put himself into it. From there the song can be embellished and expanded into what I originally conceived of, but it can also evolve and become something totally different that I never imagined.
DIXON: What about your lyrical process?
JERRY: Most often the lyrics come after chords and melody. I’ll consider the music we’ve written and a word will pop into my mind, and I’ll dig deeper into it and go with what sings well. That’s almost more important than the lyrics making sense!
The track “Hypothetical” is the only song on this record that had some lyrics pre-written before the music, and they came from my son almost 17 years ago. He was 9 or 10 at the time and he came into the house one day and said, “Dad, I have these great lyrics for a song!” They were “Hypothetical a medical man who speaks Greek.” He had invented this entire character. The funny thing is, after my first heart attack, my cardiologist was Greek, and he sometimes speaks Greek to me, which kind of gives me chills every time I think about it. I told this to my cardiologist and he was taken aback a bit himself. That whole synchronicity helped me finish the lyrics and make a complete song out of my son’s original story.
DIXON: How is your personal process different to your work in King’s X?
JERRY: With writing songs my process is the same, but it’s also totally different because I have the input of two other great musicians. Their influence makes anything I’d do on my own automatically different, which is another process I love. I love being in a band, and I love the fact that only we can do what we do and make a piece of music unique to us.
DIXON: You worked with some great artists on this album. Tell us about them.
JERRY: Dan “DA” Karkos, was with me for the whole album. He produced and arranged. He sang and played guitar and bass. His hand is in everything. Andee Blacksugar plays guitar and did landscape and atmospheres throughout the whole record. Earl Slick played on a couple tunes, playing some lead and acoustic guitar. Phil Keaggy played an incredible solo on Paradise. Billy Sheehan played incredible bass on a couple tunes. John and Matt Farley, David Parks, Virus, Topher Nolen, Bob Burger, Matt Gray, and my son Joey Gaskill all contributed to the vocals and instrumentation. Everybody performed far beyond my expectations. I can’t thank them enough.
DIXON: Did you and Dan Karkos utilize any new or interesting techniques in the recording?
JERRY: All kinds of production and recording techniques are going on. There are so many in our workflow that I’m not sure I’ve even kept track. Dan was learning as we were going, and technology was changing a lot, but one program we stuck with was Cubase. We used it throughout the entire process. I know Dan learned a great deal by making this record. He did an incredible job and went from basically knowing very little in the beginning to having a real mastery of the production process today.
DIXON: What do you think of the final outcome?
JERRY: It’s really hard to listen to your own work and not single out every little detail. But when I listen to the record I try to come at it from the outside, as if I were hearing it all for the first time. I almost feel like a fan. The work that Dan and I did and the work that all the artists put in really moves me, and I think that’s why fans have responded well to it so far and I hope the record keeps gaining momentum and reaching more people.
DIXON: Which songs had a magic moment for you?
JERRY: Dan and I really loved No More Yesterday and the way that one came together. When I first wrote it I had these other chords behind the melody, and for whatever reason when Dan and I recorded it, it just wasn’t gelling. I gave it to Dan and he basically re-invented the chord progression and kept the original melody. I actually sang the verses over the original chords. It sounded totally different but really worked and has become one of our favorites.
I love all the songs on the album of course, but Patty’s Song had a great evolution. I wrote Patty’s Song on a piano that my wife’s uncle had given us. Dan and I were already excited about everything that was happening. Then I came up with Patty’s Song and became even more excited. I remember calling Dan and saying, “And you haven’t even heard the piano song yet!” Another thing is that the song is named for the girl that cuts my hair. Once while cutting my hair she asked me to write a song about her. I said ok and so I incorporated her into the chorus. She has since heard it and tells me she loves it!
DIXON: Is there a lyrical phrase that you hope sticks with people after listening? What was its inspiration?
JERRY: I feel really close to the lyrics because they came from me and it’s me giving of myself and sharing what I feel. But a line that sticks out comes from “This Picture.” Where it says, “May the children see that what they feel is what they feel, it’s ok.” I think that’s an important message. It’s important that we realize that it’s ok, what we feel, even if we don’t choose it necessarily, even if the world tells us it’s wrong. It’s just how we feel and it’s all right.
Later in that song the lyric is, “May the grown ups see that what they feel is what they feel, now we have to make it feel ok.” What inspired the word “grown ups” is a great story that comes from a one on one conversation I had with Paul McCartney. I played a show at Bon Jovi’s house in the Hamptons many years ago. I was in the house band with some great musicians like Bob Burger and Jimmy Leahey. At one point in the evening Jon asked some of his guests if they wanted to jam with us and the next thing I know we’re on stage with Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, Jon Bon Jovi, Roger Waters, and finally Paul McCartney! It was an amazing night!
Afterwards I saw Paul sitting on a pillow that Jon had provided for his guests to be comfortable. I thought I need to go talk to him. So I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, saw who I was, shook my hand and said, “Sit down!” We talked for about fifteen minutes together. He was telling me that when they were in the early days of the Beatles he felt they had to “…write songs all the time and do what the grown ups told us to.” I felt that was really funny and it stuck with me. So I decided to put the words “grown ups” in a song. One of the other things I’ll never forget him saying to me was, “You’re a good drummer. Keep it up.” I went back to the band and told them he said that and Jon Rogers the bass player said, “If Paul McCartney said that to me, I would have business cards made with that on it.”
DIXON: Was there an overall theme or mood to the collection you were going for, or was each song contained?
JERRY: Each song is contained and on its own but somehow the tracks come together and flow really well. The sequence of the songs is something I thought about and considered for a long time and that’s another thing that makes the collection very cohesive. My process choosing the sequence began with listening to each song, and I’d consider how one song ended and then link that to a song whose beginning sounded right. It took a lot of matching, but in the end I think the tracks flow together really well.
DIXON: Has your writing and approach changed over time?
JERRY: I like to think that it has, and that I’m always learning and improving. It’s interesting to think about the evolution. One thing that’s happened recently that had never happened before is where I’ll dream about a song and it will translate into something solid. I’d had dreams before where I’m writing the best song I’ve ever heard and when I wake up I can’t remember a thing. But recently I had a dream where I was writing a song and it was beautiful, and I woke up and somehow remembered where my fingers were on my guitar. I got up and put my fingers where I remembered they were in the dream and I liked what I heard. It may not necessarily be the same music I heard in the dream but being open to creativity wherever it comes from is a great way for an artist to evolve.
DIXON: What are some moments you’ll never forget in the making of this album?
JERRY: The moments that are really important to me were being with the other artists and being there when a song was coming together and knowing that this work is going to make a lot of people happy. Getting to go to Earl Slick’s and Phil Keaggy’s studio to record was amazing, I loved spending time with them and watching them work. We recorded all the drums at Michael Wagener’s studio, Wireworld in Nashville, which was one of the final steps in recording the album. We had five days to get a whole album of drums recorded and we just flew through it and finished in two and a half days. I had never played drums on any of these songs before. Everything was culminating and it was really exciting.
DIXON: How do you feel about the music industry and its current direction?
JERRY: I see it as a turn for the better and for the worse in some ways. It’s great that so much music is so instantly available, but at the same time artists aren’t getting paid for a majority of content people are listening to, which is a drag and makes it very difficult to make a living as a musician. Hopefully that will change, but right now it is very hard for musicians at a certain level. So I love it and hate it, but it’s the industry I’m in. I make music and that’s what I’m going to do.
DIXON: Who are your musical heroes?
JERRY: The Beatles changed my life. I was 6 years old when they came to America and I saw them on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember thinking, “There’s nothing else to do now but follow that direction and that music.” So meeting Paul at Jon Bon Jovi’s party many years later was quite a beautiful circle. Bob Dylan is also an extremely important figure in my life. The early 60s and 70s are in my DNA too, with Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk and Cactus. And I love the Deftones too. I once got on my knees in front of Chi, who is sadly no longer with us and said “To me, there’s The Beatles, there’s Dylan, and Deftones!”
DIXON: Do you plan to tour?
JERRY: I am discussing doing some shows right now, and we also want to record video and audio together and maybe put another release together with that content. I don’t know how extensively we’ll tour but I think this record deserves to be played live.
Download Jerry Gaskill’s Love and Scars on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/love-and-scars/id1040576783. You can also purchase it at Amazon.com and at many stores throughout the country.
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