Gaskin - Paul Gaskin

Gaskin - Paul Gaskin

It's a genuine pleasure to speak to one of those artists who was part of the NWOBHM movement during the 80s. METAL KAOZ had the pleasure to get in touch with Paul Gaskin and got an inside look into GASKIN's whereabouts that were formed in the early 80s and have just released a really good album that shines in the vinyl edition. So, without further ado let's see Paul's answers to METAL KAOZ questions.

Hello Paul, and welcome to METAL KAOZ. So, 12 years passed before GASKIN’s return in discography; so, why did it take so long? I mean, after “Stand Or Fall” what happened to the band?
Well, 2000 and the following couple of years were great. We promoted the album, played some amazing gigs, including ‘Wacken’, but the next year things went sour. I started having trouble at home, and slowly, despite my best efforts, my marriage started crumbling. I took solace in drugs, and started to go a bit mad... In the end, I put myself on a psychiatric ward, as I knew I needed help. It culminated in me attempting to take my own life, and that was the lowest point in my life. However, when you reach the bottom, the only way is up; and with the help of friends and family, I got my act back together. In 2005 I put my band back together, and we did amongst other things, the ‘Headbangers Open Air’ in Germany. Then the following year I hooked up with my original drummer Dave Norman, and we did the 25th Anniversary show in our home town. We also started talking about making a new album. Dave was building a studio so slowly, we started recording what would eventually become “Edge Of Madness”.

The new album sounds amazing with a genuine old school sound; so, how did you record and produce the album to get this sound?
Oh, thank you, Dimitris. I let Dave take control of the overall sound of this album. He had a vision of it sounding quintessentially British, with British sounding amps, and a less gain driven sound than I would perhaps have gone for. He had the first two RAINBOW albums in mind for the feel of it. It still has cutting edge technology, but was done so skillfully you can’t really tell. There is an awful lot going on in it that is very subtle. We actually recorded the thing about four times all in all, initially with guide guitars, then trying and retrying different amps to get the sound we wanted.

Taking into account that nowadays most of the bands go to famous producers and give them the album’s keys to make it successful, how can an album like “Edge Of Madness” survive?
We have been in and out of studios for a lot of years, and know exactly what we want and how to get it. I don’t think we would get on with an outsider (however good) bringing in his own vision. I’ve heard many a horror story of disagreements in the studio, and above all else… we couldn’t afford an outside producer.

How long did it take you to write and to record the music in “Edge Of Madness”? What was your composing process?
Some of the songs were already written before we started the recording process, most of them actually. It was just a case of recording rough versions of them, then slowly polishing them, and adding finishing touches to them. Most were straight forward; but “Wake Up Dead” went through all sorts of different arrangements till we found the one that suited. Again, initially I recorded all the guitar parts, but as we are a band, Andy and Mick came in to redo their parts and make it sound more distinctive. Because of work commitments and the like, it eventually took about 5 years to make.

Before starting writing the music in the new album, did you have in mind what would be the musical direction that you’d followed?
I had a concept in mind lyrically, as a lot were written during my mad period. At first it was a very dark album, but as I improved, I dropped a lot of the heavier songs in favor of our usual eclectic mix of styles. We ended up with 16 songs in all, but we cut back to fit onto a vinyl format. I just write the way I write, there is no conscious effort to sound like one band or another, we sound like us. It was centered round “Wake Up Dead” though, and I deal very frankly with what it’s like to go through severe depression.  It wasn’t only my domestic situation that made me depressed; it was the constant battle for recognition as a writer and a musician.

What about the feedback you are getting from the media and the fans?
So far the fans have loved it. The press has been mixed, but generally quite good. Most online reviews aren’t worth a toss, as they are usually written by people who weren’t even born when we started; so I can't value their opinion to be honest. All I can do is be honest in my writing, and play what I want to play. If others like it too, then that’s a bonus.

“Edge Of Madness” was released through High Roller Records; was this a one-time record deal or have you signed for more albums? To make this question clearer; do you have in mind to keep releasing albums under the GASKIN name?
There will be more GASKIN albums, yes. The deal with High Roller however is (at the moment) just for this album. We will be editing a live recording next. People have said in the past, we were much heavier live than in the studio; well, we shall see. We are hoping to include a small DVD with the package as well. Hopefully it will come out sometime next year, then we will work on a new studio album.

GASKIN started in the early 80s and I guess is one of those great bands from the NWOBHM movement that did not make it after all; so was GASKIN another victim of ‘too many bands and very few record labels to sign them’ situation? Looking back, do you think that you could have done things differently for the band?
There were several factors that contributed to our being one of the “also ran” bands of that era. Our lack of management was a huge part of that, and the fact that, despite playing constantly for a solid 3 years, very little was written about us. Unless you played in London on a regular basis, the press didn’t want to know. There were plenty of things we would have changed with hindsight, but that is merely a fantasy, so not worth talking about now.

What is next for GASKIN? Can we expect any live dates?
Yes, we are playing the ‘Denim & Leather’ festival on September 29th, and then we will be playing at ‘Hard Rock Hell’ in Wales in December, with lots of other NWOBHM bands. No doubt we will be playing smaller gigs, but mainly will be doing festivals in the future.

Although the US market is difficult to conquer (especially for old school bands), do you have any input from there? Is the album released in the States? What about the vinyl edition? Can we get it here in the States?
We haven’t done a separate deal for the US, so at the present time it can only be bought on import. We do have a fairly large following in the States, but it is such a wide spread place, in real terms, we are just a “cult” band. “Beyond Worlds End” came out on vinyl over there, but that was a limited fan issue. This album is also out on vinyl, and looks great.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the last time you were singing in the studio was in “No Way Out” in 1982 so, how did you decide to stand behind the mic after 3 decades? By the way, your vocals are awesome!
Yes, you are wrong. I recorded “Stand Or Fall” in 2000, and played all the instruments, and sang all the vocal parts on it. Back in the early ‘80s we tried to get a frontman, and although Bren fit the bill, his vocal ability was pretty limited. I don’t think I have a very strong Metal voice, but it’s a bit too late to be changing now. As long as the fans don’t mind it, we’re ok.

What about the rest of the lineup; how did you come together and what is the contribution of the rest of the band members in the making of “Edge Of Madness”?
Well, Andy Solomon has been playing in the band since 2000 when we went out to promote “Stand Or Fall”. He is a great player, and I’m very fortunate to have him in the fold. He has played on all the tracks on the album I think, he is on one side of the stereo, and I’m on the other. Also, he plays lead on “Wake Up Dead”, “Edge Of Madness” and duels with me on “Lost & Lonely”. Mick Cross is our new bass player. He has played in bands around our area for years, and is a very accomplished, tight player. A nice bloke too, and you need to get on with people if you are to enjoy playing together. Dave Norman obviously was one of the original band members, and has been back with me since 2006. I did invite him to rejoin back in 2000, but he was committed with another band at the time. It was his idea to call the band GASKIN way back in 1979. I thought it was a bad idea at the time, but grew to accept it. Also, he designed the first logo that appears on the “I’m No Fool” single. His contribution to the making of this record goes above and beyond the call of duty. He has spent many an hour beavering away at the desk while the rest of us were in our beds. I love working with him, as he sees things from a different perspective to me, and comes up with ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of.

There is a boiling wave of young bands trying to recapture the beauty of the 80s and some of them are doing a good job actually; so, how do you feel watching young fans showing interest for those days?
In my eyes, music is music. If you want to play or write in a certain way, then go for it. I do love the fact that we have a younger audience now, it shows that whatever style you play in, if you play from the heart, people will like it.

Expanding the previous question, why people think that the 80s was the golden period for Metal/Hard Rock? Do you think nowadays the music scene looks like a factory, producing bands that sound alike and lack inspiration?
I do. One of the criticisms we’ve had is that we sound “dated”. If that means we don’t want to sound like NICKELBACK or SLIPKNOT, then yeah, we’re dated. We are us, we are not clones of another band; we never will be. I have trouble telling one band from another today; at least there are no bands that sound like us. Back in the day, every band seemed to have its own distinct sound and identity that seems to have been lost somewhere.

Well, Paul, thanks for your time and I hope that we won’t have to wait 12 more years for the next GASKIN album. Please feel free to add your own words to finish this virtual discussion.
I’ll be lucky if I’m still here in 12 years, so hopefully we can get another one out before then (laughs)! I would just like to thank on behalf of the band, everyone who has stuck with us through the years, and for those who have just discovered us... where have you been???