Gaskin must be one of the most underrated acts of the glorious New Wave Of British Heavy Metal period. In their heyday, the band released two critically acclaimed albums, “End of the World” in 1981 and “No Way out” a year later. The number “I'm no Fool” (cherished by a certain Lars Ulrich) is one of the immortal classics of the genre. In 2000 Gaskin issued their third longplayer entitled “Stand or fall”.
However, stylistically Gaskin always felt more at home playing blues-tinged Hardrock instead of prototypical British Metal. Believe or not, this goes down extremely well with current live audiences. Everybody who has seen Gaskin on stage over the last couple of years, playing prestigious festivals such as Headbangers Open Air, British Steel, Hardrock Hell or Keep It True, will be able to confirm this.
High Roller Records is immensely proud to announce the release of the fourth Gaskin album called “Edge of Madness” (take note of the superb cover artwork).
"Edge of Madness" is another classic Gaskin album in the sense that it is very guitar-driven, steeped in bluesy, first class Hardrock with Paul Gaskin's unmistakeable vocals on top. Paul Gaskin thinks this is a fair assumption: “I would say it is by far the best produced of all the albums, due to the length of time we have put into it. I am very much into the driving guitar, and yes, I do feel I am a blues based guitarist for sure. I don’t stop to analyse the music though, I just write what I like to hear, and hope others like it too.”
Originally, Gaskin recorded 16 tracks in the studio but due to the time restriction of vinyl and CD only 10 tracks made it onto “Edge of Madness”. So there are six unreleased tracks still waiting to see the light of day: “There are a couple of acoustic type songs left off, an instrumental dedicated to the people we have lost over the years called 'For absent Friends', another rocker that (in my mind) wasn’t as strong as the tracks we used, and a couple of simple head banging tracks.
It’s a shame about the instrumental, as I think it contains my best ever recorded solo. Who knows when they will appear? We could use them on the next album, or maybe release some singles in the future. We really don’t know at this point.”
"Damnation" is the first song on “Edge of Madness” and it also sounds like a typical set opener. And that's indeed what it is: “Obviously, at the British Steel festival, we started with an older track, and only played 'The Contract' from the new album, but normally we start our full shows with 'Damnation' … after 'Just Before Dawn' as an intro.” The mentioned "Just before Dawn" has been recorded at Fairview studios. It's the same studio the band used for their early recordings. Paul Gaskin explains: “I recorded that in the late 1980s when I recorded the original version of 'Damnation' etc. We tried re-recording it afresh with Dave's gear, but it didn’t work for me; so I rang Roy Neave up and asked him if he still had the masters. He did, so he sent them to me and we extracted the original and used that. I had recorded it about four o'clock in the morning after doing a night session, hence the title.”
"Heart like Thunder" is another fantastic song from “Edge of Madness” reminding me a bit of Joe Lynn Turner period/early 1980's Rainbow. And then there is “The Contract”, maybe the key song on the album. It's probably nothing more than a mere coincidence but "The Contract" to me sounds quite close to latter-day Diamond Head with its bluesy feel and oriental shades (see their "Canterbury" album). Paul Gaskin takes his mind back to the early 1980's: “We were on the same circuit, playing in the same venues, but no, never bumped into them. I heard a little of their self-made album round at a girlfriend's house, and thought the singer was quite good, but that’s about as far as that went. 'The Contract' I love playing, especially at the end when I take over the riffing, and Andy (Solomon) starts shredding. He is one hell of an axeman.”
Nik Turner of Hawkwind fame plays saxophone on the song "Man's World". Here's how the co-operation came about: “I had done a guitar solo for the track, but it sounded like a Journey solo. The trouble was, I couldn’t get it out of my head, so with it being a 'radio friendly' type of track, I thought a sax solo à la Foreigner might be the solution. I went on the internet and asked if anybody knew of a good player. Nik's name came up a few times, so I messaged him and asked if he would do it. He said he would, so we sent the file via e-mail (don’t you love technology?), and he sent three versions back. We 'cherry picked' the best bits, and that’s what you get. It’s a great solo. It was only after the fact that I found out who he was.”
The fourth Gaskin album bears the name “Edge of Madness”. It may sound as just “a cool title” to the outsider but for Paul himself there's a deeper, very personal meaning behind it: “Sadly, things at home weren’t too good after the release of 'Stand or fall'. We had money problems, and I took refuge in drugs, which are always around when you play in bands, but I took it a little too far I think. Anyway, I started getting paranoid, and in the end my wife walked out. That tipped me over the edge, and I went a little crazy. I knew I needed help, so I admitted myself to a psychiatric ward. I didn’t tell anyone where I was, but some days later, my wife found out and came to see me. At first I thought we were going to make up, but she’d only come to tell me she had kicked me out.
That afternoon, I walked out, bought a load of pills and booze and tried to take my own life. I had said all my goodbyes into a little Dictaphone, and by text to my close friends. This wasn’t a cry for help, I meant it. But, to my dismay, I woke up on another ward of the hospital. This time the doors were locked so I couldn’t get out!
When they eventually let me go, a good friend took me in, but the next few months were hell. I have never been so low in my life, and doubt I ever will be again.
Depression is a strange thing, but it took me to a really dark place, somewhere akin to hell. However, as a writer, I harnessed that, and started to write about it. Initially, this new album was going to be full of very dark songs; but as I started to come out of it, I thought maybe I should save some of the darkest material for another time. Hence the title 'Edge of Madness', for I was there. The track 'Wake up dead' is the track that tells the tale, and other songs allude to it. I guess every cloud has a silver lining. Not long after that I met someone who taught me to just get on with whatever life throws at you, and I picked myself up and faced the world again. I got back in touch with old friends, was offered the Headbangers Open Air festival, so put the band back together with the guys from 2000, and did a few shows.
The next year (2006) was the 25th anniversary of our debut album, so I got in touch with my original drummer, Dave Norman, and we did a show. I had throat problems at the time, so used a singer (Andy Wood) who is a superb rock singer. That went well, so we decided to record these songs I’d been writing. Because of work commitments, that album took an awful long time to produce! However, we got there in the end. We have also been playing live on occasions, and honing our skills as performers.”
The cover of "Edge of Madness" is really superb! It goes down fantastic on vinyl. Paul explains: “I saw some art on a guy's website, and some of it was for sale. However, I had a bit of a 'concept' of a guy being pushed 'over the edge' and dragged down to hell by demons, as that was how my depression felt like. I asked the chap if he did bespoke pictures, and the price was right, and that’s what he came up with. 'Luciferian War Graphics' is what he calls his company, he is actually based in Mexico. It was originally in vivid blues (as that is what I’d asked for), but I didn’t like it in the end, so I photo-shopped most of the colour out of it, and think it works better like that.”
With Gaskin's more bluesy Hardrock approach they always stood out from the typical N.W.O.B.H.M. crowd (just like the one and only Samson). Maybe this is also a reason for the band's longevity ... And; as mentioned above, when Gaskin play live at festivals they always go down a storm as their style is quite a change from the usual stereotypical up tempo Metal from most acts … Paul Gaskin analyses: “Well, we have been criticised in the past (by the British Press mainly) of being a bit 'dated'. Well, I’m sorry, but I write the kind of tunes I want to hear, and my influences are firmly based in the 1960s and 1970s. Once Grunge started, it left me cold, as does anything without melody. These Extreme Metal acts don’t do it for me at all. It’s power without thought. I think the devil worship/dead babies/ blood and gore stuff is just so clichéd now. Alice did it so much better way before them. How can Metal be taken seriously in the mainstream if they act like Spinal Tap?”
"Mony, Mony" is one of the few cover versions Gaskin ever recorded though I've never heard them performing it live on stage as Paul is not very fond of the song at all: “We did a tribute night when Bren (Spencer) died, and got a lot of people up at the end to jam 'Mony, Mony'. That’s the one and only time we played it … and probably the last time. There's another cover version we recorded if you count 'The Day Thou Gavest …' from 'End of the World'. I used to hear it at funerals, and thought it so moving.”
Like all really great lead guitarists (e.g. Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker and Paul Samson to name just the ones most dear to my heart) Paul Gaskin possesses a very specific guitar tone. He thinks it is all about intuition and has no idea where the tone actually comes from: “I wouldn’t put myself in such illustrious company, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. I think it’s more to do with the way I play than any settings. If I play through Andys’ gear, it still sounds like me … it’s weird!”