Q&A with Jess Gowrie of Chelsea Wolfe

Jess Gowrie drummer, female, Chelsea Wolfe
Color photos, Lance Jackman / Black and white photo, Soundframes Photography

Jess Gowrie is the powerhouse drummer behind doom-goth rock goddess Chelsea Wolfe and sludge metal band Horseneck.

“Relax and stop stressing.” 

So, can you start by telling us a bit about yourself? How did you become interested in music and what inspired you to become a drummer?

My parents were always listening to music and my grandparents as well. My mom was into bands like Fleetwood Mac, Heart, and Guns’n’Roses, so I was destined to be a rocker. I started playing drums when i was 6 and started my first band around 13. I don’t really know why, but I was always attracted to the drums; they just made sense to me.

My partner and I saw you play twice last year with Chelsea Wolfe in Sacramento last year and it was one of the best live shows we’d seen in years; the sound was amazing. How did you get involved with Chelsea?

Thank you! Playing live is by far my favorite part of being a musician. Chelsea and I are from the same town, Sacramento, California, and we used to be in a band together called Red Host back in ’06 or ’07.
Can you tell us about your other band Horseneck? What attracts you to each of these projects?

Horseneck is a very loud stoner/metal band I’ve been in for about 4 years. I started playing with them as a fill-in drummer but then we started writing new music together and playing more shows, and before i knew it, I was the permanent drummer. We are about to release our new record in the next few months, followed by some touring.

Who do you cite as musical influences?

As a drummer, my influences are Matt Cameron from Soundgarden and Jimmy Chamberlin from The Smashing Pumpkins. Both drummers are using jazz chops in rock bands and creating really interesting grooves. I don’t play jazz; however, they taught me to try to think outside the “4 on the floor” beat when writing drum parts. Although, sometimes “4 on the floor” is exactly what the songs calls for. Another drummer that totally influenced me is Patty Schemel from Hole. As a young teen, she taught me that a woman can be a badass drummer in a rock band and she gave me the confidence to try it myself.

Do you have any warm-up rituals or habits that you adhere to, in order to get “in the zone” before a show?

Reflexx practice pad and Grey Goose.

Tom Tom is turning ten this year. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself ten years ago? Alternatively, what do you feel has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past decade? 

Relax and stop stressing. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, especially my musical ones.

The newest Wolfe album, Hiss Spun has received critical and audience acclaim. What was different about making this record?

Working with Kurt Ballou at God City was rad. Also having so much gear to choose from, so many kits and snare drums it was endless. I’ve never had so many choices and enough time to experiment with all of it before that. We had also done a great deal of pre production so by the time we got into the studio, we were ready. It was also my first record back with Chelsea since our band (Red Host) broke up so it was a very exciting and inspiring time.

What attracted you to these bands and how do they differ from each other and from Wolfe?

I love the musical range I get to play being in Chelsea and Horseneck. Chelsea’s music being dark and moody has really strengthened my dynamics and control; Horseneck is just BALLS TO THE WALL. Both styles speak to different parts of me and I’m lucky to get to express them.

What do you like to do for fun outside of playing the drums?

I don’t really have too much time outside of drumming, which I’m stoked about, but when I’m not drumming for the bands, going into the practice spot and just drumming for myself has been really fun lately. If I do have any downtime, just hanging with good friends and creating music with them is rad. No pressure situations and you get to really do things outside of your comfort zones.

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