This interview was published a couple of weeks ago in the Bulgarian webzine Rawk'n'Roll. I am posting here the English version of the material, so it could reach more people and so it could be useful for the band too. We did it not exactly by the scheme "question-answer" but made it look more like an article in order to make it full-blooded text and as a way to express our love and respect to Clutch.
Clutch is one of the steadiest and hardest working bands in rock and roll ever. For 20 years on stage they have released 9 studio albums; one compilation with strong enough songs to be counted as a studio album too; two DVD’s, a few official live recordings; half a dozen official bootlegs; tens EP’s and singles; countless number of concerts; a side band with two and a half albums and a few more projects. And all of these are stamped with the mark Pure Rock Fury. Are we fans of Clutch? A lot more!
Clutch is a name with which we come to attention and bristle up, waiting our eyeballs to rocket out of orbit in every tone, played by the quartet of Maryland. Clutch, subjectively or objectively, are the greatest and most authentic rock and roll band today. Clutch are four friends from the high school since 1990 and until now on they play, live and travel the world all the time, always together. Because the Music, dear friends, is the motor of these people, it springs out of them and fuels them, makes them breath and they never cease to create and play. That is why the fans of the band all over the world are the same – crazed melomans to whom the sincere, powerful rock and roll with bluesy groove acts as an adrenaline shot up the ass. And how does the band accepts this situation? “We're just happy to be in the position to play shows all over the world for fans of the band. It is amazing how many people around the world know the band, but we're not exactly huge or even close to being rock stars.”, answers the guitarist Tim Sult.
You must be blind or deaf to miss when Clutch are on tour. Because they play so intensively at so many places that the pulse of their music vibrates with the one of the Earth and there is no way to pass by your heart rhythm if in your chest there beats rock and roll. In November it finished the tour of the band as a special guest of Black Label Society in their Black Label Berzerkus Tour and supporting acts were Children Of Bodom and 2Cents. And although “I’ve never been much into Zakk Wylde’s music, the tour felt great and all the shows were fun. It's always good to play for people who have never heard of us. I believe we were accepted very well by the Black Label crowd. Hopefully, we made a few new fans.” When the tour was over, the band made some headline shows and instead the four of them to sit and rest during the Holidays, they went out to few special gigs, including New Year’s Eve. This is how you build up a name.
Let’s see. In 2009 there are released albums of Clutch, of their instrumental alter ego The Bakerton Group, of The Company Band – a project in which Neil Fallon sings with friends from a few other American rock bands. An during the whole year when they are not in the studio, the four are on the road where even a few times The Bakerton Group opened for Clutch as for the change of the bands they’ve just put out a microphone for Neil. 2010 finds them working hard on the re-releases of their previous three albums for which they have regained the rights from thei former label DRT Entertainment so they could put them out with their own new company Weathermaker Music. “Well we had our own label called River Road Records that sold online and at shows back in the 90's/00's but we decided it was time to hire somebody and get real distribution. At this point in our career, it just makes more sense for a band like us to put out our own stuff.”
And when they are not recording nor dealing the deeds of Weathermaker, Clutch jam all the time or are on the road. It appears that they are of the most active and busiest bands ever. Which leads to the thought that Neil, Tim, Dan and Jean-Paul are feeling best when they are working only that playing is not just a “working process” for them but also a pleasure and need to create. “Thanks for the compliments. I'm not sure what you mean by "working progress" but yes, being in Clutch and The Bakerton Group is a pleasure. Working on new music constantly is always important, I think.” And with the two active projects in hand it is easier to divide the various musical searches of the four guys. So, on the move they find out if a certain riff or melody fits more Clutch or The Bakerton Group. “The Bakerton Group originally started in the late 90's. Neil moved to Colorado so the rest of us wrote a few instrumental songs and started playing shows around the east coast for fun. As you know, Neil ended up joining The Bakerton Group on 2nd guitar about 10 years after the first Bakerton show.” In the second album of the instrumental project, “El Rojo”, along with our heroes, there stands the name of Per Wiberg, keyboard player for Opeth and Spiritual Beggars. The interesting in this case is that a musician from a European leading underground act plays with a common band from the American scene. It appears though that as usually happens in life, the things just happened by their own. “We met him when we toured Europe with his band, Spiritual Beggars. Yes I like Opeth. Per also has a side project with our drummer, JP, called King Hobo. Per has played keyboards for several Clutch shows in Europe as well as these past 5 U.S. New Years shows.”
The keyboard is an important part of the music of Clutch in their later records, mainly from “Blast Tyrant”, to “From Beale Street To Oblivion”. The Hammond in these records adds space in the band’s groove and brings associations with leading names of the scene from the 60’s and the 70’s. Thus, apart the totally obsessing rhythm, the fiery preaches, great riffs and rusty-muddy solos from the Gibson of Tim, we receive a new until that moment for Clutch epic sense of freedom. In two of these three albums on the keyboards is the friend of the band Mick Schauer who quits the line-up in 2008. And when “Strange Cousins From The West” comes out a year later and the band shares that its sound is more straight and direct, it is due to the fact that “Maybe it sounds more raw because there are no keyboards in the record.” The CD reminds more of albums like “Clutch” and “Elephant Riders”. But this doesn’t mean that Clutch are turning their back on the idea for keyboards in their music. “Yes, we plan to add keys as we see fit. Mick also played keys on the first Bakerton Group full length CD. We have also had Chris Brooks from Lionize play on a recent acoustic session. (we see him also on stage with Clutch in their last DVD “Live At The 9:30”) Of course, Per Wiberg plays with us when possible as well.”
With so many guest appearances with Clutch it is not surprising that other bands often invite band members to take part in their records too. While with Mastodon with whom they are connected with strong friendship and Tim claims to be a big fan, they change appearances in the live performances of the bands. Dozer invited Neil Fallon to sing a few lines in “Empire's End” and “Two Coins For Eyes” of “Beyond Colossal” which happened to be the last album of the Swedish. The connection of the bands again results of incidence. “Well, they were one of the bands on the tour that we did with Spiritual Beggars.” That’s it. Just Neil is a cool guy and when he finds time, he doesn’t mind to do a little help to his friends.
Besides his strong stage appearance where he shakes like obsessed of religious fanaticism preacher, his deep and inspiring voice, Neil Fallon is also expressed lyricist. Influenced by the revelations of Henry Rollins and his favorite author of music poetry Tom Waits, Neil recreates images drawn deep of the American subculture and he often interweaves blues themes and gospel proverbs with futuristic pictures and mysticism. For example in their last album the American president Abraham Lincoln is honored with a song dedicated to his assassination while his presence in the artwork is of a pagan god with four hands holding Nature symbols. While asked why they pay such an attention to his figure, Tim simply answers: “We just love that beard, man.” And he denies explaining who the strange cousins from the west are. The humor often presents in the band. But not when it comes to music. When they hit the road, the four of them often don’t stop touring for months. “We're pretty mellow on tour. We just chill and play the shows.”
Now, in the beginning of the year, Clutch are at home, they relax from their intensive schedule drinking beer and smoking weed, watching their families… or not exactly. ”It is now January and we are off until the end of the month when we start a 6 week U.S tour with Motörhead. We have been in the studio finishing up a few things for the Blast Tyrant double CD reissue.” Vacation, eh? Interesting, what happens with the acoustic songs they announced they intended to put out as a ЕР and then it appeared that they would keep them for other purposes. ”So far, we are going to have 4 of them on the Blast Tyrant Reissue.” Namely, on 29th of March.
We cannot keep from asking Tim for some of the bands that impressed him years ago. As favorite bands in the 80’s the guitarist points Circle Jerks and Minor Threat and for the early years of Clutch he says: “we’ve listened a lot Kyuss and Monster Magnet in the early day of Clutch” but he appears to be laconic on that matter. In an attempt to return to him the mean trick that Weathermaker Music played with the fans of the band, making us to point out only 5 favorite songs of Clutch to put them on the website of the label as a podcast and free download, we invite him to point out his five favorites. Tim, however, doesn’t hesitate at all: ”Ghost; Abraham Lincoln; White's Ferry; Release the Dub; Rapture of Riddley Walker”. Topically for the beginning of 2011, he shares also his favorite albums for 2010:
Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
The Budos Band - Budos Band III
Grinderman - Grinderman II
Melvins - The Bride Screamed Murder
O'Death - Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skin
OFF! - First 4 Ep's
The Sword - Warp Riders
And what should we expect from Clutch in 2011? ”Well we have a six with tour with Motörhead from January 29th to March 12th as I said. On some dates they will have a break and we will have headline gigs. In the spring we will put out the re-release of “Blast Tyrant” and we have a few European shows in June planned so far.” Profession Rock.