As most of us already know, Clutch are probably one of the hardest working bands out there today, as they’ve been going nonstop since their beginnings as a hardcore band in the early ’90s. With no shortage of activity in their repertoire, they’re currently touring the globe once more. I recently shared a few kind words with bassist Dan Maines to talk about touring, new material, and future plans for Clutch. The transcription is below:
How have this year’s tours been?
It’s been really good. We just wrapped up a run with Prong, which was a lot of fun. Obviously, we’ve known those guys for a long time. They were a big influence on us when we were just starting out in 1990, ’91. We did a tour with them in ’94 or ’95 and it was just good to see them. Tommy [Victor’s] just as ferocious as I remember him.
The album you’re currently working on, Earth Rocker, is slated for a March 2013 release. You guys try to put out a new record every two years or so, correct?
We try to keep it within two years. Other people’s schedules kind of dictate where you end up going. It’s actually been a long stretch for us on this one. Strange Cousins came out in 2009.
What’s been taking so long this time around?
A lot of shows, basically. For us, it’s kind of difficult to write on the road. We always talk about doing it, but it’s just not something that seems to work out for us. When it comes to documenting ideas, everyone’s got their computers with them, and we like to kind of keep track of ideas and riffs as they come. We don’t really flesh out any songs until we’re back home in our own space. That’s when we have the opportunity to jam as a band. We’ve been working on it, though.
You recently introduced some of the new tracks into your live set that sounded faster and more aggressive. Are you geared towards going back to the old Clutch sound?
Not so much going back to an older sound. The up-tempo stuff is definitely what we gravitate towards, just for the newer stuff that we’ve been writing. We’ve been writing stuff with mid-tempos that are more upbeat, and that’s the stuff that is kinda keeping our intention and that’s what we’re kind of excited about right now.
It’s not really a conscious decision to go back to an older, more aggressive sound; it’s just naturally where we seem to be headed. I think a lot of it probably was a reaction to doing the acoustic stuff. The acoustic stuff took a lot of effort in reworking songs rather than playing slower, quieter versions of them. Instead, we’ve taken advantage of that low-volume sound. It makes the song write itself in a different way. Then, when we got back to writing the normal Clutch songs, there was a lot of energy that needed to come out.
As a bass player, do you prefer the heavy sections of the music or the jazzy groove pieces?
I like them both equally; it’s just whatever the song calls for. The Bakerton Group, for me, is a lot of trying to play outside of my comfort zone. A lot of times it’s way outside of my comfort zone. That’s a lot of fun. It’s almost like you’re expanding your focus a little bit.
I don’t know how to describe our music other than just hard rock. I think that probably the main theme in every song that we write is that we don’t have an idea or theme of what the song is going to be at first. We just start writing it and whatever it ends up being is what it is. I have a hard time talking about my own music (laughs). The thought process, in a lot of ways, is to just not think about it. We just jam on it and see what direction it takes itself in.
How do the new songs feel live?
They feel good. Sometimes you have a way that you feel about a certain song and sometimes the audience’s reaction to that song isn’t necessarily what you anticipated it to be. It’s a healthy exercise for us to play the songs live before we actually record them—or even finish writing them, for that matter— just because of the audience’s reaction. Sometimes things will catch people’s attention in a way that we never anticipated. It helps move the song in the right direction. If we get a song that gets no reaction whatsoever, then it’s a song we don’t really have to waste our time recording in the studio.
As part of all the activity going on with your own label, Weathermaker Music, you released a new 7” by The Mob. Why did you choose The Mob for your first release outside of Clutch?
Well, the guitar player in The Mob that manages Clutch, Jack Flanagan, has been with us for a long time. He came into the Clutch camp as tour manager. We had known about The Mob. Me personally, I didn’t know a lot about The Mob until after I met Jack, but I was familiar with the name. When we started Weathermaker, the intention was to just focus on Clutch. We were in a bad place as far as dealing with labels. We wanted to take a professional stab at putting out our own music.
After a few years we felt confident enough to think about putting out another band, and The Mob was kind of a no-brainer for us because of Jack. The same thing went for The Company Band and Neil [Fallon, vocalist] being in that band. Plus, there’s a good relationship between all of the people within those bands. That was our first experiment with releasing something outside of Clutch. So far it’s been really good. The Company Band is getting really positive feedback.
Do you have any upcoming plans for Weathermaker Music right now, such a new Bakerton Group release?
That’s not even in anybody’s brain right now. We’re just focusing mainly on Clutch and trying to make this next record the best one to date. That’s all our focus is, and that’s all anybody’s thinking about. We’re just kind of moving one album at a time.
Who is currently your favorite musician or band within the mainstream scene today?
Lucky for me, Mastodon is considered mainstream, so… I’ll choose Mastodon.
What did you think of their latest album, The Hunter?
I think it’s a great album. I love it. Those guys just keep getting better and better. I hadn’t seen them in years. We did a festival in Europe and just watched those guys play and after two or three years, it was just awesome. They blew me away. The number of people that know that band and love them blows my mind. It’s awesome.
What is one thing that you would like to conquer in Clutch that you haven’t already?
We wanna go to South America. That’s just something that we all want to do. It’s just that nothing’s really come together yet. It’s something that we’re working on. We’ve had great experiences going to Australia, Japan, and most of Europe. South America is really our unconquered land that we would like to explore.
Clutch will be playing at Crocodile Rock, in Allentown, PA, on Dec. 30. Their new album, Earth Rocker, will be released March 2013. For more information, go to pro-rock.com.