I am ashamed to admit that I saw Clutch perform live for the very first time this past summer as they opened up for Mastodon in Central Park. For anyone that has seen the band live before, they can agree that Clutch is one of the most entertaining live bands around. The energy the band provides is unbelievable and frontman Neil Fallon has a great way of engaging with the crowd, making each night an experience.
For a brief moment, after the events in Paris on Nov. 13, no touring musician knew how the promoters and other live venues would operate. Some bands cancelled their Paris shows, and even some other European dates. I had the opportunity of talking to Neil Fallon of Clutch, and we discussed the band’s thoughts before they set out to embark on their European leg. As a live-oriented band, he explained his mindset and how the band just wanted to continue to entertain and do their part for the fans in Paris.
We also touched on the making of the band’s latest record, Psychic Warfare, working with producer Machine once again, and how going out into the country helped the creation process. As an artist, he explained his process of listening to other bands and how he gets the most out of every note that he hears. Finally, we also talked binge watching, and the show he comes back to when he gets home from the road. Check out what Nail had to say below:
Hey Neil, how’s it going?
Doing good. Just finishing up an episode of The Walking Dead real quick.
Oh man. Are you almost caught up?
Not yet. Almost though. We just have last week’s episode and then we are all caught up. My wife and I have a deal where we don’t watch the show while I am on tour. So then, when I am home, we binge (laughs).
Gotta watch all you can now. You guys are heading out tomorrow to travel over to Europe, correct?
That is correct. We are on our way to Europe tomorrow.
You recorded this one with Machine again. Was there ever a doubt that you guys wanted to work with him for this release?
I think there is always an impulse for an artist to want to do something different from what they’ve recently done. It’s been that way with us in the past. But with Machine and ourselves, we have established a level of trust and rapport that is too good not to milk for all it’s worth (laughs).
Now did the new studio and change of scenery have an effect at all in the process?
Well it made it maybe a bit easier psychologically. I don’t want to say the last place was claustrophobic, but compared to what he’s got going on out there, it was. This go around, you can see a horizon line and you are out there in the country. I found that to be much more relaxing. I am sure the other guys did as well. And when you are relaxed, you can play better. So, for us, it was a real welcomed change.
And you guys welcomed another change. You had most of the lyrics done prior to entering into the studio. After your experiment with that, would you be interested in doing something similar if the opportunity presented itself in the future?
If I can (laughs). We made it a goal to do that and I think it really helped Jean-Paul [Gaster, drums] in particular. We wrote the music and when the lyrics were finished he kind of finessed his beats around that. I think that made a world of a difference to the final product. Having said that, it is nice to have some wiggle room. Take, for example, the song “A Quick Death In Texas.” I don’t think “A Quick Death In Maryland” would have sounded nearly as cool (laughs).
Right (laughs). Now touching on this upcoming tour. Is the atmosphere different performing in Europe, or is it the same with just different scenery?
One thing that I have found is, no matter where you go, with the exception of Japan, when you turn down the lights, get the music going, and feed the crowd some beer, it is a great universal behavior. So it is pretty much the same, but still great. Always a good time.
Now with the tragedy that happened this past Friday in France, will you guys continue to perform your upcoming show in Paris?
Yup. That is still the plan.
Alright. I know some bands have cancelled their shows. Has that even crossed your minds at all? Or do you guys feel it’s best to just do your thing?
Well, we have really kind of deferred to the judgment of the promoter. You know, there are a lot of things in the air that is out of everyone’s control. They would really have the better judgment of the climate with everything that we have heard. There is this attitude of, having a good time is the best revenge in some regards. We think that may be best to continue to move forward even in the most incremental way.
I agree with you there 100%. With all that has been going on, being able to go out there and give something to those people, allow them to spend a night with you and enjoy themselves, that will be a huge deal, and definitely something that can ease some minds.
Now being a touring musician and relying so heavily on the live act, does something like this affect your views on being on the road at all?
I think for us, it puts a spotlight on it, because the Eagles Of Death Metal concert is something very familiar to us and our world. It’s sad to say, but you gotta maintain the right mentality. If you start believing that the world is coming to get you, then they won. Different events happen everywhere. We have seen some terrible things happen even in some U.S. clubs. It’s just the world we live in. And like you said, we provide entertainment. And I think that it is such an invaluable thing to provide.
It really is. Switching gears to your return to the States, will that be time off for you guys, or more time to prep before hitting the road again?
We will just take that time off. There hasn’t been three weeks before this upcoming European tour and the U.S. tour we just did. So I still remember all of the lyrics (laughs). I should hope we wouldn’t need to practice (laughs).
When you hit the road in late December, is that a light atmosphere, time to enjoy the holidays, or is that just business as usual?
I think everyone is in a bit of a festive mood then. The crowds are certainly easier. A lot of people might have off of work. So in their mindset, it might be more relaxed. For ourselves, we make it a point, on or around Christmas, to be home near the holiday. That’s why we always do this in the Northeast. And thankfully we have most of January and February off. Then we head to Australia in the end of Feb.
And finally, as yearend lists are popping up more and more, have any records come out this year that impressed you? Anything in particular?
I am shamefully ignorant of a lot of contemporary releases (laughs). I actually haven’t heard much. That’s not because I think things are terrible. I am just so enamored with old releases that I tend to do more digging with older stuff. That is what I am more hip to. I will say this, there is a country artist by the name of Sturgill Simpson. His newest record out called Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is fantastic.
And you mention older material. Have you recently picked up anything that you never owned or were waiting to add to your collection?
I was actually just listening to the Baby Huey story, which is something I wasn’t too familiar with until now. He is an R&B/rock artist that is fantastic. I am around heavy metal so much, it’s great to listen to a lot of different things (laughs). It helps you triangulate your position a bit better. If you’re only listening to things that are similar to what we do, it can sometimes be difficult to hear the music for what it is. At least for me, I need another reference. I can understand Iron Maiden better if I listen to Chuck Berry. It’ll be a bit more difficult to pick out the differences if I only listen to Iron Maiden and a band like Judas Priest (laughs).
Clutch will arrive at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, PA on Dec. 28. They will then take the stage on Dec. 29 at Terminal 5 in New York, NY. Psychic Warfare is now available. For more tour dates and information, head on over to pro-rock.com