an interview with Clutch vocalist Neal Fallon
by Andrew Frey
Clutch on the cover of Maximum Ink in April 2008
From the first time I heard the song, “A Shogun Named Marcus” in the early 90’s, Clutch has been one of my favorite bands. They have been around for quite a few years and have garnered numerous accolades. This hard rockin’ and hard workin’ outfit from Maryland has produced 10 enthralling full-length releases with the most current being, “From Beale Street To Oblivion.” After all this time and numerous tours both stateside and abroad, I was lucky enough to capture a moment of time with the sardonic, yet nonchalant vocalist for the group, Neil Fallon. The band is completed by guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines, drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and organist Mick Schauer.
To begin with, I asked Fallon to enlighten me on what it takes to keep the band focused and functional after all this time and what it’s like to write music being such seasoned musicians.
“We lucked out in finding a group of guys that can hang out in a van together and not punch each other in the face. As far as creativity goes…there is feast and famine. I suppose all artists, solitary or communal, go through that. I think it is easier to write now because we are all better musicians. The hard part is trying to resist the temptation of following the safety of instinct.”
Clutch utilizes a lot of humor in their music, which is a fine line for many musicians. I had to know if it was just the way he writes lyrics that has a way of satirizing a topic or what.
“I’ve always had a hard time taking rock and roll, or the world, for that matter, entirely seriously. I try to write lyrics that look interesting on the page without the music. Perhaps this came about because in the beginning I hadn’t the slightest notion of melody; maybe I still don’t, so I tried to make up for it in content. Early on, and to this day, I draw more from Chuck D and Tom Waits than any hardcore or metal bands. Life is too damn short to wallow in anger and sorrow.”
How about the state of the music industry today? Are record labels being more difficult now than say 10 years ago and are record labels even necessary at this point?
“It’s a double edged sword. It has leveled the playing field, which is great for the up and comers and those isolated by geography. The down side is that the Internet is a preponderance of crap! Physical records are not necessary at this point and the labels know it. That’s why they’re reverting back to 360 deals. Screw ‘em - they made their beds now they got to lie in them. However, and not to sound too pessimistic, the Internet is a fragile thing that could collapse quite easily. What happens then? Now you have no e-friends, no MySpace, no downloads. Who is, and who is not, serious and sincere about this thing we call music will become apparent overnight.”
Music and the music scene in general have changed dramatically over the years of Clutch’s reign. How is it different for musicians now than it was say 10 years ago?
“I guess it’s harder if one is under the impression it’s 1995. Ten, fifteen years ago there was a lot of money being thrown around looking for the next Nirvana. That’s over. But in some regards it’s easier. If you write good music you can have the world as your audience. You don’t have to cross your fingers for some company to be your patron, or worry about being ‘the right kind of band’ for the local indie label.”
Speaking of labels, Clutch has been on several record labels over the years. How about some words of wisdom for bands starting out regarding getting “signed” to a label?
“These days getting signed is about as important as coming up with a logo. The Internet is the ultimate record label. Now, it may not make you rich and famous, but it will open up the world to your music. If you have a work ethic, and provided what you do isn’t complete rubbish, then you’re bound to enjoy some rewards and I’m not talking strictly material.”
On the topic of the Internet, how has it affected the band?
“It has been a real boon for us because word of mouth has always been our strongest ally. It encourages folks to come to the show, which is the focus of what we do.”
How about some amazing thing(s) that happened to Clutch while on tour?
“That’s tough to answer. I wish I had kept a journal because every other day something outlandish happens! I think we have all built up quite the tolerance for the exceptional, a good problem to have, but every once in a while it occurs to me what we’re doing and where we may be doing it is quite rare.”
Be on the lookout for a DVD in the near future and come and commune in some rare and exceptional moments with Clutch when they come to the Majestic Theatre on April 14th.
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CD: From Beale Street to Oblivion Record Label: DRT Entertainment
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