Want to feel old? Clutch recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. If that feels maddening to you, it could be because the quartet of hard rockin' surgeons of stonery riff-slinging goodness have been operating at the heights of their most funktastic powers in recent years.
The crew finally drop the long awaited followup to 2018's Book of Bad Decisions with Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, out September 16 through Weathermaker Music. Frontman Neil Fallon sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the new record, thoughts on – and necessities for – life on the road, 30 years and counting of Clutch and nearing the anniversary of their debut album, and much more!
On The Road
"This year is kind of anomalous, because a lot of these shows were booked three years ago, no exaggeration. The first two weeks, first it was Athens, then it was Norway, then it was Ireland, then it was Spain, then it was Portugal. It was pretty exhausting, to be honest. I consider myself pretty spoiled that I get to see the world in that capacity, but at the same time having a routine makes it a lot more enjoyable, I think.
"I always was appreciative of being able to do this for a living. Maybe not for the first couple of years because I was young and dumb, but it really put into focus how much a creative person needs that outlet. For us, music is a live thing and to have that taken away, sometimes that's what you need to kind of get a good kick in the pants again. So I'm not trying to see the world through rose colored lenses, but it feels good to be out here for sure."
On Tour Do's and Don'ts
"I think it's more about what you don't do. I mean granted, the appeal of going to the aftershow, that disappeared years ago. But even if it were there, it's never a good idea because the body is a little different at 50 than it is at 25. And I think we really realize that as soon as the show is over you got to think about tomorrow's show, and anything that can compromise that needs to get cut away.
"And also I think if anything it's just general health. I mean, music is a physical thing, and if you don't have that ability to execute it then you need to fix that if you can. Must haves? I mean, the only must have is being able to communicate with our families back home. I know cell phones are a bit of a digital leash, but thank God for them sometimes because a little bit of face time with the kids does everybody wonders."
On Reading & Leaving Social Media
"When I can [read on the road]. Sometimes it's really hard to get away and do that. But yes is the short answer. Not too long ago, maybe five or six months ago, I deleted all my social media, my personal stuff, because I realized that the majority of my reading time was on social media and I was getting nothing out of it. It was just consuming what could have been constructive time reading an actual book.
"So there's been many years which I think I kind of had a drought of reading and extracting the social media out of my life has now suddenly opened up this whole door. It's like 'what was I thinking?' So yeah, I'm doing a lot more reading than I was last year, that's for sure.
"I hate it [digital readers]. I do have it because it's a practical thing to have traveling. But I can't stand [not] being able to instantly flip to any portion of a book or index. I know you can on a Kindle, but it just takes so many damn steps.
"Straight up, I like the way books smell. And you don't get that with the Kindle. I could just walk around a bookstore and kill a whole day and not buy anything. So I try to bring paperbacks when I can. Hardcovers are a pain traveling, but a dogged out paperback is a good companion."
On New Album Sunrise On Slaughter Beach
"It's taken some time to kind of wrap my head around what we did. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we couldn't go out and play these songs live, which was what we like to do typically, but we couldn't. So suddenly this album was the first in many, many years, if not decades, that was kind of concocted in the studio. And because of that we weren't thinking like 'how do we do this live?'
"Suddenly it's like 'oh yeah, let's put vibraphone on this or theremin or backup vocals, really stretch out some of the conventions that we've kind of grown accustomed to.' At first I didn't like that, but in hindsight I think it was kind of like a blessing in disguise in some ways."
On Reality Bleeding Into Songwriting
"They must, but not intentionally. I am of the mind that I like to escape in music. However, there have been times where social commentary or politics have made their appearances and usually years down the road I regret it because one, it kind of dates a song to a specific place and time instead of making it transcendent. Or you can be seeing it at a different angle years later that you may not have done so at the time of writing.
"But when we wrote this record I told everybody we're not making a damn pandemic record with the theme of isolation or what have you, because God knows there's going to be tons of those. I wanted to make a fun record."
On Chemistry & Longevity
"We get asked that a lot [secret to band longevity] and it's the kind of disappointing answer that I usually come up with. A lot of it has to do with just dumb luck. I met [drummer Jean-Paul Gaster] because we met in middle school. My last name starts with F, his starts with G, so we had homeroom together and our lockers were by each other, you know? And I think early on, especially when we were closer to adolescence than adulthood, there was a lot of bickering that went along.
"We were kind of learning the ropes while doing it. And since that time we've learned when to read the room. If someone needs some space, don't get in their way. And you've got to have a sense of humor. You've got to be able to laugh at yourself. Sure, there can be shitty days, but a lot of times the shittiest day of rock and roll is better than the best day in an office. And I think we all know that. And we will become very kind of defensive and protective about what we have right now. "
On Clutch's 30th Anniversary
"It's really hard to (think of the band in terms of 30 years). And when I'm reminded that The Beatles were a band for seven years, it makes my head spin. Things that they accomplished and did. Sure, rock and roll was a different monster now than it was then. But my one really deep regret if I have any is that I didn't write it down. My memory's kind of shitty. It always has been.
"But I think for many years I thought this was the thing I was going to do before I got a quote unquote real job because I had that pounded into my head for many years. And it really wasn't until the early 2000 I was like, maybe this is what I do? And once I kind of got that attitude, it suddenly became a lot more fun. I took it much more seriously. It became more rewarding.
"Not that I was phoning it in before, but it's just a different mindset when you say this is how I bring home the bacon instead of like oh, this is the summer I go on tour and then I look at the pictures for 30 years. And that's probably one of the reasons I didn't write it down because I just thought well it won't be decades, it'll be a year or two. But here we are."
On Nearing 30 Years of Transnational Speedway League
"We hadn't thought about that [touring in support of the 30th anniversary of Clutch's debut album], maybe because we've just been so focused on the new record. I mean sure, I think sometimes doing that is a good form of self-examination, but I think we have some trepidation of opening up that thing because it's almost like reading a diary entry from high school.
"I kind of see the band like that was a transitional time from when we were listening to a lot of hardcore and Swans, so the majority of that record is really slow and kind of brooding. And I'm not saying that I hate it, but it would take a hot minute to get my head back in that space. I kind of feel like the self-titled record was the album that we kind of figured out what we were collectively. And if it's any indication, I hadn't even thought about that record being 30 years old until you just mentioned it (laughs)."
On Music as Escapism
"I think writing an escapist or a fictional story in the context of something you can dance to, to me, I don't think we would have been able to do 30 years if that weren't the case. If it were suddenly like every night I have to sing the song about the emotions I had when I was 20, what a pain in the ass that would be.
"There are bands that do that, and I think there's almost an insincerity to it. Or maybe they still feel the same way for decades, who knows? But to me it's a lot easier just to weave a fiction because you can always find something new in it because no one's the authority on it."
Clutch will hit the road with Helmet, Quicksand, and JD Pinkus starting September 13. Dates below!
9/13 – Toronto, ON @ Rebel
9/15 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
9/16 – New York, NY @ Palladium Times Square
9/17 – Baltimore, MD @ Hammerjacks
9/18 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz
9/20 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
9/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Franklin Music Hall
9/23 – Louisville, KY @ Louder than Life*
9/24 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
9/25 – Atlanta, GA @ The Eastern
9/27 – Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
9/29 – Houston TX @ Warehouse Live
9/30 – Dallas, TX @ The Factory in Deep Ellum
10/1 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom
10/2 – Austin, TX @ Emo's
10/4 – Phoenix, AZ @ Van Buren
10/5 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent
10/7 – Sacramento, CA @ Aftershock
10/8 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
10/9 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
10/10 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox SODO
10/12 – Salt Lake City, UT @ the Depot
10/13 – Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium