Clutch. Fuck. If you've never heard them, put down this magazine right now and go buy yourself an album. Any of them. All of them. In a world where everyone tries hard to sound like everyone else, Clutch has found a path to the mythical land of Originality. Here's their story, as told by singer Neil Fallon.
"In a nutshell what happened was, we started in 91. We put out a 7 inch that came out on New Years Day of 92, and that got noticed when a fanzine did a review. Push came to shove and someone from Atco EastWest, which was a division of Atlantic, got a hold of it. And at that period in time, it was like six months after Nirvana became enormous, so every major label on the planet was snatching up any band that was sounding remotely like Nirvana, which meant, 'wasn't a hair band.' Of course those labels were expecting platinum records from those bands, and us like hundreds of others never delivered that. In the process of being with these major labels over the years we eventually found ourselves in a position to be self-sufficient and we released our own records." Clutch has an amazing deal with DLT Records, with whom they've released their last two albums. "The thing with them is they don't blow the smoke up your ass about how next year's gonna be the year of Clutch and you're gonna be rich and famous and get ready."
Live is Life
Seeing Clutch live is like getting pummeled by five guys at once. Your whole body feels tired and bruised, but your spirit is elated. "That's the way to us that rock and roll is. Albums and videos and cd's and dvd's, that's all new. Even lp's are new." The live performance, that's been going on since the dawn of time. Having played over a couple thousand shows in their fifteen years of rock, Clutch has learned what works and what doesn't. "It was a disaster. We wanted, just for the sake of doing something different, to include a lot of lights and a slide show, which would've been cool. But the guy that was doing it was into a lot of ecstasy and a lot of rave drugs, and one day in the middle of a show I turned around and looked behind me and there were two thirty-foot penises behind us. I lost my shit and that was the last day he worked for us."
Five in One
"Musically, everything is a cooperative thing that happens somewhere in between the five of us. Lyrically, a lot of times it's just eavesdropping and taking something out of context and spinning a lie around it. There's one track on this record where I didn't know what the hell to write about, so I ended up writing a song about a book I had just finished reading, that I thought was good fodder for lyrics." Fallon's lyrics are famous for their meandering, stream-of-consciousness flow and infusion of classical mythology. Among other crazy creatures, he has referenced manticores and basilisks. "I think it's an easy way to strengthen lyrics, because when you refer to something like that it's a loaded word with all kinds of connotations and a back story and when you refer to those things you link it up to something greater than just the song itself."
"The name of this record is From Beal Street to Oblivion. And that's a line out of one of the songs. It's not a blues record by any means, but there's more of a blues influence on it than on any of our previous records." Good news for fans who liked Robot Hive/Exodus, which started Clutch down the path of the blue side. To listen to the new stuff while hearing in your head the old stuff, you wonder how a band can progress so far, change so much. "I would rather do something different and fail at it than do something successful twice," is Fallon's answer. Even the way they approached the writing of the new album has evolved, taking what Clutch does best (rocking balls off live) and applying it to the writing process. "We did most of the album in Jean-Paul's basement. We wrote the entire record front to back and then we went and toured on it for three weeks and that kind of tweaked everything. I don't know why we haven't done that always. It's the best way to do it and I think it makes all the difference in the world." I asked Fallon when we could expect to hear Beal Street, and he gave me good news: "I think we're delivering the album to the record company today."
Who would win in a fight between a silver back gorilla and a kodiak grizzly bear? "You mean a fight to the death? I'd have to say a kodiak. Actually, I don't think it's any contest. They got the claw thing going on and the punch. A gorilla just goes for pulling out your limbs and it's not going to do that to a bear. It would run for its life."