Neil Fallon, frontman of the band Clutch, was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time for an interview over the phone. We covered a wide range of topics such as the band’s new album, Earth Rocker, family life and Slayer.
Access: Rock’s words are in bold.
Your 10th studio album, Earth Rocker, is to be released on March 19th. What can we expect from that album?
It’s a lot harder and faster than our previous albums, for us it was a step up in the tempo. The other thing that stands out about this one is the blues influences that we’ve been flirting with over the past couple of records is more or less absent on this record. There is only one song that has some blues-tones, and this didn’t happen intentionally.
We used some harmonicas, the song Earth Rocker is a bit like Electric Worry, there’s no slide guitar on it, vocally it’s similiar to Electric Worry and is like American blues singing.
But overall it’s more of a straight up rock n’ roll record.
The artwork was created by Nick Lakiotes and we wanted something like Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die and Technical Ecstasy, very sci-fi.
I had no idea what an Earth Rocker was before I saw the artwork.
Does the circle represent the earth?
Yes, the circle is kind of a cross with three lines. In an electronic schematics, if you look at a diagram on ground or the earth that’s the universal symbol for that. It seemed inappropriate not to apply that into our artwork.
So, Earth Rocker is your tenth album. How does it feel to have been in the game for so long?
It’s very satisfying to be able to say you’ve been living on rock n’ roll for over twenty years.
Do you ever wake up and think like, ”I don’t wanna be a rock star any more, I want to spend more time with my family”?
Sometimes when I’m on tour I’d rather be home with my wife and child. But, really honestly, even the worst day of rock n’ roll – I can’t imagine that it would be worse than sitting in traffic going to a job that isn’t fun. The ones who have a creative pulse and can make a living out of it, they should appreciate that.
What does your family think about you being a rock star?
My mom and dad, I think they are still trying to figure it out, they can’t believe I’m still doing this.
My wife knew who I was when I met her so she knew what she was getting in to. She keeps me on the ground.
My son is only two and a half, he can’t understand what it’s like being in a band. He thinks that every dad is in a band (laughter)
Earth Rocker is your second studio release on your own label the Weathermaker Music. Why exactly did you decide to create your own label and not release it on a traditional label?
In these day and age it’s easier now than ever to sell directly to your fans. The fans appreciate the idea of buying direct from the artist. You can sell records cheaper, more efficiently and if something goes wrong you can fix it.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out with the traditional labels. Those labels are in the business to sell as many records as possible.
We’re not kidding ourselves, we know we’re not gonna get a grammy anytime soon, we’re doing this for the relationship with our fans.
What do you think about file-sharing then?
On one hand, sure I would love if everybody had to pay to hear our music but I also have a lot of music on my hard drive that I didn’t pay for (laughter).
On the other side, for a band to play live they need new listeners to discover them, like, “check out this band, I’m gonna buy a t-shirt after the show.”
A band like us work for everybody so that makes it a lot easier.
And if the people do like the music they still gonna want the real thing and buy it.
All four members have been with the band since you guys formed in 1990. What’s the secret to keeping a band together like that for so long?
You’re gotta have a sense of humour, also keeping music a bit as a religion. It can take you to great heights. We were lucky that all four of us just wanted to play music. We also grew up together which made it easier for a long-term cooperation.
Are you close to eachother or is it like Kerry King (Slayer) said, when they aren’t touring they’re not talking to eachother?
(Laughter) We talk to each other a lot but we don’t go out to dinner together. You have to give each other space.
Can you describe one day in the tour bus? What’s it like?
I think that compared to a lot of other bands we keep our bus really clean (laughter).
We wake up in the morning, everybody showers in the day room, we take two or three hours practicing, reading a book or take a walk outside the bus. Usually we soundcheck and it’s pretty quiet and calm. After a show we’re in our party atmosphere but we don’t get crazy anymore.
Plus you’re getting old..
(Laughter) We’re all growing older. We still drink beer though.
You toured with Slayer and System Of A Down back in -98, what was it like?
It was pretty neat, we got to see Slayer everyday and System Of A Down who were starting out was the first of three bands. They’re really nice guys and it was fun watching them take off.
I was scared cause we had heared a lot about Slayer being hard to work with, but they were cool. It was great doing the Slayer tour because that was the first time they played since Dave Lombardo returned to the band and people were really excited to see that.
You’re out on your Earth Rock World Tour, what’s the most memoirable thing with the tour so far?
Well, we’ve only done one quarter of the tour, which was the European press. We start properly on Friday.
So I’m doing a couple of months chores in two days (laughter).
And there we were out of time, I thanked Neil for taking his time and wished him luck, both to the chores and the tour that starts on Friday.
Don’t miss Clutch when they are playing at Metaltown in Gothenburg, 4-6 July.
Writer: Jonas “Madman” Persson.
Photos by Dave Clutch’s gig at Tyrol in Stockholm