Clutch is the hard rock and roll band, best known for songs like “Electric Worry,” “Careful with That Mic…” and “The Mob Goes Wild” is currently on tour to promote their tenth studio album, Earth Rocker, available on March 19. Earth Rocker, the first full-length album to come out now that their Weathermaker Records label is up an running, is markedly different from their earlier albums in its conciseness and efficiency. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster said, “We really tried to reign in the jam aspect of the band. We like to improvise a lot, but this album, we really wanted stuff mapped out. We wanted to go into the studio fully armed to make a really powerful record.”
“In the past, we would go into the studio and write,” said Neil Fallon, the band’s frontman, songwriter, and vocalist. ”That never worked out to anyone’s satisfaction. It was really important to do a lot of pre-production, knowing exactly what we would be doing when we went into the studio. It was crucial that we did all that prior to hitting record…it was so mapped out that we weren’t even in the studio together. You had to take a lot on faith. But once you know a part inside and out, you can move on to worrying about performance. If you’re trying to remember it, then you’re not playing from the heart–you’re playing from the brain. That always sounds stale on playback.”
The songs are fast-paced, loud, and laced with deep lyrics, blasting guitar solos, and drum shuffles. ”When you hear a light shuffle, or the brushwork on ‘Gone Cold,’ at first it can be a head-scratcher,” said Fallon. ”But when you join in, you will be taken to a place you wouldn’t have gone by yourself.”
“You wouldn’t have heard an album like Earth Rocker five years ago,” said Gaster. ”We’ve continued to grow on our instruments, finding our own voices. Hopefully, you hear that on the new songs.”
I was recently able to interview bassist Dan Maines about the new album and the recording experience:
The Silver Tongue: The album art for Earth Rocker is very eye-catching. Where did the inspiration for that come from, and how does it relate to the music overall? And where did the name Earth Rocker come from?
Dan Maines: The image started with us looking at pictures of Oldsmobile 88 hood ornaments from the fifties and sixties. That led to seeing hood ornaments from other models that featured an Indian chief head. All of this research into automobile badges and hood ornaments spread out into the architecture of Detroit at that time. All of these images were collected by the art director for the album and the Face was the product. Earth Rocker was one of the earliest songs written for the record and the theme seemed to represent the album as a whole very well.
TST: I read that you are considering making a music video for the track, “Earth Rocker.” Is that in the works? Are you planning any music videos for other tracks?
DM: We released a lyric video for the song. We are interested in doing a proper band video for a song, but which song has yet to be determined.
TST: Neil Fallon said that none of you were in the studio at the same time during the recording sessions. Was this an obstacle, or did it make recording more efficient? Do you think this affected the final product in any way?
DM: That was the approach the producer Machine is most comfortable with. It is a little unorthodox for us but in the end I feel like it worked well for this record. It forced us to have the songs completely written before we went into recording so there was more attention paid to specific moments of the songs as opposed to the general arrangement. In the end it takes about the same amount of time as recording together as a band.
TST: People have called Clutch’s music stoner rock, post-hardcore, metal and grunge — which are not necessarily bad. What genre of rock are you shooting for in Earth Rocker, and do you think you achieved it?
DM: We call ourselves a rock & roll band. We pull inspiration from metal, punk, funk, R&B, and whatever else we may be listening to on a given day, but at the end of the day, we are just a rock & roll band
TST: Why did you decide to create the Weathermaker Records label, and where did the name come from? How has having your own label change the way you work?
DM: We have had a long history of releasing albums for major labels and indie labels. Not all of those experiences were negative, but we reached a point where putting everything under our control was the only way we were going to feel good about putting out a record. Growing up in the Washington D.C. area lets you see the DIY approach towards making music from bands of all types. Now is the right time for us to embrace that mentality. The name Weathermaker comes from a song of ours on the Blast Tyrant album.
TST: On Earth Rocker, it seems you did a lot of things differently that what you’re used to. For example, you scaled back on the jamming and went into the recording studio with detailed plans. What else did you do differently this time, and what did you learn from the experience? What would you do the same, or differently, in the future?
DM: Machine likes to have all the material in the bag before he hits record. The five of us spent time together in our rehearsal space fleshing out the arrangements. When we felt like the song was dialed we recorded it together along to a click track. We later took those recordings to the studio and individually played along. It allows you to spend time on your own instrument at your won pace, but the idea of doing any “jamming” doesn’t enter the picture. Our intent with these songs was to end up with something that had an intense focus of energy, each song needed to be direct with a no frills punch.
TST: Jean-Paul Gaster mentioned that we wouldn’t have heard an album like Earth Rocker five years ago because you have grown so much in that time. How have you developed musically leading up to Earth Rocker?
DM: I think every one of our albums can be described that way. We were very young when we made Transnational Speedway League. We did a lot of touring in support of that record and as a result we became better players from what we were two years prior, so when it came time to make our second record we had the musical vocabulary to say something different and the self-titled album was the result. Earth Rocker is an album made by a band that has been playing together for over twenty years, taking all of those experiences and influences into the studio.
TST: Clutch has been playing for more than twenty years! If you could go back in time to when you were new musicians, what kind of advice and encouragement would you give yourselves? What would you tell young musicians today?
DM: As an individual player, practice. Try to learn something new and don’t be afraid to execute it on stage. Learn about other styles of music, and play shows every chance you get.