With the release of their highly anticipated 12th studio album, the gloriously titled “Book of Bad Decisions”, it would be easy to suggest that legendary Maryland rockers Clutch have made their finest record to date. This may even be true. You see, the thing about Clutch is that ever since their 1993 debut Transnational Speedway League they’ve been in the business of writing stone cold classics, and even the most rabid fan would have trouble picking just one. “Book of Bad Decisions” won’t make that task any easier. Rest assured, it’s another classic.
Recorded over three weeks at Sputnik Studios in Nashville, “Book of Bad Decisions” was produced by four-time Grammy winner Vance Powell (Seasick Steve, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, etc.), a man who apparently knows that a one degree angle change in microphones makes a difference to how an instrument sounds. Interestingly, his name first came to the band’s attention via country star Chris Stapleton.
“It started with my brother-in-law, who’s a huge Chris Stapleton fan,” says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “He and I would listen to The Traveller quite a bit, and one thing that stood out was that it didn’t sound like any other country record that I’d heard. Shortly after that I was on Spotify, and a song by The Dead Weather came up. It just blew me away and I could tell that whoever produced that record was doing things a different way. I looked it up and there was Vance Powell’s name again, so something was telling us that this is a guy we should reach out to.”
“Even though Chris Stapleton does music that’s not too much like our own, the sonics of the record are pretty great,” says frontman Neil Fallon. “He has a very different approach to recording; he comes from the school of live recording and engineering, and the songs, on tape, are not gonna sound that much different from what we do live.”
No stranger to the road, Powell spent three days on tour with the band in order to get a feel for what they do best, watching first from the front of house and then from the stage, checking out the live sound and how Clutch connect with their audience.
“I never go into a record having an idea of how it’s gonna sound,” he says. “But after hearing them live, I had an idea of how they could sound. I’m a big live recording fan, so I like when bands play together and I didn’t wanna get into that manufacturing a record concept. I wanted it to be real organic.”
Indeed, ‘organic’ is a word that comes up a lot when talking to Clutch about the new record, Powell taking great care to get guitar tones right and making sure that each song had its own identity.
“Vance is all about vintage guitar sounds,” says guitarist Tim Sult. “I probably had more amplifier options than on any other album we’ve done. It was like going back to a music store in 1960! This was the first time I’ve ever recorded with amps from the ’50s and I ended up buying a couple of ’50s amps while we were in Nashville.”
“I felt really good about the gear that I was bringing into the studio,” concurs bassist Dan Maines, “but Vance had this 1974 Ampeg and I’m so glad that he recommended that. As soon as we plugged it in, it sounded like Sabbath! We ended up using it alongside one of my amps, and I loved it so much that once we were done recording I scoured the ads for another one. What I really like is that each song has a different tone to it, and I think that’s Vance Powell’s style.”
With each band member contributing riffs to the album – including Jean-Paul who has added mandolin to his repertoire – there was no shortage of material, each song road-tested long before it reached the studio. Hell, with 15 songs, “Book of Bad Decisions” could easily pass as a double album! Always wary of repeating themselves and retreading old ground, there is even – for the first time on a Clutch album – a horn section that swings like James Brown’s pants!
“The third night I was watching the band,” says Vance, “they did this song that at that time was called Talkbox, which is now In Walks Barbarella. While Neil was singing, I was thinking to myself, “wow, there’s a horn line here!” And while he was singing, I was humming it to myself. I brought it up to them, tenuously, and they were like, “okay, let’s do it!” This is as Parliament, Funkadelic as it gets, maybe even a James Brown vibe!”
One thing, however, that is entirely as expected, is that as arguably the greatest rock lyricist of modern times, Fallon, as always, has provided some interesting subject matter, everything from poets to presidents and recipes to rock ‘n’ roll. You may have to Google some of it, because Fallon is nothing if not a clever bugger, and likes to keep his audience on their toes.
“Most of the time I have no idea what he’s talking about,” laughs Jean-Paul, “but the lyrics completely inform how I’m going to play that tune. Whether or not I understand exactly what Neil is singing about is not important. I listen to the way Neil sings those words and I think about what those words mean to me, and that, ultimately, informs how I’m gonna play drums on that song.”
“I think I probably second guess myself into doing that,” says Neil of his lyrical style. “I would rather not be able to answer all the questions, just to keep it interesting for myself. Sometimes a rhyme sounds awesome and I don’t know what it means, but I’ll go with it anyway. It’s become more difficult to write lyrics now that I have Wikipedia at my fingertips, because you can go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole and not get anything done! Not too long ago you’d have to spend months in a public library trying to find out the things you can find in a couple of keystrokes.”
Elsewhere, however, you’ll find a more straightforward approach to lyrics, A Good Fire relating the memory of hearing Black Sabbath for the first time – something that everyone can relate to – while Sonic Counselor pays homage to Clutch fans. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Clutch fans – collectively known as Gearheads – are a breed like no other.
“I’ve always loved rock songs that just celebrated rock ‘n’ roll,” grins Fallon, “but that song was a bit more about the people who come to our shows, that make it as exciting for us as hopefully it is for them. My favorite shows that I’ve seen bands do is like going to church, especially when everybody’s in sync with each other and you walk out with your jaw on the floor. I feel incredibly grateful that people have walked out of our shows and felt the same way. It’s a tip of the hat to them.”
“We’re exceptionally lucky to have the fans we have,” Jean-Paul agrees. “They’re diehard, and because of that, we take this that much more seriously. We do not take this for granted. We know that those folks could be anywhere else, and they’ve chosen to spend the evening at a Clutch show, so we’re gonna do the best we can to provide them with the best musical experience we can. I think that translates to the records, because at the end of the day, all you have is your records. When this whole thing wraps up, those are gonna be the things that go down in history.”
Neil Fallon – vocals & guitar
Jean-Paul Gaster – drums
Dan Maines – bass
Tim Sult – guitar
For further information please contact:
Doug Weber, New Ocean Media Stefan Koster, Weathermaker Music
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BIO: JULY 2015
Neil Fallon: Vocals/ Guitar
Jean-Paul Gaster: Drums
Dan Maines: Bass
Tim Sult: Guitar
It’s the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch.
Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive performances of that last album, setting an even higher benchmark as their now-definitive album to date.
The eleventh Clutch studio album Psychic Warfare goes straight for the throat with “X-Ray Visions” and never lets go. Working again with acclaimed producer Machine, this time in Texas, the concise arrangements that made Earth Rocker so assertive is the same harness for the combustible musical energy on Psychic Warfare. Harder, faster… let the rhythm hit ’em.
Formed in 1991, the Maryland-based band’s ability to absorb different musical styles and fabricate them into a distinct Clutch sound continues to be their forté. “A Quick Death In Texas,” overstocked with signature “Clutch heavy” Tim Sult riffs and lonesome guitar licks, and the funk undercurrent of “Your Love Is Incarceration,” color Psychic Warfare with articulate musicality and comfortable familiarity.
The overall intensity of Psychic Warfare would be self-consuming without the pressure valve of a canny rhythm section. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines have an intuitive sense of dynamics that gives weight and contrast to the forcefulness of the vocals, steering Clutch into the straightaway out of tight, exhilarating corners.
“I listened closely to the rhythm of Neil’s vocals this time around.” Gaster explains. “The rhythms he sings, are very syncopated. It was my goal to articulate these rhythms on the drums while keeping the pulse of the music strong.”
Psychic Warfare is cinematic, a soundtrack to the plot of singer Neil Fallon’s imagination. The narrative of “The Affidavit” sets the scene for an album of gunslingers, energy weapons, paranoid neurosis, and the occasional three-legged mule. It’s an episodic lyrical landscape populated by abstract characterization, nuance, and clever peculiarity.
“I spent a lot of time doting over the lyrics,” Fallon says. “It was fun because I have a great luxury that I’m a professional liar — that’s what a storyteller is. Or at least that’s what I try to be. It’s the one socially acceptable way to completely deceive people, and that’s what they want. If you sing it with enough conviction, people won’t question it. I just love that escapism, the fantasy aspect of it. And fantasy doesn’t necessarily equate to dragons and wizards. It can be seedy hotel rooms and sketchy hitchhikers.”
Gaster says the band knowing Earth Rocker was such a high water mark put them in a position of needing to follow up with an exceptional album. “Looking back on the process, one thing that sticks out in my mind is the amount of rehearsal the band put in. We started each pre-production day by writing out a new album sequence and then playing that sequence straight thru as if it were a set list. I think this allowed us to get inside the songs in a way we had not done before. When it came time to record drum tracks, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to play each song.”
In the past, Clutch consciously made each album conspicuously different from the last one. “We had a sadistic fear of repeating ourselves,” Fallon admits. “But over the last few years, we’ve realized our strengths and what it is that people like about us. Why deny it? Clutch is Clutch, embrace what you are.”
The bar is set higher, laws of physics be damned. Psychic Warfare is the new adventure, and it has no limit.
For more information, check out the band’s official website:
*CLUTCH IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS!
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New Ocean Media
About Clutch: winter 2015
CLUTCH – Neil Fallon (Vocals/Guitar), Tim Sult (Guitar), Dan Maines (Bass) and Jean-Paul Gaster (Drums/Percussion)
Maryland rockers Clutch have been pushing the boundaries that define heavy rock music since the 4 original members got together in high school. Having been tagged hard rock, blues rock, southern stoner rock and alternative metal by press and fans across the world alike it is safe to say one thing… “What you see is what you get”, and what you get is a musical force that has been best described as the quintessential American Rock Band. The band quickly became known for their relentless touring schedules, playing shows at whiskey stained 2 door venues in the hills of West Virginia to the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver. Whatever the venue, and where ever rock fans congregate Clutch will play there with the likes of Therapy? to Iron Maiden, from Marilyn Manson to Thin Lizzy, Coheed and Cambria to Motörhead. What has come of it is a cult like fan base and praises from some unlikely peers. Their music has been featured as the official goal song for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks to the intro music for country music megastar Eric Church’s live set. Clutch released their tenth and latest studio album Earth Rocker via their own label Weathermaker Music on March 16, 2013. The album entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #15 giving the band their highest chart position to date. Earth Rocker reached #1 on the Rock Chart and #4 on iTunes’ overall Top 100 album chart. Earth Rocker was awarded “Album of The Year” by Metal Hammer magazine and garnered a Top 10 spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top 20 Metal Albums of the Year.” The 10 album script Clutch is writing shows no sign of stopping. The touring will continue, American Rock Music is alive and Clutch is happy to carry the torch one riff at a time, one city at time. The band is currently working on their follow up to Earth Rocker which will be released in 2015. Stay Heavy.
About Clutch: FALL 2014
CLUTCH – Neil Fallon (Vocals/Guitar), Tim Sult (Guitar), Dan Maines (Bass) and Jean-Paul Gaster (Drums/Percussion) – have been pushing the boundaries of heavy rock including hard rock, blues rock, southern stoner rock and alternative metal since their early beginnings as a DC hardcore group in 1990. The band quickly became known for their relentless touring schedule, playing shows with bands spanning the spectrum from Therapy? to Iron Maiden, from Marilyn Manson to Thin Lizzy, Coheed and Cambria to Motörhead. What has come of it is a cult like fan base. With song content ranging from John Wilkes Booth to Monster Trucks to Greek mythology and government conspiracies,Mr. Fallon and the band have lead their “gear heads” on a surreal journey that is not even close to arriving home. Songs such as “Spacegrass”, “Animal Farm”, “A Shogun Named Marcus” and “Burning Beard”, all recorded prior to 2005,continue to be fan favorites. With ten studio albums under their beltas well as rarities, live albums and 3 DVDS, Clutch now have their own record label: Weathermaker Music. The first ever Clutch release was a 7” vinyl EP entitled Pitchfork (1991, Inner Journey) which later became Passive Restraints (1992, Earache /UK, Relativity/USA), a 12” vinyl EP. These independent releases lead to the Clutch major label debut LP, Transnational Speedway League (1993, EastWest), and subsequently Clutch (1995, EastWest), The Elephant Riders (1998, Columbia), and Pure Rock Fury (2001, Atlantic) with the hit radio single “Careful with that Mic…”. In the following years Clutch licensed three albums to Megaforce Records: Live at the Googolplex (2003), Jam Room (2004) and Pitchfork & Lost Needles (2005). The first two of these albums have since been re-issued on the Weathermaker Music label.Slow Hole to China, a collection of rarities was released independently by Clutch in 2003. Full Fathom Five, Video Field Recordings (2008) is the first Clutch live show on a double disc DVD. It is also the first release on Weathermaker Music and was accompanied by a CD release of the same live recordings Full Fathom Five, Audio Field Recordings. A second double disc DVD, entitled Live at the 9:30, was released in 2010. In 2009, Clutch released their first full length studio recording on Weathermaker Music.Strange Cousins from the West was the first Clutch album to have worldwide distribution and it paved the way for all Clutch re- issues, DVD’s, Vinyl and singles to go international. The release was the highest selling record for first week sales for Clutch to date. Jeremy Hunt directed the video to “50,000 Unstoppable Watts”. View it here. During the time period 2004 to 2007 Clutch released three classic albums, all of which were re-issued on Weathermaker Music between 2010 and 2011. These re-issues come with loads of added material (either in the form of studio tracks, live recordings or videos from the era of the original recordings) and substantially modified new artwork and packaging. From Beale Street to Oblivion (2010), contained the hit “Electric Worry,” jokingly referred to by LEMMY from Motörhead as “That’s your Ace of Spades…” Watch it here. Robot Hive/Exodus (2010). “Burning Beard”, the video for this record, was directed by award winning producer Jeremy Hunt. The video was voted the #4 “Video of the Year” on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. Watch it here. Blast Tyrant (2011). This album featured the track “The Regulator” which was used prominently in the final scene for the mid-season 2 premiere (2012) of the hit American TV show series “The Walking Dead”. Blast Tyrant also included the hit single “The Mob Goes Wild”. The accompanying video was directed by Bam Margera and featured Margera’s Viva La Bam co-stars; Ryan Dunn, Brandon DiCamillo, and Don Vito. Watch it here. Clutch released their tenth and latest studio album Earth Rocker March 16, 2013 on Weathermaker Music. The album entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #15giving the band their highest chart position to date. Earth Rocker reached #1 on the Rock Chart and #4 on iTunes’ overall Top 100 album chart. Earth Rocker was awarded “Album of The Year” by Metal Hammer magazine and garnered a Top 10 spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top 20 Metal Albums of the Year.” In the summer of 2014 Weathermaker Music completed the Earth Rocker release cycle with a very special Double Vinyl 12” Picture Disc for collectors and Earth Rocker Deluxe, a2xCD / DVD set. CD1 of the deluxe version features the original studio recordings with two previously unreleased songs, CD2 is a live version of all ER songs recorded at various stops on the Earth Rocker World Tour during the summer of 2013 and the DVD is a recording of Clutch’s Denver, CO show from (11/14/13). As a bonus, the DVD contains three promotional videos, two of which were directed by Aisha Tyler.
EARTH ROCKER BIO:
Forget whatever you thought about Clutch. Earth Rocker crumples up the bad categories that have miscast them for years — stoner rock, post-hardcore, metal, grunge — and leaves no question about what they are: a damn good rock and roll band.
Earth Rocker is a solid, straight-up rock and roll album, exactly what the band had in mind for their tenth studio album, now that their Weathermaker Records label is fully up and running. “It might be the best Clutch album that has ever existed,” says guitarist Tim Sult.
It’s a concise, efficient album. That was the point, says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “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.”
“I’m excited about its succinctness, and how balls-to-the-wall it is,” says frontman Neil Fallon. “The length of an LP is optimal for enjoying a body of new music, approximately 40-45 minutes. There’s something to be said about Side A and Side B. It’s more cinematic, and that was the approach.”
The album began taking shape when Clutch toured with Mötorhead, then Thin Lizzy. Revisiting those two favorite bands, they were able to apply their own experience as musicians to better understand the dynamics of their heroes. “The songwriting process happened around the time of those tours, so that really sank into our writing,” Sult recalls. “Maybe people expected us to go more acoustic or bluesy, but this album definitely showcases a riffs-in-your-face kind of style. These songs ended up being faster and a bit more rocking.”
“Overall, we wanted the album to pick up the pace a little bit,” bassist Dan Maines explains. “Songs developing at a faster tempo led to a very straightforward songwriting approach.”
That songwriting simplicity is also indirectly a result of the Basket Of Eggs EP issued two years ago with the Weathermaker re-release of Blast Tyrant. “That acoustic stuff represents a new style of writing for us,” Maines says. “It kind of forces you to strip down what you’re playing. We had almost two years to spend on the writing process, and we had a lot of ideas. Having two years allowed us to trim the fat.”
Clutch are passionate students of rock and roll, and music in general. Gaster’s love of a good shuffle brought that rhythmic approach to nearly half the album. Professor Longhair’s “Bald Head” — notably the loping style of Earl Palmer’s swinging eight notes — was a direct influence on Earth Rocker. So was Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey, also a shuffle monster.
“When you hear a light shuffle, or the brushwork on ‘Gone Cold,’ at first it can be a head-scratcher,” says Fallon. “But when you join in, you will be taken to a place you wouldn’t have gone by yourself.”
Fallon’s reputation as a clever lyricist will likely grow once people hear Earth Rocker. His approach is similar to writing fiction. “You’ve got to do it convincingly. There’s a bit of theater to it, in a way. The four minutes a song is being recorded or performed, I can convince myself that I’m an expert on whatever subject I’m singing about, even if I don’t know exactly what it is.”
“There are some tips of the hat to rock and roll history in the lyrics that I enjoy singing because they reference the album in a bigger picture. ‘Rocket 88’ is considered the first rock and roll song that used distortion. That lyrical reference on ‘Crucial Velocity’ kind of fuels Earth Rocker as a whole with that back story. It’s American myth, even though it really happened.”
Not everything on Earth Rocker is strictly vintage rock and roll. Maines made sure his love of the aggression and minimalism of Bad Brains and Fugazi was applied to these tracks. “The simpler the better, and I really tried to keep it streamlined and a little more focused. Whatever came to mind first was pretty much what I stuck with throughout the whole recording process. I didn’t feel the need to try to overcomplicate the parts.”
The influence of their favorite bands might have inspired Earth Rocker, but continuous growth as players also affected the album. “You wouldn’t have a song like ‘Earth Rocker’ five years ago,” Gaster insists. “We’ve continued to grow on our instruments, finding our own voices. Hopefully, you hear that on the new songs.”
Behind the scenes, Earth Rocker is also a result of an inordinate amount of preparation for Clutch. The album was entirely plotted out before recording even started at The Machine Shop in Belleville, NJ, with veteran producer Machine. “In the past, we would go into the studio and write,” says Fallon. “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 Earth Rocker sessions were largely based on faith for Sult, a guitarist more attuned to riffs than solos. “I would have never expected to be playing as many solos,” he says. “On this album, they definitely had more of a direction than they usually do. It definitely took a lot more concentration, but I walked away from this album liking them more than I have on any other album.”
“I just decided to trust the producer this time and not try to second guess too much. Having Machine there really helped. He’s very opinionated on what it should be, as far as performance goes. He definitely pushed us in a direction we normally wouldn’t go.”
It was Machine’s idea to replicate the flow of their live set with the running order of Earth Rocker. “He kind of made a set list of songs we do live at festivals,” Fallon explains. “He wanted to reproduce that energy in an album. He pointed things out to us, bringing us back to listening to ourselves as a fan would, to make an album that could be played beginning to end at a show, and everyone would dig it.”
“There’s a certain energy to our shows that we’ve had difficulty capturing on tape,” Maines admits. “I think this record comes closer to really capturing that energy of Clutch live. It’s a very balanced album. There’s no B-side material. It’s an album of A-sides. That sounds pretty bold and confident, but that’s the way we feel about Earth Rocker.”