There are many different formulas that can equate to a bands success. Relentless touring and a steadfast determination to do things on their own terms has been the equation for success for Clutch. For the past thirteen years, Clutch has circumnavigated the globe spreading the gospel of rock. Miles are now inconsequential, and the scenery is all too familiar. Clutch’s fan base is nothing short of fanatical, and for those who have been waiting on the edge of their seats for a new studio album, the time is now. Since their last studio release, Pure Rock Fury in 2001, they released two records on their own label, River Road Records. Clutch has seen record labels come and go. Those labels obviously don’t understand that some music is not meant for the mediocre masses. They are not a band to shuck and jive for their pay, and they are not a band willing to compromise their musical genius to be aired on MTV. The release of Blast Tyrant, Clutch’s sixth studio release, finds them on a new label, DRT, who put little expectation on them for world dominance. Neil Fallon, Clutch’s testimonial foreman, cooled his mile logging jets for a moment with LP to hip us to the conception of Blast Tyrant...
LP: Alright, so I got some questions about your new record. What can you tell me about the title?
NF: that was sort of...umm...let me think of the best way to explain this. There is a storyline to the songs that’s in my head that might not be evident in the lyrics. I was gonna try and write a more involved storyline but I thought it would be best to just let it be very loose. The Blast Tyrant is sort of a science fiction character like a dictator fella who's in charge of this ship called the Swollen Goat which is one of the tracks on there and they’re pursuing a character by the name of Wormdrink, which is another track on the album. And Wormdrink interacts with a character named La Curandera, which again is another song on the record. The Blast Tyrant never really makes an appearance in the record but we thought it was a tough sounding name to give the album.
LP: Could this be some sort of magnum opus rock opera type of an album?
NF: No...it's shying away from that, I think that is biting off a bit. You don't wanna make the music a slave to the story.
LP: Right, with Elephant Riders there were some reoccurring themes...
NF: Sure, I think this one does too but it's not so much that it's very oblique.
LP: And from what I read most of the lyrics were done mostly spontaneously?
NF: Umm..Some of it. There are some numbers on it that are quite old and those lyrics are pretty much set in stone but I don't think they conflict with the lyrics that were written right there on the spot for the songs that we were coming up with in the studio.
LP: Are we gonna see any surprises on the record? Any fancy extras?
NF: Well as far as new things that are occurring on the record, there is a bit of acoustic guitar and there is some Hammond B3 organ and a bit of synthesizer...nothing real nutty. I mean those are kinda background to guitars; you know we are a guitar band. And in the cd package itself there is a cd extra that has studio footage and a sort of "making of".
LP: What about any surprise guests perhaps?
NF: No, actually we were thinking about getting some people involved and then we thought well it's been along time since we've done a studio record that is strictly us four front to back. So it's just us four on it.
LP: What about the artwork? It’s been released and making it's rounds....
NF: Well I think the artwork that was released is just a portion of the greater whole. The cd back unfolds to kind of a mural and there is a booklet with all kinds of illustrations of the characters that are in the record. It’s probably one of the more involved packages that we've done and we had an artist by the name of Shaun Hernandez do line drawings specially for the record and I think that worked out real well.
LP: It’s not what I would expect just generally from looking at some of the past albums artwork. It seems much different.NF: Well, that’s the idea.LP: You've kinda had this notorious relationship with record labels and you're on a new one again. So what's up with that...how did you come about the decision to make the move?
NF: Well in between labels we've released our own records by you know our own doing and that works out well and good for us but you sacrifice things like publicity...like setting up an interview like this one or you lose some visibility or distribution and what not. In this particular instance DRT is a unconventional record label, they are fairly new and it suits us because I don't think anyone has any illusions of us you know writing the number one song on the top 40. Which I think labels like Columbia and Atlantic that’s what they want. That’s where they make their money. But I don't think we are the kind of band that can provide that. So I think it's a much more honest outlook.
LP: Well like "Slow Hole" was only released online and at shows. Will there be a much wider release for "Blast Tyrant"?
NF: Yeah, it will appear in stores on the day it's released. You know we do our own thing. It’s a trickle. Slow Hole is available at shows but you're not gonna walk into Best Buy and see it sitting there. But that works for us because we make our living on the road and it's something special for the road and it compels people to purchase it if they are interested in it.
LP: Well I heard that some of the tracks on "Blast Tyrant" are a little more like
something we might have heard on "Jam Room". In regards of the production
aspect maybe it is more raw than usual, it seems a little more...not as polished’
or over produced.
NF: Well I think it's hard for me to be very objective about it cause I’m so involved with it but
yeah I think this is a very studio record. There are things that occur on it that haven't occurred
in the past. We used some synth sounds and I think the songs are very efficient. There are not a
lot of long passages you know of kind of jamming as it would be. So the songs are real quick, most
around 2 1/2 or 3 minutes long which for Clutch is pretty fast. And I think it's an up tempo record.
The overall tempo of this record I probably think it's the fastest record we've done.
LP: Really...more so than "Transnational"?
NF: Well I mean Transnational has some fast songs but overall it...I mean there are some songs on
there that are like 72 beats per minute you know but those ones don't garner much attention it's
probably as fast as Shogun or Rats but it's definitely faster than Elephant Riders or PRF.
LP: With the "Slow Hole" release, are we gonna see any of those tracks on the new one?
NF: No, I think all of those tracks are gonna stay exclusive to "Slow Hole". I mean we can always cannibalize a song and re-work it but in general we are always looking forward and we don't wanna dwell on something that we've already done. I think that's just the nature of creativity.
LP: Well in my opinion there are just some totally epic songs on that record. And I think it makes some people question how some of the songs got picked on PRF vs. Slow Hole because I know they were all pretty much written at the same time period. What kind of selection process did you use?
NF: It's hard to say because I mean just for example there's a song of Blast Tyrant that we were going to take off the record cause we were sick of it. But other people heard it and it was one of their first choices for a single. I mean we simply can grow tired of songs maybe by playing them too much or we worked on them too long and it's hard for us to keep in mind that somebody else is maybe hearing it for the first time. In hindsight I think maybe Guild Of Mute Assassins should have been on PRF or Oregon but at the end of the day...it still got released. For us I don’t think an album needs to be much more than an hour. I don’t think people’s span of attention goes beyond that too much. It’s better to make it a lean machine of such as opposed to throwing everything into one batch.
LP: I know in the past a lot of tracks have been circulated around through live shows or other means. I haven't seen much leaked for Blast Tyrant. Was that intentional?
NF: Yeah, there are some tunes that we have played for years like Promoter and there are some songs on the album that haven't seen the light of day and they'll be new upon release. But yeah we do encourage people to trade live shows but it is also important to temper that when a new album comes out and it would kinda suck if everyone already had it.
LP: Absolutely. I saw also that there may be a video in the works.
NF: Yeah, I think we're gonna make our first video in 10 years.
LP: Right, well I was talking to JP a couple years ago about the Spacegrass video at the end of PRF, and it leads into Prison Planet then fades out and I said you know "What’s up with that?" and he said "Well it's just a little teaser’" but he kind of eluded to the fact that there may be more of something coming and then we never saw it.
NF: Yeah well I mean we can only do so many things that I mean the video on PRF was kind of a freebie you know a video without a budget that someone did for us for free and we wanted to put that on there to add to the cd. And we will have more live releases in the future but I think we've been so busy with this record that we haven't been able to think about it. You know we want to do it right and record it well so we'll probably address that this summer.
LP: Excellent. And I read that Bam Margera is making the video.
NF: Yup, that's the rumor. I haven't spoken to him yet, he just got the music the other day and we're gonna see what he can come up with. Am looking forward to it.
6/6/2005 - interview by Trainor