Clutch – Blast Tyrant – Interview


Blast Tyrant (DRT Entertainment)
An interview with guitarist/vocalist Neil Fallon
by Craig Regala

Neil Fallon: Singer, sage-to-be, rock guy spun a few words to me, (Craig Regala: Lollipop representative, rock and roll fan) about a few things. I’m gonna testify first, then a little bit of talking.

Clutch means a lot to me. They throw a lasso around 30 years of rock history without sucking the wind out of any one else’s particular sails. They heave a dense, rhythmic grrrr! like meat-eating Fugazi/Swiz/hardcore fans who started hewing rock a touch after Helmet and along with Quicksand, and the Method (Dayton Y’ALL!), those physically rumped-up enough bands able to attack the groove with the goddamn guitars intact and the idea of space and dynamics punched into their “thing.”
To do so, they draw upon all aspects of rhythm and noise: Southern rock, post-industrial stomp (they had Godflesh records and knew why they kicked), jamtastic jammism’s culled from acid rock, kick-a-poo joy juice*, Bad Brains, and the whole goddamn idea of FREEDOM! This gives’m the approach, their personal dedication, talent, and brains, and drive gave’m to you. They’ve covered Jethro Tull, trumpted Willie Nelson (check the first single off the new High Times “stonerrrock” comp), rocked the nation, and released their best record ever: Blast Tyrant.

I have an older (48) friend who’s always dug rock music and was looking for some thing new. I suggested you guys saying you were kinda like a current “Grand-Funkadelic-Railroad.”#
I can deal with that. It’s good to have an appeal not bound by current marketing or fashion. To have an identity and audience who listens for what you are and and goes to the shows to see it happen for real, say, like The Grateful Dead or Slayer. That outlasts pop hits and the pressure trying to replicate those hits brings.

Like The Allman Brothers or Primus or The Charles Mingus band?
Yeah, you could say that. It’s not like we’re like those bands, but we may share an ethic and craft and the desire to make music that reflects our identity. As a band, we’re closer to The Mystick Krew of Clearlight, but share the same intent as other bands through the decades.

Maybe the constant “real life” (even though it’s like a traveling salesmen’s gig) instead of a high-pressure media has allowed you the space to carve out time to grow and keep making music that draws off your life.
If you have massive success as a by-product, it happens. As a goal, it can destroy you or the relationship you have with the other people who’re making the music. It’s such a goal for the record companies, it’s pervasive. We sell a bunch of records, but the majors think in terms of millions.

You’re noted as being a strong, heavily-touring live band. I came down to see you at the Newport… and it was sold out!
We do pretty well in Columbus. That’s how we’ve made our way: Getting out and playing. It helps when you tour with bands you like and respect. We’ve had a really good time with The Hidden Hand, Wino’s new band. Great guys, great players.

Has the use of ProTools changed what and how you do things?
Pretty much everything we do is an outgrowth of our personalities. You play and see what happens. A record is done in a specific way at a specific time. The music is malleable; live it’s more a jumping off point. We made a decision we wouldn’t record in a way we couldn’t play.

My wife loves this record. IT’S GREAT to see a professional woman in her late (late) 20s pull into work jamming Blast Tyrant. Then again, her three favorite records of the ’90s are by The Hellacopters, Alice In Chains, and Karma To Burn.
She gets in free.

She also mentioned that if she came of age in the mid-’90s, you guys would’ve had the impact Led Zepplin did on her husband (who’s in his late, late, LATE 20s).
She gets a t-shirt and backstage pass. Really that’s the kind of thing you hope for. To have long-lasting impact after the tour and as time goes on among people who like what you do.

You came up in the Maryland/Virginia area, do you think that’s affected you?
I saw a lot of good bands. When I was young, Swiz had a big impact. We weren’t a “DC” band, though. You can tour Philly, New York, Richmond, and Boston… there are quite a few cities within a working day’s drive. That helps when you want to get out and play. One thing is there were a lot of bands. You knew you could do it.

You guys ever play “Molt” (on an early promo EP and bears out the bands affection for Godflesh at the time [’92]) live?
We did about 11 years ago. It’s one of the few songs we have that works better on record than in performance.

Are you OK with being on the road so much?
Well, musicians tour. You get out there and play music. It changes all the time – sometimes a little, sometimes quite a bit – within the song. After a while, you see many of the same places, so that part becomes routine (although it’s interesting to travel to new places, especially overseas). But playing nightly anywhere is a different show.

Speaking of live, if you could take three artists/bands out on tour from all of history, who would they be?
Led Zepplin, Captain Beefheart, and Robert Johnson.

* “Kick-A-Poo Joy Juice” is the legendary proto-stoner rock “potion of life.” It can be traced in popular mythology to the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic where Phineas Freak runs for Sheriff. He wins and at the victory party a mountain man pours a gallon of 123 proof “KICKAPOO” moonshine (made from psychedelic mushrooms) in the punchbowl, thereby causing a 12-hour freedom fracture in consensus reality. Clutch woulda been the band.

# A confluence between Grand Funk Railroad and Funkadelic, two early ’70s bands. Grand Funk were a tremendously popular three-piece who laid out slabs of heavy kickin’ rocker funked up goodness. Plenty of strong tunes and great grooves. Ah!!! Ludes, red wine, and you. Funkadelic were a killer heavy funk/acid rock/groove unit whose first five records destroy anyone dumb enough to stand in their way.