Interview: Clutch Talk New Album, Earth Rocker
You really cannot fuck with Clutch. It’s been over 20 years since their formation, the Maryland quartet is more relevant and powerful than ever. Their music is used to soundtrack network television; they’ve recently toured with Black Label Society, Motörhead, and Thin Lizzy; and with their 10th full-length, Earth Rocker, they’re only further cranking up the power of their groove-laden psychedelic muscle rock. When asked about the record’s upbeat pace, frontman Neil Fallon puts it perfectly: “Touring with Motörhead definitely had an effect on us. You just realize what kind of music you want to be playing.”
REVOLVER The break between 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West and Earth Rocker is the longest you’ve ever taken. Why was that?
NEIL FALLON Touring and touring and touring. That’s how we butter our bread. So it was just about finding a couple of months that we could set aside. It’s hard to say no, especially when you’re playing for a new audience like we did on tour with Volbeat, because that’s what you have to do to expand your own. You can’t preach to your own choir. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about us. A problem we’ve had with major labels is them saying, "OK, what kind of music is this? Give it to us in two words." We couldn’t do that. So they look to bands we toured with. We toured with Limp Bizkit, so they think, Oh, they must be nu-metal. None of it fits.
Clutch has recently been used in commercials for Left 4 Dead and spots for NFL football, as well as “The Regulator” being used in The Walking Dead. Why do people love your music as a soundtrack?
It’s hard to say. The Walking Dead was cool, because I’m a big fan of the show. It’s because we’re a riff-oriented band. A chord progression of C, G, and A sounds like C, G, and A no matter what you do with it. A riff has a signature sound and really connects with people.
Earth Rocker is a very fun, rhythmic record. The lyrics are especially weird this time around.
Strange Cousins was a dark record for me, so this one is more upbeat. I prefer to write songs with the mindset that they’re short stories. That way, I can sound like an expert on a subject, even though I know nothing about hot rods, or aliens, or the Yeti. It’s just a great topic to riff on.
The new album seems to have some political and religious overtones to it. I’m thinking “Mr. Freedom” and “The Face.”
With “Mr. Freedom,” I wanted to write a song about people who think of politics as religion, and vice versa. I think that was done because a lot of the writing on this album was done during this last election cycle, and it’s impossible to get away from it. And for “The Face,” there was a time, when this band started, where rock and roll was special in a way. These days, rock and roll has become a lifestyle marketing tool. These days, it’s "Here’s the band loading their gear, and they can do it because they have an American Express card." That cheapens it. People forget that at one point, rock and roll was a huge threat to mainstream culture—they were burning records, calling it the Devil’s music. That’s what I wanted to point out—you can’t take it for granted. Once you start taking it for granted is when it starts to die.