It’s always a pleasure catching up with the guys in Clutch. Some of my most anticipated moments of high school involved a gram of garbage pot, my beat-to-hell Chevy, and waiting to hear “Spacegrass” on the Top 9 at 9pm, courtesy of K-Rock. I’m still waiting for an opportunity to see the track live, but what can you do? It doesn’t really matter anyway, because I’ll be in attendance whenever this long-running monster of a 4-piece comes anywhere close.
With their latest album, Earth Rocker, debuting to much acclaim, including the #15 spot on Billboard’s main chart, you can bet the group will continue their hard touring ways to bring their fans a stellar show. I caught up with bassist Dan Maines to talk about their latest release, it’s excellent response on the charts, how everything is going over at Weathermaker, and the ins and outs of Earth Rocker!
G- What’s up, Dan! Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! How is everything going?
D- Everything is going good. Thanks again for having me.
G- Absolutely. You’re on the tail end of a tour right now, and it looks like you’re going to be doing lots of shows in the near future… How has everything been going on this run?
D- We couldn’t ask for anything better, really. I mean, we’ve had a lot of sold out shows, and we’ve been just chugging along, you know? This is like the perfect time to go back on the road is when you have a record, it being released in the midst of a tour, so there’s always a lot of talk about the band, because you have something new for people to listen to.
But we couldn’t be happier with both how the tour is going and how people are receiving the record. Very happy… very pysched.
G- That’s excellent! And obviously, you’re touring in support of Earth Rocker, and this is out on your own label, Weathermaker… It’s getting lots and lots of acclaim. Have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record, and how has the reception been to the new songs live?
D- You know, there are definitely a few tracks that we were anticipating going over well live. The first couple of tracks off the record, the title track and “Crucial Velocity,” in our minds were the ones to start playing in front of an audience. But there are other tracks that have, in my mind, surpassed those songs as far as being crowd favorites when we play them. It’s kind of surprising to me.
One of them is “DC Sound Attack” and the other one is the mellow one track on the record called “Gone Cold.” The cool thing about “DC Sound Attack” is we were able to throw in a go-go beat, and it was just something that we’d done in the past at our shows, but we hadn’t found a good place for it on record until now. So, I’m glad those songs are being received well, because they’re a lot of fun to play.
G- Dig that. Now getting to the label, Earth Rocker was put out on Weathermaker and is definitely going to put some shine to it, how’s everything going with Weathermaker and what’s on the horizon?
D- Real good. I feel like the pieces are in place now. We we’re finding the right people to work with, and we’ve got them now. We’ve got a tight knit group of people who know what they’re doing, and know what we’re trying to do, and everybody works together to try to get it done.
This is, by far… The preparation and the delivery of the record is far superior to how we released “Strange Cousins,” but it was a learning curve. It was the first time we put out brand new music by Clutch on our own, in that capacity. We’ve sold stuff over the Internet for years, but to really have a full force distribution and promotion behind you, I think we’ve finally found our place.
G- Definitely. You have the band, and now the label… A very strong addition to the home.
D- It is.
G- Like building the foundation and now you’re on your own terms, and I think that’s what a lot of band aspire to be at this point.
D- Yeah. That’s the biggest hurdle you have when you’re dealing with a label… You always have to put up an argument for yourself. It can be challenging to be both the band person and the label person at the same time, but at least you know there’s no undercurrent of B.S. you have to deal with (laughs.)
G- The handshake and smile with a sharp knife. Right on!
Now, I want to ask a few serious questions. Clutch is a heavier band, and I would put you as inspired by metal in a lot of ways. You write some heavy stuff, but it’s not like a lot of the modern metal which is very violent and chaotic.
As a heavier band that brings out the beer drinking, ready to rage crowd, has Clutch had to deal with any altercations with fans or security, and what do you guys do when there is an issue with the crowd/security?
D- You know, luckily we really haven’t had any type of bad situation like that. I mean, the music is heavy, it can be heavy at times, but we don’t encourage a lot of aggressive behavior. If we feel like it is starting to get a little out of control in the crowd, Neil (Fallon – Singer) will get up and say something. 99% of people there want that to be said… let’s just kick it down a notch and have a good time.
You know, it’s just a matter of what are you there to do? You’re there to have a good time. We have fans of ALL age who have been following us. We have fans older than us, we’re in our 40’s, bringing their sons and grandsons to the shows. You want it to be a safe environment for everybody, so we try to exersize a fair amount of crowd control.
G- Dig it. Now, you guys are road dogs…
G- You’re always on tour and have been doing it for a long time. What would you personally say is the most difficult thing about being in a band and/or on the road constantly?
D- You know, some people just cant handle being on the road. It’s not in their nature, and it has nothing to do with being a musician or have anything to do with… It’s a difficult thing to be away from your roots and leave home for 3, 4, 5 weeks at a time. It’s more of a mental stress than physical stress. That is a big hurdle for people.
You’ve got to learn how to pace yourself (laughs.) That’s probably key, and just have a routine. Having a routine on the road helps because that aligns it more with what you’d be doing if you were at home. But, nothing is better for a band’s career than going out on the road and playing as many shows as you can, and just building that reputation.
You’re spending a lot of time on the road, you’re going to become a good band. You’re playing the songs over and over and you’re going to get good. Just try to keep the momentum going. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last 20+ years!
G- 1990, correct?
D- 1991 was our first show, yeah. We’d been messing around before that, but we didn’t have an official show until 1991.
G- You’re a long running band, man!
D- Yeah. We’re lucky and very fortunate to be invited on very amazing tours very early on, too. So, that definitely helped as far as the exposure, because we weren’t dealing with airplay or anything like that. It was basically someone coming to a show, telling their friend about it, and the next time that person plus 2 more, and. We’re just fortunate to be 4 guys that can do it together for this long without the usual confrontations (laughs.)
G- For sure. So, 1 last question for you to finish up today. You have a huge catalogue, and a lot of people know who Clutch is at this point, but do you have a favorite song to perform or that you have written with Clutch or if you could only give 1 song, one from the back catalogue and one from the new album, to someone who’d never heard the band before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
D- Hmm. That’s a good questions. As far as songs as I’ve written, “Big News 1” stands out immediately, just because it’s still in heavy rotation on all the tours we do. We’ve never stopped playing that song. Some songs we stopped playing, or have a break from and come back to them later, but that is one that never gets tired.
If I was going to give a song to somebody who’d never heard of Clutch… I would give them “Electric Worry.”
D- Not that that represents the band entirely, but I think it has a lot of the elements that are there. It’s a crowd pleaser.
G- That’s the key! That’s what we like!
Well, it’s great to have you back in Syracuse, and huge congratulations on the success of Earth Rocker!
D- Thank you.
G- We look forward to seeing you back here again. Tour safe, play well, and we wil enjoy the show tonight.
D- Thank you.
G- Thank you Dan!