Clutch is a band that…. Hard to believe… has been around for a quarter century. The Maryland quartet punched its ticket in the early 90s with their, now classic, Transnational Speedway League released in 1993, and self-titled Clutch released shortly after in 1995. An obnoxious, funk and blues, acid-wash, metal circus with jagged and guttural vocals, the band carved a niche sound that has only elevated them across those 25 years.
With that said, Clutch has never shied away from trying new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but they always try, and for that, they deserve respect. It is difficult to sustain a band, with the same four members for an album, let alone 11 albums and 25 years, especially against the backdrop of endless touring.
The band may be a little older, but their allure continues to grow, showcasing that power on a nightly basis. They continue to chug along on their newest record Book of Bad Decisions. The Vance Power produced album is a fresh listen and one of the first “real” rock n roll records I have heard in a very long time. The band has written the best album of 1977, with a sound that I can only speak to as adventurous, open-road music. But the road is lined with birds that want to peck your eyeballs out. Comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time.
Album opener “Gimme the Keys” is a sludgy, punch of adrenaline, with the windows rolled down. “Spirit of 76” is trademark low-end Clutch with memorable singalong chorus. “How to Shake Hands” drives a snare drum attack intro into a serpentine guitar banger with Neil Fallon talking politics, his voice swelling “I’m gonna be President”, with the mantra “hot-damn, the democratic process”. “In Walks Barbarella” brings the funk as a horn section parallels Tim Sult’s staccato guitar. For those who want a class on English literature Clutch offers “Emily Dickinson”. A song that could only ever be shouted in a metal form by Neil Fallon and the band pulls it off like gangbusters.
“Ghoul Wrangler” keeps the toes tapping with Fallon’s charisma showing and Sult’s underrated guitar on blast. The band loves you so much you get “Hot Bottom Feeder” their fucking recipe for Maryland crab cakes. There was a definite point in the record where I knew we had hit pay dirt and that this was another top-notch record from a top-notch band…. I am unsure where in the record that was, but I found it, and held onto it, and next time I drive somewhere with the windows down Book of Bad Decisions will be rattling my door handles hopefully without the birds pecking at my eyeballs.
Music Madness caught up the Clutch guitarist Tim Sult before the big release and tour to talk about the new album and impending tour with Sevendust.
Music Madness: Congrats on the upcoming release of the band’s 12th studio album, Book of Bad Decisions on September 7th. Enjoyed what I heard.
Tim: Oh, cool. Thank you. Yeah, September 7th. Cannot wait.
Music Madness: With this being your 12th album. Does the release process get any easier or do you still get anxious?
Tim: Nah. I wouldn’t really say there’s anxiety, but it seems like within the last few years ever since we actually started putting out our own albums, we’ve actually managed to have better and better album set ups, if you know what I mean. Seems like this time we’ve done a better job of letting our fans know that we actually have an album coming out on September 7th than we have in the past.
Music Madness: Practice, it’s all a work in progress.
Tim: Exactly. It’s almost taken us 12 times to get this right.
Music Madness: The title track “Book of Bad Decisions“, had a great vibe to it. Sounded like it was a soundtrack to an outlaw movie or series. That would not be the first time a Clutch tune has been used.
Tim: That would be great. Yeah, a few of our songs have definitely gotten out there through video games, which I know nothing about and don’t play. I think the biggest thing it has ever been on was probably the “Walking Dead”. It was in the season finale on one of the seasons of the “Walking Dead”. That was probably the most mileage we have ever gotten out of something like that.
Music Madness: So, you have released a couple songs, “Give Me the Keys“, “How to Shake Hands” and “Hot Bottom Feeder“. How has the response been?
Tim: And there’s recently been a fourth one. One came out last week, “In Walks Barbarella” as well.
It’s been great. I mean, this is the first time we’ve really done four videos before an album came out, much less four videos while the album was out. I don’t think we’ve ever done more than two videos for one album.
Music Madness: Do you guys enjoy doing the videos?
Tim: It’s all part of the setup, part of the learning process. Yeah, I mean the fact that we’ve had these four lyric videos; it seems to really be letting people know that we have a new album coming out and that’s the most important thing.
It’s definitely a completely different beast, but it’s not that hard either. It’s very easy.
Music Madness: 15 songs on an album is a lot of songs and two songs that are over five minutes in length. Do you guys pay attention to that kind of stuff, the length of time on songs?
Tim: Well, those were all the songs we actually wrote for the new album, and we were kind of having a hard time whittling it down and deciding what songs to take off, so we decided just to put out double vinyl, which is something that we’ve never done. We’ve put out re-releases that are double vinyls. This is the first time we put out a full studio album that’s double LP. It just seemed like something different. Something fun to do and we did not have any particular hatred for any of the songs, so we decided to put them all out.
Music Madness: Do you have a favorite track on the new album that we have not heard yet?
Tim: Well, we’ve only been playing those first four that we’ve put out so far. Right now, probably my favorite is “In Walks Barbarella“, the most recent video that we did. So far, that is the one most fun to play live.
Music Madness: Big tour is coming up with Sevendust. That should be a great time and crowd for you guys.
Tim: They are actually doing the whole tour with us. It’s gonna be awesome.
Music Madness: How would you describe your sound to someone that is not familiar with Clutch?
Tim: I always just call it hard rock.
Music Madness: It has that bluesy with an edge vibe to it.
Tim: And you know we’re like a little bit of a funky Black Sabbath. You could say that.
Music Madness: Nice. There you go. You need to do a Sabbath remake on the next album.
Tim: We actually attempted to do “Zero the Hero”, which is one of the songs that Ian Gillan from Deep Purple sang on the Black Sabbath album, Born Again. At one point, we were doing that.
Tim: So, you never know.
Music Madness: How was it recording the new album, Book of Bad Decisions, in Nashville?
Tim: We recorded in Nashville for the first time using a new producer, Vance Powell, and it was super fun, super easy. It reminded me more of a 90s recording process, like one of our first albums where we would just go into the studio, start playing, and keep as much of that as possible.
Music Madness: So, is that something that the band did not do on the previous albums?
Tim: Yeah. I mean, the last couple albums have been done a little more on a computer, a little more edited together. This time is definitely much more of a live vibe.
Music Madness: Ah, okay. That’s always a fun vibe to have. So you went up Nashville and in three weeks created this baby?
Tim: We sure did. It was pretty easy actually.
Music Madness: Psychic Warfare was released about three years ago, have you been working on the new music since then?
Tim: Yeah. That is one of the things that we’re lucky to have. We had a lot of time to work on new material. Yeah, we probably had a good two and a half, three years of getting together, laying down some ideas, just letting those sit. Getting back together, laying down more ideas. I would say for this album, we probably had more musical ideas than we had for any other album in the past.
Music Madness: Why do you think that is?
Tim: Just ’cause we had the benefit of time, you know.
Music Madness: Which is funny, since you guys tour a ton.
Tim: We do tour quite a bit, but I think we’re just more efficient at it. We try to have it make more sense. We have a lot of time at home. Like, this year we haven’t really played a huge amount of shows.
It was kind of managed to balance out home time and tour time, and that gives us a lot more time to write new material.
Music Madness: Right on. We have the tour starting up, new music with four new videos. Are we looking at any more videos to go with the new LP?
Tim: We haven’t discussed that yet, but I can see that happening for sure.
Music Madness: When you guys are touring and promoting a new album, are your shows typically geared toward the new music, or do you guys still incorporate a nice blend of old and new?
Tim: You know it’ll probably depend on the nights. I’m sure some nights you’ll get a new song heavy set, whereas other nights you’ll get less new songs. We are just going to do what we always do. I would honestly love to play the entire album.
We did that a few times with Psychic Warfare where we actually did a set, did lots of sets, where we played every song off the album. But you know maybe playing 15 brand new songs might not be appropriate. I guess we will see what happens.
We’re probably not gonna decide what we’re gonna play until about an hour before we go on.
Music Madness: Right on. That is very Grateful Dead-ish of you.
Tim: They used to call us the Grateful Dead of Hardcore.
Music Madness: Are there still all original members in the band?
Tim: All of us.
Music Madness: Wasn’t there someone that played keyboards?
Tim: Yeah, Nick was not an original member of the band, and he plays on two albums. He hasn’t played on the last three.
Music Madness: Okay. So you know these guys from high school and you decide to start a band. All these years later, you are putting out your 12th album. How has that been?
Tim: You know, I really don’t look back and reflect on it as if it’s been a super long time, but you know, obviously, it has. It’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it that we’ve been a band for so long and we’re still doing it.
I think the most important thing is that we’ve always tried to remain creative, tried to play as many shows as we can, and just the feeling that the band is always growing and going somewhere I think has made the whole thing feel fresh all the time. It doesn’t get boring. It doesn’t feel like, “Oh, maybe I should get another job” or something like that.
Music Madness: I can tell you from somebody who has a job; it is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Tim: Yeah, exactly. We’ve been lucky that it always feels like it’s moving forward, growing. We’re getting new fans all the time. I have absolutely no complaints with the way Clutch has gone.
Even though it’s been 27 years, and when I say that out loud it just sounds ridiculous.
Music Madness: We have seen a resurgence over the last handful of years of these music festivals. I know Clutch has participated in them, but you aren’t constantly on those circuits. Is that done by design?
Tim: No, we love doing that, and like you said, every year it seems to get bigger and bigger. And yeah, it seems like every year we play more and more festivals and we move slowly up the bill on these festivals, and I think it’s a good thing for sure.
People always say rock is dead, but when 50 thousand people come to Ohio for a festival, you know that is not true.
Music Madness: It reminds me of watching TV as a kid and you would see these county fairs and the bands played quick sets, a song or two, then a quick out. Do you enjoy playing those quick sets?
Tim: Oh, yeah. Those shows are always super fun. And yeah, you’re right. The slot times do vary quite a bit. Sometimes we only play 30 minutes. Sometimes we play a full hour and 15 minutes, but it always feels like a day off at a festival.
Music Madness: Do you get to hang out and check out other bands?
Tim: Absolutely. All the time. For sure.
Music Madness: Do you ever talk of collaborating with other bands or musicians? Or is that not a Clutch thing?
Tim: Nothing like that has happened yet to tell you the truth.
We do have a keyboard player on the new album who has played live with us before. We have also played with another keyboard player who was a member of the Swedish metal band Opeth. So, we’re definitely open to that for sure.
Music Madness: What should fans be looking out for from Clutch?
Tim: In two weeks, we are going to start going on tour. We are going to play as many shows as we can and we’re probably not gonna come home until sometime around 2020.
Music Madness: Maybe the next video release needs to be a live one from the new album.
Tim: That’s not a bad idea. Actually what we should do is just play the new album live on YouTube.
Music Madness: Pick a cool venue and just do the whole thing live. It doesn’t need to be the biggest venue, maybe the most intimate, hole in the wall where you guys can just fucking blow it out.
Tim: Good idea. We definitely need to get more into that kind of stuff for sure. Live streaming our shows.
Music Madness: Tim, I appreciate your time and I will be seeing you at the end of September in Orlando.
Tim: Cool. Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
Check out Clutch at:
Upcoming Tour Dates 2018:
- Sunday, 9-16-18 in Chicago, IL at RiotFest
- Tuesday, 9-18-18 in St Paul, MN at Myth Live
- Wednesday, 9-19-18 in Kansas City, MO at Uptown Theater
- Friday, 9-21-18 in Houston, TX at HOB
- Saturday, 9-22-18 in San Antonio, TX at River City Rockfest
- Sunday, 9-23-18 in Dallas, TX at Gas Monkey Live
- Tuesday, 9-25-18 in Orlando, FL at House of Blues
- Thursday, 9-27-18 in Norfolk, VA at The NorVa
- Friday, 9-28-18 in Raleigh, NC at The Ritz
- Saturday, 9-29-18 in Atlanta, GA at The Masquerade
- Sunday, 9-30-18 in Louisville, KY at Louder Than Life
- Tuesday, 10-02-18 in Denver, CO at Ogden Theater
- Wednesday, 10-03-18 in SLC, UT at The Depot
- Friday, 10-05-18 in Boise, ID at Knitting Factory
- Saturday, 10-06-18 in Spokane, WA at Knitting Factory
- Sunday, 10-07-18 in Seattle, WA at Show SODO
- Monday, 10-08-18 in Vancouver, BC at Commodore Ballroom
- Tuesday, 10-09-18 in Portland, OR at Roseland Theater
- Thursday, 10-11-18 in San Francisco, CA at The Regency Ballroom
- Friday, 10-12-18 in Los Angeles, CA at El Rey Theater
- Saturday, 10-13-18 in San Bernadino, CA at Glen Helen Amphitheater
- Sunday, 10-14-18 in San Diego, CA at North Park/Observatory
- Monday, 10-15-18 in Tempe, AZ at The Marquee
- Wednesday, 10-17-18 in Tulsa, OK at Cain’s Ballroom
- Thursday, 10-18-18 in Sauget, IL at Pop’s Nightclub
- Friday, 10-19-18 in Grand Rapids, MI at 20 Monroe Live
- Saturday, 10-20-18 in Detroit, MI at The Filmore Detroit
- Sunday, 10-21-18 in Pittsburgh, PA at Stage AE
- Tuesday, 10-23-18 in Toronto, ON at Rebel
- Thursday, 10-25-18 in Worcester, MA at The Palladium
- Friday, 10-26-18 in New York, NY at Irving Plaza
- Saturday, 10-27-18 in New York, NY at Irving Plaza
- Sunday, 10-28-18 in Philadelphia, PA at Electric Factory
Review by Brian Furman & Interview by Steve Carlos