Intervju med Neil Fallon i Clutch.
Clutch är tillbka med ett nytt album efter fyra års väntan. Jag ringde upp Neil för att snacka lite kort om nya plattan, framtidsplaner och skivindustrins framtid.
You´re about to hit the road again. Do you do any special preparations before a tour?
Neil: No, not really. I kinda know it by second nature at this point. Usually it´s just all the things that I´m supposed to do around the house over a couple of months that I try to get done.
Do you take any kind of special care of your voice when you´re out on tour?
Neil: Well, a couple of days before a tour I´ll start doing vocal warm up exercises and then I try to make it a point at the first couple of shows, to not overdo it and sometimes that´s not easy because you´re excited to get back out on the road. It´s just like any other muscle and I haven´t used it intensely for about a month now so you just gotta take it easy.
When you start working on a new album, like “Earth rocker”, is it all you guys working together or do you work separately on things and then come together?
Neil: It´s a little bit of both. Sometimes someone will come up with a riff and that will inspire someone else on the spot to come up with something. I would say that our best stuff usually happens kinda spontaneously when you´re in the room and get together and jam.
Does it ever happen that someone comes up with something totally crazy or do you usually all kinda fall into the same kinda riffs and melodies?
Neil: It´s hard to say. We´re a democracy so when a song is done it´s hard to say who wrote what. Sometimes maybe there´s a weird riff and it will change for reasons that are hard to say. Getting together and jamming is like second nature to us.
Does it ever seem like it would be easier if you weren´t a democracy and does it happen that you have to “kill your darlings” because you´re outvoted?
Neil: I guess that´s what a producer is for. A rented dictator (laughs), so when he´s done you can depose him. That´s important for a band like us where democracy is great, but it can also take forever to get things done. When you have somebody to say “No, that´s not a great idea.” Or “That´s a great idea.”, that you´re not paying close attention to, that helps things move along. Sometimes you can become emotionally attached to a part for no real good reason at all, but I guess that´s just human nature. I think we´re all mature enough to let things go. I´ve written countless riffs that have just ended up in the garbage can.
When you start writing for a new album, do you immediately try new stuff or do you go back to check what was left over from the previous album?
Neil: We´re always writing to some extent, whether we have an album coming out or not and it gets more intense when an album´s approaching. I think we try to react, both consciously and unconsciously, to do something different from the album we just did. “Strange cousins…” was sort of the dark mid tempo record and we wanted to write a faster record, so we knew that much going into it.
Is it usually the same guy that comes up with titles for the songs and for the album?
Neil: Well, since I write the lyrics it usually falls into my lap and I´m always asking the guys “What do you think of this? What do you think of that?”. “Strange cousins from the west" was taken directly from the lyrics. With “Earth rocker”, we were kinda hesitant to call it that because we didn´t want that one song to be kinda on the pedestal, but we couldn´t think of a better name so we just went with that. It´s an open forum to call the record whatever.
Is it ever hard coming up with new lyrics and trying not to repeat yourself?
Neil: Oh for sure. It´s always a struggle. I think I´m trying to strike a balance and not rehashing the same things over and over, but at the same time do what you do best. I think with this record, I was trying to not over think it too much. Sometimes I put the words in a higher position than the singing of it, so I try to keep it simple. Sometimes a song can be the easiest thing to write and it will write itself in five minutes and with some songs you bang your head up against the wall for months. It´s probably the same for a lot of people. It´s like I can say “Ok, right now the kids are asleep so I´m gonna head downstairs and write some lyrics.” And it never happens. (laughs) When it does happen, it is when I´m stuck in traffic or I´m in the shower or usually in a very inopportune moment and then the idea comes.
What would you say are your main influences for writing lyrics? Does it come from books or movies or just general life?
Neil: I try to write each song as if it was a short story and that way I can say whatever I want and not be called out on it, it´s just gonna be like fiction. It´s usually stuff that I overhear out of context or some strange phrase. For example, in “Electric worry” the chorus “Bang bang bang vamanos” was something that Tim was saying when we were kinda joking about how in Japan a lot of English that you see on t-shirts, doesn´t make a whole lot of sense. That was a phrase that we just kept kicking around and it just presented itself when we were writing that song. It really can come from anywhere.
Does it ever happen that those short stories that make up the songs, are something that you could think of turning into a longer story, like a novel?
Neil: Oh, sure. I get that feeling but I never follow up on it and that´s the problem. Writing a song… and I´ve been doing it for so long and when you write the chorus, all of a sudden half of the work is done and you know how long each line has to be and what rhymes to keep, but just a blank page without anything and no point of reference, is pretty intimidating.
Did you record stuff for “Earth rocker” that didn´t end up on it?
Neil: Yeah, we recorded three more songs that didn´t make the record.
Any plans for those songs? Are they gonna end up like bonus tracks or something?
Neil: That´s a possibility. We´re probably gonna rerelease this record and then they´ll end up on that, or not. We´ll listen to them again in a couple of months with fresh ears, but we definitely wanted to keep this record short, like the classic LP length.
What are your thoughts about the future when it comes to music? In 10 years you probably don´t need to make artwork for an album because everybody´s just downloading it and you might just release a song here and a song there.
Neil: I think there is that aspect of it that it´s become a lot more disposable and it´s so easy now. When we were younger you got a little bit of money and you´d make a special trip to that special record store where they carried heavy metal and you only had so much money that you had to decide which record you were gonna buy and you could only get one or two. When you brought it home it was like bringing a child home. You listened to it and you´d bring your friends over to listen. Now it´s like “I´ll just download 500 songs and just skip over the intro until I find something I like and maybe I´ll listen to that song one more time before I die.” And that´s unfortunate. The other side of it though, for bands like us, we´re not for everybody and we´re not a big radio band or what have you. You don´t have to sell platinum records to make money, you can find your audience across the globe and for us nothing´s really changed. We never really made money off of our records until we actually started putting them out ourselves. Maybe in some ways it´s come full circle because early records didn´t have any artwork and the only places you could hear them was at bars or maybe that artist would come and play and it was a big deal.
Are you optimistic when it comes to the future of the record industry and being a touring band or are you more pessimistic?
Neil: I´d like to think it´s realistic in that we´re not thinking that we´re gonna be selling and hanging up gold records on our walls and retire early. I think all we´re really hoping for is to be able to have music or do something creative as our career. To be able to do something creative and you´re an artist and have that impulse… most people have to wait for the weekend to do that or after work and to be able to do this as a job is a pretty rare thing and that´s what we´re hoping will continue. Who knows what will change in the future? I take a broader look at it as far as music goes. The heydays of selling records as really only in the 70´s and the 80´s and then the 90´s came and the cd´s appeared. It´s really a brief period of time in the grand scheme of things so I guess I´m optimistic.
How long do you see yourselves touring with “Earth rocker”?
Neil: We´ll be out for just about a year. We´ve got two US tours and then we go back to Europe for festivals and then take a break at the end of summer, but the probably go back to Europe again in the fall. That will bring us up to Christmas time when we do a run through the States usually and before you know it, it´s pretty much a year from now so we´re busy.
Even though you get to travel the world and play, it´s gotta be a tough line of work?
Neil: It is. I´m thankful that we live in the age of the cell phone. The older one gets, the deeper one´s roots goes and now that you have a family and children it´s even tougher. The good thing is that when I am home, I´m home 24/7 and have some really good quality time, but it is tough for sure.
Some of your songs have appeared in different TV-shows and computer games. Is it usually that you´re approached by someone or do you actively try to get your music into different medias as a way of promotion?
Neil: It´s both. We have a publisher that pursue these things and sometimes it´s people looking for music. Other times it comes from the ground up. Like an intern with a director who happens to be a metal head goes “Hey, what about this?” and we´ll get a request. The Vancouver Canucks NHL hockey team use “Electric worry” for their goal games and that was something that came from them, so it´s a little bit of both.
How does that work? Do you get paid once or do you get paid every time they use it?
Neil: Oh god no! As far as the hockey thing goes, we don´t get paid anything. TV is not as lucrative as people think. You get paid a couple of hundred bucks and that´s about it and it´s the same with movies. You get a onetime fee, unless it´s a theme song to the opening credit. If anything it´s just publicity and I guess that´s why they can get away without paying a whole lot of money for it. Not only are they doing you a favor, but if you don´t like the offer, they just go to somebody else.
Final thing. What are your thoughts on Clutch five years from now?
Neil: Well, I certainly hope will do another record quickly. It´s almost four years between “Strange cousins…” and this one and hopefully there will be another record out and a tour as well. As long as we can keep doing this for a living and stay happy and healthy, that´s all I want.