CLUTCH vocalist Neil Fallon recently spoke with Australia’s Heavy magazine. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On new album “Book Of Bad Decisions”:
Neil: “We recorded the record with Vance Powell in Nashville. I think it has a very live sound. That makes sense, as Vance‘s background is with live music. Even though it was primarily country music, the basics and fundamentals of recording music [are] the same regardless of the genre. It’s probably one of the longer records we’ve had in some time. We intended to put 10 songs on. We recorded 15, and we couldn’t decide which ones we wanted to dump, so we just said, ‘Forget it — let’s put them all on there’… It’s a pretty diverse record as far as tempos go, and moods of the music.”
On choosing Powell to produce the album:
Neil: “He’s no stranger to [rock]. He had mixed RED FANG and done work with Jack White and THE DEAD WEATHER. He’s an old punk rock guy who just happened to fall into the country music scene, so it wasn’t a complete new world for him. I’m glad we made that choice.”
On having Powell join the band on tour before they started recording:
Neil: “I think that was a really smart move. We had most of the songs written well before we were in the studio, so he heard a lot of the songs, and he came up with very specific ideas. I think the main thing was he felt like our records in the past didn’t really reflect the live sound, and I think he was really trying to get it as much as it does as we are on stage.”
On the album’s title:
Neil: “There’s a track on the record called ‘Book Of Bad Decisions’. I’ll be honest — I was reluctant to name the record after one of the songs, but after giving it some thought, it seemed like that could kind of imply that every song is a chapter of this book. It’s by no means a concept record, but once I stepped away and tried to look at the big picture, it just seemed like a good fit.”
On the group’s writing process, and how it has changed over the years:
Neil: “I think for the most part, it’s the same as when we were 19 years old — we get together and we kick around riffs. I listen to them, and some of them inspire lyrics; some don’t. There was one particular new thing that happened. Jean-Paul [Gaster, drums] over the past year or two started playing mandolin, and he wrote a couple riffs on the mandolin. Tim [Sult, guitar] and Dan [Maines, bass] learned how to play it on bass and Les Paul, and some of these riffs ended up on the record. There’s one song, ‘A Good Fire’, that’s actually JP‘s riff. That’s new for us, and that’s a cool thing… We write for ourselves because that’s what the fans like. I know that’s trying to have it both ways, but I think if we were to write a song trying to engineer it to sound a certain way, our fans would see right through it, and maybe the reason they got into the band in the first place is because it was different than many of the other bands they listened to.”
On the band’s early days:
Neil: “I think we kind of got caught up in that wave of bands that were getting signed in the early ’90s after NIRVANA became such the phenomenon that it was. A lot of bands that, if were three or four years ago, a major label would never even entertain signing a band like CLUTCH. It just happened to be that we were in the right place at the right time. We did that dance for ten years in the ’90s, and when that well dried up, we just kind of basically started over again.”
On his early musical vision for CLUTCH:
Neil: “I didn’t have one. I think that can be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, not having a preconceived notion will take you to places that you wouldn’t be. If you don’t have a plan, you can’t fail at it. I think Jean-Paul and Tim probably had more of a vision than I did, because I was not a musician, to be honest. I learned to play guitar after I joined the band, which is kind of backwards, but that’s the way it happened.”
On how he thinks the band has changed musically over the years:
Neil: “I listened to some songs on [debut album] ‘Transnational [Speedway League]’ not too long ago. It sounds like a completely different band, particularly my voice. I used to think things like pitch and melody were what commercial bands were supposed to do, and I think I kind of struggled to find my voice. It took me a few years. The self-titled record was put us on the trajectory that we’re still on to this day. It’s always hard to talk about because I’m so close to it. We’ve changed quite a bit, but we’re also the same four people, so there’s still that collective personality [that] hasn’t changed.”
On the band’s experimental nature:
Neil: “I think it happens naturally. Life’s too short to not want to try to learn new things while you’re here. Sometimes when writing a record, we’ll say, ‘Okay, we’ve got five or six straight-ahead, uptempo rockers. Maybe we should try writing a song that’s a slower tempo, or in a minor key, or even some finger-picking bass stuff that we sometimes do.’ Sometimes Jean-Paul says, ‘We don’t have any songs in this time signature,’ and we will think about that, but for the most part, we kind of follow our guts and not overthink it too terribly.”
On whether, after 12 albums, it’s become easier to write new music or more difficult:
Neil: “It becomes easier to second-guess oneself, and to self-edit. That’s a thing I struggle with a lot — saying, ‘Oh, this riff sounds like that one from 20 years ago,’ or ‘I already used a line like that in a song 15 years ago.’ To me, the struggle lyrically, it’s trying to not get too redundant, but at the same time, I’ve discovered that sometimes, you can revisit the same idea and take a new angle. I try to better myself — I just took my first vocal lesson maybe five months ago. Jean-Paul still takes lessons. If you do that, you’re able to hopefully increase your vocabulary over the years.”
“Book Of Bad Decisions” will be released on September 7. The disc was recorded at Sputnik Sound studio. The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.
CLUTCH‘s fall 2018 “Book Of Bad Decisions Tour” with support from SEVENDUST and TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN will kick off September 18 in St. Paul, Minnesota and wrap October 28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.