LEFT 4 LIVE Clutch

The D.C. band’s
time is now.

 

BY
MICHAEL G. PLUMIDES, JR.

 

“We
never said we were a stoner rock band,” insists Neil Fallon.

 

He’s
right: his D.C.-based band Clutch transcends labels with their fusion of ZZ
Top-style riffs and pounding Deep Purple rhythms while harnessing the power of
bands like Monster Magnet and Masters of Reality to keep the Kyuss fans smoking
the sticky shit.  Although an advocate of
the legalization of marijuana, Fallon doesn’t partake. “I used to smoke a lot
of pot when I was younger. I quit because it didn’t fit my personality type.”

 

But
the singer’s support for legalization is more anti- government, punk rock
ethos, than it is for the love of burning down. “Growing up in the ‘burbs
during the Reagan and Bush eras listening to Bad Brains, Minor Threat and
Discharge,” according to Fallon, created an army of anarchists. “For government
to dictate to me that I’m not responsible enough as an adult to possess a
controlled substance like marijuana is ridiculous. It doesn’t sit well with me.
It pisses me off.”

 

Good
friend Bob Balch of Fu Manchu praised Clutch’s musicianship and how envious
other bands are of their decades of “memorable riffs” in Clutch’s DVD on
Weathermaker (Clutch’s own label), Live
At the 9:30
. And If you caught
their amazing set at Bonnaroo (within minutes of Margaret Cho blowing Oderus
Urungus of GWAR onstage, or were fortunate enough to see them in Europe this
summer, you know Clutch brings it, in spades. 

 

In
2009, Clutch released their first on Weathermaker, Strange Cousins from the West further illustrating their organic
progress. This year and into next, they’ll be heating up the road supporting
the re-release of From Beale Street to Oblivion, possibly
their best work, noting their transition to straight up rock music. The
two-disc set features an additional live disc with tracks recorded from the
BBC. Originally issued in ’07 by the now defunct DRT label, when asked what
happened to DRT, Fallon drily notes, “DRT stopped paying bands.” Clutch forced
the label’s hand through legal wrangling, and lassoed their rights back after
soured dealings, which caused Beale Street‘s
temporary removal from record shelves in 2008. 
“It’s so much easier to handle it yourself these days,” Fallon adds. “It
makes no sense to me for punk rock bands to sign these 360 deals with the 1982
business model.”

 

The
Clutch line up has never waivered since the band’s inception: Fallon, Tim Sult
on guitar, Dan Maines on bass and J.P. Gaster on drums (with additional
musicians Mick Schauer on Hammond B-3, and Eric Oblander on harmonica), and has
developed a reputation as a “musician’s band.” 
But how do you account for Clutch having released nine studio recordings
and played for two decades with only marginal success until now?  Well, you can thank an army of groove-metal
heads, incessant touring, and Left 4 Dead
2
. Remember that commercial earlier this year? “Bang, bang, bang, bang! Vominos! Vominos!”  Yep. That’s Clutch.

 

When
asked if the popularity of the zombie-killing video game (featuring their song
“Electric Worry,” also on Beale Street)
had anything to do with their resurrection, Fallon observes, “It certainly
didn’t hurt any. It was part of the equation, I think. But touring has kept the
band alive. We’ll never sell a gold record. We never wanted to be ‘most likely
to succeed.’ And it took us a while to figure out that a lot of kids get their
music from video games. They’re not getting it from a 7″ at the local punk rock
store. That’s been dead for decades. But it’s almost an embarrassment of
riches.”

 

Clutch’s
lyrics possess a certain damning reverence in songs like “The Devil in Me,” and
Fallon’s demon-seed street preacher persona on stage is authentic. But when
asked if he’s a shy man, he doesn’t totally disagree. “I’m not so much shy; I
just keep to my own business. I’m not an extroverted person. Onstage, I don’t
get into some kind of Ziggy Stardust-mode, but because I get to do that every
night-I get to scream and holler and make loud music-it is it’s own form of
therapy. When it’s all said and done, I don’t feel like screaming and yelling
anymore.”

 

On
a personal level, Fallon seems content with his life. He’s renovating a house
(“You gotta watch the contractors every second”) and is happy at home. When
asked about his new son, you could hear the warmth and pride in his voice. “It’s
a wonderful thing, being a dad. I can’t believe it’s real. I think I’m gonna nickname
him, ‘The Time Bandit.'”

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