I have always maintained that if I ever got married, the Clutch song “Green Buckets” would have to play at the wedding. It is the most romantic song about recycling and fighting barbarians ever. “Let A Poor Man Be”, “King Of Arizona”, “Ship Of Gold”, “Ghost”, “Electric Worry”, “Guild Of Mute Assassins”, the mighty and often forgotten “Effigy”…I could list amazing songs by the Maryland quartet all day. My favorite band going on fourteen years now, they remain one of the hardest working and touring groups out there and have never made a bad album.
Some hippies will gush over a boring jam band while I yawn and think about how Clutch can out jam the best of them. Hipster blogs will gush over one keyboard and someone stroking a tambourine with a feather while a token skinny girl in a tank top mumbles, but that sure isn’t as cool as “Release The Kraken” or the eternal power of “Spacegrass”. Kids will get super excited about some new jack, redundant hardcore band, but it never matches the effortless intensity of “Impetus”.
It was an honor to speak with guitarist Tim Sult of Clutch at a Poughkeepsie, NY show (with great openers Lionize) about Clutch’s upcoming plans, football team loyalty, releasing new songs from The Mob on Clutch’s own Weathermaker Music, getting a song placed in The Walking Dead and more!! It was also cool to meet and drink beers with photographer Steve Truglio (who shot the JAM ROOM booklet gear photos) and compare our favorite Clutch shows ever . I think we agreed the best we ever both saw was a Coney Island High show Clutch played back in the day.
Click HERE to read the interview and see exclusive live pics!
Morgan Y. Evans: I was watching a Chess Records documentary the other day and they were talking about how they thought Muddy Waters kind of invented the basic imprint of a rock band with the standard 4 piece instrumentation. Some people say “Rock is Dead” but you prove more than many other bands that you can still be inventive as a basic rock outfit. I mean, you had Mick Schauer (keys) for awhile, but…with the basic structure, how do you guys…uh, keep comin’ up with the hits?
Tim Sult: Well, we just keep writing songs. We throw out most of the stuff that is too terrible to keep. We’ve been working on new material since STRANGE COUSINS FROM THE WEST came out. At the end of last week we finished our first week of preproduction for the next album. So, I would say…y’know, we just keep it going by continuing to write songs. We continue to lay down ideas and riffs and put it all together. We have so much time to do it. We don’t just go into the studio and rush and try to write something. We lay down riffs sometimes for years before we get to actually formulating an album, like we are doing now.
MYE: You want it to last. You aren’t gonna just try and fit into the dub step culture or whatever’s trendy.
TS: Right. Exactly. I don’t know what we’re trying to do. We are just trying to write songs that we like personally.
MYE: That seems a lot better than doing songs just for an album cycle and not writing at all until it is time for a new album. You are always writing regardless, so it happens organically. Some “in-between” material is…one of my favorite albums of yours is the rarities and B-sides record SLOW HOLE TO CHINA and it is pretty much as good as the “real” Clutch records!
TS: Um, yeah…That was a few different recording sessions and we ended up with all those B-sides. The way we’ve always looked at it as far as the album cycle goes…to us it was never just about the album cycle. It wasn’t ,”Oh, we’re gonna make an album and go on tour”. Blah, blah, blah. It was just something that we couldn’t stop and we haven’t been able to stop ever since.
MYE: What has kept you going when a lot of bands who started when you did are now doing reunion shows! You guys have kept kicking ass the whole time.
TS: I don’t know if we have been “kicking ass”…
MYE: My terminology, and I’m sticking to it. You are the best live band in the world.
TS: Well…thanks. We just never stopped and we were never a huge band to begin with. It’s something that’s still building. I can see at the shows new faces. That keeps it exciting for me, that it always feels like it is moving forward. A lot of bands, probably the ones you are thinking of from the 90′s doing reunion tours now, a lot of those bands were big bands who had gold or platinum albums. We never had that.
MYE: It’s pretty cool that you have been featured in some sports shows and licensed to some great programs.
TS: Yeah. We’re always down with that. If people want to use our music, that’s cool. It’s not like we make a ton of money off something like that. I guess one of the best placements we’ve had was that Walking Dead show. It was recently. It’s not like we got rich off that but it was still cool and awesome.
MYE: My buddy Matty Rice was wondering if you were Ravens or Redskins fans?
TS: Unfortunately we are all…(says real slowly after pausing for dramatic effect) Redskins fans . We were born that way. We’re all from closer to the D.C. area and then the Ravens kind of came along when I was way older. Believe me, I have tried so hard to become a Ravens fan or even a Steelers fan at one time! I live out in West Virginia and there’s a lot of Steelers fans, but I couldn’t do it. My heart was with the Redskins.
MYE: Stay true. I admire that. I wanted to ask a few things about your career and also mention a few incidental things. I have a memory of a show…you played Bowery Ballroom and it was literally a few days before Y2K was supposed to happen.
MYE: I had this theory. I know you stopped playing “Binge and Purge” for awhile because of the meathead factor that it usually made for really violent pits. I remember you played it that night and everyone thought the world was going to end in a few days, but I have never seen you play it since then. I thought that maybe you decided to just play it that night since the world was going to end anyway? There won’t be any liability that way!
TS: I honestly have no recollection of the last time we played “Binge And Purge”. I wouldn’t mind playing that one again. I mean, at the time there was a bit of a meathead factor but I think that is probably gone at this point.
MYE: Back to the organic process, you came out of the hardcore scene in some sense. “Far Country” and stuff like that. I know you guys were fans of forward thinking bands like Bad Brains, for example. Then you evolved into a bluesy sound but there is a definite continuity. You used to play with the percussionist’s Heartbeat. Do you think through playing a lot together you had a desire to expand on what you were doing or did the music kind of bring you there (an evolution)?
TS: It wasn’t really a conscious thing. Personally I can’t really hear much of a difference between TRANSNATIONAL and what we are doing now, It feels the same when I play it. Maybe the arrangements are a little more in normal song arrangements than they were back then. For me, the blues influence has always been there ever since the second album with “Tight Like That”. All the newer stuff, there’s even a different kind of blues influence.
MYE: You remind me of Tony Iommi, not that you sound like him, but as a guitarist you can really make the most of a riff. You make every note count and it can even be really repetitive and often that makes it even better. Maximizing what you are playing. You can lock into a groove and just hypnotize people.
TS: Maximizing the riff potential.
MYE: I want to share a Clutch-worthy anecdote. Have you ever seen the T.V. show Oddities?
TS: I’ve heard of it. I haven’t seen it yet.
MYE: It is antique collectors and fans of the obscure looking for shrunken heads and cool weirdo stuff. One of my old guitar players, Ryan, is one of the main guys on that show. And Chris Laidlaw, who was at Bearsville Studios and worked with you guys on ROBOT HIVE/EXODUS, his old assistant engineer Damien was my other guitar player. We had a band called Fuse in the late 90′s. This was the closest I had to my own Clutch type live experience. We were playing a Burton Snowboard’s party. I think it was the year we opened for Orange 9mm and it was crazy. We covered your song “12 oz. Epilogue” with an old hippie playing fiddle and there were hot strippers and lots of free Jager. It was insane. It was really a great time. I was wondering if you could share your own crazy live experience? I know you have played so many shows…
TS: That sounds like it was an awesome time (laughing). Y’know, at this point they all have kind of blended together. It is funnest for me, as long as there are no incidents of violence at the shows. I guess memorable stuff is opening for Slayer or playing with Iron Maiden, who we sound nothing like. Playing with bands I loved from before Clutch started. That’s almost the coolest stuff as far as the kid in me.
MYE: Also, I love that you can hang with bands of so many styles and do your thing. You just get up there and it doesn’t matter who you are sharing the stage with. It usually goes over, If I remember correctly you even shot “The Soapmakers” video on that Slayer tour, right? I didn’t see any thrown bottles and Slayer are notoriously difficult to open for.
TS: Yeah, we did. It went over surprisingly well. We were told very few bands actually go over well. It worked out for Iron Maiden to. And we sound, again, nothing like those bands. But it still sounds powerful live to some people.
MYE: If there wasn’t the continuity between records from the beginning to now, it wouldn’t work so well live in a set list without being disjointed.
MYE: I wanted to ask about The Mob record you are putting out on your label? I know you have been friends with Jack from that band for a long time.
TS: Yep. They are putting out a 7″ and it’s awesome. I think it was Jack’s idea. Maybe it was our idea. The Mob is an awesome band. Honestly, I never really listened to them back in the day when I was into hardcore. I heard them later when I met Jack. But those guys are awesome and they wanted to do it and we wanted to do it. So, yeah. I think one song is an older song and one of the songs is a brand new track. They recorded three songs. Three are available digitally and two are on the single.
MYE: The song “One Eye Dollar”, you did it first on JAM ROOM and then re-did it later on BEALE STREET. I was wondering why? I like both versions but otherwise don’t recall you rerecording much older material save for acoustic versions or the reworked “The Regulator” you recently did.
TS: We were playing that song live and we were doing a version where we were combining it with another song. We ended up just wanting to track it like that again because it felt right and Neil retooled some of the lyrics slightly.
MYE: I love the LIVE IN FLINT MICHIGAN record. You’ve done so many shows, again. I have seen the band about 15 times and can think of shows where “Rats” at the old Northern Lights club near Albany was amazing or “Power Player” really stood out at another show when you toured with Black Label Society. You are known as a great live band, one of the best I have ever seen. How do you pick what performances to represent you as a live document? Do you feel you have captured the true essence of a live Clutch show yet on recording?
TS: Yeah, I mean…the LIVE AT 9:30 CLUB show looks great but I honestly didn’t feel like I had a good show at all. The latest live DVD. LIVE AT THE GOOGLEPLEX was a mixture of several different shows, which I think is the best way to do it. LIVE IN FLINT was a mixture of two different shows. Honestly, I would like a better live documentation of this band than what we have now.
MYE: You’ll get it. You set a high bar!
MYE: Thank you. You guys have been my favorite band since the dawn of time. Rock on.
Note: This show at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY may have had the worst sound I ever heard at a Clutch gig (my fifteenth time seeing them live). My photographer had to take pictures from a rowdy mosh pit due to security not letting her behind the stupid barricade (so it is testament to her skill that she got such great shots). Still, it was a great fuckin’ night!
Live band pics by J.M.
Special Thanks to Oscar Hernandez for being super cool.