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Clutch: The profound levity of rock’n’roll

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By Salla Harjula

Funk rockers Clutch have been doing their thing for nearly a quarter century. It’s still a lot of work, it’s still wildly successful, it’s still from the heart. Most importantly, it’s still fun.

Upcoming album Psychic Warfare has a primal energy that feels signature Clutch. But this time the easy groove was tougher to achieve than it sounds, singer Neil Fallon says.

”There was a bit of a head game for us going on, because Earth Rocker was very successful for us. And people always put a band under a microscope when something like that happens. Like ok, will they deliver it again.”

”I know I got wrapped in that psychology. Then I realised, when we made Earth Rocker we never thought about that. We just made a record. So once I got over that head game, it became much easier.”

”And if we had thought about it so much, ‘let’s do something different, something different…’ Then it becomes more of a mental thing and I think music shouldn’t be too mental. It should be instinctual, from the heart.”

This is a maxim Clutch lives by. They have always been first and foremost a live act, and it’s rather charming to hear Neil wax lyrical about the profound importance of this.

”Recorded material, it’s only been around for about a hundred years. Even vinyl records are brand new technology. But playing live is hundreds of thousands of years old. So you’re kidding yourself if you think modern technology is making it more real. It’s not. It’s a distraction to what I consider almost a human sacrament.”

”You play music in a beat, and tell a story to people, and everyone gets on the same wavelength – you’re tapping into something much older.”

Not that there isn’t value in creating records too.

”You can’t play live 365 days a year to everyone on planet Earth. But you can do that with a record!”

True to their ethic of authenticity, Clutch have released their last three albums independently, through their own label. Neil loves it.

”Major labels, or any label, they’re in the business of hopefully selling platinum records. That’s what they all aspire to. And that’s all well and good.”

”Clutch isn’t that band. And we’re fine with that.”

”So we find ourselves in a position where, because of the internet and being able to reach people, we can cut out all the middle men. Of the whole process. And it’s not about selling the most records, it’s selling the right amount of records to the right people.”

”It’s made all the difference in the world. If something goes wrong, we know whom to talk to fix it. Ourselves. It’s like anything else: there’s more reward, there’s more work. But I’d rather have it be this way.”

While musically Clutch goes for your spine in a primal lunge, Neil is also a witty wordsmith. There’s humour and absurdity mixed together in a way that may or may not remind listeners of the fantastic Philip K. Dick, a writer Neil feels very inspired by.

”It’s more his overall philosophy or sometimes his mood or environment I find very intriguing. I can relate to it in a certain degree. Personally I think that reality and your subjective view of it, when those two things intersect… A lotta times genius and insanity are hand in hand.”

”In this day and age there’s so much information, you would think that truth would be easier to attain. But it’s actually becoming much more nebulous. Because everybody’s got their version of it. It’s become even more confusing. I think in that way Philip K. Dick was very prophetic.”

The side order of hilarity in the lyrics comes naturally to Neil.

”I’m not too serious a person. I like a good laugh. There are bands who are very serious; particularly metal bands tend to be very, very serious. And that’s all well and good, but that’s not us.”

”I like being surprised by lyrics. Even if you’re not laughing out loud, lyrics that make you chuckle on the inside, that’s just as valid as any other emotion. And this is supposed to be fun. This isn’t some academic exercise.”

Psychic Warfare is released on 2 October via Weathermaker Music.

*Photo by Dan Winters

 

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