What happens when you have a band that was born out of fury and has since evolved into controlled madness? In Clutch’s case, you release Pure Rock Fury, a funk-fueled, hard rock assault on the senses. They’ve managed to hover outside the grasp of mainstream rock, but they still draw a crowd everywhere they go. Without major radio airplay, the men of Clutch are looking to take over stages around the world, and if they hear their tune on random stations throughout, it’s an added bonus. We caught up with bassist Dan Maines at a show in St. Petersburg, Florida and sat down to chat about the new album, the sad state of rock music today, and how they plan on fixing it.
So how is the tour and everything?
Tour is going excellent. We’re winding down to the end. We have four more shows left. It’s been really great. It started with us, Vision Of Disorder, Murphy’s Law, and Tree. Murphy’s had to leave two weeks ago to take care of some stuff in New York City, but it’s been fun, having good friends like these guys out on the road with us.
The last time I saw Clutch, you brought out Karma To Burn, 60 Watt Shaman, and Corrosion Of Conformity. This tour with VOD and Tree seems a little more hard- edged than the stoner vibe of the last tour.
Yeah, that was more of a straight up rock tour. COC and ourselves had albums coming out and we’ve known them since we started in 1991. They were one of the first bands that gave us the opportunity to play outside our home state of Maryland. We wanted to keep that tour the same throughout. Karma To Burn and 60 Watt are the same way, just hard rocking bands. Plus they’re all good friends of ours. But with this run, we tried to change things. You never want to play the same show all the time. When we first began touring ten years ago it was with hardcore bands. We’ve been a part of that scene since we started, but now we’ve kind of evolved out of it, so we can still do both.
When I saw you in November, Neil mentioned that the album title was going to be Slow Hole To China. Why the change to Pure Rock Fury?
Well, we have a song called “Slow Hole To China”. But by the time we finished recording the record, we had fifteen or sixteen songs together, which is good because you can cut the songs that don’t fit. We try to cover a lot of bases on our albums, and if there’s say four songs that basically do the same thing, we can leave off the weakest ones. We have songs from all the records that we can hopefully put out one day. So once we dropped the song, it was kind of pointless to blend the title with the album. It didn’t really follow what we were doing.
So you try to follow a theme with the music and the album itself?
The last record we made before this was Jam Room. It was independently released and very jam-oriented. It was just a ‘push record and play something’ thing. We did the opposite with Pure Rock Fury. The songs are more straightforward and hard hitting with elements of Jam Room. We made it as forceful and hard as possible, with more layers involved. That was the theme, just being harder and heavier than what Jam Room was.
Some of the songs on Pure Rock Fury were produced by Machine. Is he a friend or was that something that was set up by the label?
He was someone we had heard of, but we never seriously considered him until someone from Columbia recommended he track our demos to see what we thought. It was a cool experience. His style of recording was one hundred and eighty degrees from what we usually do. When we worked with him, we just wrote as we recorded. We came to him with ideas and he puts them in his system. He records with A-Dats directly into a computer system, so we could take our recordings and cut and splice them up to make them sound how we wanted them to sound. That was something we’d never done before, but it was really interesting to do. The only songs that he did that are on the album are “Careful With That Mic” and “Open Up The Border”, which we redid with some of his work included.
Did you guys pick the cover for the “Careful With That Mic” single from Pro-Rock.com?
Yeah, we browsed all of the entries and picked the winners. We were really impressed with the design of the guy who won it.
It’s a nice fit. So is the release going to have some of the tracks that didn’t make the album?
It’s going to have “Careful With That Mic”, something off of Jam Room, a live recording from the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, and a song from the b-sides of Pure Rock Fury called “Gilded Mute Assassins”.
Any video in the works?
We’re really focusing on getting “Careful With That Mic” played on the radio. That’s never been something we’ve had success at, but it’s getting airtime. With all the conforming music that’s being played out there today, it’s a really cool thing when you hear your music on radio all over the place, not just in your hometown.
You tried something from Miles Davis’ recording techniques by using both live and studio material for certain tracks. How did that come about?
We just wanted to try something different. On “Frankenstein” it goes from studio to live back to studio, and on “Brazenhead” we really just used that live intro with the rest of it coming from the studio. That whole Bitches Brew thing was just really coarse and raw but still sounded crisp like it was all done in studio. We just used that style as inspiration. It added a new element and we think it worked out pretty well.
Why the live version of “Spacegrass”?
We’ve always toyed with the idea of a live record and that’s kind of the test to see how it’s taken. When it comes time to do the live record, we’ll have had experience doing some of it.
Cool. Looking forward to that. You’re also in the Bakerton Group. What’s happening with that?
That came at a time when we we’re in limbo with Clutch. We were still searching for a label for a new record. We have a few tracks recorded and plan on doing more, but it takes a lot more time. It’s so much different from what we do with Clutch. It’s good though, because it’s broadened our scope of what we thought we could do in Clutch. Jam Room is a direct result of a lot of what we’ve come up with in Bakerton Group. We actually did some live shows back home, and put together full sets of seven or eight songs. We did a few covers, “Born Under a Bad Sign”, “Sissy Strut”, which is a Meters song. We did “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” from Cream and Dan from 60 Watt sang on it. We’d like to release something lengthy at some point, but right now we’re doing the Clutch thing full time.
I consider Clutch a band that kind of hangs on the outside of mainstream. What do you think of the commercialism and mass appeal of heavy music today?
I think there’s two ways of approaching music. You can try to replicate something you hear, which is where a lot of popular music is now, or you can take a sound you really like and use it as inspiration but do something different and original with it. That’s what we’ve done. I think good music will stand the test of time. I’d rather be a band that may not achieve huge success now, but one that still remains ten or twenty years down the road.
I can definitely see that happening. So what are your plans for the remainder of the year?
Touring. We want to let everyone out there know we’re here, the record is out, and to just be heard. We’re heading to Europe after this stint. We’ll be back to tour Canada with Finger 11, and then we’ll probably go back out and do the States again in the fall.
Cool. Hope you can make it down to Florida when you do America again.
Well, we’ll have hit everywhere once this tour is done, so it’s a good possibility. We like Florida, not everyone does, but we seem to get a good response every time we’re down here.
One last question. What do you see as hip in the music world today?
Well, the mainstream rock genre is really flooded right now with bands trying to outdo each other, basically doing the same stuff. I guess that’s hip when everyone is buying your record, but we don’t really know what’s hip. We’ve distanced ourselves from that niche. It enables us to see in and know what not to do.
Excellent thought. Stay outside, and you’ll never have to worry about being lumped in with everyone else.
That’s about it, yeah. Hopefully we can get in your head. It’s all about having fun, and that’s what we’re always doing. Our music reflects it, and so do our fans.
+ rick hinkson