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PURE ROCK NONCONFORMIST: 
An Interview with Clutch's Neil Fallon

By Alicia Downs


Clutch continue to be one of the most innovative and fresh bands out there. They continue to be difficult, it not impossible, to categorize and yet with each new record, the band shows bigger and stronger rock'n'roll muscles. Their newest CD, "Pure Rock Fury" was recently released and the band is on tour in support of the new CD.

Our Alicia Downs caught up with the band's Neil Fallon recently and talked to him about the past, the future and what Clutch is all about.


Rough Edge: I want to start by saying thank you for doing this. 

Neil: Oh, of course. 

Rough Edge: Your newest release, "Pure Rock Fury," is doing well on radio in comparison to some of the band's previous efforts. What do you think may attribute to that? 

Neil: Yeah, in comparison to the one's we've done in the past, this one has gotten the most airplay. I think a lot of it has to do with John Nardachone at Atlantic. When we were originally at Atlantic, he was, you know, well he wasn't he an assistant but he was kind of starting out there. And since then he has blown up a lot of bands and he carries a lot of weight and he has always been in our camp. So, he's pushed it out. I mean as far as radio goes it's mostly just politics.

Rough Edge: That brings me the question that this marks a return to Atlantic records. Any particular reason for the frequent label changes? 

Neil: The label changes are ALWAYS brought about by labels dropping us. I think a lot of times they will hear our demos and think they can get it on the radio but when it doesn't blow up ... what they need is like an enormous blow up ... they'll drop us. Because what I think is there are a lot of people in the music industry that don't necessarily have a very good work ethic, so we went back to Atlantic because that guy John Nardachone that I was telling you about is one of the exceptions to the rule.  

Rough Edge: I heard talk about the possibility of a video for title track "Pure Rock Fury." Any truth to that?  

Neil: Well, yes and no. I mean it's something that we want to do but it is not something that has been budgeted for by the label. They are doing a small thing, I think called an EPK, which I don't really know what it is. I guess it's sort of like a really low key, almost like an interview on a video camera. But as far as production, you know, if they are going to give us fifty thousand to do a video, I'd rather use the fifty thousand to tour or, I don't know, do something fun. 

Rough Edge: I've also noticed the divergence from a heavier sound on this album. It almost sounds like there is a lot more of a funk influence. Was that a conscious effort? 

Neil: Not really. I mean each album is like a snapshot of where we are. We slowly progress because I think we get bored with the style that we used previously but it is never intentional. The only things that we do intentional is that when we are playing things and we realize that it is similar to something we have done in the past, then we kind of ax it.  

Rough Edge: Do you think that might be why there has been some trouble putting Clutch into a genre, because no two albums have been the same? 

Neil: Well, I think that's one thing that has helped us getting signed to label after label because the new stuff sounds so different from what they think didn't work in the past. But as far as sitting on the fence in between genres, I think that is a good thing because it's not good if you're too easily described. 

Rough Edge: Is there any particular track on the album that you're fond of more so than the others or that you think represented you more so where you are now? 

Neil: I think that the two that I am most fond of are "Smoke Banshee" and "Brazenhead." "Smoke Banshee" in particular because that track is actually a live track with overdubs on it but the basic track is rhythm guitar, some vocals. That was actually the first time we had ever performed that live so it was just that it captured that initial energy. Sometimes it's hard to play a song with that enthusiasm after you've played it three or four hundred times. And "Brazenhead" I like almost for the same reason. It was kind of something that we wrote off the cuff, just kind of went with it at the last minute and those are always the freshest things compared to songs that you work and rework.  

Rough Edge: You guys have toured with an eclectic group of bands. You've gone from C.O.C. to Manson. Where do you see yourself fitting in, or do you?

Neil: Well, I see us fitting in only that we are a rock'n'roll band. When people have to write about rock'n'roll they have to use adjectives to describe it. But I think that it's kind of a point of pride that we can tour with Slayer and Limp Bizkit and still win people over. I mean nine times out of ten most of the crowd doesn't come to see us and when you have two thousand people, just a small percentage of that is going to fill up a night club. So we'll play for anybody.   

Rough Edge: Another Clutch association is a lack of an image. Do you think that the band has one or even wants one? 

Neil: I think that there is always an image. Even bands that try to not have an image have an image. And, with us we have been described as looking like just some guys from the street but I think that's just because we're kind of lazy. We dress the way we do and we've never given any thought to anything other than the music. The image thing, not only do we lack the energy for that, but even from a more practical standpoint you don't want to date yourself. All these bands that are putting on ridiculous makeup and cocking their heads in weird positions, that's all good but it's only going to be five years and they are going to go 'I was being a jackass.' You can't go wrong with a t-shirt and jeans.  

Rough Edge: Do you think that the nonconformity helps or hinders your career? 

Neil: Both. I think that some people are attracted to the fact that we are just a rock'n'roll band without any bells and whistles. Other people, in particular young people, latch on much quicker to visually oriented bands but that's because of MTV making rock'n'roll much more visually oriented and lots of these kids have never known life without that. So maybe they look at us and think that they can't be a rock'n'roll band. 

Rough Edge: Do you think that mainstream attention is ever going to come to Clutch? 

Neil: I don't know. I mean, we've gotten attention and we are grateful for what we have but then again it would be nice to get a write up more often than we do. We've been doing this for ten years and I know we've influenced bands. 

Rough Edge: Any pros and cons between alternating between the arenas and then going to the smaller venues? 

Neil: Well, it's hard when you're opening because a lot of times you're just seen as the band that's delaying the headliner. But the thing is the front row is always the most passionate for the headliner but there are thousands of people in the back who are listening to you and you have to make a first impression at some place. I think kind of the downside is that it's hard to get energy from the crowd. We've been a bar band for so long that that's all we know how to do. You can pack out a club and it's great but you can't do that in an arena and sometimes playing in an arena is just a drag.  

Rough Edge: What about rumors of KFC fetishes? You can't honestly tell me you think KFC is better than Popeye's.

Neil: Oh no. Popeye's is better, and better than Popeye's is BoJangles. The KFC thing started out as just a joke that got way to out of hand. People were bringing us KFC and if I don't see another piece of KFC again in my life I'll be fine. 

Rough Edge: What do you see happening musically for the band or even yourself in the future? 

Neil: Well we are going to be supporting this record all through the summer and then come fall we'll kind of re-evaluate depending on how well the record does. Musically it is always hard to say because we are always writing new stuff but we're interested in other things as well. The guys do a thing called "The Bakerton Group" that is an instrumental jazz-fusion thing. I'm getting real interested in acoustic country blues but I don't think we'll be branching out doing solo projects or anything like that.  

Rough Edge: Is there anything you see yourself leaning toward next, that has your ear now? 

Neil: I think that what is interesting us is that we brought in a lot of musicians on this record and we had really not done that before. I think that maybe on the next record we'll see more of that. Not as like a "guest musician" but people that are participating in the entirety of our record, maybe an organ player or percussionist just to fill out the sound a bit more. We're getting into trying to be a bit more experimental. 

Rough Edge: Anything in particular you'd especially like to see happen in the future? 

Neil: If I'm able to keep this as my main income and I'm happy with this as my full time job that will keep me happy. Of course, we'd like to be played on the radio a lot but if we don't have that, it's fine as long as we can still play shows. For me, I like to put out good records or what I think are good records. If I could put out one or two more in five years that'd be great too. 

For more information on Clutch, please visit http://www.pro-rock.com. In addition, check out our photos from their live show by clicking here.


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Copyright 2001 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:11 -0400
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