CLUTCH / LIONIZE | INTERVIEW
After 25 years and 11 albums, Maryland stoner rock icons Clutch are coming to the end of their touring cycle for current album Psychic Warfare. Buzz caught up with bass player Dan Maines for a chat about their recent chart success, longevity and plans for the future.
Hi guys, looking forward to seeing you in Wales once again. You’ve played Wales on practically every tour since 1993 – do you a have a particular affinity for Wales and its rock fans?
Every band has certain areas that are quick to embrace their music and really support the band when visiting for the first time. I would definitely count Wales as one of those places for Clutch. We’ve made some great friends in Wales.
How is this tour going for you so far? You seem to be headlining some bigger venues on this one.
Things are going incredibly well on this run. We have our good friends in Lionize and Valient Thorr on tour with us and we’re playing to great audiences, real rock n roll fans.
What is it about Clutch that unites all types of rock fans?
We’ve had the great fortune of opening for true legends in both rock and metal, and their fans really listened to us with open ears. Slowly you see those same people showing up at your own shows and it builds. Between the four of us I think we have a large pool of musical influences that shape our sound, and it comes through enough in our own music to appeal to a wide range of listeners.
In my experience most Clutch fans agree that you’ve yet to make a bad album. What is the key to your consistency?
Those are some true fans! Very early in our career we made an effort to have each album sound like a real departure from the previous. Over time that creates a level of open mindedness to your music that you don’t get if you constantly repeat yourself. When I talk to fans about our records everyone usually has their favourites, but I really appreciate how diverse those opinions are.
You cover such a variety of genres in your music, but what music inspires you these days?
I like the Claypool Lennon Delirium, killer bass tones and playing. Charles Mingus. Black Flag. I’m currently reading Tony Iommi’s autobiography Iron Man. It’s proving to be more than enough of an inspiration at the moment.
Your latest album Psychic Warfare debuted at number 1 on the Rock Albums chart and number 11 on the Billboard 200 in America. Why do you think this album reached more people than previous albums?
You hit the road for 25 years, sooner or later it’s going to catch up to you! We have some of the most supportive fans a band could ask for, and spreading the word of Clutch is something they take pride in. We also have an incredible team behind us in Weathermaker Music and everyone involved behind the scenes pushing us forward.
You’ve been together for 25 years now, without a single lineup change. What is it that keeps you guys together, while other bands split/change members?
We have had our ups and downs like every other band, but we work through it. The sound of Clutch is the product of these four people, we don’t take that lightly.
Have you got another 25 years of touring/making music in you?
Short answer, yes. I am literally unqualified for anything else! If the other guys will have me for another 25 years, I’m in.
When you first started out, what was your ultimate goal for Clutch and have you achieved it yet?
Playing shows and maybe getting a chance to see a bit of the world was it for me. Everything else is gravy. We grew up in a very DIY music environment. Making it doesn’t have to equal recording contracts and advances. Every time we step out on stage we have succeeded in my mind.
What are your plans after this tour and for 2017 in general?
We have a tradition of playing shows, the week leading up to New Years Eve. This time we’ll be in the northeast U.S, ending in Cleveland, Ohio. After that we take a nice break from touring to focus on writing new music, but it won’t be too long before we’ll want to get back on the road to play those new songs live and then eventually hit the studio and get a new record together.
Opening for Clutch on their U.K tour will be their hometown buddies LIONIZE, a four piece rock’n’roll band who’ve been touring and making records for just over 10 years and have just released The Voyage EP on Weathermaker. We snagged frontman Nathan Bergman for a brief chat.
You’ve toured the UK previously – how did you find it? What do you like about it? Is it very similar to touring back in the USA?
Touring in the UK is really refreshing to us still. We love the attitude towards live music, especially rock or anything with soul. The fans in the UK are some of the best in the world. Lots of beer and a ton of real enthusiasm for songs and riffs. We just seem to fit in over here. It is very different from the USA where touring can be compartmentalized, regional and really there is very little emphasis on nightlife culture the same way it is in the UK. We hope to keep coming back for years to come.
Clutch guitarist Tim Sult has played on some of your songs, and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster has been involved in producing your latest EPs. How did this relationship come about, with you previously releasing an album via their Weathermaker label too?
We have been friends with the guys for a long time and doing shows with Clutch since 2006/2007, so for about 10 years we’ve been good friends. I think we share a great amount of the music interests and influences from blues to jazz to funk to go-go and hip-hop. So at the end of the day we are all on the same page as far as music we love. We have a mutual admiration for each other’s music as well.
To Lionize, Clutch is one of the greatest bands in the world, to be honest probably the best touring band out there. There’s nothing as creative in rock as what they are doing and it’s miles ahead of even the biggest stadium bands as far as songwriting and technicality and feel. So with that said it felt natural at the time to try and release music on their label and we had an amazing experience making it work with Jetpack Soundtrack. That was a very special time for the band. It’s an honour and pleasure to continue to work with them in any capacity.
Over the last few years, you’ve toured with a wide range of different style bands from Reel Big Fish, to Kylesa. Does touring with different bands influence your writing style?
It can effect is in various ways. Sometimes it emphasizes exactly what we don’t want to do and how we don’t want to play – and sometimes you tour with a band like Clutch or Lucero and you learn more in one night than an entire tour supporting a band that isn’t as prolific or open. Touring in general influences the writing style more through experience than anything else. The people, places and challenges that come with a life on the road. The emotional impact of spending time in other countries has had a huge impact on the band.
There’s a definite reggae feel to some of your tracks. Where did this influence come from?
The reggae feel simply comes from enjoying that sound. Same with jazz or metal or blues with us – it’s all about the song and exploring different textures. Reggae is a small part of the influence of the band including the Bad Brains and Steel Pulse. So much good reggae has a rock feel to it as well. It can be very punk and metal too.
What are your plans after this tour and for 2017 in general?
In 2017 we are going to put out a full length and continue to seek out fans all over the world.
Clutch / Valient Thorr / Lionize, Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Sat 17 Dec. Tickets: £20 (sold out – check box office for returns). Info: 029 2078 1458 / www.cardiffstudents.com
words CHRIS ANDREWS