Clutch's Neil Fallon: 'the Most Important Thing Above All Else Is The Show'
Prior to the group's October 25 performance in Worcester, Massachusetts, CLUTCH front man Neil Fallon spoke with Shawn SixX of "The Liquid Conversations". The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On the band's worst experience at a festival:
Neil: "Thankfully, we've had good luck. I think probably the worst one we've ever had was the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. We played through that, and that was more or less like a hurricane, and ruined a good amount of gear. I know [recent tour mates] SEVENDUST, they lost all their gear playing at Sturgis a couple years ago. It happens. Mother nature has the last say. She doesn't care about your rock band."
On the band's longevity:
Neil: "The most important thing above all else is the show. A band and the crew has to think of that as the holy grail, and anything that messes with it or distracts from it needs to be cut off. When we were very young, it was kind of flying blind. Half the fun was the adventure. I remember coming to Ohio for the first time and thinking, 'This is exotic.' I think over the years, I've gained more of an appreciation for the giant machine that presents these things, but really, truly, it boils down that either 45 minutes or 90 minutes or two hours where the fans and the band are interacting... You do this this long, there's feast and famine and there's good times and bad times, but if a band is focused on the song and the performance, that's your North Star, and if it distracts from that, you need to learn how to get rid of it."
On the importance of keeping things in perspective:
Neil: "I've seen bands before and after their sets treat it as if they were digging ditches. You do this long enough, sure, you can get jaded in some ways, but I find it crucial to be incredibly grateful, because to make a living in the creative arts is a very rare thing for anybody. Most of my friends who are musicians or painters or writers, they do it after work, or on the weekends. That's what they really want to do, but it's not sustaining them and their families. Knock on wood, we're in a position [now] where we go on tour and I no longer have to worry about getting a gig in between those tours. I think early on, I took it for granted because it happened so quickly, and it was only after some years — especially after a family gets brought into the big picture – you have to do some soul-searching and say, 'Will I be able to support a family doing this?' We rolled the dice, and thankfully, that also happened at the same time that the internet became such a big thing, which put a lot of wind in our sails. All the A&R representatives on planet Earth couldn't do anything with us. Now, it's much more word-of-mouth on a global scale... When I say the internet, originally, it was file sharing and Napster, and then BitTorrent and what-have-you, or just peer-to-peer. Then Spotify and streaming services and Apple Music, and suddenly, there was a record store for free in everybody's phone or desktop. I think people just talked. That's when our shows got a lot bigger... The world has gotten a lot larger for CLUTCH. We used to be able to do a tour; now, we have to do half a dozen of them to feel like we covered all our bases."
On becoming a father:
Neil: "It made a lot of things very trivial. Things that I thought were important are just laughable at this point. I don't care, because it no longer matters. I used to think once you became a parent, that was your creative death knell because you were going to be tired all the time and not have time for anything, but it was the exact opposite. Having to explain the universe to a blank slate is a huge responsibility. It's also really fun and challenging to answer questions that would never have occurred to you in a million years — 'Why is this? How come that?' — and sometimes it's great inspiration or a seed for a song... It's a good exercise. There's these things called writing prompts. A conversation with a child is one long writing prompt."
On being inspired by the band's current level of success:
Neil: "It's gratifying to know that there's CLUTCH fans out there that are still into it, because we haven't really changed much. It's the same four dudes, [and if] people still like listening to us, I'm not going to ask any questions. I think we don't really have to change much at all, because I think if we started trying to cater to what we thought our fans [wanted], we would get called out it very quickly, because that's no longer music — that's marketing. It's also very liberating because we've got our own record label, [and] we can do it when we want and when we feel like we're ready, and [on] the terms that we want to do. I don't think anyone in the band is thinking, 'Okay, the next record is going to go triple-platinum.' This is not that kind of music, and that's not why we got into this. It is fun — it's still fun. We went to Croatia last year, and there was a sea of people singing lyrics that I wrote in my basement ten years prior, and it just kind of split my wig. That never, ever gets old. That's like 90 minutes of feeling like I'm 18 again."
On the benefits of not being an overnight success:
Neil: "One of the worst things that can happen to a band is to have a huge hit or successful record right out of the gates. I know if that were to have happened to us, it would have been a train wreck. I wasn't responsible enough; I would have taken it for granted; and then, the bar gets set so high, it's a bitter pill to scale down from that, but if you never get a taste for that... It's been a slow progression, and I can say with the luxury of hindsight, this is much better, because these are fans of the band as opposed that huge hit we had in 1994. We have hits with fans, but not the greater public, and that's a big difference."
On social media:
Neil: "One of the best decisions I ever made was never having a Facebook page. My wife has one, and I see people on Facebook where, in real life, I think they're great people, but on Facebook, they're ass-hats, and I don't know which is the real version... I don't envy young bands. Because there's so much out there, I don't know how you cut through the noise. I see bands that seem to be more concerned their follower count than the work. At the end of the day, it's the song that matters. That's the only thing that matters. That will do the heavy lifting for you if you write good music. There's plenty of people that do wacky things on social media, and they might be really big, but that's such a transient thing. I can tell you the best concert I ever went to. It was over 30 years ago, and I remember it like yesterday. I cannot tell you the last thing I looked [at] on Twitter was, and that was about 20 minutes ago."
On the band's future plans:
Neil: "We wrote 'Book Of Bad Decisions' almost a year ago. Some of these songs are almost two years old, so I would hazard a guess that by the time we get to Halloween 2019, we're going to be start thinking about the studio again. That's what puts fuel in our gas tank... Good things take time. I think people have become incredibly impatient [and want] instant gratification, and most things that are instantly gratifying are empty vessels. We owe it to CLUTCH fans for sticking with us for this long, and we have no intention of stopping, because it's just too fun."
CLUTCH's latest album, "Book Of Bad Decisions", was released in September. The record sold 26,000 copies in America during its first week of availability, giving the group their third consecutive Top 20 album on the Billboard 200.
"Book Of Bad Decisions" was recorded at Sputnik Sound studio in Nashville, Tennessee with producer Vance Powell. The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.