An interview with Dan Maines, bass player for Clutch
~ Photo by Jerry Milton
Band Web Page Band on Facebook MySpace

WW: Who hooked you up with the Motorhead tour?

CLUTCH: I would have to assume that Motorhead hooked us up with this tour. We toured with Motorhead a couple of years ago in Europe with Crucified Barber who is from Sweden. We had the middle slot and that tour went really well. I know they probably have the longest list possible of bands that want to tour with them so it was nice to be able to do it again.

WW: How does it feel do have such a huge cult following? And do you feel that it’s still at the cult following level? I mean, no offense, but I still don’t consider you guys to be, mainstream, per se.

CLUTCH: I think that the fact that we’re able to play to the amount of people that we do and for the most part not get played on the radio, I would say that a cult following is pretty fair description of our existence right now. I mean, we’ve been doing this for 20 years now. And every year it gets better and better but I feel that I would much rather have it this way than to be 21 years old and to have written a song that is huge, and then the rest of your career is just a downhill struggle to maintain something that you are never going to get again. We just do what we do and it just slowly builds in popularity. If that’s a cult following, then that’s fine with me.

WW: I know you guys tour a lot! What percentage of the year do you guesstimate that you spend on the road?

CLUTCH: We probably do about 150 shows a year but, you know, it’s become our lives and we really don’t know how to do it any other way. Not that we would want to.

WW: How do you balance touring / family life since you spend so much time on the road?

CLUTCH: It’s not easy. We’re able to work it out to where we have enough time back home to balance it out. We’re all married, and most of us have children. I have the most, out of anyone (3). And that’s the most difficult aspect of it. When we’re booking our own tours we try to keep it to 4 weeks maximum. But sometimes we have to bite the bullet, like when a band like Motorhead asks you to go on the road for 6-8 weeks. You just have to do it!

WW: If you had your choice of ultimate tour destinations, what places would be on your itinerary?

CLUTCH: We’ve been really lucky the last few years to go to places like Australia and Japan. And we tour Europe. We try to tour Europe every year. Like there’s loads of places that we haven’t been to yet, where we’d desperately like to go. South America is one that comes to mind first. We’re friends with a lot of bands that have managed to get down there, and I know it’s not an easy thing to do. Motorhead is going to Australia after this tour then from there they’re going to be doing a 6 country tour in South America. That would be a dream for us.  

WW: What prompted you to start your own record label, Weathermaker? Was it dissatisfaction with the music industry or a particular label? Or just the means and desire to control your own product?

CLUTCH: All of the above really. We have had, depending on how you look at it, the fortune or misfortune of having almost all of our albums being released on different labels. Like from the very beginning. The first thing we put out was a 7 inch album with 4 songs called “Pitchfork” that was released by a friend of ours. Then we went on a tour with a band called Four Wheels Falling from Virginia through that tour our one of our 7” got in the hands of somebody at Atlantic and that was basically the first record that we put out. Our second record was released by Atco which is a division of Atlantic. Then we went to Columbia, then back to Atlantic. Then we tried what we call independent labels, but they aren’t very independent. And pretty much on all levels you hit the same targets of disappointment.

WW: What do you mean by targets of disappointment?

Clutch: I think that one of the main problems with a band like ourselves is that you put out an album and it does X number of sales and the label’s not necessarily happy with it so they release you. Then somebody else from a different label sees that album, they like it, they sign you, thinking you’re going to put out another version of that record, and we’re not that kind of band. We’re always trying to do something a little different on each album. And I think that through off a lot of labels, not really knowing where we were coming from and not really having a concrete idea of what we were trying to do. But in the end we have formed relationships with a handful of people in the music business that are capable of directing us and helping us do, on our own and with our own expenses, what is was that we wanted these other labels to do for us. We were just never big enough on their radar to really put that much time and effort into it. It’s something that we’re fortunate enough to be able to do. I don’t think, if we had tried to do it 10 years ago, that we would have been as successful as we have been.

WW: In the over 20 years you guys have been together, how do think you guys have grown musically?

CLUTCH: I’d like to think that we have become better musicians, individually, and I know, just speaking for the other guys, I know that we have. That in a way kind of frees up your options when you’re writing music when you’re not afraid to try something different and pull other influences in. I think that deep down, we’re really still just a heavy riff oriented band. We grew up listening to bands like Sabbath, and that’s the thing that really holds it all together for us…that one strong riff that you can build a song on. But Jean-Paul, our drummer, is not afraid to throw some New Orleans funk beat over the top of something that Tim or I wrote with the assistant of a drum machine hitting snare and high hat on quarter notes. I think that we have the ability to throw lots of flavors into our music. Neil’s has always been inspired by the blues, like old school blues music, and he’s been incorporating that more and more into the music with his style of guitar playing.

WW: How does the song-writing process come about?

CLUTCH: As far as the songwriting process goes, usually it’s just the 4 of us jamming in our rehearsal space. We have a studio set up at JP’s house that we rehearse in and we pretty much record whatever jams we do. A couple of weeks later we’ll go back and listen to it and evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Then we kind of piecemeal the parts together and then give them to Neil to see if there’s a vocal direction he can take the song into. It’s definitely a group effort.

WW: In 2010 you guys released a 2 disc DVD set, “Clutch Live at the 9:30” which includes a disc of a show at the 9:30 Club in DC where you performed the entire self-tilted EP, and a 2nd disc which includes a road movie produced and directed by Agent Ogden entitled “Fortune Tellers Making a Killing Nowadays”. Is that a documentary and how did that work out for you? 

CLUTCH: It’s kind of a short history of the band mixed with interviews between the 4 of us and interviews with other bands. I’m not the kind of person that is comfortable on a camera but it was a good idea on the director’s part, pulling in fans and from other bands that we have known for years to kind of fill in the gaps.

WW: “Strange Cousins from the West” was released in 2009.When can we expect the next Clutch album?

CLUTCH: We’re in the process right now. We’ll probably play one or two of the songs tonight, just as instrumentals. Not really complete songs at all, just a riff or two that we’ll jam out for a couple of minutes. It’s good for us to play it out. It helps us to learn the song better and what kind of vibe it has, and using the audience as a kind of litmus test. If we hear crickets when we’re done, maybe we should drop that riff.

WW: How do you think hailing from Baltimore has influenced your sound, if at all?

CLUTCH: You know, there’s always been a strong Maryland music scene and I think we are very lucky to have grown up where we did. We knew each other since high school, and I’ve known Neil since he moved into my neighborhood in middle school. And I met Jean-Paul and Tim in high school, and that’s really how the band started. Yeah, we tried out for the talent show and we didn’t make the cut.

WW: You guys are all original members except for the introduction of organist Mick Schauer in 2005 for a couple of albums. What do you think he added to the band?

CLUTCH: I think he added a lot to the band. That was something we really needed at the time, an added element to the sound. It helped us move in different directions and I think it’s a sound that still works for the band even though he no longer plays with us. We occasionally have friends that also play keyboards, play with us both in the studio and at shows. Then again, looking back, it might have been a better idea not to have had the keyboards on every single track on these albums. I think it might have taken away from the original impact of the song, whereas other songs literally don’t work without the keyboards. We learned that and now when we’re in the studio we can go, well this song could use keyboards…or anything else.

WW: What do you think makes Clutch unique?

CLUTCH: I guess the fact that we’ve been around for so long and have kept the same members. We’re all pretty normal guys with non-drama hinged lifestyles. And I do think that’s unique.

WW: What’s your definition of success in rock-n-roll?

CLUTCH: Just playing shows. That’s really what we’re all about. The albums are what we do to document the songs at that particular time and it’s a vehicle for us to go on the road. And that’s what’s it’s all about, playing shows and being on the road. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the travelling sense…well, for us it would be. Haha. That’s success for me, being able to go out as much as we do and play shows.

WW: If you were stranded on a deserted island what 5 albums would you like to have with you (assuming you had a way to play them, haha)?

CLUTCH: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Live Evil by Miles Davis, The Official Space States by Cool Keith, A love Supreme by John Coltrane and Killers by Maiden.

WW: What first inspired you to learn how to play?

CLUTCH: It’s was probably the first Bad Brains album. The cassette was given to me by my brother, and I had never heard of them. I didn’t know anything about them. I didn’t know they were from the area. Then I started to get into the music scene and started going to the 9:30 Club. I saw Bad Brains there in 88’, I think, and it was just an insane level of energy and they just looked superhuman. You know that cover, of the best of CD? And on the cover it’s a live shot and there’s this kid in front of the stage just barely touching HR’s shoe, and just the fact that he could touch his shoe just seemed beyond human. But that show just really blew my mind and inspired me to want to be in a band.

WW: Parting words of wisdom to your growing legions of fans?

CLUTCH: Pick up an instrument and learn how to play.

Clutch is:

Neil Fallon – vocals, guitar, keyboards

Tim Sult – guitar

Dan Maines – bass

Jean-Paul Gaster - drums



Copyright © Rank and Revue. All rights reserved.Web Design by Groovee Fortune