Prior to CLUTCH's performance at the recent Rock USA festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, vocalist Neil Fallon spoke with Shawn SixX of the Boston radio station WAAF. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On CACTUS drummer Carmine Appice's praise for CLUTCH's cover of the blues standard "Evil", which CACTUS itself covered on its 1971 album "Restrictions":
Neil: "We were tickled to think about that. I got word about it — it's like, 'Okay, that's cool' — and then I was, like, 'Wait a minute. That just happened?' I wanted to have a conversation with the 16-year-old version of myself and say, 'One day, you won't freak out when this happens.' You wake up and realize, 'This is pretty awesome.'"
On why the band decided to record a series of cover songs:
Neil: "There's a number of reasons. [Latest album] 'Book Of Bad Decisions' is not even a year old yet, and we're not ready to do a full-length of new material. That's the first reason. The second reason is, the way people listen to music is changing drastically now, whether we like it or not. I'm 47 — I know a lot of my friends are the same age, and they're kind of getting to a little bit of the 'get off my lawn' point in their lives. We have to be honest that a lot of people these days have no problem enjoying music via their computers or their phones or what have you, and rock 'n' roll, as far as being in step with those changes, is pretty piss poor in comparison to a lot of other genres, to be frank. Rock 'n' roll is traditionally an album format, and it's set in its ways, and I understand that. I love record links, but people have much shorter attention spans. This is also the reason we're doing covers — as a kind of way to dip our toes into the waters of just releasing something digitally. Early on this year, we recorded a bunch of songs knowing that we were going to release them every month or so through the course of the summer to get us to the end of the year. Doing a cover song, it's sort of a protected play. We enjoy the songs, first and foremost — we're not covering songs that were No. 1 on the charts last year. We're covering CACTUS and ZZ TOP, because that's what we grew up listening to. A third reason, I think learning a cover song is a great exercise. It's a way of expanding your musical vocabulary, because there are things another musician would do or another band would do that would never occur to you. It can be very awkward, but when you finally get it down, you've suddenly expanded your vocabulary. For example, our song 'The Regulator' — which is one of our most popular songs — got its genesis with me trying to learn how to play a Skip James song, 'Devil Got My Woman'. There is some educational benefit to this as well... I know that there are plenty of people [who say], 'There's only the one version,' and that's fine. I understand that, but honestly, it's just fun. It's a way of tipping the hat to bands that influenced us, really. There's only one ZZ TOP — we understand that — but it's kind of self-indulgent. At the end of the day, it's just rock n' roll."
On whether the band plans to release the covers in a physical format:
Neil: "I think if the releases we're doing now work out well — and once we get, maybe, 10 or 12 of them out there, and some of them, we might just be re-recording our old material — maybe we'll put it on a physical copy at that point, but we haven't arrived there yet. We're still figuring this all out. Even though we have lots of technological developments, this is very circular, because the very first LPs were just a collection of [songs] that were singles originally. This is the same thing, just dressed up a little differently."
On the response to "Book Of Bad Decisions":
Neil: "I was over the moon, particularly in Europe. We got a really, really great reaction. The last few records, we've done with [producer] Machine, and he has a very signature sound. This is very different, and sometimes, people don't like change. It's just an honest capturing of what we do on stage. They come to the shows, so it wasn't that much of a bridge to cross to get there."
On considering fans' reactions when writing new material:
Neil: "You kind of have to give it up. [It's an] 'if you love something, let it free' kind of philosophy. I think that because this band has always been honest with ourselves and honest with the fans, there's an understanding at this point, but I'm being dishonest if I said I didn't care. I do care what people like, and there's been moments where I knew a song was very different and I asked myself, 'Do we want to put this on the record?' Invariably, those are the songs that get the best reactions."
On the role of a producer:
Neil: "It's hard to be objective about it when you wrote the material, because you can become emotionally attached to something for the wrong reasons, or you can dislike something for the wrong reasons. I think that's one of the jobs of a producer — to gently talk some [sense] into the fragile ego of a musician. Just because is in an odd time signature and you're impressed with yourself doesn't mean it's catchy or listenable. In a studio, I think half the job of a producer is sort of like a psychologist in a way. You're herding cats, especially in a band like CLUTCH where there's no dude saying, 'You're doing this, this and that, and that's the way it is.' We're a democracy, and like any other democracies, we are abysmally slow in making decisions. We kind of have an 'it's all good' mentality about it. We can beat a riff to death in our practice space for hours, and sometimes, you need a fresh pair of ears on stuff."
"Book Of Bad Decisions" was released last September. The record sold 26,000 copies in America during its first week of availability, giving the group its third consecutive Top 20 album on the Billboard 200.
"Book Of Bad Decisions" was completed at Sputnik Sound studio in Nashville, Tennessee with producer Vance Powell.