NEIL FALLON On CLUTCH's Creative Process: 'You Have To Work At It And Be Afraid To Write Some Garbage'

NEIL FALLON On CLUTCH's Creative Process: 'You Have To Work At It And Be Afraid To Write Some Garbage'

Roy Turner of Tricky Kid TV conducted an interview with frontman Neil Fallon of Maryland rockers CLUTCH prior to the band's September 23 concert at Gas Monkey Live in Dallas, Texas. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On why the band chose "Book Of Bad Decisions" as the title for its latest studio album:

Neil: "Naming a record is always a hand-wringing exercise for us; it never really comes easy. We were reluctant to name it after one of the songs because it always puts that song on a mantle, but after thinking about it, it's not a concept record by any means, but having the word 'book' kind of implies that each song is its own chapter. There's no over-arching plot to it, but that was it. We just wanted to make as many good songs as we could. It's been the same for 25 years to how we write music."

On CLUTCH's career arc:

Neil: "I'm very happy with what we have now. I think sometimes, and I was probably guilty of this, too, [when we were] starting out, there's this idea where you have this moment of where you've 'made it.' That doesn't really ever happen. Everything is its own lesson. Life is about learning and trying new things and there's no final destination where you wake up and go 'Now I can relax.' That's called death. There are feast and famines when it comes to inspiration, but you got to work at it. If there's anything that defines success for me, it's that this is my only gig. Most musicians I know, when they go off tour, have to get another job to make ends meet in between tours. We're — knock on wood — not in that position anymore. I mean, I did that for years. I think sometimes you can get lazy because of that. Most people in the creative arts have to be relegated to after-hours or on the weekend. You have to hope that inspiration comes. When you have the luxury of not having that looming over your head, you can always keep putting it off and procrastinating, and that's not good. You've got to work at it and you have to be afraid to write some garbage."

On his lyric-writing process:

Neil: "I think the hardest and, at the same time, most rewarding thing about writing lyrics is when I listen to the music instrumentally, like most people, certain images come to mind and there's no rhyme or reason why. When I heard Tim's [Sult, guitar] riff for 'Emily Dickinson', it sounded very pastoral and very rural to me. That would have been appropriate, [and] sometimes, I mean, inappropriate for something like '[In Walks] Barbarella'. The song 'Lorelei', I think sometimes it's important to let meter and rhyme guide you to your final destination. That song started out… I wanted to write a song about a shogun named Marcus in his sunset years. I was looking for a rhyme for samurai and I stumbled upon 'Lorelei' and I kind of knew what that was, but I said, 'Wait a minute. This character is much more appropriate for the mood of this song. Marcus is sort of a humorous character and that's not a humorous song.' So, I abandoned that idea and then it kind of made instant sense. I think the fun part about writing lyrics is when you end up with something on the page of no intention [of writing]. Visual artists talk about canvas or a stone; it's already in there, but it's your job to discover it."

On how becoming a parent changed his outlook on CLUTCH:

Neil: "I think I was foolish for many years thinking that once I became a parent, my creative life would come to a screeching halt. It's kind of a myth that you're going to be miserable. You're going to get fat, you're going to lose your hair, but nothing about that came to be. I think the job of having to explain the world to someone who knows nothing is the most intellectually engaging thing you can imagine. We all take stuff for granted and now having to constantly answer questions as best you can is a good exercise for the band. Sometimes you have to lie, but it's part of the fun too."

On possibly repackaging old song ideas and using them on "Book Of Bad Decisions":

Neil: "I've always been wary of nostalgia. I always thought nostalgia smacked of giving up and not looking forward to the future. There comes a point when you've been doing this for 25 years, there's tons of stories that are still sitting on the shelf here. Going back to 'Lorelei', there's a reference to 'The Elephant Riders' and that's probably an artifact when there was another song idea I had where, let's say the Civil War is over and the elephant, this heroic war beast and has to get whipped in a cage, its only gig is at a Barnum & Bailey [circus]. I started to think, 'That's really a bummer.' I abandoned that idea, but I think that artifact kind of stuck around."

On when he started to become aware of CLUTCH's "brand loyalty":

Neil: "It took a while, to be honest. There was many years [when] I was thinking, 'Well, we'll probably do this for another year.' Because the '90s, there was a lot of money being thrown around. We got a lot of tour support, but we weren't selling many records. When you get to a point and the idea of family comes in and you've got to ask yourself, 'Am I going to be able to support a family doing this?' We decided to just go all in and get back in the van after being in tour buses for years. We basically started over in the year 2000 in a lot of ways. There was seven years behind us at that point. I think it was then I started realizing it. Particularly when we launched our own record label [Weathermaker Music]. The idea is that it's not a record label that's not going to sign a ton of bands. It's just a way to deliver it to people. The Internet was a BFD ['Big Fucking Deal'] for us. People were suddenly able to hear the band for the first time. Our shows got much bigger. That was sort of part two of this band's career. I think when we did self-titled, it kind of set us off on a trajectory and things got a little bit, earlier I said 'feast or famine', that was the famine part around '99 or 2000. Then, that record put a lot of wind in our sails again."

"Book Of Bad Decisions" was released on September 7. 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. The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.

CLUTCH's fall 2018 "Book Of Bad Decisions" tour with support from SEVENDUST and TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN will wrap on October 28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


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