CLUTCH's NEIL FALLON: 'I Think Flaws Are What Make Things Beautiful'

September 29, 2018

Prior to CLUTCH's September 18 performance in Maplewood, Minnesota, vocalist Neil Fallon spoke with the "Midwest Beatdown" radio program, which airs on KMSU 89.7 FM in Mankato, Minnesota and on KMSK 91.3 FM in Austin, Minnesota. The complete three-part conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the lead-up to the release of the group's new album, "Book Of Bad Decisions":

Neil: "We finished this record in January of this year, so it's good to finally get it out of the gates and kick it out of the nest. I walked out of the studio, done, [in the] last week of January. It got mixed the first week of February, and for whatever reason, record releases in summer don't work as well as spring and fall, so we basically had to sit on it because we didn't have enough setup time to have it come out in, let's say, April or May. So here we are. This was the first summer in recent memory where we spent at home. Usually, what happens is I'll plant the tomato garden in spring, and then I come home to a bunch of rotten tomatoes that I miss every year. But it was nice to spend some quality time while my kid's not in school and get to have some fun that way. We kept somewhat busy — played a couple shows every month, which for us, is almost unheard of. But it was nice. It keeps us on our toes. It gives us a reason to get back together and practice, because otherwise, we wouldn't have too much of an incentive. It keeps it fresh. Not that we don't enjoy doing it, but sometimes, life things can get in the way of that. We try to keep it professional."

On how his perspective on touring has changed over time:

Neil: "When you're 20 years old and don't have a family and basically live out of a suitcase, you can do that and not really think about it. We did that for many, many years, but the older you get, the deeper your roots go, and the harder it is to say goodbye. Having said that, for some time now we've been in a position where [if] we're not on the road, we don't have to worry about getting a gig in between those times, which is what most musicians have to do. For us to be in that position is incredibly fortunate, so believe me, I'm not complaining."

On how certain new songs changed between the time the group started playing them live and when they recorded them several months later:

Neil: "'How To Shake Hands' didn't change much at all. That was one of those songs that kind of fell out of the sky and just was done really quickly. We beat both 'Vision Quest' and 'Gimme The Keys' to death — a couple different versions of it until we [were satisfied]. When you have to do that with a song, sometimes it's a good sign — it's a good thing to keep swinging at it. Sometimes, it's a sign that you should just throw it into the garbage. I've always find the best songs are the ones that write themselves very quickly — not all the time, but usually. That's one of the good things about playing these songs live — what sounds like a good idea in the comfort of one's own basement or studio may not translate to stage because of whatever reason. That's why we like to play those songs out. It's a good crucible for the song. Sometimes, you write a riff; you're excited about it; you want to play it 64 times. Then after a while, you realize, 'Maybe we should only do it 8?' Those are the things you have to go through to whittle off the fat and make the songs as efficient as possible."

On working with producer Vance Powell:

Neil: "Vance comes from being a live front-of-house engineer for Tammy Wynette, and doing a lot of country music. But honestly, a microphone doesn't care what genre your band is. He knows how to place a microphone in front of a cabinet in the right way. One of the big differences was he was very dead-set on capturing whole performances instead of saying, 'Okay, we'll punch you in for the chorus and we'll punch you in for the verse.' I was a bit trepidatious about singing songs in their entirety, because I haven't been doing that. I used to do it, but at the end, there's some mojo that happens because of that. You get more of a whole performance with peaks and valleys rather than everything being micro-managed. Perfection is boring. It sucks, actually. I think flaws are what make things beautiful."

On the band's use of cowbell:

Neil: "It's just one of those classic sounds. It makes the pocket of any song that much deeper for whatever reason. [Drummer] Jean-Paul's [Gaster] really good at it. He's got four-way independence that blows me away even after watching him for 30 years."

On America's growing rock festival scene:

Neil: "The United States, I think, has finally kind of caught up to Europe on the festival front. Europe was, I think, much more hip to it. We always, for years, kept it very genre-specific — you had a metal fest; you had a hip-hop fest; you had a country fest — and those things never met. Now, you get these festivals where the other day [at Chicago's Riot Fest], I had had to choose between watching FEAR or JD McPherson. I thought that was awesome — an embarrassment of riches. I think it's no different for us. We like seeing other bands, and people-watching is half the fun. We have the luxury of being able to run away from the masses. I don't do well in crowds."

On his memories of touring with the Sounds Of The Underground festival alongside groups like GWAR and LAMB OF GOD:

Neil: "We were definitely THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND of the bill. But that's always for the best, because even metal fans, they tend to be very conservative — not all of them, but they have very specific parameters of what is and what is not metal. 'Is this black metal or death metal?' I can't tell the difference, but people who are really in the genre do, so for us to get on stage, I think it was kind of shocking for some folks. I'd rather get a very negative reaction than no reaction at all. There was two extremes. There was plenty of folks, particularly young kids, who heard us for the first time on that tour — similar to when we toured with MARILYN MANSON. It seems a very unlikely bill. I didn't want to do it, because I didn't understand how that could be a good thing, but it turns out that was one of the best tours we ever did in the '90s. Why preach to one's own choir? You're not really going to get anywhere."

"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 up October 28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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