CLUTCH's NEIL FALLON: Why I Started Taking Vocal Lessons

February 23, 2019

CLUTCH vocalist Neil Fallon recently spoke with Andy Hall of the Des Moines, Iowa radio station Lazer 103.3. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the group's latest album, "Book Of Bad Decisions":

Neil: "I think we initially intended maybe to have 10 or 12 songs, and we recorded 15. Then we kind of sat and bickered about what to take off – what four songs or three songs to not put on the album, and we finally threw our hands up in the air and said, 'Screw it — let's put 'em all on there. Why wait?' The world of record releases, that's changing quite a bit these days, and I guess it's important to get as much material out there as frequently as possible... The album is by no means a concept album, and trying to name a record is always a hand-wringing process for us. The title track, I was reluctant to name the album after that song because when you do that, it always puts that song on a mantle, so to speak. But it did imply that the song could be read as a short story in a collection of short stories, and I liked that."

On producer Vance Powell:

Neil: "It was one of those introductions that within minutes felt like we knew him for years. He did come out on the road with us for maybe three shows prior to the record, just to listen to us. Inviting someone into your tour bus, it's a leap of faith. It's a bit of a psychology experiment at times, but immediately, we hit it off. He has a great sense of humor. There have been times in the past where being in the studio was not a pleasant experience, but I was truly kind of bummed when this was over because we all had so much fun doing it with him."

On feeling that the album captures the band's "live energy":

Neil: "That's always a struggle. It took us a while to learn that the best thing you can do is to play the songs live as much as possible before you hit the red button. You can write songs in the studio and do overdubs and do all sorts of fun things, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the stage. Vance understood this, and that was his goal — to capture the tones that we produce onstage. I know I speak for the band – records are great and we're proud of our records, but at the end of the day, rock n' roll is meant to be experienced live."

On continually striving for improvement:

Neil: "I always consider everything a work-in-progress. I just took my first vocal lessons just over a year ago, and I've been doing this for 27 years. I think it's important to never assume you're as good as you can be. You've always got to push a little further. As far as being the front man, that was not something I dreamed of as a teenager — I didn't have dreams of singing in a rock band, and I was actually very uncomfortable. Still to this day, there are times before I get on stage where I get nervous, but I think that's a good thing, because if you get too comfortable, that's when mistakes kind of creep in. A little bit of fear can be a productive thing if you know how to harness it right."

On taking vocal lessons:

Neil: "I want to be able to sing just as well on the last night of a tour as I do on the first night. There's a lot of exercises that involve singing in falsetto voice or head voice, which sound really ridiculous when I'm doing it, but if it means that the show's that much better for it, then I'm all about it."

On the band's record label, Weathermaker Music:

Neil: "It's not a record label as in, like, we're looking to sign other bands. It's really just a vehicle for us to get our music to our fans. That was always one of our gripes with labels – they wanted us to tour for three, four years on one record, and our attention spans don't last that long. Now we can do it when we want and how we want, with who we want."

On his writing process:

Neil: "I'm in the unique position where I hear the music instrumentally first. I'm no different than anyone else — you close your eyes, you get sort of this home movie in your head. It will evoke images or atmospheres that I think it's my job to crystallize into words. I kind of see every song as a soundtrack to a nonexistent movie to a degree... If a song explains itself too literally, it doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. A lot of times, people will read what they want to into a song, and there's nothing I can do about that, but it's not my place to tell them that they're wrong. I think that in any art form — whether it be the visual arts or music or what have you – that relationship between the artist and the person appreciating it, you have to give it up and let it go and [let it] have its own life."

"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 Powell. The album cover was designed by renowned photographer Dan Winters.

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