Clutch have been playing balls-out, riff-fueled rock and roll since the early '90s, and they've only gotten better with age. 2013's Earth Rocker was one of the strongest metal records of the year, and they've got another one on the way. We recently caught their standout set at Riot Fest Denver and had a chance to catch up with bassist Dan Maines. Read our full chat and check out photos from their performance below.
Zumic: Earth Rocker is the second album you guys have released on your own label. How are you liking that versus a traditional label?
Dan Maines: There's a certain amount of added workflow to being your own boss, but we've been able to use the resources that we have as wisely as we can to promote the record. A lot of times, a major label can throw a ton of money at a band, but market them in a completely inefficient and useless way for that band. It's something we're still constantly learning how to do, but it's been a very advantageous thing for us to do. Earth Rocker has been the most publicized record that we've released in our entire career.
Yeah, it was one of Rolling Stone's top 20 metal records last year. That's awesome. So, tell me about the experience of recording Earth Rocker.
We worked with a producer named Machine.
And he's worked with King Crimson and Lamb of God before?
Exactly, yeah. The first time we worked with him was on the Pure Rock Fury record, but he only did half of the songs on that record. Then we worked with him full time for the Blast Tyrant record. That was a very successful record for us, and when we started to write the songs for Earth Rocker, some of the material kind of reminded us of that vibe, so we thought it would be a good idea to work with him again.
And it's a little bit different, it's an unorthodox recording process. Typically, the way we would make a record is we would set all the gear up in one room and play the songs, and you would play the songs four or five times and select the best take. And he has a very polar opposite approach to recording, where he really puts every instrument under the microscope, and the way he does that is record each instrument one at a time.
And just sort of builds it in layers?
Yeah, which sounds like a very time consuming process, but he's got his system down and it flows very naturally. It's actually, in a lot of ways, easier to record that way.
Did you record it all at once -- like in a two-week shot -- or over the course of months?
It's funny, if you broke it down, I think [drummer] Jean-Paul spent about a week recording his stuff, I spent about three days on bass, Tim and Neil spent a roughly similar time on their guitar work, and then Neil laid down his vocals, so the whole process took about three weeks, which is about what you can expect in the traditional world.
Where did you guys record?
We recorded at his studio, The Machine Shop, in Jersey, but he's since moved locations. He's moved down to Austin.
That was my next question. I hear you guys are finishing your next record in Austin soon. Does that mean you're working with Machine again?
Yeah, we're working with him again. It's a process that's just become very comfortable for us.
How's the new material coming? Is everything written?
No, [laughs] we're getting there. We've got a handful of songs that we've been testing out during our shows. Over the last three weeks of this tour, we've probably played four new songs in our sets. That's a good way for us to kinda gauge how they flow and it's always good to see some somebody's reaction to the music. But yeah, things are moving along.
Do you have a target release date, or is it just kinda up in the air?
We're gonna go into the studio at the beginning of the year, and it usually takes about six months to do everything you need to do to get the record into the stores. So, if we go into the studio in January, any time six months after that.
Over the years, it seems like you guys have gotten a bit harder and heavier, and lost a bit of the sludgy, stoner sound. Is that a conscious evolution in sound?
It just happens that way. It's not something that we consciously decide to do or talk about doing. We just kinda get in a room and start playing music and what happens, happens.
Do you talk about any of the aspects? Do you talk about tone or direction?
Once a song starts to develop a little bit, we talk about "What kind of song is this thing really trying to be," and that dictates what kind of tones you want to use for it.
And you guys all write the songs together?
One last question for you: Would you rather have the ability to be invisible, but only at night, or fly, but only when it rains?
Invisible at night [laughs].