Nu Metal burst onto the heavy rock scene in the mid nineties, delivering a slap in the face akin to that of a soiled diaper to established metal bands who thought they’d figured out what it was their adolescent fans wanted.
None of it really bothered Tim Sult, guitarist for U.S. rockers Clutch. “We just kind of had our blinders on when that whole thing was happening. We were just doing our own thing and not down-tuning,” he muses down the line from a hotel room somewhere in Europe.
“I mean, I guess that music is totally fine” he says, “but what really dates it is that tuning. The super low, drop D tuning or whatever they use.”
Clutch have just finished their latest tour of Europe and are getting ready to head back to the States. “We’ll be home tomorrow,” Tim says and I notice some relief in his voice at the prospect of seeing some familiar faces again. Not that their response on the mother continent has been disappointing.
“We definitely have a following over here, it’s been getting bigger and bigger over the years. Now that we’re on our own label and we’re doing all of our own stuff it seems like we’re actually getting somewhere over in Europe. In the past, when we were on major and other labels, no one really showed too much of an interest in breaking the band overseas. Now that we’re doing it all ourselves it seems to be working out good.”
Weathermaker Music is their label, and the first big release on the imprint will be the first long player from Clutch in nearly three years. “It was really just time we did it for ourselves” Tim says of their decision to go it alone. Their last three albums were released on an independent label that “really didn’t have the resources or the time” to promote the band as much as they would have liked.
“Clutch has always been a band that has promoted itself through playing shows. On the music end, it’s really no different to anything we’ve ever done, we just have a record company that’s solely focused on Clutch right now.”
With each new album, the band has progressed and refined their hard rock sound, meandering through heavy metal and hardcore punk on the way. More recent releases have seen Clutch returning to the more bluesy roots of rock. Vocalist Neil Fallon has noted that “we’ve been really conscious of the blues over the last couple of years, and you have to admit that the blues really is the source of all rock and roll. I think it’s important to go to the source to find that inspiration.”
Their latest release, Strange Cousins From The West, is on shelves now. Tim sees it as a true representation of what you might expect to hear at their live shows.
“It’s very raw. It sounds like four guys in a room playing. It doesn’t sound like a bunch of tracks that were put together on a computer, it sounds like four guys in a room playing songs.”
It does just that, if the four guys in question were bearded titans channeling lightning through their instruments, harnessing the full force and power of a thunderstorm. It’s frantic and edgy, and Tim explains that might have to do with the faster pace of recording this time.
“I would say we definitely recorded this album faster than any recent Clutch albums. We had all the songs written before we went in the studio and we just went in there and busted them out as fast as possible.”
From his hotel room in Latvia or France or wherever the heck Clutch played last night, Tim and the band leave tomorrow to return to their hometown of Maryland. There they’ll play a homecoming show before embarking on another exhaustive leg of touring in North America.
As for their Australian fans, Tim says Clutch are planning to head down under at sometime in the future. “At this point we’re planning to come over in January.” That’s conveniently close to the annual Big Day Out debacle but Tim is unsure whether or not they’re on the bill for that one. “It’d be cool if we were. I’m pretty sure every show we’ve played in Australia has been awesome. ”
Strange Cousins From The West is out now on Weathermaker Music through Shock Records.