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Clutch Guitarist Reflects on Past Tours, Clutch Beer and New Material

Heavy rock’n’groove maestros, Clutch recently returned to the United States after a European stint supporting Danish rockers Volbeat. As of December 27th, the Maryland-based group began a run of five dates in the east coast with Corrosion of Conformity. Ten days prior, the staff at the Austin, Texas nightclub, Emo’s flew Clutch out to play two special shows.

The first show, on the 17th, took place at Emo’s East. This large club formerly went under the guise of The Backroom. Since opening the new location, Emo’s has announced it will end fifteen years of punk and metal at its Sixth and Red River location. Emo’s has the reputation of being a legendary rock club, so the club decided to go out in style by bringing Clutch in to play an intimate show inside it’s club (the outdoor venue closed its doors a few weeks back).

Before and after taking Emo’s East’s large stage with tangible lighting, Metal Underground caught up with Space Master General, guitarist Tim Sult to get the details about these special shows, Clutch beer and new material.

Cowan: After these shows, you’re doing a few dates with C.O.C. [Corrosion of Conformity].

Sult: Yeah, we have five shows with C.O.C. at the end of the year. I guess that’s our next official tour. It’s only five days, so it’s not much of a tour. After that, we’re opening for Thin Lizzy for a couple of weeks in England. That will be fun.

Cowan: How was the Euro tour with Volbeat?

Sult: We opened for those guys in Europe and it was awesome.

Cowan: Why are they playing Emo’s inside after playing Emo’s East, which is easily three times the capacity.

Sult: Emo’s called us up and asked us to do these two shows. We couldn’t say no. I don’t know what is up with it.

Cowan: The inside show sold out fast.

Sult: It only has three hundred capacity.

Cowan: I saw you play with Motorhead last year. Have you been busy on tour ever since then?

Sult: No—we’ve had quite a bit of time off. We did the Motorhead tour, and between the Motorhead tour and Volbeat tour, I don’t have much of a recollection of it. I’m sure we played some shows and had some time off somewhere. It doesn’t really feel like we’ve been on tour that long. We were off for a good ten weeks without doing any shows. We’ve had plenty of time off.

Cowan: Do you take much time off? You tour consistently, right?

Sult: Yeah, we tour pretty consistently; but, honestly, there is a lot of time off.

Cowan: The C.O.C. tour starts in just a few days. How do you see Clutch and C.O.C. fitting, considering they are performing their old hardcore material?

Sult: We love it! We love those guys. We’ve been friends with them for a long time. We toured with C.O.C. with Pepper [Kennan] before. Actually, one of our first shows opening for a national act was opening for C.O.C.—the “Blind” era of C.O.C with Karl [Agell] and the other bass player [Phil Swisher] who is not Mike Dean. That was one of our first shows ever opening for a national band. Those guys are great, awesome band! I listened to their old hardcore stuff back in high school. I’m looking forward to hearing their new album, too.

Cowan: That’s the “Animosity” lineup, correct?

Sult: Exactly.

Cowan: Talking about tours, the first time I saw Clutch play was in ’94 with Sepultura, Fear Factor and Fudge Tunnel. Was that your first big tour or were you on tours before that?

Sult: I guess our first big tour—looking back on it, I guess it wasn’t that big—was opening for Biohazard in Europe. Back then, it was huge to us. After that, we did a couple weeks with Bad Religion, I think. We toured with Monster Magnet, as well, before that. I’m pretty sure we came through Liberty Lunch (in Austin). That would have been ’93.

Cowan: So Clutch starting going on tour not long after you made your first album.

Sult: Yeah, pretty much. Our first tour was like a punk rock, basement sort of tour. After that, I think our next tour was with Biohazard.

Cowan: Do you feel Clutch has a style that is diverse enough for you to tour with many types of bands?

Sult: Yes, definitely. At least in the early days, there weren’t a lot of bands for us to tour with, so we just toured with whoever we could because nobody really sounded like us, except for Helmet or The Melvins. Stuff like that. We never got a chance to tour with those bands, so we toured with Limp Bizkit.

Cowan: I remember your tour with Marilyn Manson.

Sult: I believe we even played here at the old Back Room. I think or it was Liberty Lunch.

Cowan: I also saw one of your performances where you recorded “Live in Flint, Michigan” at the Machine Shop. What was special about Flint and the Machine Shop that led to your decision to record there?

Sult: I think the main reason was we had multiple nights at the same venue. It was just easier to record there. Michigan has always been awesome. We’ve always had incredible shows since the first time we went there.

Cowan: Going back to the Sepultura show (also in Flint), it seems like your music was a bit more aggressive. Did you become more of a jam band as your career progressed?

Sult: Yeah, I guess the whole jam band thing kind of just came about through touring, just getting bored with our own songs and trying to fill up time on stage when we only had a half-hour of material. Basically, I think we just got older. We’re rapidly approaching middle age at this point.

Cowan: You have your own beer, Clutch Beer. It’s nine percent alcohol.

Sult: It’s brewed by New Belgium Brewery. It’s awesome and I think it’s gone.

Cowan: Really? They aren’t making it anymore?

Sult: No, it was a limited run. I think they made 100,000 of those bombers. I heard they made some kegs as well. I’m pretty sure it’s gone, long gone.

Cowan: It went over quite well.

Sult: Yeah, it’s super limited.

Cowan: Do you have bottles of it at home?

Sult: I don’t.

Cowan: Did you drink them all?

Sult: Honestly, I probably had three or four of them.

Cowan: That’s all you would need at nine percent alcohol.

Sult: Three or four of them over the course of a couple months.

Cowan: And you were drunk every time (laughs).

Sult: It will definitely get you buzzed.

Cowan: I would also like to talk about your label, Weathermaker Records. That’s owned by the band, right?

Sult: Correct.

Cowan: Why did you start the label and how does it benefit you over going with a large record label?

Sult: Basically, we get to keep all the money we make. That’s how it benefits us. Our last deal was absolutely ridiculous, and we got sick of working with other labels. We decided to hire someone to manage the label for us and take care of the day-to-day duties. This was someone we had worked with in the past at other labels. It was just a natural progression, I think. We found a good distributor and we found someone at the label that can do everything. It’s not like we are Relapse or anything like that, but we’re getting by. We’re still learning.

Cowan: It seems having a good distribution would be one of the keys to having a successful label.

Sult: Yes, exactly. We have surprisingly decent distribution.

Cowan: What’s going on with the Bakerton Group?

Sult: Nothing really at this point. We haven’t done any Bakerton shows for a while. We did play a Bakerton Group song at one of our last shows in Europe with Per [Wiberg] who used to be in Opeth.

Cowan: What was it like jamming with him?

Sult: It was great! He’s the keyboardist on the “El Rojo” album. He’s played several shows with us. He’s probably played at least twenty shows with us as a guest. He was over here with us in December of last year.

Cowan: Do you still play songs from the first two (Clutch) albums?

Sult: Sometimes. We’ll sometimes play “A Shogun Named Marcus off “Transnational [Speedway League].” (Pauses) We really haven’t played too much off of that one. “Spacegrass” might make it to the set list tonight. “Marcus” might be good for the set list tonight. (Note: Clutch played “Spacegrass” and “Texan Book of the Dead” as encore numbers. However, the Katana swords and John Deer tractors from the redneck samurai did not make an appearance.)

Cowan: (Note: I asked Tim if he had any interesting pit stories for our weekly column. His answer was the anti-thesis of our articles, so it appeared here instead of in the column. I guess it’s the middle age talking!)

Sult: Not really, I actually prefer to play fully seated venues. I like when people just sit there. When we toured with Motorhead in 2006 in England, it was absolutely incredible. We played a lot of old, fully seated theaters. People just sat there and watched us. That’s what I prefer. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the old Cream video from Royal Albert Hall where they are all sitting there. All of the crowd is just sitting there. That’s what the Thin Lizzy tour will be like. It will be in a lot of the same venues—old theaters.

Cowan: (After watching Clutch’s set, I joined the band in Emo’s green room, back stage. Before much partying ensued, I had one last question regarding new material. I asked Tim Sult if the group had included new songs in their set.)

Sult: Yeah, we have temporary titles for those songs. One is called “Newt Gingrich.” We have another called “Puerta Abierta.”

Cowan: Do you have a bunch of songs done for the new album?

Sult: Ahhh, I wouldn’t go that far. We have a few songs. The album will come out sometime in 2012. (I believe he said fall of 2012, but this is tentative).

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An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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