Clutch still pursuing heavy musical challenges for rock’s sake



What: 7:30 p.m. March 30.

Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.

Cost: $20 through TicketsWest, 800-992-8499 or


What: 7:30 p.m. March 30.

Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.

Cost: $20 through TicketsWest, 800-992-8499 or


Clutch is bringing heavy music back to its roots — one song, one show, one audience member at a time.

“Heavy music, as in heavy metal or hard rock, has been hijacked by anger and violence,” singer Neil Fallon said in a recent phone interview. “It’s like they’re going to kick your ass if you don’t listen to their band. A lot of the older bands didn’t sing about that stuff, didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m talking about bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and even ZZ Top. It’s not violent. We’ve lost sight of the true sense of rock and roll. That’s what we’re trying to get to.”

Clutch delivers seriously heavy music. But the veteran Maryland band’s sound can’t be pegged as heavy metal, punk or hard rock. Instead, a mixture of all the above with blues thrown more and more into the mix.

“One of the things I think helps explain that is we never discussed what kind of band we wanted to be,” Fallon said. “We just started playing. When we were younger we listened to a lot of hardcore punk and metal. Now, the older we get, the more we learn about the history of rock and roll — whether it’s Skip James or touring with Motorhead and listening to (Motorhead frontman) Lemmy (Kilmister) talk about Little Richard and his influence.”

The influence of Delta blues singer James can be heard in one of Clutch’s best-known songs.

“I heard Skip James, and I tried to learn one of his songs,” Fallon said. “What I learned from trying to play one of his songs turned into ‘The Regulator.’ I’m of the opinion one guy and one guitar (like James) can be much more terrifying that all the Marshall amplifiers in the world. If we turn somebody on to listen to the bands that came before, to the music that is the real rock and roll, that’s great.”

Clutch has been doing that since 1990 when singer/guitarist Fallon joined guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster to form the band.

The band has released nine albums, and enjoyed some modest radio play with the song “Careful with that Mic” (from its 2001 album, “Pure Rock Fury”) and “The Mob Goes Wild” (from the 2004 album “Blast Tyrant”).

Over the years, Clutch has seen its powerful sound evolve and take on its multi-faceted character.

“I think you have to be of the mindset that everything is a learning process and you express what you’ve learned through your music,” Fallon said. ” I can’t imagine repeating yourself for 20 years without going mad. I think it would be the same for any artist in a creative field.”

That kind of creativity extends to Clutch’s show, which is, by design, different each performance.

“We change the set list every single night,” Fallon said. “Otherwise, we would start daydreaming and get really, really boring. We’re playing a lot of new music on this tour. It’s always good to be a little bit scared on stage and that’s what you get from new music. If you’re scared, you’re not going to get sloppy.”

The new songs are really new — tunes that will be included on the band’s 10th album, “Earth Rocker,” which is set for release on March 19.

The new CD is being touted as a concise, “solid, straight-up” rock and roll album that has plenty of riff-based, in-your-face rockers. The band started writing the album on tour for “Strange Cousins from the West,” and spent roughly two years writing and refining the tracks.

This enabled the band to have the album fully mapped out before going into the Machine Shop studio in Belleville, N.J., to record “Earth Rocker” with veteran producer Machine, whom the band feels succeeded in capturing much of the intensity of the Clutch live show.

While in an overall sense, the band members would like to see the heavy music turn off the violent path, Fallon said, there’s no other big message to the music, even if the band has done a few topical songs in the past, including some critiques of the George W. Bush administration.

“It’s really to entertain people,” Fallon said. “If somebody’s putting our CD on in their car to help with their commute, we’ve done a positive thing. We try to keep it simple and not worry about any kind of messages. For the most part, it’s rock for rock’s sake.”

Fallon plans to continue to make rock for rock’s sake until he’s well past retirement age, whether he’s with Clutch, another band or playing solo.

“I don’t know if I’ll be touring as much, but I had a revelation last week,” Fallon said. “I’m 40 now and fast math told me I’ve been doing this for more than half my life. I don’t think I’m going to be changing careers anytime soon or ever.”