[Exclusive] I was lucky enough to chat with Clutch guitarist Tim Sult to talk about the band’s upcoming new album ‘Psychic Warfare’, which is due to hit shelves October 2nd. Read my review HERE – where I declare it their finest effort to date. We also touched on what elements the band scrapped during the recording and have planned for the future as well as why nobody ever seems to hate Clutch no matter who they tour with.
Keven: You decided to get back to work rather quickly less than two years after the release of ‘Earth Rocker’, which at the time I considered your best record to date. What possessed you to get back into the studio in such a short period of time?
Tim: It didn’t really feel like that short of an amount of time to us. From the time that we finished the writing process for ‘Earth Rocker’ to the time that we started ‘Psychic Warfare’, we actually hadn’t gotten together to work on new music for a full year. That was actually the first time we had ever gone that long without getting together and working on new music. So to us it was a good amount of time between the two albums. It’s something we’ve always done, we continue to write songs and that’s been our impetus, just moving forward and create new music.
Keven: In all honesty you guys could still be milking the hell out of ‘Earth Rocker’ because it was so good and nobody would care. Did you feel like there were leftover ideas from those sessions that carried over into ‘Psychic Warfare’?
Tim: Maybe early on in the writing process some of the material had a little bit more of an ‘Earth Rocker’ vibe but I think further along we got away from that. It definitely has its foot in ‘Earth Rocker’, but ‘Psychic Warfare’ is really it’s own entity.
Keven: I’ve been fortunate to listen to ‘Psychic Warfare’ numerous time and I don’t wanna blow smoke up your ass but I have to be honest – I think it’s your best album – ever. It’s a great blend of the old and new Clutch. How is it that almost a quarter of a century being in this band that you guys are charting higher than ever and you’re putting out the best material of your careers?
Tim: First off – thank you for saying that. That’s very nice of you (laughing). How are we pulling it off? We just want to write the best songs that we can. We’re always trying to make something that we feel is better than the last thing that we put out. It’s nice to hear somebody saying it’s our best record because that’s what we were going for. That’s what we could only hope for as artists that people will think that your newest work is the best so that’s a really good feeling when someone says that.
Keven: It’s crazy because you’re following up ‘Earth Rocker’ which at the time I considered your best album with ‘Psychic Warfare’, which I consider now to be your best album. Did you find it stressful at all having to make the new one after you just released your highest charting record to date?
Tim: Not necessarily. I think our main drive to just to please ourselves first and write what we like to play and listen to. I think with ‘Earth Rocker’ that was really the first time that we wrote a full album where we went out and played every single song of it. Whereas in the past some songs might get dumped or we may not wanna do them, or get sick of them really quick. Whereas with ‘Earth Rocker’ and ‘Psychic Warfare’ again – we definitely enjoy playing all of the material.
Keven: You’ve mentioned before that ‘Psychic Warfare’ is probably the fastest Clutch album to date and I can agree with you there. Do you think some of that could be attributed to your producer Machine whom you’ve done some amazing work with in the past? That dude seems like he’s one of the most upbeat, positive and energetic dudes in the studio – what is it about that guy that you seem to click with?
Tim: Yeah once he gets going he’s definitely very energetic that’s for sure. We’ve always just had a very positive working experience with the guy and we actually started working with him on a couple tracks way back on the ‘Pure Rock Fury’ album. Then we did the full ‘Blast Tyrant’ record and this is out third full length album that we’ve done together. We’re just always very happy with the finished product.
Keven: I’ve read in the past that Neil (Fallon) had mentioned that ‘Pure Rock Fury’ was his least favorite album. Do you feel that there was something lacking with that record? I mean, I thought it was pretty heavy and I liked it a lot so that surprised me a little to hear that.
Tim: I haven’t heard that for a long time but if I had to rank them…. That might be towards the bottom. There’s really nothing wrong with it in general, we just played it too much and got sick of it. I have no problem with any of the songs on it whatsoever, but maybe part of the problem might also be the tracklisting itself. I always thought it left a little to be desired in my opinion.
Keven: My favorite track on the new record so far is probably ‘Sucker for The Witch’, but if you had to pick one yourself at the moment what would be yours?
Tim: Since I like all the songs at this point I’m gonna have to go with what I enjoy playing the most…. I really like the vibed out ‘Son of Virginia’ – that’s really fun to play live for me. I like ‘Noble Savage’ quite a bit as well – it’s very simple and very Clutch.
Keven: When I first heard you guys it was ‘A Shogun Named Marcus’ off Transnational Speedway and that song came out in 93, which is a long time ago and one of your first big tracks. Your sound has definitely progressed since then so I wanted to ask you what has changed the most about your evolution over time as band and do you think new fans would be a little surprised at some of the early hardcore elements of Clutch?
Tim: I really don’t think there’s a huge difference. I would say compare ‘A Shogun Named Marcus’ to ‘Noble Savage’. I think really the only huge difference would be the arrangements. I think that might be the major difference is that the songs from the ‘Transnational’ days and before that were made with a different arrangement mindset. Riff-wise I feel they’re similar but the template that we use now didn’t come until the second album, with the blues elements and spacey type jam stuff.
Keven: There was a larger four year gap between the previous two records as opposed to this new one and you had mentioned that if there would have been a larger time period between ‘Earth Rocker’ and ‘Psychic Warfare’ that the sound would have gone in a completely different direction. Can you elaborate more on that and if you had to guess, which elements would you like to incorporate more of down the road?
Tim: There were definitely some cool jams that we didn’t get to. There were a couple acoustic things that we did that were unfinished ideas and we actually ended up leaving two songs off the album, one of which was probably the closest to ‘Earth Rocker’. There’s videos of us all over the internet playing it – it’s called ‘Mad Sidewinder’. That was the first new song that we wrote for the new album and we kinda just got sick of it and scrapping that one. So – more acoustic vibes for the future.
Keven: The band takes the democratic approach when coming up with ideas and songs for new records, so that usually can wind up taking quite a while to come up with a finished product. Were you surprised at all with the end results and what if anything had changed over the course of recording ‘Psychic Warfare’?
Tim: I was definitely very, very happy with the end result that’s for sure. Regarding us being a democracy I think that’s where Machine does a lot of good. Because he can come in and tell us what’s good and where we should focus our energies – which riff is better than which because we might have three different ideas.
Keven: If Machine wasn’t around you’re saying you could wind up with a bunch of six-minute tracks as opposed to the leaner 4-minute ones?
Tim: Possibly… We might just end up with 40 different songs.
Keven: Clutch is one of the most versatile bands on the planet because you guys can somehow pull off a tour with Lamb of God but you’d also fit right in with say someone like the Foo Fighters. What is it about the band that audiences seem to just accept you no matter the tour?
Tim: I think it’s heavy but friendly on the ears for some reason. Early on we definitely opened up for a lot of different style bands and we never had a problem playing with anybody. I think it’s just the way we sound live. When we get up on stage and start playing our music it sounds powerful to people who have never heard us before so they give us a chance. It’s not like we’re on stage posing out and trying to win fans over by looking cool or anything like that. I think people see that in us – that we’re genuine and that we’re playing music that we like to play.
Keven: When I first say you guys play live it was actually on the Sounds of the Underground festival, opening for Lamb of God in fact, and Clutch was the only “rock” band on a tour that was filled with screams and circle pits. By the time it came for you guys to hit the stage I wasn’t sure how some of those other metalheads would react to your style but when you got out there – people were just into it and I’ve never seen that before. People will get booed off the stage at a metal tour if they don’t vibe well with the headliner but Clutch doesn’t seem to have that problem.
Tim: It’s so surprising. We’ve opened up for Slayer, Iron Maiden – Marilyn Manson and Limp Bizkit back in the old days. Oddly we never got booed off stage. It’s probably gonna start happening now.
Keven: You’re probably due for it – nobody seems to hate Clutch so maybe now after the new album blows up you’ll finally get booed off the stage.
Tim: (laughing) Hopefully. I do like your idea of us fitting in with The Foo Fighters – that sounds like a good plan to me.