Noise Annoys: Gearing up with Clutch's Neil Fallon

Clutch (with Neil Fallon, second left) play The Limelight tomorrow night
Clutch (with Neil Fallon, second left) play The Limelight tomorrow night Clutch (with Neil Fallon, second left) play The Limelight tomorrow night

AS VETERAN Maryland riffmeisters Clutch prepare to kick off their latest European tour with a pair of Irish dates in Dublin tonight and Belfast tomorrow, Noise Annoys spoke to frontman Neil Fallon about why they still want to play their upcoming sold-out gig in Paris in the wake of the recent massacre and the band's recent success with their excellent Earth Rocker and Psychic Warefare LPs.

Hi Neil, are you looking forward to the tour and did you consider cancelling any dates?

No there's been no discussion of that. We just heard from our booking agent, you know, and people in France are still just trying to wrap their heads around this.

So we don't expect an answer from them – we're just going to play it by ear and assume that everything is going to proceed as planned. When it comes to Paris in particular, we'll just see what they have to say. We certainly would love to do the show but we understand that the circumstances may not warrant that.

The music community here in Europe seems pretty determined to carry on 'as normal' even after being targeted by IS – is that something you have picked up in the US?

I share that sentiment. I'm not a politician or a soldier but that would be our way of defying them and saying we're going to continue with what we love to do.

The mood at the moment reminds me very much of when we went on tour three days after September 11.

Clutch have had a great couple of years in which you've released two of your strongest albums, Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare (the band's first Billboard chart number one), via your own label Weathermaker Music. What's it been like for you?

We're stoked. To be have doing this as long as we have kind of goes against the stereotypical career arc of a rock band. But we do try hard, not only touring but writing and recording too.

So, having done the major label thing (with Columbia and Atlantic) and then to put the record out on our own label and have it go to number one on the rock charts is gratifying to say the least.

One of the problems we had with the majors was that we were always our own thing and they didn't know how to market us. Now, not to sound too business-like, we can sell these records without having to explain ourselves.

It takes a lot longer to build it up by word of mouth but I think ultimately it gives you a longer career span.

The last two records have seen the band streamlining its sound to concentrate on big riffs and catchy songwriting. Is it true that this was a move inspired by touring with Motorhead and Thin Lizzy?

We have always loved both those bands but when we toured with them it sort of put a spotlight on just really good songwriting – don't try to reinvent the wheel.

Ultimately, I think rock'n'roll should be emotional and heart-driven rather than cerebral. But I think on previous records we were sometimes too eager to do the opposite of what we did before as a matter of principle.

With Earth Rocker, a collective lightbulb went off: we have these strengths, why are we denying them?

Many years ago Clutch supported Therapy? here in Belfast, then later you contributed vocals to the song Joey on their Shameless LP. How did you get to know them?

We were on tour in the States when Therapy? were recording Shameless up in Seattle with Jack Endino – Michael and Andy asked us to stop by the studio, so we said sure. They are great guys.

We first met them when we supported Therapy? on their Suicide Pact, You First tour. I do remember that show in Belfast – the beginnings of it anyway. I think Andy was determined to be the goodwill ambassador for poteen that night!

:: Clutch play The Limelight, Belfast, tomorrow. Doors at 6.30pm. Psychic Warefare is out now.