Interview: Tim Sult – Clutch

Clutch have been a favourite band of mine for many years now so when the opportunity arose for me to interview lead guitarist Tim Sult I naturally jumped at that chance, and then couldn’t think of a thing to ask him. What was meant to be a zoom call ended up being a face-to-face chat at the O2 Academy in Glasgow ahead of the opening night of their UK tour. No pressure then…

First off, congratulations on the new album ‘Sunrise On Slaughter Beach’…

Oh, thank you

With the exception of keyboardist Mick Schauer, the band’s lineup has remained unchanged since 1991. How do you keep things from going stale and how easy is it for you to stay inspired?

I think really, just trying to remain creative, Y’know. We’re always working on new material and always trying to move forward and I think that really is the most important thing for Clutch. I mean there could have been a time back in the 90s where we decided “hey we’ve got a lot of songs that people like listening to, we don’t have to write any more songs”. Just spend the next 30 years just playing our first 5 albums and probably some people would be perfectly happy with that. For us personally, working on new material, working towards something, towards that next tour has really made us survive. The fact that the band has always been growing and there was never a time back in the early days where we were a huge band and then all of a sudden we weren’t huge anymore. It’s always been a small stair step up to the Academy in Glasgow.

I always imagined you were a band that had to work to survive and you don’t get to have huge breaks like say, Metallica.

Exactly and I think another thing is we like to take a lot of time off but we’re just consistent about it.

Because you all have families now so time off is important to you all?

Oh yeah, for sure.

It’s been 4 years between albums, the longest gap between records

Was it really? I hadn’t even thought about it…

With covid preventing people from socializing, do you tend to write as a band in a room together or on tour as opposed to writing individually?

All of us have riffs and ideas and once we get together in the jam room we have way more riffs and ideas. That’s one of the good things about Clutch is that everyone contributes musically. It’s not like one person just does everything. All four of us are involved from the beginning of the song until the end, and that’s another reason why we’ve been together for so long.

Your music seems to be a melting pot of different styles but blues definitely seems to be a dominant genre, did you get into blues early on?

For me personally, no. I was never into like, the older blues stuff. That wasn’t really my thing when I was growing up, I was more into rock and metal. It was a different time when we were growing up, it wasn’t easy to listen to music. You had to go out and buy it or beg your parents for it. Once we started touring in the early 90s we had soooo much time to sit in the van and just drive. We would just buy tapes at truckstops and start listening to other music than what we were listening to at the time which was usually D.C. hardcore.

What was the scene like when you were growing up?

We were leaning more toward the hardcore thing. We were a little younger than the whole Dischord [D.C. Hardcore label founded in 1980] thing so we were a little separated from that but it definitely had an influence on Clutch, especially the go-out-and-do-it-yourself DIY attitude. And another reason we’re still here is we knew if we were gonna do this we’d have to do it ourselves without depending on any labels to pay for everything.

You have your own label now, how’s that going for you?

It’s going great, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.

You experimented on the new album with backing vocals and theremins. Did it come about naturally, whose ideas were they?

It was a pretty natural progression, I think the album’s producer Tom Dalgety had a big hand in all the backing vocals and all the kinda weird stuff that was there

There are elements of dub in your guitar sound with the echoes and warbling sounds…

Yes, that kinda goes back to the instrumental group we had called The Bakerton Group…

I was going to ask about that, any plans to bring that group back?

Nah, we’re probably not gonna be doing that anytime soon. We’re having too much fun doing Clutch stuff.

How do you decide what songs require Neil to play guitar? Do you tussle over who plays what?

Oh no, not at all. For Neil sometimes it is harder for him to play and sing on some songs. I think the bluesier stuff like ‘Regulator’ he prefers doing over the thrashier stuff like ‘A Shotgun Named Marcus’.

Talking of guitars and guitar sounds I was checking out your pedalboard, no Boss Metal Zone??

Er, I do not, no. I’ve tried to use fuzz and distortion pedals in the past live, it always sounds absolutely horrific to me. They’re fine in the studio.

Has touring post-covid required you to change anything? I know a lot of bands have downsized their rigs etc to save money on touring costs.

Yeah, we haven’t really changed anything as far as touring goes except get covid a bunch of times. I was ok but a couple of the other guys got the earlier version of covid so it was a little worse for them. I think we only had to cancel a few shows and we made them up.

Have you got a favourite song from ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach that you play live?

At the moment I think my favourite song to play is ‘Nosferatu Madre’ its really fun, really Sabbathy. Also on this album, a new thing we’ve never done in the past is tune to C#.

I recently discovered Neil Fallon has a degree in English, this may explain why his lyrics are so clever. Do you have a favourite lyric from the band’s catalogue?

Oh jeez, If I had to write the lyrics they would be really really boring and stupid. Anytime I hear Neil’s ideas vocally for the first time I’m just completely blown away because that’s something I could never do in a million years or think of. As far as favourite lyrics go I think right now ‘Eulogy For A Ghost’ that’s definitely one of my favourite Clutch songs ever, but ‘Jackhammer Our Names’, the last song on the new album, I absolutely love that one.

And finally to wrap up, one of my favourite Clutch songs is ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ which is basically a recipe for crab cakes. I was curious, are you all fans of cooking, and if so what are your specialty dishes you like to cook?

Oh cool, you know what, we just rehearsed it, I think it’s in the set for tonight. I think JP [Jean-Paul Gaster – drums] is probably our biggest foodie in the band, He’s a big griller and a big meat guy. He probably cooks the most out of the band. As far as those lyrics to ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ I don’t think Neil’s intention was to use those lyrics but as soon as the band heard them we were like…” yes please can we use those!”

 

 

And with that, I make my way out of the O2 Academy not before getting lost in true Spinal Tap fashion.

Interview – Colin Plumb

Portrait image – Dan Winters

All live images – Rob Wilkins

Clutch Glasgow live review, here.

Find all remaining European and UK tour dates, and buy tickets HERE.

Nov 15 – Exeter, UK – Great Hall

Nov 16 – Brighton, UK – Brighton Dome

Nov 18 – Hannover, GER – Capitol

Nov 20 – Hamburg, GER – Markthalle

Nov 22 – Berlin, GER – Huxley’s Neue Welt

Nov 23 – Munich, GER – Neue Theaterfabrik

Nov 24 – Wien, AT – Arena

Nov 25 – Zagreb, CRO – Culture Factory

Nov 26 – Milan, IT – Fabrique

Dec 2 – Toulouse, FR – Le Bikini

Dec 3 – Lyon, FR – Le Transbordeur

Dec 5 – Zurich, CH – X-TRA

Dec 6 – Stuttgart, GER – LKA Longhorn

Dec 7 – Frankfurt, GER – Batschkapp

Dec 9 – Cologne, GER – Live Music Hall

Dec 10 – Paris, FR – Bataclan

Dec 13 – Bristol, UK – 02 Academy

Dec 14 – Birmingham, UK – 02 Academy

Dec 15 – Manchester, UK – Manchester Academy

Dec 16 – Nottingham, UK – Rock City

Dec 17 – London, UK – The Roundhouse

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