Clutch has dodged being saddled with a label, primarily because of the illusion of reinvention it's projected with each album. But the truth is, it's just an illusion. Clutch is set in its ways, yet all of its music sounds like bold experimentation. On its latest effort, From Beale Street to Oblivion, the act sheds the metal leanings that colored earlier efforts in favor of a more refined bluesy swagger that's a continuation of 2005's Robot Hive/Exodus. We recently caught up with Neil Fallon to get some insight into his songwriting and what it was like to emerge during the halcyon days of grunge.
Westword: The album title comes from the song "The Devil and Me." What's that about?
Neil Fallon: I guess, in my kind of convoluted logic, the song is God and the Devil having this kind of hypothetical conversation, but they are being embodied by two dudes on either side of a street corner. Instead of being banished to purgatory, they have been banished to Tennessee. Not that I think Tennessee is hellish or anything -- Beale Street just popped into my mind.
Clutch has always had better-than-average lyrics. Where does your inspiration come from?
A lot of it is just taking notes on life. There's material for lyrics everywhere you look; it's just a matter of being diligent and writing it down. If you take something out of its context, I think that's half the battle. I think everything's already been said; it's just the way that it's said that makes it new.
Clutch got lumped in with the whole grunge thing. How did you feel about that?
I think we really got lucky. Even though we sounded nothing like Nirvana or Pearl Jam, major labels were dumping anything that smacked of hair bands and signing anything that resembled grunge. And to them, we were one of those bands. I don't feel like we were misled; I feel like we duped them. Many years later, it put us in a position to be self-sufficient.
How would you describe the average Clutch fan?
I think people who dig the band really find something in us they aren't finding anywhere else. What that is, I don't know. They're people who are passionate and enjoy music in all its facets; they're not just there on a lark. Our fans are a big, dedicated grab bag of folks.
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