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Pushing the Clutch: Frontman talks about the band's latest album, tour

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the past 20 years, Clutch has been steadily touring and building a loyal fan base worldwide.Early in its career, the band played many shows in West Virginia, but it has been several years since the group last passed through the Mountain State. That changes Saturday night, when the internationally acclaimed group returns to Huntington to play a sold-out show at The V Club.With the band's latest release, "Earth Rocker," getting national attention, frontman Neil Fallon said he and the other members of Clutch are excited to share this well-honed album with their fans."I know most artists always say their latest thing is the best, but I will say this," the 42-year-old singer said. "I know this is the only record that we've played every song live regularly. There isn't a song on this record that I don't like to play live."In the past, there are songs we've never played live, songs that sound great in the studio but don't translate onto the stage."Fallon's intensity and passion for the album is contagious. "Earth Rocker" is the first studio album in which Clutch went through extensive pre-production before cutting the final record."Basically, we did the record twice. We did a pre-production demo, where everyone learned their parts frontwards and backwards. So, when we went into the studio to record, everyone knew it and didn't have to worry about 'Am I singing/playing the right note or lyric?'"In the past, the band created its albums in the studio on the fly. The guys would go in with a rough idea and hash it out on the record. Their previously released albums have a rawness that "Earth Rocker" has conquered.In the past, the subject matter of Clutch's albums has ranged from the obscure to the hysterical, but on "Earth Rocker," two tracks have a very pointed focus -- the American political system and how it is failing citizens.Fallon lives in Maryland, about 10 miles outside the nation's capital. He said the tracks "Mr. Freedom" and "D.C. Sound Attack!" are specific indictments of the current state of politics."Every year, I get less and less patient with the current political fad," he said. "'Mr. Freedom,' for me, has more to do with the way politicians are more about marketing a lifestyle and less and less about making policies. That is kind of the chip on my shoulder: politicians thinking they can buy a political office by branding themselves. "'D.C. Sound Attack!' is specifically about lobbyists," he said. "As a nation and as a people, we have become entirely too comfortable with the industry of war. The U.S. civilian population has forgotten the horrors of war and are too quick to glamorize it as an acceptable industry. The last time we had an experience of war in our own backyard was the mid-1800s."There is a removal of the human aspect of it because we can kill people from Virginia with an unmanned drone. You can eat a box of french fries while wiping out an entire family."Fallon said he wrote those two songs while he was in a particularly intense mood.The album progresses, though, to much more lighthearted subject matter and more of the sci-fi fantasy style rock Clutch is famous for.
Hardcore fans can expect to hear more than just the new album at the show, though. Fallon said they change the set list every night, with each member getting a turn in a very democratic way.
"We take turns by alphabetical order: Dan, Jean-Paul, then myself, then Tim. Then we repeat. Each evening's show reflects the preferences of whoever wrote the set list."And there are plenty of shows. Fallon said the band, even after more than 20 years, still sticks to a rigorous tour schedule, staying on the road roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of the year."Being on the road takes its toll, but we have families that support us. I certainly can't tour like I did when I was 25 -- nor do I want to. I have a son; I don't want to be a dad he doesn't know. But I genuinely enjoy playing live, and I can see myself always doing that, just as long as we pace ourselves."Fallon said he doesn't see a break coming anytime soon. The band is scheduled to go back into the studio next spring to start work on its next project. Plus, in addition to Clutch, the band members all have side projects, which they produce on their label, Weathermaker.Just as Clutch's career has spanned decades, so do its fans' ages. These days at a show, you're as likely to see someone in their 60s as someone in their 20s. Often, you even see multiple generations of families.
"Not in a million years did I think we'd be playing shows that people would bring their whole families to," Fallon said. "But now that we're at that point, I think it is amazing. I love it. The hardest people to impress are the really old or the really young, so when I see either of those demographics at our show, I get pretty stoked."Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at 304-348-1249.  ___________ WANT TO GO?ClutchWith The Sword and CrobotWHEN: 8 p.m. SaturdayWHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., HuntingtonTICKETS: sold outINFO: 304-781-0680 or 
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