DAN MAINES (CLUTCH): “We Played 20 Songs Every Night And Over The Course Of The Tour We’d Played 64 Different Songs”

CLUTCH (Live at The O2 Academy, Leeds, U.K., December 19, 2019)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It’s been four years since their last studio record but Clutch are back with Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, their most ambitious release to date and are now poised for a major tour of the UK and Europe. Mick Burgess called up bassist Dan Maines to talk about the tour, the new record and why they established their own record label.

You last toured the UK in December 2019 – the world was a much different place then. Who could have predicted a pandemic and a European war back then?

It’s been crazy. We got home from that tour in 2019 and did a run here in The States ending on New Year’s Eve. Then we were heading into 2020 with the intention of going to Australia in March. In January we were just waiting to see who’d make the call first and you know how the rest went. That tour never happened.

You’re over in the UK for a run of shows starting in Glasgow on 11th November. Are you looking forward to coming over here again?

Absolutely. Our crowds in the UK have just been getting bigger and bigger. They’ve always been fantastic but there’s been some nice steady growth for us over the years and I think some tours with Thin Lizzy and Motörhead helped, they opened up a lot of doors for us.

You’ll be down at the City Hall in Newcastle on 12th November too?

Yes, it’ll be great to play there again. We last played there about 10 years ago with Thin Lizzy and Triggerfinger. That was a great show and I’m looking forward to playing there as headliners.

You’ve played in the UK a fair few times over the years. What do you enjoy most about visiting here?

I like sampling the different types of beers that you guys have over here.

What sort of setlist do you have lined up for these shows?

We’ll pick up where we left off on this last US run that we did. We changed the setlist each night. We’d play 20 songs every night and over the course of the tour we’d played 64 different songs. We’re pretty good at mixing it up especially in areas like the UK where people may come to more than one show. We learned pretty early on that to play the same setlist every night just kills the vibe very quickly. We like to keep the setlist different to keep us paying attention. We also try to jam out different songs here and there and we like to mess around with song connections going from one to another without stopping. That opens up pretty exciting opportunities for things to happen.

How far in advance of the show do you know what you’ll be playing each night?

It’s a couple of hours or so. At this point if I tell the guys on my setlist night what we are going to play, I’ll give them a couple of hours so they have the chance to prepare and listen to the songs before we get up and play.

So, each night a different band member chooses what to play?

That’s right. It starts with me on the first day of the tour. Then it goes to Jean-Paul, then Neil and finally Tim.

You’ve recently release your latest album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach. Are you pleased with the reaction you received so far?

I love it and don’t think it could have come out any better. It was the record we were hoping we could make at this time. It was great working with Tom the producer too. Fleshing out songs with someone from outside of the group puts things into perspective. We didn’t have the opportunity to play these songs live before we went into the studio other than one or maybe two on a livestream. Songs can take on different personalities when you play them in front of an audience before going into the studio. It did however allow us to do more experimentation within the studio which maybe we wouldn’t have done if they’d been more fleshed out in a live setting. You kind of discover the song as you recorded it.

Neil Fallon handles the lyrics. Does he write those first to give you an idea of the feel of the song on which to base your music?

He doesn’t usually give us a sneak preview of the lyrics until they are done. The four of us will usually jam in the studio. Jean Paul has a recording system set up so that we record everything that we play and when we have some cool ideas, we can work on those. When a song is close enough to a song formation, that’s when Neil really digs in with the lyrics. Neil will take the music away and listen to it and will record his own vocal track on top of the demo that Jean Paul recorded.

The album is quite short in today’s market. This is an album you can easily listen to in one session and then play it again. Was it important to you to get straight to the point and make a record of absolutely no filler?

We definitely wanted to do that this time around as we did the opposite the last time. The switch from vinyl to CD allowed 15 songs to be put onto an album but really the 12-inch vinyl was the perfect length for an album and if you can trim the fat down to that, you’re going to listen to it and then immediately want to listen to it again, if it’s worthy.

You worked with producer Tom Dalgety for the first time on this record. Why did you go for him?

We had a handful of producers in mind and we liked the stuff he’d done with bands like Opeth. We thought his record with them sounded really good. We also had the ability to have conversations with him over Zoom and that really solidified things for us as. It was clear he was somebody we’d be able to work easily with.

Clutch have Sabbath heavy riffs but with a huge Funky groove. Neil Fallon, a while ago, mentioned his love of Washington DC Go-Go Funk. Is that one of your musical references too?

Yeah, by the time we were in High School, Go-Go was really popular. I think it really hit Jean Paul in a powerful way and he was already playing drums at that point and Go-Go music is very percussion based. That is a style that we overtly put into the music and it’s always subconsciously in there as well.

You’ve recently started releasing a number of covers under the Weathermaker Vault Series. What inspired you to start doing that?

We always had the idea in the back of our heads to re-record certain Clutch songs from our back catalogue for whatever reason. The Vault Series started off as Clutch songs that we wanted to re-do. We only had a handful that we wanted to do so we started doing a couple of covers. That’s always a fun exercise as it points out your own tendencies and forces you to think outside the box. You can either interpret it totally differently to the original or keep it close and we played it pretty close to the original while injecting our own energy into the song.

Is this an ongoing project?

I think so. It’s fun and some turn out better than others. We’ve ended a few shows on our current tour with our version of “Fortunate Son” and that one goes over pretty good.

Do you have any thoughts on the next couple of covers you want to do? How about “Never In My Life” by Mountain or “She’s A Devil” by BTO?

That Mountain song would be good for sure. That’d be fun.

Your last five albums have all been released on your own Weathermaker label. These are also your four most commercially successful releases. Do you think that there’s a connection with the freedom you have to make your own creative decisions and owning your label and the success of your records?

For sure, yes. I don’t think that we necessarily got a raw deal when we were on major labels. I think that those albums turned out great and I think the music business at that time meant that the possibility of getting signed was high but the possibility of staying on that label was very low. They were just looking for anything resembling a Nirvana type of band and that opened up the possibility of a load of bands that’d been touring for 10 years and then suddenly a major label was interested. If you didn’t have instant success on their terms then you’d be dropped. Those records to us were successful on our terms and we’re proud of them. On a business end of things, not enough people thought they were a success so we moved on. By the time we got to the point after 2007 when we’d put out From Beal Street to Oblivion we’d been fortunate to have been able to retain our masters and that’s what pushed us to starting Weathermaker. Strange Cousins From The West was our first album on Weathermaker and that was a big learning experience for us. Doing everything on that level on our own was a big challenge. Win or fail, it was up to us. Each record we learned more and tried to correct our mistakes on the next one. Fortunately, we have a really loyal fan base that supports us.

You expanded to also include a number of your side projects such as The Company Band, The Bakerton Group and The Mob. Were those bands already in existence or did the freedom of having your own label enable you to branch out with side projects?

The Bakerton Group had been around for a while after we’d got our first band house together after we’d finished touring the self-titled album. We just started playing songs that we didn’t think were Clutch songs. We’d pick a Jazz or Blues standard and jam and we wouldn’t incorporate any lyrics and would just keep it a musical exercise. That took a lot of shape when we were living in Bakerton, West Virginia so we just called ourselves The Bakerton Group that was around ’96. I’m not sure when The Company Band first formed but The Mob was Jack Flanagan’s Hard Core band from New York City. He was our tour manager for years then he became our manager.

At what point did you decide to sign bands from outside of the Clutch camp?

It was something we’d talked about for a while but not really something we were comfortable with. When it was side projects involving us that’s different to working with an outside band where there’s a different level of responsibility. It’s someone else’s baby and you don’t want to drop it. With Lionize, they were a band we’d been big fans of for a while and had done a lot of tours with them. They were putting out records consistently and said they’d like to see what we could do with Weathermaker. We hooked them up with producer, Machine, who had worked with us on Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare. They made a great record together.

Is Weathermaker now just focussing on Clutch and related bands now?

Yes, I think we keep ourselves busy enough.

After your UK tour ends on 16th November in Brighton, where do you head next?

We start in the UK and then head over to Europe and come back again to the UK for the final week to finish the tour in the second week of December. We fly home and that’s it, we’re done for a while and don’t have anything on the books for a few months.

What about 2023? What are your plans for next year?

We’ll probably take the first three or four months off and start writing for the next album. Then we’ll start touring again in the spring. We’ll be back in the summer times for some festivals and headlining shows in the UK and Europe.

Clutch start their UK in Glasgow on 11th November.

Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is out now on Weathermaker

Interview and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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