Neil Fallon (Clutch) Interview on Moe Train’s Tracks
Neil Fallon, Brian Kracyla and Monty Wiradilaga
Moe – All right, we’re sitting backstage with Neil Fallon, “leadman” from Clutch. I just recently got turned on to your music. I was on your site and I saw one of your videos. From the first couple notes hit, I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is some hard rockin’ music,’ and I immediately e-mailed Chip (Manager) and was like… I gotta talk to ya.
Neil – Right on! Cool!
Moe – There’s not too many “front to back” albums that I’ve heard, but your album “From Beale Street To Oblivion” is definitely a “front to back” album. Thumbs up…
Neil – Oh thanks.. Thank you.
Moe – Absolutely… Let’s talk about the album. You definitely took a little different approach to this album. I see from your beginning that you keep on changing your style a bit..
Neil – Yeah.
Moe – What did you do different with this album?
Neil – Well, we didn’t go into it with any preconceived notions, we kinda just followed our instincts. And people hear this and say this is much more of a blues style record for lack of a better word. It’s not really a blues record. But, there’s some slide guitar and some harmonica from Eric Oblander.. and that’s from the creative standpoint… and Bryan Hinkley did some guitar work with us. But what we did is we wrote the album in it’s entirety pretty much, and we went out on the road and toured on it for three weeks, just playing the record.
Moe – Just testing everything out?
Neil – Yeah, and learning the material inside and out. So we went into the studio, we were basically able to just roll tape, and not worry about, “Do I do this part four times or six?” And that, I think lent.. I was easier to get a raw..
Moe – It seemed live.
Neil – Yeah.
Moe – I thought it seemed real live. Real gritty.
Neil – I think this is the definitely the “livest” studio record that we have.
Moe – Is it easier to do that?
Neil – Oh yeah. And creatively, it’s less stress. You don’t waste time. You’re in, you’re out, and then you can worry about the pretty parts on top.
Moe – Well, when you were playing the songs out on the road, did you actually take notice of the audience’s reaction to what you were playing and sort of gear that towards your album or did you just go ahead and choose your favorites?
Neil – No. No, because the thing is I think when people are listening to music for the first time, they’re listening. They don’t know it, so they’re not going to dance.. They might cheer after a song, but maybe that person’s in a bad mood and you don’t want to make a creative judgment on this guy who’s been at the bar drinking eighteen beers all night. (Laughs)
Moe – Very true. (Laughs) Well speaking of those guys, you’ve got some crazy “Gearheads.”
Neil – Mmhmm.
Moe – And they’re pretty rabid fans. Do you have any outlandish stories from your “Gearheads?”
Neil – Oh sure, I mean… It’s a mixture of flattery and fear. (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – We’re very fortunate to have that kind of fan base where there’s people who are quite content to see four shows in a row.
Moe – You’ve got that following… Definitely.
Neil – And that’s a great spot to be in. Of course like any rock band, you’re gonna be in a nightclub, and there’s gonna be that weirdo that you know… But that weirdo probably does the same thing the next night to another rock band.
Moe – Yeah, that’s true… Talking about weirdos, are you a little weirded out about people obsessing about your beard? (Laughs)
Neil – (Laughs) Yes and no. I just learned about this website with my beard being placed on other people’s faces.
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – Which, at first I was like, not too sure about it, then I saw the humor in it. It was funny.
Moe – Who’d they put it on? Like random celebrities or what?
Neil – You know, just bizarre photos. Like guys surfing, carnies, the promotional photo for that movie “300…”
Moe – (Laughs) Oh jeez…
Neil – I don’t know man. That dude’s got a lot of free time on his hands.
Moe – Yeah, I bet! You do have crazy fans… How about Clutch? Any crazy Clutch stories?
Neil – Yes and no. I have a pretty high tolerance to craziness ’cause I’ve seen it so much for so long.
Moe – I’m sure you have.
Neil – Like today for example… We were parked along the side of the road, and you know, some guy was walking by and hit his head on the rear view mirror of the bus and knocked himself out for a second.
Moe – Nahh, really?
Neil – Yeah!
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – And that was like, ‘Ok, that just happened.’
Moe – That’s insane. (Laughs)
Neil – But it just seems like “all in a days” thing. I wish I had been writing them down all these years, but what are ya gonna do?
Moe – You’d have quite some stories! Well you’ve played for about sixteen… seventeen years?
Neil – Yeah, sixteen.
Moe – What, you’ve been averaging about one hundred… hundred and fifty shows a year?
Neil – Yeah. Some years more than others. We’ve done quite a few this year.
Moe – What are you up to? Two thousand?
Neil – I would guess. Maybe. Something like that.
Moe – That’s insane. You guys definitely need an award for hardest working band, I’ll tell you that much!
Neil – Yeah, or “most muleheaded!” (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) Well, it’s good to be out on the road. You certainly have got a lot of fans who are definitely looking forward to seeing your show. I’ve been in the crowd talking to people, and I’m asking them, “Who are you looking forward to seeing?” “CLUTCH!” Yeah, they’re yelling it in my face, and I’m like, “Whoa! Allright!”
Neil – Right on! (Laughs)
Moe – You’ve got a huge, huge fan base out there that’s looking forward to tonight’s set.
Neil – Right on. We’re looking forward to it.
Moe – Yeah man.
Neil – We haven’t done… We rarely do things like this.
Moe – What do you think about this scene? The Bonnaroo scene…
Neil – It’s great that you know, they kinda opened up the genres a little bit. Because, you know, we’ll do metal fests or something like Sounds of the Underground and people hear us and they say, “You should do Bonnaroo.” Then we’ll do something along the lines of Bonnaroo, and then they say, “You guys should do Ozzfest.” It’s kind of like a weird limbo for a band like us.
Moe – You guys don’t do Ozzfest?
Neil – No.
Moe – Not a fan? (Laughs)
Neil – I don’t know! At this point, these things are good to but our home is in a nightclub.
Moe – John Paul Jones is playing… You guys are a fan of Led Zeppelin?
Neil – Oh yeah! Oh yeah!
Moe – I know! So what do you think? You’re going to be gone aren’t ya? You’re not gonna be around!
Neil – Yeah, we’re blazin’ out tonight. Who’s playin’?
Moe – John Paul Jones, ?uestlove of the Roots and Philadelphia Experiment, and also Ben Harper.
Neil – Oh wow! Together?
Moe – Yeah!
Neil – Rad!
Moe – I was kinda hoping that you were gonna play!
Neil – (Laughs)
Moe – But, you’re not gonna be here so…
Neil – No, I wish we were, but we got another three shows…
Moe – Yeah.
Neil – And then we’re home for about five…six weeks.
Moe – So what are ya gonna do? Six weeks off?
Neil – I’m gonna do absolutely nothing!
Moe – I don’t blame ya!
Neil – I’m gonna hang out, play with the dog… You know, maybe try to get rid of these pizzas that I’ve been eating for the past five weeks. (Laughs)
Moe – (Laughs) B, do you have any questions?
King B – You’ve got a completely different fan base here. How do you feel about Crocs? Do you own a pair now that you…
Neil – You know, it’s funny you mentioned that! My dad bought a pair and he called my wife up and said they were too small for him, and would I like ‘em.
King B – Ugh… Please tell me that you don’t own a pair!
Neil – We had to gently say, “Well, I’m not really a Croc personality.”
King B – (Laughs)
Neil – I’m sure they’re great if you work in a kitchen, or a garden…
King B – This will probably be the most amount of Crocs attending one of your sets!
Neil – Yeah! Especially like orange and lime green!
King B – (Laughs) You’re from Maryland, right? The band’s from Maryland…
Neil – Yes.
King B – I was just curious… Me and Moe had the worst drive down here ever, and I just wanted to make sure that we weren’t…
Neil – Was it through 95 in Virginia?
King B – That’s exactly what my question was gonna be. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Every time I go through Virginia, it’s like the worst experience of my life!
Neil – Yeah. That’s in Springfield, Virginia called “The Mixing Bowl.”
King B – I know “Virginia is for Lovers” and everything, and we all understand that… (Laughs)
Neil – Yeah, that’s one of the other great things about the band is that we might get traffic every once in a while but I don’t have to do a daily commute in something like that. I would go postal man… I really would.
King B – I just figured that you had previous experience just driving around there.
Neil – I do. I don’t do it… I just won’t do it!
King B – Actually, I was curious. I was reading an interview earlier today and you said that the favorite city that you had ever played in was Amsterdam.
Neil – It’s probably one of the top five.
King B – Just from talking around here, I’ve gathered that a lot of the really killer shows are overseas. Australia…
Neil – Well festivals… Oh, you mean for us?
King B – Right, You. For you and your personal opinion.
Neil – I mean, I guess maybe that’s because I’m also there in a tourist capacity. You know, and that’s exciting. I know, let me think of an example… Philadelphia, Pennsylvania really well.
Moe – That’s where we’re from!
Neil – Cool! Oh! Great town, but I’m gonna be more excited about going to Oslo, Norway for the first time… You say, “Wow!”
King B – Yeah, understood.
Neil – There might be half as many people at the show in Oslo but it’s got more of an initial thrill. If we went there three times a year, I might feel differently.
King B – What about any city that… a city that you played and as soon as you were done, you were like, “Fuck this place! I never wanna play this place again!
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – (Laughs) There are a lot of them, but we’re probably gonna play ‘em sometime later this year, so I’m gonna keep my mouth shut! (Laughs)
King B – And Philly’s not one of them!
Moe – You never know!
Neil – Philly’s great. The Troc is one of our second homes away from home.
King B – Great… Great.
Moe – The Troc is definitely classic. Is that you’re favorite place to play or what? In Philly…
Neil – Yeah, well, that’s probably the only place we do play there. We played The Middle East once, and that was kind of “bogue,” but…
Moe – Yeah… The Troc has a good scene! They always have a…
Neil – I like it. You can get some decent food around the corner, and you know, blaze out!
Moe – Right! Definitely! Neil, thanks a lot for the interview. I really appreciate it.
Neil – My pleasure!
Moe – We’re gonna be right up front watching…
Neil – Cool!
Moe – Definitely… And you’ve got a TON of fans here!
King B – I’ll be throwing Crocs on stage!
Moe – (Laughs)
Neil – (Laughs)
Moe – Thanks again, Neil. Appreciate it.
Neil – No problem!