For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere summer has just reared it's hot and sweaty head, and with summer comes festivals and international artists! So suddenly Australia is awash with bands from across the globe playing what are affectionately termed 'Sideshows', it's good news and bad news as everyone struggles with time and money to catch all the acts they want to see who will probably never return to these shores any time soon.

One such band is Clutch, heading over for the Meredith music festival and two sideshows, which for a country with a population of 20,000,000 show the problems we have with supply and demand.

Once again I struggled through international phone systems and caught vocalist 'Neil' at the tail end of a show in Atlanta.

So to start, how did you guys all meet and why did you decide to form a band?

We met in high school and we started because we thought playing Rock & Roll would be a good way to hang out? And because all the other guys in high school started bands. We weren't excelling in sports or Mathematics, so thought we might as well play some freakin' Rock & Roll.

How long ago was that?

The first time I started jamming with JP (Drums) was in '88, we were about 16 or 17, nothing ever came of it until about '91 with the Pitchfork EP.

15 years, how many albums have you done in that time?

I've stopped counting. About a dozen releases, nine full lengths.

The current album (From Beale street to Oblivion) was all recorded in analogue, no digital production, is that something you've always done, or has it just been for this album?

We did that when we first started out and then switched to digital, but the idea with this album was to write it and record it live.

Were you trying to keep a certain edge to the album, vibrancy, avoid a temptation to play with it too much after being recorded?

Well, after every recording there's always an element of 'Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda', we were aiming to not have to try and remember each song but capture a performance, a feeling in the room.

The look and feel of the packaging has a dusty and vintage feel with black and white photos and stencils, what was the idea behind that?

All of us in the band lament the loss of the enormous gatefold record, before videos you'd always listen to the music and look at the record. We wanted to have a return to packaging that you can look at, a video in still life. Our friend Nick drew the stencils.

Does it relate to the lyrical content at all?

Sure, the silhouettes all do, as far as the cover, that was Nick's vision. He saw the tree and it's roots as a place to go, a place to have a good time. We didn't realise that at the time, I only figured it out three weeks ago! I like that though, I'd rather have things a mystery than everything on a plate.

So what is Beale st?

It's a very real place, a street in Memphis, a historical music strip where back in the day all the great Blues and Jazz musicians played. Nowadays it's more of a tourist location but I consider it a better Mecca than Nashville, Seattle or New York, it's one of the realest places ever.

So a place where 'one' can live free and easy, live Rock & Roll, live in 'Oblivion'?

I guess, it's quite an American lyrical style; maybe it's lost on non-Americans slightly.

It makes sense to me!

You seem a passionate band, what's getting you angry and passionate at the moment?

I'm not really angry, I live a blessed life with a great family and I'm in a rock band? I get angry when I hear bands playing to click tracks. I'm get excited about passionate musicians, small things.

I guess I was looking at a song like 'You can't stop progress', it seems political, or a least a social commentary.

I've always hated politics in rock & roll, except from the 60's when they actually had something to talk about. But life in the Sates in the past 7 years has been like living in someone else's wet dream, but our nightmare. I think it might have snuck in unintentionally.

You've been going a fair while now and some say that whilst your music is still pretty full on, your sound is mellowing, is this due to you personally slowing down or the natural development of any band that has been playing together so long?

We don't ever go in with any preconceived notions, It's just different words and a new vocabulary, all I can say is that Scotch and Wine mellow with age, but they get stronger.

Published in Arcady,