This year’s Welcome to Rockville lineup is decidedly diverse. New kids on the metal block get to play alongside hardcore OGs like Rob Zombie, Anthrax and Megadeth. Clutch lands somewhere in the middle with 25 years in the game and a mass appeal that extends across the board. Formed in Maryland in 1991, Clutch is somewhat of an anomaly. The lineup of vocalist and guitarist Neil Fallon, drummer Jean-Paul Gaster, bassist Dan Maines, and guitarist Tim Sult is still the same group of high school kids that came together over a shared love of music. Together they have released 11 studio albums, two independent releases under their belt, and still get off on making music.
“When we started the band, we really had two goals in mind; to make good records and do good shows. And that’s what we do to this day. When you have that kind of focus, it cuts out a lot of peripheral nonsense,” says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “I always tell people there’s a lot of reasons why people start bands. I started the band to play music and luckily I was able to find three other guys that were in it for the very same thing. There’s a great deal of respect for one another.”
After recently returning from Australia, Clutch barely has time to readjust to stateside time before hitting the road with Lamb of God. Welcome to Rockville kicks off the tour May 1 and is the first of a handful of spring festival dates including Carolina Rebellion in North Carolina, the River’s Rockfest in Iowa, and New York’s Rock ‘N Derby Festival.
“We take turns changing up the setlist every night. We change the order of the songs, change the songs we play, improvise between the songs or inside the songs. First night of the tour is usually Dan, then myself, then Neil and Tim. Rockville will be the first night of the tour, so Dan will make that setlist and what happens that night will be completely unique to that night,” Gaster says. “That’s not to say that we play perfectly every night. You put yourself in a new head space, but that’s the beauty of it. We don’t stand around and rehearse for hours and then go out and play the exact same thing every night. To me, that’s not really rock ‘n roll.”
Breaking up a tour with festival dates gives the guys the chance to reconnect with friends and fans and keep their collective fingers on the pulse of new music. “Part of the fun of festivals is getting the chance to see some bands you haven’t seen before, so I always make it a point to go up to the stage before we play and hang out after and just check out what some of the other bands are doing and what kind of sounds we hear. That’s always fun for me,” Gaster says. “Plus, when you spend so much of your time in nightclubs and theatres, it’s nice to be able to spend some time outdoors.”
Younger crowds that don’t know their music get tuned in at festivals, while fans of Clutch that have grown up with them are bringing their kids to the shows. “That’s the best part about it. Fans we made years ago are now bringing their families and their wives and kids. That’s an awesome thing to be able to sit up there and play drums and see a bunch of kids in the front row. No doubt about it,” he says. “And it’s nice to play for new folks. There are so many different bands, so many different kinds of rock fans and we have a chance to show our stuff to some people who might not otherwise know us.”
Putting out new music on their own label Weathermaker Music keeps Clutch relevant to the music fans with a DIY aesthetic and commitment to keeping the record industry alive. In recognition of Record Store Day, April 16 Clutch will release a limited edition 12” vinyl with two previously unreleased tracks from the Psychic Warfare sessions, ‘Mad Sidewinder’ and ‘Outland Special Clearance.’
“These are two songs that were recorded during the sessions for Psychic Warfare. We’ve sort of been sitting on these songs. Both of them sort of stand on their own, but I think the main reason they didn’t make it on the record was that they didn’t fit with the other songs that ended up being on the record,” says Gaster. “It kind of gives us a chance to do something cool with the artwork with the packaging. Vinyl is an important part of Record Store Day. It’s a tough market out there and if we can give the fans and the stores the opportunity to be part of this vinyl release, then it’s good for everybody. So it’s something we’re excited about.”
These two tracks, specifically mastered for this vinyl configuration by Paul Logus, will be on side A. The reverse side will have a large scale etching taken from the Psychic Warfare CD booklet design created by Dan Winters. The jacket is hand numbered thick clear plastic showing the full art design, making it a unique collectors’ item for all Clutch fans.
“This is the best job in the world. We don’t take this for granted. We think about this band first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. We have a very loyal fan base and we do our best to get out there and play hard every night. We know that we’re one record or one shitty show away from this thing falling apart. We’re aware of that. The industry right now is in a really tough spot so bands out there with a big fan base have to cultivate that and have to treat it for what it is. It’s a very special thing.”
Clutch performs May 1 at Welcome to Rockville Festival at Metropolitan Park. Tickets are available at www.welcometorockvillefestival.com.