Dan Maines (of Clutch): Interview at Shaky Knees Music and Arts Festival 05/08/2015

Early Friday morning I received an email from the public relations agent that handled the band Clutch about a possible opening to speak with their bass player, Dan Maines.  This was an opportunity that I jumped at for Concerthopper.com and as a fan of the band.  The band Clutch, originating out of Frederick, Maryland, has been touring and recording since 1991 and has released ten albums with the latest, Psychic Warfare being unleashed to the public in September.  The lineup has remained the same over the years with Neil Fallon (vocals/rhythm guitar/Cowbell enthusiast), Tim Sult (lead guitar), Dan Maines (bass) and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums).  We originally scheduled the interview to take place during the performance of TV on the Radio at the Piedmont Stage but due to conflicts we had to reschedule to after Mastodon’s performance at the main stage.  I met Dan and their longtime tour manager Oscar (@osloslo on Instagram) right after another blistering performance from Clutch’s current Missing Link Tour mates Mastodon.  We met and walked towards the back area behind the Piedmont Stage while Pixies performed to a nice sized crowd.

ConcertHopper (CH): First off I want to say it is an honor to sit and talk with a fellow bass player and with someone who I have admired since first picking up the bass.  Thank you for taking time out off your busy festival schedule to sit and talk with me. Man…you guys killed it this afternoon.  I mean I do not know if most of the people knew what was about to happen.  But they found out.

Dan: Thank you. (Laughing) It was hot, but was really fun.  Glad you enjoyed it. 

CH: The crowd really looked like they were into it from the beginning.  And you teased us with a few new songs.  Really awesome.  So we all know you are all working on a new album, Psychic Warfare, which is due out later this year.  Is it an extension of the last album, Earth Rocker?

Dan: Well we did start writing the material for Psychic Warfare after we finished the Earth Rocker tour.  This album has a different theme than Earth Rocker.  This one has more of our individual influences intertwined: Neil (blues), Tim (metal), Jean (Jazz) and myself (Punk).  When Earth Rocker was well received it gave us the energy to make Psychic Warfare.  We wanted to do what we missed on Earth Rocker on the new album.  When we write songs, like in this case, we practice and then jam.  We just like to play and see what transpires from the session.  Then we will re-visit it after this jam session and piece it together. We can’t do it right after though, we need to come back after some time to clear our heads.

CH: You guys debuted two new tracks: “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds”.  The latter being a great song about taking a drive in the desert with a fast car, a theme prevalent in rock for years.  That theme reminds me of your song “Spacegrass”, even if the driving in it is done in outer space for that particular song.

Dan: Yeah, it is one of those constant themes in rock music.  Fast cars and the openness, terrain of the desert.  Makes for a great match.   

CH: How many tracks will be listed?

Dan: Well we are still in the mixing process at this point.  It’s possible that Psychic Warfare will have 11 new tracks. Although we have recorded 13 tracks to date, which also includes a cover song.

CH: A cover song? Hmm… can you tell us the song or is it something that needs to be a secret?

Dan: (Laughing) Yeah we need to keep that one quiet for now.  It may not make it on the album.

CH: Well this sounds like a track that may make a B-side album.

Dan: (Smiling) Something like that…

CH: When you guys play in Georgia, do you feel obliged to play “Regulator” after the success of the track in the television series The Walking Dead (which is based out of Georgia)?

Dan: No, not really (laughing).  It is a song that is plugged into the set list on a regular rotation.  After the song was picked up by The Walking Dead it became our most downloaded song on iTunes.  So we recognize the importance of playing it to the crowd nightly.  There are songs that we will play regularly because we know we have a mixed fan base.  Some are old school since the beginning and some have just become familiar with us over the last few years.  We want to make it so we can accommodate both sets of fans at our shows.

CH: With 10 albums released to date and a handful of live albums and EPs, your catalog is very extensive and includes numerous songs.  Are there any songs you ever get tired of playing?

Dan: Actually there aren’t any tracks I do not enjoy playing. Like you said, having as many songs as we have in our catalog there are a lot we do not get to play often.

CH: Which songs do you enjoy the most, but fall into the category of not being played often?

Dan: Well “Peterbilt” for one and we played that today.  Also, “Texan Book of the Dead”, “Big News I”, “Big News II” and anything from the album Elephant Riders.

CH: Anything from The Bakerton Group forthcoming? (The Bakerton Group consist of the exact same members of Clutch but the music is an entirely unique, instrumental focus of each individual member’s talents.  More of a psychedelic, jazzy, bluesy groove that comes off as a legitimate jam band.)

Dan: Oh man, after these last few years of touring and recording non-stop for these last two albums, that is not on the radar at this time.  I mean it isn’t like we do not want to do anything with The Bakerton Group, but we just haven’t had the time to focus on anything aside from Clutch.  To be in two bands with the same people is different.

CH: That is very understandable, with the last few years of constant touring and recording. I can foresee a break coming after you finish the promotion of Psychic Warfare.  Well Dan I want to thank you again for taking time out to sit and talk with Concerthopper about the band and your future.  Good luck on the Missing Link Tour with Mastodon and Graveyard. I look forward to future tours and the new album later this year.  Now let’s go enjoy the last half of Pixies’ set.

Dan: You’re welcome and thank you.  See you soon.   

If you have a chance to check out Clutch on this or any future tour, do it.  Their current United States tour with Mastodon and Graveyard is over at the end of May, and then the band heads to Europe for a few select dates and a few festivals from 06/05-06/12 before heading back to the states for a brief period. A must see for any rock fan, Clutch has been a constant delight for over twenty years and I do not see them going anywhere anytime soon.  A big thank you to Dan Maines and to Clutch for your time and all your hard work.

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