What would Lemmy do?
In the build-up to its 10th album, and first in four years, Maryland metal band Clutch found inspiration in one of its elders during a tour with the legendary Motorhead.
"It's something else to watch Lemmy do his thing every night," says Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. "For me, it was almost like looking into a history book of rock 'n' roll. When I was a young man and first heard Motorhead, I thought they were the most heavy, most metal, most abrasive thing I'd ever heard.
"When I listen to them now I think that Motorhead is really just an amped-up rhythm 'n' blues band, and it's interesting how your perspective changes over the years. It was really great to be around those guys. They're really only concerned about playing a great gig, and that's something we can relate to and be inspired by."
It's no coincidence that Clutch, which plays Stage AE on Friday, emerged from the studio with "Earth Rocker," said to be hardest, fastest, most focused Clutch in years.
"That's what we were going for when we went in to make this record," the drummer says. "We really talked about what kind of record we wanted to make, and that was different for us. On previous albums, the album was really a collection of whatever songs we had at the moment or were most excited about. This time around, we took a more methodical approach. We edited ourselves a lot more and we thought a lot of about what the finished record was going to sound like and how it was going to feel. We wanted to make a record that had good energy from beginning to end."
The title track has frontman Neil Fallon calling out acts that can't pull it off live and raging on about being an "earth rocker." Did the rest of the band wonder what he was talking about when he came in with that phrase?
"Not really," he says with a laugh. "I think we're all accustomed to having Neil throw words out there that are probably not ones that people would most normally associate with rock 'n' roll, and that's one of my favorite things about how Neil does what he does. The lyrics are very visual and they immediately allow the listener to interpret however they want to interpret."
The members of Clutch, having formed in 1990 and debuted in 1993, have had a long time to get used to each other, having gone to high school or even junior high together, and certain core values have stuck with the band.
"When we first started the band the idea was to play good shows and make good records," Mr. Gaster says. "And it was really just about that. I think we were on the same page when we started the band. I don't think anyone really thought we could make a career out of it. Certainly, we thought it would have been nice, but I don't think anyone expected that and it has a lot to do with the fact that the bands we looked up to when we first started were not necessarily bands that were on the radio or sold out arenas or even large clubs. Those were bands like Bad Brains and Fugazi and Prong and the Melvins. They were bands that put out good records and did kick-ass shows and that's who we aspired to be like."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576.