It's been four years since cult rock heroes Clutch
released a full-length album. They delivered "Earth Rocker
" upon the world in March of this year and plan to "tour the sh-t out of
for the remainder of the year. UG caught up with guitarist Tim Sult
for an exclusive interview.
UG: What have you got on tour with you right now?
For this tour, I'm keeping it very simple. I'm only using one head. Usually in the past I've run two heads but this time around I'm only running one head into two cabinets. So I'm using a JCM 900
head running into a Marshall Cab
and an Orange Cab
both 4x12s. I'm not 100% satisfied with my cabinet situation right now but I've just been too lazy to do anything about it at this point. But right now, the Orange
cab has 75 watt Celestion
speakers and the Marshall
has 30 watt Greenbacks
. My rig is just a constantly changing entity to tell you the truth. I may decide that I want to play an old '70s JTM45
tomorrow (which will likely happen, actually). The two different cabs are both mic'd which give our mixing guy more options to adapt the sound to whatever room we're playing that night. Both cabs sound radically different. I have a pretty simple pedal board too.
"(Les Paul Custom) is the only guitar I have on the road with me right now. It's dangerous, I know."
I've got a tuner, a [Teese Real McCoy Custom RMC1
] wah pedal, a Line 6 DL4
(the Big Green Delay
), then I've got a Micro POG
which is an octave generator of some sort made by Electro-Harmonix
. Someone gave me a phazer by Big Joe Stompboxes
I didn't use it one the record but I've been using it on the tour and it sounds awesome. Supposedly they have some great wahs too and I'm trying to get one of those. For my guitar, I'm using a Les Paul Custom
. It's been a while since I used a Custom
. On the album I used a Les Paul Junior
with a P-90
pickup and I just decided that that guitar was just too hard for me to play live comfortably. The neck is the size of two baseball bats and I have small hands so it's just too much work to play it live and have a good time playing the show. This Custom
has a really comfortable neck and it's just way more fun to play a show with than some of the other guitars I've attempted to play shows with in the past. Like I have a '59 Reissue
which is an amazing sounding guitar playing in your bedroom but once I try to play a show with it, it's just a disaster.
You only have one guitar on the road with you? Danger zone.
"I've never had enough money to collect the guitars I want to collect."
Actually yeah, that is the only guitar I have on the road with me right now. It's dangerous, I know. I should buy a backup of some sort really soon.
What did you like about the Les Paul Junior and why did you use only one guitar when making a record?
I was going through a phase where the P-90
pickups sounded better than anything else. At the time I was liking the warmth and the roundness of the P-90
s but I'm over that already. I do a lot of switching back and forth between sounds that I like and at the time we were recording it just happened to be the P-90
sound. In the older days, I multi-tracked a lot more and I would use different guitars and more amps for sure to get some texture between the tracks. I think the most guitars I ever used on an album was three though. I switch amps a lot more often in the studios. "Strange Cousins From the West
" was recorded with only one guitar (a Les Paul Custom
). Sometimes we do use a lot of different stuff though like on the "(From) Beale Street (to Oblivion)
" album I probably used the most amps I've ever used in the studio. The main sound was a Marshall
but I used a lot of VOX AC30
on there too, plus a bunch of other stuff.
"It is a lot of fun when we are going on tour with the Bakerton Group - that's the best warm up for a Clutch show."
Back in the older days, we had more time to experiment in the studio, now we just try to get in there and get it over with. On this last record, the only two amps I used were a JCM 900
How would you describe the Clutch writing process?
We just get into a room and start jamming out riffs and throwing out ideas. We had a lot of ideas for "Earth Rocker
" which is probably why it took so long for it to come out. We had a lot of material to work with. We just play riffs and we keep whatever songs Neil starts singing to and we throw away way more stuff then we actually use. But as long as Neil
) feels he can sing over something we've jammed out, I love it. The songwriting process with this band is not a huge struggle, were able to get in there and get things done without too many arguments, we agree on most things as far as how a song should sound.
What's it like working with Neil?
"Lionize are awesome. I wouldn't consider myself a part of their creative process - they write the songs and I just sort and hope for the best."
It's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me, being in a band with such a great lyricist. It's weird to say good things about my own band because I'm usually more a self-deprecating kind of person but being in a band with Neil
is awesome and he's probably one of the greatest lyricists of all time.
When you're writing songs or riffs, how do you distinguish between a Clutch song and a Bakerton Group song? Are there any plans in the works for the Bakerton Group right now?
We can usually tell right away if it's going to be a Clutch
song or a Bakerton Group
song. There have only been a few tunes recently that could have worked as a Bakerton Group
song and maybe we'll end up doing another one of those records in the future. We haven't done that in so long and I guess we haven't thought about it much. But it is a lot of fun when we do it and going on tour with the Bakerton Group
and opening up for ourselves as Clutch
that's the best warm up for a Clutch
show for me.
I just want to clear this up since you guys are touring together; are you a member of the band Lionize?
"It's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me, being in a band with such a great lyricist (as Neil Fallon)."
I am an occasional member of Lionize
. I'm playing with them for about half of their set on this tour. They've got a ton of new songs that I haven't learned yet. Lionize
are awesome. I wouldn't consider myself a part of their creative process they write the songs and I just sort of lay my stuff over it and hope for the best.
It's no secret that we're getting old, you and I. Are you getting that mid-life crisis bug where you start to build a collection of vintage and rare guitars?
I think I've had that bug for a long time but I've never had enough money to collect the guitars I want to collect. I'd love to have an arsenal of twenty Les Pauls
but I can barely afford one at this point. But there was a point in my life where I thought that only the really expensive Gibson Les Paul Customs
were good enough for me. But my guitar I use right now is an '80s Les Paul Custom
and it plays better than any Custom
I've ever played. Theyre definitely really beautiful and they sound great but I think what it comes down to is that my hands are just too small to play most really expensive Les Pauls
. I should just start playing Ibanez
There have been some Clutch acoustic tunes surfacing here and there. Is there a Clutch acoustic album in your future?
"I think one word of advice that I can give to any musician is "don't quit." That's all you can do."
I could definitely see us doing something like that in the future. Maybe not in the immediate future but I'm betting we will write some acoustic songs again soon. I can't remember exactly why we decided to do some acoustic stuff. I think it was just an experiment that we did for fun. We did the "Pigtown Blues 7""
and then we did some acoustic stuff on the "Blast Tyrant
" re-release and it was really fun to play it's considerably easier than playing a normal Clutch
song. We change the songs entirely and sometimes I think they sound better than the originals. We've been doing an acoustic version of "Abraham Lincoln
" live and we'll likely release that sometime in the future as well.
Any final thoughts, comments, plugs, or words of advice for the readers of UG?
I think one word of advice that I can give to any musician is "don't quit."
That's all you can do. Keep doing what you love to do, even if you dont have any major success with it.
Interview by Justin R. Beckner