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For Neil Fallon, hindsight is a wise master.
It's an adage that carries significant weight for the creative force behind American rock marauders Clutch, particularly when it relates to appraising his own work.

"It's always hard for me talk about our albums because I usually need a couple of years to objectify them," says singer and occasional guitarist Fallon on the phone from his home base in Maryland.

In assessing Clutch's new album Strange Cousins From The West, the no-nonsense 38-year-old does however dismiss suggestions that this is a back-to basics record.

"I always see that going-back-to-your-roots thing as a kind of creative surrender or retreat," he cringes. "But it is important to reference your position and listen to what you did before so you don't repeat yourself - and to realign your creative compass.

"This one is a very stripped down record and very simple sonically," he adds. "I think our last few records had a lot of layers and that's all well and good but sometimes you can put too much icing on the cake and it's hard to taste what it is. I think we wanted to examine the bare bones of what the band does on this album."

Anyone familiar with Clutch's dependably groove-laden catalogue - nine albums in 19 years - will welcome the familiar bluesy rock grunt of Strange Cousins .., released through their in-house imprint Weathermaker Music.

"The point of the record label is really just to get Clutch's music out," Fallon says. "We're not interested in signing other bands and making this anything other than it already is. We're fortunate that we live in a day and age where you don't need an army of people at a label, you just need a computer and a phone and the artist can go directly to the fan.

"I mean we've never made money selling records until now," he adds. "You can make more money selling 10,000 of your own records than you would a million for CBS. The internet is great for a band who's not in the business of making Top 40 hits."

The album sleeve features some striking Arabic-style symbolism courtesy Fallon himself. "Yeah, that logo we used on the self-titled record too," he says. "It's a sketch that I did on a napkin and I gave it to the art director there at Atlantic and she kind of cleaned it up for me."

Soundwise, the band called on production wunderkind and friend J Robbins (Jawbreaker, Against Me).

"He's first a musician and then an excellent engineer," says Fallon who used one amp for the entire record - a 1962 Gibson Tweed Combo, with a 2008 Fender Stratocaster. "The studio can be a drag but the way he operates is you never feel like you're getting anything done but then before you know it the whole song's been tracked. It's almost like he's a dentist who's talking to you while he pulls your teeth out and then suddenly the tooth is out and you're like 'wow, that was pretty painless!'."

Having recently spent four weeks on tour in Europe, Fallon always looks forward to visiting his favourite places; the Netherlands, Scotland and Melbourne, along with new destinations.

"Touring gets easier when you know what to expect and when you know how to behave," he says. "My first couple of tours I was under the assumption that they were going to be my last. But you learn to pace yourself and be in it for the long haul.

"It's given me an incredible education touring the world and meeting people on a very real level as opposed to the tour circuit where you meet people in nightclubs you talk to them, I've got friends around the world because of this and what you learn through that no book or teacher could ever teach you - you just have to experience it.

"There's such a routine on the road. It's like you're standing still and the world revolves around you, you go to sleep and you wake up in a new city. In Europe it seems a lot of the clubs are in the city centres whereas in the United States they're usually on the other side of the tracks, down by the junkyard where you really don't want to go walking around. So there's a lot of hurry up and wait, you watch the paint dry and suddenly for an hour and a half you have to rage."



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