Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
We had a chat with Dan before the opening show of Clutches European Psychic Warfare Tour at The Olympia in Dublin…
Alan: Welcome back to Dublin. We saw you in the Academy eighteen months ago. Do you have any particular memories of that show or visit to Ireland?
Dan: Uh… No. Which probably means it was a great show. I remember plenty about after the show, but don’t remember a whole lot about the show. I’ve a feeling it was probably pretty good.
Alan: Well it was sold out well in advance because it was your first show in Dublin in nine years or so. Neil said at the time that he wanted to come back more often and maybe at a bigger venue like the Olympia. And here you are!
Dan: Yeah. We were trying to figure out if we had played here when we opened for Therapy? I think we did.
Alan: Yeah, I believe so. Your last show in Dublin was the final date of the Earth Rocker tour and tonight is the first show of the European leg of your Psychic Warfare tour. So that’s nice book-ending! Did you come here straight from the US?
Dan: Yeah, we did. We got in yesterday. We are staying down the street and we had a chance to walk around town. I did some shopping for my family, and we settled into a chilled bar and had some pints of Guinness, catching up with everybody. It was a good time. It’s a nice way to start things off.
Alan: Last time you had Lionize with you…
Dan: Yeah. We’ve known those guys maybe ten years now. My introduction to them was Neil singing on a track from one of their first EPs ‘Mummies Wrapped in Money’. Neil and their singer Nate have a long relationship because Neil used to work at Nate’s father’s Seafood outlet. So we started to do shows with them and there’s a very mutual kinship, music-wise, with those guys. We share a lot of the same influences and appetites for music. They’re just a great band and extremely under-appreciated, and we helped them out with their last record. We released that on Weathermaker. And we’re very proud of that record, and I hope those guys are too. I wish that more people knew about the band.
Alan: I think they were well-received here in Dublin anyway.
Dan: Yeah. After we played our show with them, they stayed afterwards and had another show on their own in Dublin. I was gone already, but I heard that it was pretty phenomenal.
Alan: That’s right. They played a “surprise gig” in Sin É. And this time you have Planet of Zeus with you. Tell us about them.
Dan: Those are guys that we got introduced to when we played in Greece years ago. We somehow, for whatever reason, have been blessed with phenomenal shows in Greece. And those guys opened up for us there. Another good band, and we’re glad that they were able to join us on this run.
Alan: So we know that you guys take it in turns to write the setlist each night. Is that still the way you’re doing it?
Alan: So whose turn is it tonight?
Dan: We do it in alphabetical order of first names, so I usually do the first set, and then it goes onto John-Paul and then Neil and then Tim. Since today is the first day of the tour, I’m probably not going to get too crazy. It’s usually once we’ve gotten into the swing of things that we try to introduce some of our back catalogue into the set. It’s just a way to kind of keep things fresh and not play the same set night after night, because that gets really boring for us, and the second we get bored on stage is when we start fucking up really bad.
Alan: It’s refreshing too. So many bands, you can just look back over their setlists and you will know what they’re going to play. It’s nice to be a little bit surprised.
Dan: Yeah. For us… We don’t have anything holding us back, set-wise, as far as production goes. You know, there’s no fancy light show or stage props to co-ordinate with the setlist, so it’s easy for us to just mix it up as much as we can. The last thing you want to be doing on stage is not paying attention to what is actually happening. It’s very easy to do that when you have a concrete setlist.
Alan: Are there any songs from Psychic Warfare that are off-bounds for the upcoming shows? I think you’ve played most of them live already?
Dan: No. To be honest, these last two albums probably the first records in a long stretch of time where we feel comfortable playing all of the songs off the album. So tonight, being a Psychic Warfare tour, it’s going to be very heavy on those. I’m going to try to play as many of those songs on the set tonight.
Alan: What’s your favourite track to play live from the new album?
Dan: Unfortunately, my favourites are probably the most difficult ones to play. ‘Behold the Colossus’ is a lot of fun to play. I like playing ‘Our Lady of Electric Light’ a lot, just because I feel it’s a big departure for us stylistically. Then there’s some songs like ‘Noble Savage’ that you don’t want to have to think much at all, and you can just really enjoy feeding off the energy from the crowd on that one. They’re all kind of on equal footing right now. Everything’s so new and fresh and fun to play.
Alan: Sure. In terms of the writing and recording of the album. I gather you all play a big part in it.
Dan: We do. It’s always a group effort.
Alan: Are there any tracks that might have a bit more “Dan” in it than the others?
Dan: Honestly, the way we write and the way a song comes together… by the end of the process it’s usually pretty difficult to remember who wrote what, and if you did write a particular passage of the music, it’s gone through so many different transformations to the final product that it’s hard to say you really wrote that because it’s changed quite a bit from the original idea. That’s the usual case. Sometimes, somebody will come in with a song that’s really fleshed out, and those are usually the more difficult songs to actually finish. I think the less a particular band member is capable of taking ownership of a song, the easier it is to write and I feel like the better it comes out.
Alan: You’ve said before that you have a lot of punk influences yourself. If you could cover any punk song, what would you choose?
Dan: We already covered one of my all time favourites. We never released it, and I really hope we do sometime. When we were recording The Elephant Riders album, we did a cover of ‘I’ by Bad Brains. It was a special recording in particular because we invited our current band manager Jack Flanagan into the studio to do the solo for that song. Jack is somebody who is an early front-runner of the New York Hardcore scene. He had a band called The Mob which was doing shows with bands like Bad Brains in the early eighties. So I would count that as already capturing my ideal epitome of a punk rock song cover. I’d like to do a No Means No song. I love that band. They were a big influence on me when I was deciding to learn how to play bass instead of learning to play guitar.
Alan: I also saw that there was mention of more than 12 tracks recorded for Psychic Warfare – one of which was a cover. What will become of those?
Dan: There are actually a number of songs that we haven’t released from the recording. I don’t want to say what the cover was, because it’s probably very likely that these other B-sides won’t come out, because they don’t always. But I will say that it was an unusual cover for us. Many people are familiar with the song, but wouldn’t necessarily take it as a song that we would cover. It’s not ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’, if that’s what you were thinking?
Alan: Haha. No I wasn’t! Can you tell us a little about the making of the ‘X-Ray Visions’ video. It looks like it was fun.
Dan: Well, that was directed by Dan Winters, who is a bad-ass photographer who we had the good fortune of hooking up with from the very beginning when we signed to Atco records in 1992 or 93. We put out Transnational Speedway League which was our first full-length album. The art department hooked us up with Dan, who at the time, was a very well-known photographer who was trying to break ground into doing music videos and he ended up doing the video for ‘A Shogun Named Marcus’ which, luckily for us, the video kinda broke us into a very mainstream audience with Beavis and Butthead because he was wise enough to have copious amounts of monster truck footage, which was very well received by Beavis and Butthead. And he did the subsequent artwork for the self-titled record after that, and The Elephant Riders after that. But then we kinda lost touch with him, and he went off into the stratosphere of doing celebrity photographs, and he just reached out to us one day a couple of years back, out of the blue, and said he wanted to reconnect with us, and he started coming to shows. And he’s just a genius. There’s really no other way of explaining it. Watching him work… I mean the video came together before our eyes. He’s constantly in motion and constantly thinking multiple steps ahead. It was just a very easy experience for us in what is otherwise a very uncomfortable setting. We’re not really people who enjoy cameras, and he just is somebody who has a similar sense of humour as we do. We get along with him really well. He’s somebody who I can safely say, no matter what he proposes, it’s always going to be a great idea. It was a lot of fun to do. Hopefully we can do more videos with him in the future. But sadly for us, that’s a big expense and since we are the record label, you really have to pick and choose what it is you’re going to spend your budget on. We’ll see if the universe allows another Dan Winters video for another song off this album. It would be nice.
Alan: On a more serious note, did you reconsider your current European tour, give the events that happened last Friday in Paris?
Dan: As far as me wanting to cancel? No. I felt that after a couple days, I kinda had to continue. We were concerned about our Paris show even happening. Whether we wanted to do it or not, for security reasons and whether we were going to have a difficult time in other countries as well. So we just laid low for a few days, waiting to hear back from the clubs and the promoters, to see if there were any restrictions placed on travel. Once it seemed like everything was going to be open and available to us if we wanted to do the shows, we all very quickly agreed that we wanted to do it.
Alan: I know some bands including Lamb of God cancelled shows…
Dan: That could have very easily just been out of our hands.
Alan: Of course you have to take precautions, but you can’t really let it stop you in your tracks. It was a terrible tragedy though. And another disaster recently was the fire at the Goodbye to Gravity gig in Romania. I know you don’t use pyrotechnics, but did that tragedy, even before Paris, make you think about the safety of the band, the crew and your fans?
Dan: That’s always a concern. To be honest, I think it’s when you play in these older countries. The US is a new country when you compare it to the European countries. You’re not talking about playing in buildings that are hundreds of years old. There have been cases where an incident like that happens and it makes you pay more attention to the venues that you go into. You know, is there another way out, other than the way you came in? And if so, how do you get to it? Those are things that you look for. You don’t always have an option. You kinda have to go with what’s available. Unfortunately, that club and the production that was involved was just not a good match.
Alan: Do you think venues should make a better effort to announce where the emergency exits are before shows? You know… people come in, they have a few drinks, the smoke machines fog up the room, and next thing they don’t know which way is out.
Dan: Sure, yeah. But that was a malfunction. It wasn’t something that you could consider as a serious possibility, but obviously accidents happen. That’s a tragedy. I don’t know what you could do other than update these venues that really don’t have a safe plan for emergencies like that.
Alan: So to wrap things up, tell us what’s in the future for Clutch?
Dan: It’s just a lot of travel. We have tours lined up for Australia and back home. Back home we do this thing… It’s kind of a tradition… Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s a week of fury. We try to play a handful of our very biggest markets in the US and cap it off on New Year’s Eve.
Alan: So where will you be playing on New Year’s Eve this year?
Dan: This year, it’s going to be in Cincinnati. And we have a hometown show to start off at the 9:30 club in DC. We have Philly, New York City, Cleveland. It’s going to be a good week for us. Then we go to Australia after that, and then we come back to the states and we just start doing our four to five week runs in the US. We’ll eventually come back here in the Summer time for the festivals. Luckily,
Psychic Warfare is being very well received by people so I feel good about these tours coming up.
Alan: Cool. We’ll look forward to seeing you at another European Summer festival next year so. That’s all we have time for. Thanks for taking the time! Enjoy the show tonight!
Dan: Thanks. You too.
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitars
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums
Dan Maines – Bass
Tim Sult – Guitar