CLUTCHClutch - Tim Sult Talks About the Missing Link Tour and More
By: Sally A. Schwartz 

With the promise of warm weather ahead the road is starting to gear up for more than one tour bus. Clutch is one of those that is going to be among its traffic.. The band will be heading out with Mastodon on "The Missing Link Tour" starting mid-April in St. Paul, Minnesota. To find out more about whatís in store for Clutch, I spoke with the bands guitarist, Tim Sult. Our conversation went like this:

 DB: How are things going?

TS: Things are going pretty goodÖ just hanging out around home, recharging my batteries.

DB: Getting ready for your upcoming "Missing Link Tour" I bet?

TS: Absolutely.

DB: This U.S. Tour is kind of short for the Clutch. Isnít it only like a two month tour?

TS: Well I think itís only six weeks actually. AhÖNoÖI wouldnít say itís really that short. I mean we have gone out for three months at most at a time. But usually these days now that we are getting old, (Laughs) we usually go out for about a month or six weeks.

DB: On this tour youíre touring with Mastodon. Clutch is actually friends with them are they not?  

TS: Yes, that is correct. We have known them for a lot of years. They are an incredible band and we are really psyched to be touring with them again.

DB: What encouraged you to do this tour with them?

TS: Well actually, we have toured with them twice in the past, and itís just been a really long time since we have had the opportunity to do it again. So, it turned out that they were available to tour and we were able to tour at the same time. We figured that we would team up. We had been talking about it a lot over the yearsÖit just wasnít able to happen. So we finally had a chance to make it happen.

DB: On this tour you have two supporting bands as well correct?

TS: Yes, correct.

DB: Tell us how you came to add Big Business and Graveyard, which is from Sweden.

TS: Graveyard is another band that we had toured with a few times. Their music just fit in naturally with this tour. Theyíre a pretty heavy í70s hard rock band and weíre fans of those guys also. I think that the guys from Mastodon suggested Big Business because Graveyard couldnít do the whole tour. So Big Business is going to do the first part of the tour and Graveyard is going to join later.

DB: I heard you added a date to the tour. I think itís like in Michigan or something like that. Am I right?

TS: Uh, Yeah.. Detroit, Michigan was the last date that was added. I think weíre playing there like the 23rd of May.

DB: Well Iím sure the fans in Detroit will be really happy to hear and know of that.

TS: Yeah, for sure.

DB: When are you slated to end the tour for "The Missing Link"?

TS: SeeÖI believe it ends in late May like the 24th, 25th or 26th. Something like that anyway. And Iím not sure off the top of my head but I think itís like in Ohio or some place in that direction.

DB: Well thatís good to know. It kind of gives you a chance to rest up before you start touring again.

TS: Yeah, it gives us a couple of weeks off and then weíre going to Europe for a few shows. Then weíll do some real resting up before the new album comes out.

DB: Weíll talk about that new album in a little bit if you donít mind? I wanted to talk about "Earth Rocker" for a bit because itís the one supporting this tour. Has the success of this album come as a surprise to you and the band?

TS:  Yeah for sure. What I mean by that is that we really didnít expect it to do that well chart-wise. We never really have been a huge chart-success type of a band. But in the end we see it as a great thing and it seemingly boosted our profile as a band. The "Earth Rocker" album actually boosted our fan base. To know that this album not only appealed to our current fans that have followed us for a long time and that this album generated new fans is a really good feeling.

DB: When "Earth Rocker" was named "Best Album of the Year" by Metal Hammer what was the bands reaction to that honor?

TS: Oh man, you know here we are 10 albums into our career and Metal Hammer listed it as the "Best Album of the Year," it was a really great feeling for sure.

DB: I read somewhere that Machine was the producer of this album, why did you decide to go with him?

TB: We as a band felt that this is what we really needed at the point of making this album and I think he helped give us a great representation of what these songs are.  At this point "Earth Rocker" is two years old.

CLUTCHDB: Yet itís still going really strong. That in itself says a lot about the album.

TS: Yeah, amazingly it is. Our label guy is saying itís the album that wouldnít die. So yeah! Itís great to know that so many people are still discovering the album and are acknowledging that is something that they enjoy.

DB:  As promised I said I would ask about the new album. I heard that it is supposed to be coming out in the fall.

TS: Yeah, that is what I myself have been hearing.

DB: Great! What would you like to share with us about it?

TS: We recorded again with Machine. He actually moved down to Texas, just out of Austin actually. Machine used to be in New Jersey but built a new studio down in Texas on his new property. This brought us down to Texas to use his new studio to record the new album. We hit the studio with 13 songs that we recorded for this album. Weíre right now in the finishing process of it. Itís being mixed and then it should be ready to go. So yeah thatís where weíre at with it at the moment.

DB: What made you stay with Machine on this album?

TS: We worked with him on "Pure Rock Fury," we worked with him on the "Blast Tyrant" album and then again decided to go with him on "Earth Rocker." We decided to go with him again because of the success weíve had with him.

DB: Iím sure the feeling is that he brings out the best that the band is looking for.

TS: Yeah I think so. I think his talent lays a lot in arranging. He has a lot of arranging ideas as well as his production. His production is just really focused and we just really like working with him, because we really like the final product when we're done. Right now this album isnít finished so there really isnít a final product. Weíre still under the mix and weíre still really working on it. So itís kind of hard to really place it with in the other recordings that we have done.

DB: How does this new album contrast with the current album?

TS: In my personal opinion, it seems to be more high energy than "Earth Rocker." We havenít exactly decided what is going to be on this new album, but we have recorded some more really unique mellow songs as well. By that I mean more along the lines of Regulator. We have a few songs that I feel totally fit outside of the rest of the Clutch catalog. I feel that this new album is its own unique thing; in that we arenít really treading the same water, or doing the same as "Earth Rocker." It feels and sounds different than "Earth Rocker," itís definitely not "Earth Rocker II" thatís for sure.

DB: Do you have a new title yet for the album?

TS: NoÖ not 100 percent yet, so no. Weíll just call it Clutchís eleventh studio album for now.

DB: Sounds fine to me. So tell me then, will the fans get to hear any of the upcoming album on "The Missing Link Tour"?

TS: Yes, we are definitely going to be playing a lot of the new songs on this tour. Weíre going to be working them into our sets for sure.

DB: How do you go about making out the set lists?

TS: I think that because we change up our set list every night that it helps lend to the freshness of our shows. Each night is a unique experience for not only us, but our fans as well. We take turns making out the set lists every night and I think that we have enough telepathy between us that we know which songs we want to play and what we donít want to play. We know that there are songs that our audiences want to hear too so we keep that in mind as well. When I make out the set listÖwell my personal philosophy is to play enough new stuff as possible. Iím not sure the fans would agree with that, but it gives us a chance to get it out there. So if you see a set list with a bunch of new songs on it, such as from "Earth Rocker" or the new stuff, itís fair to say that you can think that I probably made out that set list.

DB: You said thereís that telepathy between you, so Iím sure this plays into which songs are changed when one of you just isn't feeling like playing a particular song?

TS: By each of us taking a night to make up the set list it keeps it fresh and I think that is what makes it interesting for the fans. Now as for how the album goes, by the time we get to the studio we have wheeled it down to no more than 14 song ideas. We get it down to what we want and we donít have too many throwaway ideas.   

DB:  Do you find that you pull in any of your influences or whatís influenced you while you play?

TS: You know there isnít any one influence. I mean there are, but Iím sure no one really can hear it but me, I try to bring in some surf guitar solos, a lot of times it doesnít come across like that in the recordings. But a lot of my influences on solos are a surf style solo or a Chuck Berry style actually. Those are my main solo influences; at least for "Earth Rock" and the newest album for sure.

DB: Who was your biggest influence while growing up?

CLUTCHTS: When I first started playing it was Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Ritchie Blackmore. He was probably my favorite guitarist when I was like 14 years old. Then I got into Black Sabbath around 15 years old. Then after that I got into more hard-core. Oh yeah, I also got into Brian May as well... very clean.

DB: I have heard that a good guitar is like a good woman, do you have a guitar that can't get rid of?

TS: (Laughs) No, no I donít actually. I still feel like Iím looking for my favorite guitar ever.

DB: Do you have any regrets over getting rid of any of your guitars?

TS: Ummm, maybe sometimes. SometimesÖ but overall Iím pretty happy with the ones I have now.

DB: What are you playing now?

TS: What Iím play now, is the one I used on the new album and that is a Gibson '59 reissued Gary Rossington signature series guitar. I would have to say that is the nicest Gibson/ Les Paul that I have ever owned.

DB: Will we get to see you play it this on tour?

TS: This or a custom Les Paul Custom. I find that the customs stay in tune a little bit better, than the standards. However, I think the standards sound better. Iíll probably play the custom on this tour, but Iíll have the Gibson with me though.

DB: Do you have custom pickups or no?

TS: Nope. Just the Gibson pickups that came with the guitar.

DB: What do you like to use for strings?

TS: I have been using the DíAddario NYXls. Thatís the brand. I like to use them because they stay in tune better. Gage-wise I usually play 11 these days.

DB: When you switch gages can you feel the difference when youíre up on stage playing?

TS: No, not really. I donít notice it much. There are times when we run out of the 11s and Iíll use the 10s. But in general not really and itís really not a huge deal to me.

DB: Clutch has been together for like 15 or 20 years.

TS:  Weíve been together for - geez - since August of 1999. So how many years has that beenÖWow! Like 24 years!

DB: Wow! That means the band has to celebrate next year for your 25th. Itís cool to know that you have been together that long. All original members too. Itís no wonder you all are so in tune with each other. You're truly like brothers.

TS: I know thatís crazy ridiculous isnít?  Itís just too late to stop at this point.

DS:  Itís obvious that you, Clutch, are a really hard working band. Your fans love you, the industry loves you, OK, and Iíll admit it, I love you. The best thing for me is, after Iím done doing my job as photojournalist, going to the back or off to the side and watching not just the band but the crowd. The fan interact with each other, which actually had me smiling to myself a couple of times. It makes for a great time.

TS: I know, thatís the best part isnít it?

DS: Yes, yes it is. Is there anything you would like to share with the fans?

TS: Well, first I would like to say thank you for following us for all these years and getting excited about our new stuff. Oh, and we look forward to seeing you out at our shows.

DS: Tim, I thank you so much for your time. Itís been a pleasure and Iím happy that we had this time to speak. Have a safe tour and weíll see you when you get in town.

TS: Thank you Sally for the interview, it was awesome and Iím sure we will.

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