Neil Fallon/Lead Vox; Jean-Paul Gaster/Drums;
Dan Maines/Bass; Tim Sult/Guitar
We had a great time at 24-7’s Shindig Festival at Carroll Park in Baltimore on Saturday, September 19th. In particular, we had an opportunity to catch up with guitarist, Tim Sult, of nationally touring band Clutch (originally of Frederick, MD) to ask some questions and chat. We explained that a friend, Skribe (Aaron Yealdhall), had turned us on to his music before Shindig 2014 – and this year, we brought some Naptown goodies (a Speakeasy Gear trucker hat, a copy of Jimi Davies' UpStArt magazine, a cd and a couple of die-cut stickers), along with specially prepared questions. The first three are from Skribe:
AY: If you could resurrect or “Frankenstein” any musician from any time period, who would you add to the Clutch roster?
TS: Well of course, everyone would want to see what Jimi Hendrix did with his future life so I would have to go with Jimi Hendrix for that answer.
AY: Well, technically, because Skribe mentioned Frankenstein, you could do parts of people or mention several people...
TS: No, I still think I would be interested in seeing what Jimi Hendrix would have come up with, if he would have been 30, or up to 80 at this point...
AY: If you could compose a movie soundtrack, who would be top of your list for directors to work with?
TS: Good question!
Well, I’m not really a huge movie director guy but we do have a song on our new album called Our Lady of Electric Lights and we’ve heard from several, several people that it sounds like it should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie...so... who knows – maybe one day that song will be in a Quentin Tarantino movie. That would be our most “sound-tracky” song that we’ve got, coming out on our next album.
NTM: In the early days, did you have a favorite venue here in Maryland?
TS: Well, when I was younger, I used to go to shows at the 9:30 Club when I was a kid...
NTM: Old or new 9:30 Club?
TS: The old 9:30 Club, back in the late 80s... I didn’t really start coming to Baltimore shows until I was a little bit older, I guess, but yeah, my early show-going days were spent at 9:30 Club, DC Space, Safari Club...
NTM; Do you find that you were greatly influenced by local musicians when you were coming up? Frank Zappa, Chuck Brown, Fugazi? Who was it that you looked to?
TS: When I was a younger, a young teenager, 13 or 14 years old, I was into basic stuff that everyone else was, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple. It was all stuff that I was totally into when I was first starting out, playing guitar – and then I heard local music, Washington DC hardcore music, and that personally changed my life as far as an outlook. But I guess that basically the whole DIY outlook that you could just go out and do it yourself and you didn’t have to be a big rock star or have a huge label – you could do it yourself.
NTM: Have you been following Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways? Do you make comparisons and think back?
TS: Actually, I have not seen Sonic Highways yet; I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old so all I watch is kids shows at this point. I haven’t seen any adult shows since I was about 40.
NTM: Why did you get into music? What attracted you?
TS: I don’t know, I’m not exactly sure. I just always wanted to learn how to play guitar since I was a little kid and once we moved to Maryland (I moved to Maryland when I was 14 years old), there were private lessons available all over the place, so my parents just signed me up for lessons – I’m not exactly sure, 100% why, but I always wanted to do that.
NTM: Was it the freedom of expression, or creative outlet, or maybe a little bit of rebellion?
TS: Not necessarily. I feel that I just liked songs. I enjoy songs, I enjoy listening to songs and I wanted to play them for some reason.
NTM: Is that your “happy place?”
TS: I guess so!
NTM: What was your first practice/rehearsal space?
TS: Our first rehearsal space? Back in our early days, we used to – I don’t remember the exact rehearsal space we had but it was either in JP’s (our drummer’s) parents’ basement or my parents’ basement. We used to rehearse in both of our parents basements quite a bit.
NTM: At what point did the young band find it's "voice?"
TS: Uhh... probably about two-thousand-fifteen?
NTM: What spurred you to “jump off?” From – presumably in the very beginning, you played covers, right?
TS: No, not at all. We were never a cover band.
NTM: Ok, so you’ve always had a voice?
TS: Yes, we’ve always been writing original music, and trying to play as many shows as possible, every since 1991 pretty much...
NTM: So when did you sign? When did you go from DIY and independent to signing?
TS: Uh – well... we ended up getting signed right away... We put out a 7” and it came out on a small label that was based out of Delaware – a guy from Delaware and a guy from Maryland just had this small label. It was called Inner Journey Records, and we put that out in 1991 and from there, somehow that 7” got out and it got around and yeah, we ended up getting signed to a major label based on putting out one 7”.
NTM: Do you still do vinyl?
TS: Absolutely! We stopped doing it for years – when we were on major labels, well they had no interest in doing vinyl – back in that time, no one had any interest in buying it. But within the past several years, with the whole vinyl resurgence... and we own most of our own albums at this point, so we can put them all out on vinyl.
NTM: Because you own your own brand now, Weathermaker Music, right?
NTM: So, do you record other bands, other musicians as well? Or is it just reserved for yourself?
TS: Mostly just for ourselves. We put out an album for a band named Lionize that was just a Maryland band too...
NTM: And you play with Lionize sometimes?
TS: I did for a while... I haven’t done that for a while now. I played on three of their albums, but I did not play on the album that our label put out. But they’re working on a new album and they’re a great band – I’m sure that they’ll be out there playing shows again soon.
NTM: Where do your album names come from?
TS: Ah, we just usually pick them from the lyrics or song titles...
NTM: I saw all your acoustic stuff is very cool...
TS: Yes, the acoustic stuff is so fun to do, for sure!
NTM: Do you think that you will continue with that?
TS: We’ll probably bring it back again eventually. We haven’t done it for a while. We were playing one acoustic song in our set for a couple years but we just kinda’ dropped that. I’m sure that eventually we’ll bring back the acoustics. But there’s actually no acoustic on the new album. We’ll definitely come full circle at one point.
NTM: In my mind, it really depends on the event.
TS: Oh, sure. We don’t just throw in an acoustic just to throw it in.
NTM: It’s a different conversation – there’s an event where you just want to rage, and there’s another where you want more of a conversation... Obviously, you can have both, but... I really like the acoustic a lot. It ties in with what we are experiencing in greater Annapolis. So many wonderful bands playing Americana, stomp, it’s very cool coming out – and not only that, but it’s opens it up to folks playing so many different instruments – washtub, upright bass, harmonica, kazoo...
TS: Last time we recorded some acoustic stuff, we had some keyboards on it too – and it sounded amazing...
NTM: And Hammond Organ?
NTM: We see a lot of violin, kick drum, banjo... so we’re seeing a lot of that come through right now, which is really neat. I hope that it’s not just a cyclical thing that’s going to go away.
We all remember Grateful Dead doing Disco at one point (or us older people do)... Do you find that you pick up on trends? What drives your innovation?
TS: We just try to write songs that we, personally, like and that we wanna’ play... We definitely don’t follow trends in any way whatsoever, especially within Rock music. Yeah, we’re just trying to please ourselves, and the fact that we put out new music and that our fans want to hear it is a pretty amazing experience for us! I don’t think that Clutch would do very well chasing trends.
NTM: Well, there’s always that talk about folks “selling out” to trends, compromising their values...
TS: I don’t think that’s really as good an idea these days as it was, perhaps, in 1990... I think that in 1990, you could probably make a lot more money selling out – whereas, these days, I think that people don’t sell out are the ones that are more successful, artistically.
NTM: And your own personal passion and drive is going to give you so much more satisfaction, I think, in the long term...
NTM: Ok, so, I’m a big one for advice and I saw in a previous interview that you gave yours. As a final question, what would you tell other musicians – of any age, of all ages?
TS: It’s always “Don’t Quit!”
Hey, if you want to go out and play shows, you have to constantly play shows! You can’t just play one show and then rest on your laurels, and for the next three years, just remember that one awesome show. You gotta’ keep moving forward, keep playing and keep working on new material. Even if nobody else cares other than you!