Clutch frontman Neil Fallon on stalkers, problem drinking, coming back as a dinosaur and losing his head – literally.
The Clutch frontman on stalkers, problem drinking, coming back as a dinosaur and losing his head – literally!
Clutch have made a career of defying expectations. Since 1991 the Maryland rockers have constantly shifted gears, fuelling their 11-album catalogue with punk, funk, sludge and stoner rock, and they’ve been equally fearless on this year’s Book Of Bad Decisions. Likewise, while Neil Fallon’s woodsman beard and rumbling drawl might suggest a deadly serious alt.rock frontman, it’s a revelation to hear he’d rather be a dinosaur.
If reincarnation exists, what do you want to come back as?
I think being a pterodactyl would be pretty badass. I would probably make roost on some human monument, like the Empire State Building, just for the dramatic flair.
What’s the most serious medical procedure you’ve had?
In 2013 I had a cervical fusion and a bunch of screws in my neck. That was pretty serious. There was a point when they removed the material between the vertebrae. Of course, the spinal cord was still connected. Maybe the doctors might disagree on the finer points of what ‘decapitation’ is and is not, but it’s good enough for me.
What’s your worst habit?
If you’re talking physical, probably leaving the toilet seat up.
How did you spend your twenty-first birthday?
I remember going to the beer store and really hoping they would card me, and they didn’t, so I was very disappointed. I’ve been told that when I’m drunk I hide it very well, which is maybe something of a concern. In our business it’s important to keep oneself in check, especially when you can do it for free, night after night. It can be a slippery slope.
Have you ever had a stalker? Yeah. It sucked. It’s weird. It’s not like you’re talking to Mick Jagger here. I can’t imagine what being someone of that profile must be like, because you don’t realise how important anonymity is until it’s gone. But there was a couple of years when there was a lady following us around, taking pictures with a zoom lens from a block away and posting it online. It was really creepy and gross. But thankfully that’s gone away – and hopefully me talking about it won’t rekindle that flame.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I was once a camera operator for a school course teaching how to secure government contracts. The class was three hours long, at night, and I fell asleep every single time – and was promptly fired. That was crushing. I also did a brief stint as a labourer digging ditches – and I don’t say that figuratively. That was hard, a real pain in the ass. You don’t see a lot of fat ditch diggers.
What is the meaning of life?
I would say our purpose in life is to learn and to do more good than harm. Whether this is the only incarnation we have, I certainly can’t say, but I hope not. I think this is a bit of a day-care for what happens next.
What were you like as a schoolboy?
A hopeless daydreamer, staring out of the window way too much. I was always too scared to be a rebel. I was much more content to read Conan novels and listen to Vangelis. Popular? Hell no.
Where do you stand politically?
As far away as possible. I have my opinions about certain issues, but I know I’ve maybe been guilty of piping in when I shouldn’t have. I make it a point never to do that on stage at Clutch shows, because I think regardless of political leanings they deserve to forget about life for a while and not get lectured.
What was the lowest point of your career? Well, after that surgery, there was a couple of weeks where it wasn’t clear if I was ever gonna be able to sing again. There was a lot of soulsearching going on there. Pretty dark days.
Who’s the craziest rock star you’ve met? Probably Brent Hinds [Mastodon guitarist/ singer]. When I say that, I mean good-crazy. You never know what he’ll do. But we’ve done countless tours with Brent. He’s an amazing guitar player, a practical joker…
What was it like touring with Lemmy? Well, I wish I had a chance to go back to the fifteen-year-old version of myself and say: “Hey, you’re going to tour with Motörhead – not once, but twice.” It was remarkable.
What was your biggest waste of money?
I kinda hate this iPhone X I just bought. I needed a new phone, I got the latest and greatest. But it’s counter-intuitive, and it really doesn’t do anything that my other phone didn’t. I once bought a used pickup truck that broke down the next day. That cost about as much as this iPhone, come to think about it.
When death comes, how would you prefer to go?
I always thought the hour between two and three in the afternoon are the most boring of the twenty-four, so any time during that would be good. Hopefully I’ll be in a comfortable bed, with a lifetime of lessons having been learned.
Book Of Bad Decisions is out on September 7 via Weathermaker Music.
“I think being a pterodactyl would be