Clutch at Wacken Open Air 2016: The Present Greatness

"I'm going to try really hard to be in tune for this set"

Clutch have been searing their name onto the hearts of loyal fans for over two decades with their blues-infused brand of rock and roll. They're known across the globe for their captivating lyrics and riffs, and have toured the world with many, many amazing albums. Their latest, Psychic Warfare, came out in 2015, and they have just embarked on their most recent sonic assault on Europe's 2016 festival season.

When the Metal as Fuck team asked Nikki Hallam and I to cover Wacken Open Air this year, naturally I put together my ultimate wishlist of bands I wanted to interview. I was pretty ambitious: Iron Maiden, Henry Rollins, Whitesnake, and the incredible Clutch. Imagine my surprise/fear/severe anxiety/excitement when Clutch guitarist Tim Sult agreed to meet with us for a catch up before their show on the Saturday night! In an attempt to calm me down, Nikki pumps me full of whiskey as we prepare to meet one of my favourite bands.

How many times have you played Wacken? "We have played zero times! [cue the cheers] We have played a lot of big festivals in Europe, though. It seems Hellfest is the one we play a bit, but yes, this is our first time at Wacken!

How does playing a festival compare to a smaller Clutch show? "There isn't really a huge amount of difference for us. We just get up there and do our show. I think the biggest difference is the set times are a lot shorter when we play at festivals, but on this tour, it seems like we're doing pretty much full sets. A full 75 minute set  tonight which is pretty awesome. We just started our European tour, this is day 2. We have been off for about 6-7 weeks so we are just getting warmed up".

At this point Tim asks about the Iron Maiden show from Thursday night. We share our excitement with Tim who seems to be stoked to hear our recount of the show, including when Bruce Dickinson appeared on stage in a monkey mask, armed with bananas to throw at the crowd.

I was saying earlier in the day that Blast Tyrant was the first Clutch album I had ever heard and even now listening to the first few riffs of Mecury gets me so stoked. I've seen you many times in Calgary, at smaller shows, with the likes of Orange Goblin, Mastodon, Lamb of God.. "We've even played with Motörhead at Flames Central". Tim adds. In my mind, this is a really diverse group of bands incorporating various genres and styles. I'm curious to know, how do you choose who to go on tour with? "No-one has ever asked me that question before. We generally pick from a list of availability. Sometimes bands will come at us and say they want to tour with us and we'll invite them out. These days our booking agent works hard to get a good tour together. But I mean, we've gone out on tour before when it's been just us; "An evening with Clutch". I really don't think it makes a huge amount of difference who opens for us, I think people will come and see us either way, which is great. As far as opening for other bands, as long as they are way bigger than we are, we're happy to tour with them.

Has there ever been a band that you've toured with before that you got super excited to hit the road with? "We toured with Motörhead twice, and that was really amazing. Back in the earlier days, we did a few shows with Iron Maiden which was a big deal for me as I've been a fan since I was a kid. We've done shows with Slayer as well who I loved since I was a teenager as well. For me, those were the ultimate opening slots".  

There is a mixture of nationalities and cultures at Wacken each year, guaranteed at least a few Aussies - so what do you think of the Australian crowds back home? "They're amazing. We've been to Australia many times, and it's probably the only place we went where we didn't have to work at building a fan base. We showed up, and people were there to see us. We have never gone there to open for other bands, we just started to go over there in the early 2000's, and people were ready for us. They knew the music and wanted to see us, and it was an incredible experience for us".  

Clutch's albums have always evolved over time. You know very clearly what my favourite is, what was your favourite album to work on and overall? "The answer for me is always the latest album, because it's true - I'm closer to that album than I am to the others, we've written it most recently. When we record an album, tour it for several years, it gets less exciting to listen to for me personally, as a member of the band. What ever is the newest song that we've worked on, in my mind is the greatest thing we've ever done. I try to have that attitude".

There are going to be a lot of first timers watching you at Wacken tonight. What can we expect to hear from your set? "A lot of first timers! I'm going to try really hard to be in tune for this set [laughs]. We switch up the set list every night, and for tonight, it is yet to be made! So I don't even know what we're going to play! We switch off making set lists every night. Around 1995 we got sick of working on set lists on a daily basis, so we just decided that one of us would do it every night. It keeps things a bit different, and it keeps fans excited about seeing what we play".  

I have a very important question for you now Tim, are you ready? Have you eaten any Australian animals before? "No! I wouldn't do that! While I am absolutely a meat-eater, whenever I think about it, it's really the most disgusting thing there is. So no Kangaroo or Emu for me".  

The time has come for us to really find out how Australian Tim is....

We have something for you that we are hoping you might try for us - have you tried Vegemite before? Tim gives an apprehensive look and says  "What is this?! I already know I'm going to throw up. Is it chocolately?"

He tastes the Vegemite, pauses, and gives his feedback:  "it's definitely the saltiest thing I've ever tried! It's actually not that bad."

Psychic Warfare is available everywhere, and you should absolutely listen to it! Clutch are currently on tour in Europe, and will be touring the U.S in the fall, before returning to Europe in December. Catch them at a venue near you!