By ED CONDRAN
Special To The Courant
3:36 PM EST, January 10, 2014
Hits aren't everything. Just ask Neil Fallon. The leader of Clutch is more than fine with the reality that his Maryland-based hard rock band, which formed in 1991, has yet to experience chart success.
"We're fine without hits," Fallon said while calling from North Bend, Indiana. "Actually, hits can be the kiss of death. Most bands that have a hit, 99 percent of those have nowhere to go but down after having a hit. That's the high water mark for them and that's difficult in this ego-centric world of rock."
The New Radicals is an example of an act that had a hit ("You Get What You Give'') and enjoyed a brief shelf life before calling it a day. However, Clutch is more like a marathon runner than a sprinter.
"It's always been about going the distance with this band," Fallon said. "There's something about slugging it out in the clubs, making a name for yourself and developing a fan base and cultivating it."
Clutch, which will perform Monday at the Northampton's Pearl Street Nightclub, has never looked at sales figures. The bottom line is 10 albums in the books and countless concerts. "That proves that we're doing our job," Fallon said. "We play out as much as we can and we do whatever it takes to sustain us."
Part of the Clutch plan is to ignore trends. The band, which also includes guitarist Tim Suit, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean Paul Gaster, never reacted when grunge, nu-metal and other sonic styles reigned. "You can't react to what's going on out there," Fallon said. "If you do, you're not true to yourself and if you did chase after a certain sound, that sound might not be popular anymore by the time you put out your album. For us, the most important thing has not been looking at what our peers do. What we attempt to do is look to musicians from the older generation. What they tried to be is better musicians with each album."
Clutch is also a true collective. 'When we get together in Jean Paul's basement, one of us plays a riff and if nobody says anything, that idea gets thrown into the trash," Fallon said. "If we play something and someone likes it , we play it a few more times and see where it can go. When we get together, it's like a musical ouija board. What we live on is a true group gut instinct."
'Earth Rocker,' its latest album, which dropped last spring is primarily comprised of crunchy, powerful and earnest songs. However, the band tosses in a nice changeup, the bluesy slow-burner 'Gone Cold.'
"That was the intermission song on the record," Fallon said. "It was good to come up with something slower. It effectively broke things up. I'm coming up with some different ideas as I get older."
The vocalist-guitarist's latest source of inspiration comes from his 3-year-old son. "When he was born I thought I was going to experience creative death," Fallon said. "I thought that was the end of me being able to write rock lyrics but the opposite happened. Now I see things through his eyes and I'm more inspired now than ever. It's amazing the impact a child can have on you. It can change your direction."
Look no further for proof than Fallon's mother. Gail Fallon was a Hartford Courant photographer during the early '70s. "She covered a local beat," Fallon said. "She worked there for a year or two and then she became pregnant with me and that was the end of her career as a photographer. She had me and we lived in Rhode Island. I remember going back to Connecticut to visit my grandparents and spending some really boring summers with them. So when I go back to the Connecticut area it feels sort of like a hometown show."
CLUTCH appears Monday, Jan. 13, at Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Show time is 8 p.m. Information: 413-584-7771.
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