Dan Maines of Clutch

Interview By: Zaneta Padilla

Dan Maines, the bass player from Clutch, spoke with me about their upcoming tour and festival dates. He’s a real down-to-earth guy playing with a down-to-earth band that just loves music and loves what they do.

Side Stage Magazine: So, I see you guys are going to be starting off your tour again, starting off in Greensboro, right?

Dan Maines: Yup. We’re starting off with the Devin Townsend Project and The Obsessed. We’re going to be going mostly down South. We have shows in the Carolinas. We have a bunch of shows in Florida, then we kind of cross the country and wrap things up in Nashville.

You guys are from Maryland, right?

Yeah. We met each other in High school. We went to the same high school together. That was in Maryland, a suburb of DC. We’re only about 20 minutes outside of D.C. When we were in high school and we went to shows, we would go down to D.C.  and sometimes in Baltimore.

Did you guys start in high school?

We started jamming together in high school and we kind of went through different incarnations before we became Clutch. By the time we became Clutch, which was in 1991, we had already been out of high school for a couple years.

 

And you’re all the original band mates?
Yeah.

That’s pretty awesome! Almost 30 years of playing together.

It’s definitely a rare thing. We noticed that more the longer it goes on, the more bands we go on for and meet and talk to, it’s just a very rare case you’re going to find a band that’s been together as long as we have that still has all the original members.

That’s pretty awesome! I was actually reading an interview you guys did about not doing weird things on social media to stay relevant and just focusing on the music, which that definitely resonated with me and seems like you guys found that magic formula to stay together and stay authentic to your music.

Yeah. I mean we’ve always felt very comfortable just doing whatever we wanted to do. Musically, I think we hit it off when we started jamming together. When you’re in high school and you get together in your friends garage and you start making music, you don’t really have these lofty goals to make a career out of it, and we were just kind of living in the moment and having fun and we just really honestly have the same kind of approach to writing music as we did in those early days. Obviously the music business has gone through a lot of changes and you just kind of have to adapt to that. As far as the 4 of us getting together and writing music, it’s pretty straight forward and simple for us and we still enjoy doing it more than anything else. As long as people are still interested in it, we will continue.

I always appreciate any artist who focuses more on the art than the business. It’s a fine line, because you do have to survive. It’s great that you guys are focusing more on the art and making a business out of that rather than the other way around.

It can be a definite hazard if you get your head wrapped around other things that you think are going to create success. It doesn’t always work out that way. It’s always best to just focus on making the best piece of work that you can and just worry about the other aspects about it later.

That’s definitely a good philosophy.
So you guys are doing a couple of festivals next year, with a great line up. I think I’m going to have to head down to Florida for Rockville.

Yeah. That one looks good. I’m glad that the festival culture is kind of making a comeback here in the U.S. because I think it’s an awesome way for people to discover new music. You have a lot of bands, ourselves included, that wouldn’t normally have opportunity to play to so many people. It’s always a good time, I always look forward to those.

It’s a big unifier too. I bet you’ll see a bunch of people from all walks of life that just appreciate music. Actually, that even fell in that article that you don’t have to fit a certain persona to like that kind of music.

Sure! Absolutely! I notice that more in Europe than over here in the States. You go to these European festivals and they don’t really try to break the festival down into particular genres. They really have a wide array of bands, style-wise. I think that’s a good thing, you know? Anytime you put parameters on art, I think it affects it in a negative way.

I agree.

The Rockville Festival definitely looks like a great lineup!

Have you guys done festivals before?

We have! And I’m pretty sure we’ve done that one before. We have done festivals in the past and we’ve actually been putting our own festival on for the last couple of years. We do what we call the Earth Rocker festival. The last few years that we’ve done it, it’s been in West Virginia, which is a little fitting for us because we actually had 2 band houses in West Virginia during the 90’s. The band has roots in West Virginia as well.

That’s awesome! So what is it like putting on your own festival versus just performing in a festival?

It’s a lot more stressful. A lot more work. For us, it’s a big learning experience. We purposefully have started small. We didn’t have these huge plans placed on our shoulders. We’ve tried to keep it relatively simple and we’re going to try to add new elements to it each time we do it. It’s great! We have a great location and we have a lot of the parts of the festival easily taken care of, like the food and beverages. We had a great lineup that really included all ages, which is something that we really wanted to focus on. We’ve been having a lot of young people coming to our shows—we’re talking about kids ages 6-14 coming to our shows, so we really wanted that to be a part of our festival too. We actually had a local music school for kids, School of Rock, as one of the opening acts. They had like 45 minutes and they were doing switch offs. Four of them would come out, and two would swap out and do a few more songs. It was really cool!

I know Willie Nelson does a festival every year to raise money for local farmers. What brought you guys to put on your own festival? Was it just the love of music and giving music to everybody?

Yeah. I mean, we wanted to have some kind of a special event for our hometown area as opposed to just doing one show a year in D.C. or Baltimore. We did a show at this venue in West Virginia, it’s called Shiley Acres and that’s where we do Earth Rocker Fest. The first time we did a show at Shiley Acres, that’s where the idea of doing a festival really came to root. It’s a really cool venue. This guy is I think a dairy farmer and he’s got all this land and he’s just a fan of music. He’s built his own stage, this outdoor stage and has been doing this for years, putting on his own shows on a limited schedule. He only does shows during the summers, but we got to talking to him and he’s such a great guy and we took the idea of trying to make a festival of our own seriously. We didn’t try to do anything to put us in over our heads, like try to bring in a ferris wheel or something like that. We brought in seven or eight bands that we really wanted to showcase, and tried to make it more about the music than anything else. We do have ideas to make it bigger and better over the years, but we’re just taking baby steps.

 

That’s good. You don’t want to burn yourself out. That’s really exciting, I’m definitely going to try to make it to West Virginia for this!

Yeah, it’s a good time. He allows people to camp out there. It allows you to spend the whole day there and not have to worry about not being in the shape to make the drive home. Just camp out there and get home the next day. It’s a lot of fun, there’s a lot of people that just make it a really safe party environment.

That sounds like a great environment. So some of the other festivals you’re playing at, in Madrid and Florida, what are you looking forward to there?

I’m going to have to look at the lineup again. I always like to try to see the bands playing.

For Rockville, there’s Ozzy Osbourne, Godsmack, Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Breaking Benjamin, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stoneage, and Billy Idol.  

Billy Idol! Sick! I’m gonna HAVE to make time to see Billy Idol. I don’t see how I can miss that. Definitely want to see Ozzy Osbourne and I would love to be able to catch Queens of the Stone Age. To be able to see those 3 bands in one day, AND get to play my own show? Can’t beat that! Come on!

Absolutely! That’s my whole high school soundtrack right there.

I can remember listening to Generation X when I was a teenager. Maybe even before that, shit. I don’t know. I forget when Billy Idol became Billy Idol the solo act. I must’ve been in high school before then.

It looks like you’re traveling with some of the same bands to the festival in Madrid. Ozzy Osbourne, Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet for my Valentine.

How about that. Maybe we can coordinate some other shows together.

Have you ever gone to a festival just as an audience member or have you always been playing them?

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a festival when I wasn’t playing. I’ve been to a festival and played and stayed on my own. It might’ve been the second time we played Bonnaroo. My wife came down and we set up a tent and stayed in Bonnaroo for the night. I was woefully unprepared for that experience.

In what way?

I think there are two things you should always have at a festival. Bring a backpack and in the backpack, you’ve gotta have water and you’ve gotta have a flashlight. Trying to find our tent at 1:00 in the morning in a sea of other tents that look just like our tents is a total disaster. I had my wife in tears.

Oh no!

It was bad. The saving grace was when we finally did find our tent and climbed inside, Stevie Wonder started his set. He saved the night for us.

Here I have it in my mind that it’s more stressful to be performing at a festival. There’s so much to worry about back stage, and you have to worry about hitting that note right, but it sounds like it might be more stressful as a concert goer if you’re camping.

Yeah. I’m not much of a camper anyway, so I didn’t really have the experience to know what I would need anyways, so it was my mistake. I would gladly do it again.

Good, I’m glad it didn’t ruin it for you!
One more question about the festivals. It sounds like Rockville you might have more of a chance since it’s a 3-day festival, but as a performer, do you get time to just take a break and appreciate the music?

You know, I really wish that we did, but festivals, if you’re performing them as a band, actually, that day you have the LEAST amount of time. It’s much more of a chaotic scene behind the stage. There’s always interviews they have set up for you, there’s a press tent of people wanting to do interviews. That’s always a great thing for a band too, so you always try to carve out time for that. I think you’re lucky if you’re able to see 2 bands at a festival.

 

As someone who appreciates music, I definitely appreciate what you guys put into it to bring this experience and environment to people who go to these festivals to have a good time.

Well, thank you. It’s always a good time for us too and we look forward to it.

I saw that you guys are releasing 3 new picture albums. Do you have a favorite artwork out of the three?

Out of those three, I would pick Jam Room. I think Jam Room’s artwork was unique. I’ve always liked the photograph on the cover which is just a simple photo of our jam space. That was our second album. We moved to Shepherd’s Town in West Virginia and we had our friend, Steve Truglio come down, he’s a photographer, and he snapped that photo of our jam room. The inside, all the art in the credit sections and the lyrics, all that stuff done on the inside was actually done by our singer, Neil. It just gives it a more personal touch mores than any other album we’ve done.

Oh wow! I have to say, I love the Live at the Googloplex on because I love the colors.

That one is good too. I think Neil might’ve done that cover too. I think it was a collage that he put together.

Oh wow! Multitalented!

That he is!

What can you tell us about your upcoming album you’re about to start recording?

I definitely feel good about it! We spent a good part of this year writing it. I think we probably spent more time writing songs for this album than for any other album we’ve done before. So, I feel really good about the songs. Each song is really strong and I feel good about the range of material too. I’m glad that we have this tour coming up, cause we’re gonna definitely try and play as many of our new songs on this upcoming tour as we can. We’ll get comfortable with them and get them into shape so that when we go into the studio, we can just bang them out.

When are you expecting to release?

It’s probably gonna be a late summer release.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it! And I’ll definitely try make it a point to check out one of your shows to hear the new material before it’s released.

Yeah! Like I said, we’re starting in Greensboro, and most of our shows are going to be in the South. We have another tour in between the holidays in December, but that’s more of an Eastern tour.

Do you guys ever make it to the West Coast?

We do! We were just out there last month with Primus. We did a full month tour with Primus and that ended in Berkeley California.

Oh cool!
Well, thank you for taking the time today, and I hope you all have a good Thanksgiving with your families. I will definitely try to make it out to Greensboro to see you guys and we’ll be on the lookout for you at the upcoming festivals and on tour.

Thank you. We hope to see you out there!

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