An interview by Chris Chinchilla in Australia

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere summer has just reared it's hot and sweaty head, and with summer comes festivals and international artists! So suddenly Australia is awash with bands from across the globe playing what are affectionately termed 'Sideshows', it's good news and bad news as everyone struggles with time and money to catch all the acts they want to see who will probably never return to these shores any time soon.

One such band is Clutch, heading over for the Meredith music festival and two sideshows, which for a country with a population of 20,000,000 show the problems we have with supply and demand.
Once again I struggled through international phone systems and caught vocalist 'Neil' at the tail end of a show in Atlanta.

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans


So to start, how did you guys all meet and why did you decide to form a band?
We met in high school and we started because we thought playing Rock & Roll would be a good way to hang out… And because all the other guys in high school started bands. We weren't excelling in sports or Mathematics, so thought we might as well play some freakin' Rock & Roll.

How long ago was that?
The first time I started jamming with JP (Drums) was in '88, we were about 16 or 17, nothing ever came of it until about '91 with the Pitchfork EP.

15 years, how many albums have you done in that time?
I've stopped counting. About a dozen releases, nine full lengths.

The current album (From Beale street to Oblivion) was all recorded in analogue, no digital production, is that something you've always done, or has it just been for this album?
We did that when we first started out and then switched to digital, but the idea with this album was to write it and record it live.

Were you trying to keep a certain edge to the album, vibrancy, avoid a temptation to play with it too much after being recorded?
Well, after every recording there's always an element of 'Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda', we were aiming to not have to try and remember each song but capture a performance, a feeling in the room.

The look and feel of the packaging has a dusty and vintage feel with black and white photos and stencils, what was the idea behind that?
All of us in the band lament the loss of the enormous gatefold record, before videos you'd always listen to the music and look at the record. We wanted to have a return to packaging that you can look at, a video in still life. Our friend Nick drew the stencils.

Does it relate to the lyrical content at all?
Sure, the silhouettes all do, as far as the cover, that was Nick's vision. He saw the tree and it's roots as a place to go, a place to have a good time. We didn't realise that at the time, I only figured it out three weeks ago! I like that though, I'd rather have things a mystery than everything on a plate.

So what is Beale st?
It's a very real place, a street in Memphis, a historical music strip where back in the day all the great Blues and Jazz musicians played. Nowadays it's more of a tourist location but I consider it a better Mecca than Nashville, Seattle or New York, it's one of the realest places ever.

So a place where 'one' can live free and easy, live Rock & Roll, live in 'Oblivion'?
I guess, it's quite an American lyrical style; maybe it's lost on non-Americans slightly.

It makes sense to me!

You seem a passionate band, what's getting you angry and passionate at the moment?
I'm not really angry, I live a blessed life with a great family and I'm in a rock band… I get angry when I hear bands playing to click tracks. I'm get excited about passionate musicians, small things.

I guess I was looking at a song like 'You can't stop progress', it seems political, or a least a social commentary.
I've always hated politics in rock & roll, except from the 60's when they actually had something to talk about. But life in the States in the past 7 years has been like living in someone else's wet dream, but our nightmare. I think it might have snuck in unintentionally.

You've been going a fair while now and some say that whilst your music is still pretty full on, your sound is mellowing, is this due to you personally slowing down or the natural development of any band that has been playing together so long?
We don't ever go in with any preconceived notions, It's just different words and a new vocabulary, all I can say is that Scotch and Wine mellow with age, but they get stronger.

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, but usually with our music I can only hear the bits that have gone wrong rather
than anything that went right. When you reflect back on something it's very difficult to give an objective opinion, and I don't believe in objectivity anyway, I think everything's subjective. I just throw a deck of cards and
wherever they land, that's where she finds herself. I'm not really the one to explain my part in it, you must do that as the observer really, and of course that will reflect your part in the grand scheme of things.

Lucy: Do you enjoy playing live more than the creative process in the studio?
KJG: (Laughs) I don't enjoy any of it. It comes and it goes, ok? There's nothing like when you're writing and you manage to catch something by its
tail; when you're looking for those things underground that are skittering out of sight just when you're about to catch them. And when you catch them it is worth it, but it's a momentary pleasure. I've got so much noise upstairs, and I can hear things in my head that to me are absolutely devastatingly beautiful. I'm always trying to download them and get them
here, but they never get here in the right state, they're always very disabled and they don't even begin to imitate what I can hear in my head.
It's a frustrating process in the main.

Lucy: Your lyrics are simultaneously emotionally expressive and cryptic. Are you looking to be understood by your audience?
KJG: I'm always trying to understand myself, but it's like there's a point in the centre of the room, and there's a hundred windows to look at the same point from. All I can do is give you different angles on the same thing. God, you know, if I could find one conclusive thing in anything I would probably have something to put an anchor down on. But I cant, and I haven't met anyone that can. You can pick out anything you like in my lyrics, I don't seek to be cryptic. I love words for the sake of words, for me they're kind of free standing, and they don't really need to be explained. I think every word has its own character and colour and picture and the result you get with lyrics just depends how you put them together. You could just do it in a William Burroughs esque way, or throw the deck of cards, and you'd probably still find something that our tiny little minds would latch on to in order to gain some kind of emotional understanding. I don't think there's a constant, the only constant that there is for me is that there is no constant. I use myself as my canvas, I gut myself and fillet myself the whole fucking time, I'm always hooking myself out of the water, I'm always cutting my own head off and disembowelling myself, and as you can probably tell I'm quite angry about it at the moment. I'm very tired of it all, of my
process and how I find life, because it always seems to be about living and dying all in one breath. I'm getting pretty fucking tired of that.

Lucy: Do you think drugs stimulate or hinder creativity?
KJG: Well that depends on the drug, because I think most things arrive in the form of a drug really. I know in myself that if anything I am, much to my greater expense, an adrenalin junkie. My synapses don't work well enough to put pills in my mouth, I can't do that, despite popular opinion. I don't need any help breaking down, put it that way. There's not much holding it
together. If there was a drug that could put aline between two polar opposites and make them in to one thing I'm sure I would have it
intravenous, but I haven't found it. I think drugscan be a bit of a lazy way for creativity anyway, you're better off in the cold light of day in the mirror.

Lucy: As a band, you are distinguished by the extreme physicality of your live performances. Do you consciously make an effort to put on a show or do your performances just naturally come to you, and whatever happens, happens?
KJG: It's a bit of both, because you see, I think taking the stage is one of the most unnatural things anyone can do. In a way, just walking on stage actually creates an altered state - its not right, no one's meant to do that, unless you're a priest or a magician, or something like that. To put somebody who's very incapable in many ways in to that position creates a combustion reaction inside me. I know that, and I take the stage knowing that. Obviously there's all the usual things that affect my performance; if I'm on my 45th day of a tour I'm probably gonna be pretty fucking tired, so I'll be dictated by that. If I'm doing new material like tonight I don't
know what's going to happen, because we haven't built the train tracks yet. The beauty of playing live is when my drummer goes in to 5th gear or in to 10th gear, and for some reason there's something that hits me in the base of the spine and I'm gone, and that's Halleluiah for me. During the last few months a lot of strange things have been happening onstage, I think the process is changing. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, I've been having quite a tough time on stage, I feel like something's pulling me under, as if something's got me.

Lucy: So does the crowd influence your performances on stage?
KJG: Yes they do. I'm unkind enough to be pretty impersonal about how I do it, so I use them for me to kick against in effect, or to surf on, (I don't
mean physically surf). If you're in an empty roomand there's a couple of people at the back, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a bad show -
they might get the show of their lives. And then again when something's really heaving and going off, I get quite a distorted view of it, because I
can feel quite overwhelmed lose my sense of place in the situation. I lose control of myself. I don't know, I probably wasn't meant to do this, I
wasn't built for this. It wasn't a career option, I didn't start there and go there, I didn't pick up the things on the way. I've sort of gone round
and round.

Lucy: As the lead singer of the band, most media interest is focused on you. Do you feel pressurised by your position or do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
KJG: I've been here on this wheel long enough,(and I say this with a little bit of trepidation because I think you have to be really careful with this kind of thing, because the motivation to do it in itself I think is usually pretty corrupt) I'm not doing it for anyone else, I need a cheque through the door like anybody else does, you have to keep eating, you have to keep living. I'm looking for some sense of going home on my own terms, and people's critique of me is not relevant, whether it's positive of negative.
I do need a cheque through the door though, otherwise I'll have to go and be a butcher or something.

Lucy: What is the religious meaning behind the song "For I am the way"?
KJG: If you use the word religion in its truest sense, all it means is communion, it hasn't got any of the attachments to any written word. My
understanding of the word communion is loss of the sense. Another way of looking at it is you've got to get in to get out, and the only thing that I
know to be true is me, is this tiny little dot in the centre of the universe. It's the only thing that I know feels pain; I can see other people's pain and I can feel it in an emotional way, but not in a physical way. I find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling like I am the
centre of the universe and that everything is a projection, made by me - i.e. you two don't exist, you're something that I created. I don't wish that
sense upon anybody because it's not a good one. Through 'For I am the way' I'm saying that you've got to get in, because the only thing one knows to be true is oneself. And on a good day, if you stand on top of a mountain or go to the desert or stand in the ocean, and become completely inconsequential, linear time stops and you become everything and nothing. That for me is
communion, that's how I define religion. I thinkthere's a line in there which goes "Today the only bridge I have I burn" which sums it up really, because it is about cutting all lines of communication in order to really truly commune.

Lucy: Do you think that in the future your creativity will move from the sphere of music in to literature for example?
KJG: It's real hard to say. In a way, that sounds like a much easier life. But for all I know I'm deluding myself. I'm looking for someone to help me frame something at the moment, and someone is actually, someone's being really good to me. I would love to write, but I don't know if I'm good
enough to do it.