“You can take two ways of living; you can either just not really care about what you’re doing…like work a regular job…do your 9-to-5 or do this thing where you’re sort of starving and trying to do something different, be an artist. I mean, it’s the artist lifestyle.” – Tommy Victor of PRONG
TIM SULT of CLUTCH
It doesn’t get much heavier than a tour with Clutch and Prong. Hell, Prong frontman Neil Fallon makes the cowbell an instrument of heavy/funky destruction.
Days before the bands kicked off their North American tour in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I interviewed Clutch guitarist Tim Sult and Prong frontman/guitarist Tommy Victor.
*** Tim Sult Interview ***
MS: With the live shows, recording, touring what is the coolest part about this entire Clutch experience for you?
TS: Just the whole fact that we’ve been able to keep this whole thing going for so long and it’s something that continuously grows and it’s always a rewarding experience as it unfolds upon itself. I guess short answer to the question would just be the fact that it actually exists. That’s the most rewarding thing about it to me.
MS: Clutch has been around for over 20 years. Some bands break up, but you guys are still going together. How do you work it out over twenty plus years?
TS: Honestly, when I think about it, it does seem like kind of a minor miracle to me that we’re actually still going after all these years. But it’s just the fact that we’ve never really had major setbacks or anything. It’s always been something that’s continuously growing. It’s just always feels like we’re working towards something and we’re moving towards the future. There’s really no reason to stop doing it. And that’s a good thing for me.
MS: Your sound is so unique and I could just imagine you working stuff out. Do you ever have creative differences?
TS: We really don’t have creative difference when we’re trying to write songs. We’re just trying to write the best songs that we possibly can. We just get in a room and start hammering out ideas. There’s really no creative differences or anything like that. It’s not like we get together and we start playing and it sounds like a bunch of different bands. We all just mesh into one somehow.
MS: When and what made you want to pick up the guitar?
TS: I was just always into music since I was a little kid. I remember particularly, one thing I clearly remember musically was being really into Steve Miller Band when I was maybe four or five years old. That was probably one of my first memories of being into music. So pretty much, ever since then, I wanted to be a musician. And it kind of happened and I still want to be one.
MS: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at one of your concerts?
TS: Well luckily we’ve never seen anything that crazy. You know honestly, I prefer all of our shows to be seated and for everybody to be calm and behave themselves (slight chuckle). But honestly the craziest stuff I’ve seen…luckily for us, it’s not violence, it’s more of the sexual nature during shows. I’d rather encourage that kind of behavior than violence.
MS: The single “Pigtown Blues” was released in June. Is this is a teaser or preview for the next album?
TS: Oh no, not at all. Those songs won’t be on the album.
MS: Is there an expected date? Are you guys working on an album currently?
TS: We will be in the studio in September, so the release date will be Spring 2013. We’re actually starting pre-production with the guy that’s going to be producing it after this tour. We’re getting ready to jump in there and do a new album.
MS: Can you name the producer or is that a secret?
TS: Oh no, it’s not a secret. We’re using Machine, the guy that produced “Blast Tyrant” as well.
MS: I read an interview with you back in 2010, the interview itself is pretty awesome…toward the end, I’ll read the quote…You mentioned, the reissues of vinyl…”I’m not personally a huge vinyl collector…(Tim Sult interview in Metal Israel http://metalisrael.com/2010/11/1307/metal-israel-exclusive-interview-tim-sult-of-clutch/ ” Fast forward a month ago, David Lowery of Cracker makes this blog post to Emily White of NPR, then Travis Morrison of Dismemberment Plan replies to it. What is your opinion of the whole download and file sharing debate now?
TS: I don’t think things have really changed that much. It seems like, as far as our sales go, things have leveled off. It’s not like they’re dropping drastically. I don’t know. I’ve honestly never had anything against downloading. It’s helped us as far people attending our shows and us selling albums to tell you the truth. I truly believe that.
MS: For up and coming musicians, how tough is it now to be an artist now, with this kind of climate?
TS: I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of a newer artist. It just seems like these days, the travel costs are greater than they were back when we first started. I really think that’s the main issue as far as stopping bands from going out on the road. We were able to go out on tour when gas was barely over a dollar a gallon. A hundred and fifty dollar guarantee went a lot further 20 years ago than it does nowadays. That’s definitely one of the factors that stops a lot of people.
MS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
TS: You know, that’s a good question. I don’t know if I’ve ever been given any advice. I’ve basically heard, “Don’t quit your day job, kid.” I think we heard that from somebody at Atlantic Records back in the day. That was bad advice.
MS: With 20 plus years in the business, what advice would you give to an up and coming band just starting out?
TS: I think it’s pretty simple. The most important thing is not quitting. Being 20 years into my career, I look at people who are 40 years into their career now and try to envision myself Lemmy’s age or Alice Cooper’s age. These are guys that have never quit the way they’ve lived their lives.
MS: Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
TS: Usually creamy. I have no problem with crunchy, but usually creamy.
MS: Is there anything you want to add before we wrap it up? This will actually be my first time seeing Clutch perform July 18. I’m looking forward to seeing the show. Is there anything you want diehard to know or look out for?
TS: Not sure yet. Not sure what’s going to happen on this tour. We haven’t really discussed it yet. Maybe we’ll be busting up some acoustic stuff this time, maybe not. We’ve got about 10 new songs that we can play. We might be playing a lot of new material, so that’s a good reason to come out. You know, you can throw that up on Youtube.
MS: The jams, are those on the moment or do you have cues where you jam or is it just when you feel you guys want to jam onstage?
TS: Usually we just have certain spots of songs that we jam out. Not every song, there’s maybe three or four songs that we play per set that have sections that we jam out. As far as that goes, yeah…I don’t know. I was trying to watch my kids. Have you been to this venue?
MS: Yes. I love it. Vinyl Music Hall. I live here and I think it’s one of the best venues in the South. Closest one I think would be Jacksonville. It’s a great venue, intimate 500 people, awesome sound, awesome lights, everybody can see from where they are on the floor. It’s beautiful.
TS: Nice. I don’t think we’ve ever played there before. The name of the venue sounds kind of familiar, but I don’t we’ve ever been there.
MS: I don’t think so, because I would have seen you guys come by if you came before. I’m definitely looking forward to it. Where is the first stop in the tour?
TS: Fayattville, Arkansas. Home of Bill Clinton. Maybe he’ll come out to the show. That would be awesome.
*** Tommy Victor Interview ***
MS:With the recording, the touring, the concerts, what is the most amazing part of this entire Prong experience for you?
TV: Coming home and playing with my dogs and drinking beer(laughs). It’s hard to say, it’s so much work, but we made a really good record and when you realize that and then people are like, “You know what? You really outdid yourself.” Or whatever, that’s cool, not to be a people pleaser; you do it for yourself in a lot of ways. You can take two ways of living; you can either just not really care about what you’re doing, you know, like work a regular job and work for a company, do your nine to five or do this thing where you’re sort of starving and trying to do something different; be an artist. I mean, it’s the artist lifestyle.As cheesy as that sounds. Just people have done it in the past and so you usually die poor and miserable.
MS: You’ve already answered one of my questions right there. You mentioned the new album, “Carved into Stone”. From “Eternal Heat” to “Reinvestigate” the whole album is a non-stop onslaught. What does this album mean for you as an artist, as you said?
TV: I had to do something that took full energy into. I made a couple of records where I didn’t do that and then I was working on a couple of records with other artists that people sort of had an Ed Wood attitude about it, “I want to do it.” “Ok, fine, let’s get this thing over with.” And “We have couple of good songs.” I didn’t want to go in with this…I wanted to have 11 quality songs, so I wrote a lot of songs. Like 25 songs, with other guys too, like Mike Longworth, a couple of outside guys, but I mean, just put the time into it, I gotta get some good songs together and I gotta make a really good record. I’m tired of doing these records that are just sort of, you know, “Ok. Here’s another one.” whatever. It has to have the passion. You gotta build it up somehow. You gotta pump yourself up into doing it. It’s a lot of long hours and reevaluation, you spent all the money, the whole record advance went to our producer and he did a great job and we wanted somebody to take directions from. Every once in awhile you got to do things like this. You’re investing into something for yourself and for others. Hopefully the lyrics get through people and people can think and whatever. It’s just a collection of really good songs. That’s all I really wanted to do.
MS: A lot of fans are saying this is your best album yet. Now when you’re in the studio, how do you juggle what you want to do and what the fans will think of it? If that makes sense.
TV: That’s makes total sense. It’s a really good question actually. Because you always think of that and you’re wondering and a lot of that can’t really come from yourself. And when you’re in the studio, that’s why you get a really good producer that’s done a lot of records. I’ve listened to a lot of the stuff he’s (Steve Evetts) done and he done a lot of emo bands, he’s done a lot of hardcore like Hatebreed and Sepultura and a lot of really good metal bands, “Warpbranger” I really like that record that he did. And the Dillinger Escape Plan record, this is the guy! I trust him to know and to engineer and to produce what people are going to like and it works for Prong. I can work into a tangent, like I’ll do stuff that I think that people are going to like and they just, they don’t know or I really can’t decipher that. After we did the “Cleansing” record and the label wanted us to do a carbon copy of that record for the follow up and I couldn’t do it. Even if I tried, which I really didn’t, I wouldn’t really know what to do. You write music and you do what you do for the present and maybe the future. You can’t really go back and say, “Go over and change this part from this attitude from an older record and bring it back.” That didn’t really come into mind at all.
MS: I have to ask you about your songwriting, for example one of my favorite songs “Letter To A Friend”, your songwriting is very direct, no bullshit style of writing. I equate it to Elmore Leonard and Neil Gaiman. What did you read when you were child and what do you read now?
TV: Oh man, I mean, right now, I’ve been so busy, I try to like pick up, I’ll pick up anything like you know I (laughs) was really into Ann Rule for awhile, it’s true-crime. It’s not fantastic, it’s like this person really did this and I like a lot of reality stuff. “Deranged” it’s about Albert Fish, not to go popular and look as mass murders, I’m not into that whole thing, but stuff like that I like to read. And then I’ll read like crappy like James Patterson and Michael Connelly and stuff like that of course then Sharon Bukowski and Burroughs. Nowadays, I like to see what’s popular a little bit and what floats people’s boats, like even Stephen King I’m into. But it’s so hard to even have a moment being in solitude after making the record. I spent so much time in solitude making the record that I haven’t really had anything to pull from that much. It’s been really difficult. That’s a really good question, because eventually before I go in and start writing lyrics, I got definitely reading and doing some kind of essays that really hit you in a certain way is a good influence on you, rather than just basing on relationships and everything. That gets old. You know, how many times can you cry about what’s the same old thing all the time.
MS: Your writing is so vivid. Have you written any books? I visualize what you talk about. Do you have a book out or have you considered writing a book?
TV: Yeah, every time I start I’m so used to just writing short stories. My patience level is so screwball. I did start a couple of things like fantasies and stuff. I didn’t finish it. I’ve gone back-I did it in handwriting cause’ my typing’s horrible and I can’t understand what I was writing half the time- but down the line, I’m going to do a road experience book, but that’s way in the future. There are so many stories that are out of control. I tower verbally to people and they always freak out. But it’s just the patience level of just trying to put that down on tape or getting away from regular normal life stuff is where it’s a problem because I gotta work, you know. So, it’s been hard, and doing stupid shit like wooing Peter and dealing with this stuff that takes precedence. I’ve gotten way too way worldly and there’s like nothing you can do. I run my own band and I still play with Glenn Danzig and I still do some other things here and there, so it’s been difficult.
MS: Hell, you’re busy. Speaking of working with other artists, you’ve worked with Al Jourgenson (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), one of my biggest heroes and like him, your work is very uncompromising in the face of current trends. Who are some of the artists that you identify as continuing that tradition of going against the grain of modern music?
TV: I go way back. I’ve always been a big fan of Killing Joke and as far as music goes, I’m really into them and Jazz Coleman. They never really pay attention to what’s going on too much, but I don’t really see that many-yeah, I could throw out names and people would be like, “You gotta be kidding me.”, from anybody like Paul Simon to Springsteen. I can appreciate all those guys a little bit, but I don’t follow anybody. I’m not big on idol worship. I’m not like, “Oh my God, Trent Reznor” or whoever. I keep saying that I’m too busy with my own… I’m trying to get through the day and dealing with all the typical bullshit that I’m not really paying attention too much. I should probably pay more attention to what’s going on…
MS: How much sleep do you get Tommy? I wondered that because you’re a busy man.
TV: I have to get a good amount of sleep. There was a time when I wasn’t sleeping as much and I’ve gotten older-and usually when you’ve gotten older, you don’t sleep as much, but it’s totally the opposite with me. I definitely like to get like 8 hours.
MS: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen this year, 2012?
TV: Let me think…(chuckles) oh boy…I recently did this Danzig “Legacy” TV shoot where Glenn set up this whole TV studio and we’re doing it sort of like as if Glenn is Elvis in 1970. I’ve known Glenn for a really long time and I didn’t see this side of him where he had his own TV special he organized and he suddenly turns into Jackie Mason where he was just like this TV emcee and he was brilliant. He was just like-I mean it was a totally different side of the guy that I’ve never really seen and hopefully it doesn’t get edited, all the crazy stuff that he-telling jokes and fooling around with people; a combination of Jackie Mason slash Don Rickles slash Danny Devito. It was the most bizarre thing. People were like, “Who is this guy?” It was all off-the-cuff. It was weird. Glenn probably hosts a TV show better than half the people that are out there. It’s a weird thing, this was non-stop. Like one-liners after the other and just kidding around with people, it’s really funny. Crazy stuff too, raunchy stuff that happens. We’ve had a crazy year, weird negative stuff too.
MS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
TV: It’s sort of like a spiritual thing and I don’t practice this at all, but the concept that I got this practicing meditation briefly and this guy, the Korean meditation and I’m sure everyone heard this before, but human’s now live in reality, we only live in what our senses perceive, and that’s it, but there’s definitely something beyond that we’ve been for some reason, we’re not allowed to perceive. We live in a false reality of everything. I figured that one out a long time ago. We always project that because…a long time ago when I was a kid, I experimented with a lot of hallucinogenic drugs and I don’t remember what was going on, but I know that there was something else beyond what we see every day; that this is all pretty much bullshit. There’s nothing we can do about it really, except if you want to become like a monk and just meditate for 30 years. That’s the only way you can bypass it really, I guess. We get impressed with all these images that affect are psyche and destroy us at the same time. Like, if we didn’t have all these pictures in our head, then we’d probably live a lot longer. The human body is probably capable of going a lot longer, but because of the world and life just completely destroys us.
MS: What advice would you give to guys just starting out? What words of wisdom would you give them?
TV: I would say to eliminate any kind of expectations about what’s going to happen. People get into music for all different types of reasons; I think, in this day and age, you have to think like a jazz musician’s…he’s a player. Take that kind of…”you’re never going to make any money and you’re not going to have a normal life.” Even if you start getting a little fame, or whatever, it all meaningless; it’s not going to solve any of your problems, that’s for sure. You gotta’ do it for the…wanting to jam out. Sort of like playing basketball; it’s the same thing. You just get on the court, shoot a couple of baskets, or whatever, just for the general enjoyment of it. Just the joy of that eliminates all of the bullshit you gotta’ go through. Some guys have it; they can go out there and do it. Have the attitude of, “Look, maybe you’ll do this for a couple of years.” Put a time limit on the whole thing. That’s something I probably should’ve done (laughs). But now I’m doing it and locked in.
MS: When it’s all said and done, how do you want the people that appreciate music to remember you and your work?
TV: Look at the guitar playing a little bit and my approach to it, I think has been a little different than a lot of guys; doing things differently. With each record, trying to do something different and concentrating on lyrics and trying to put out good songs and I think that’s pretty much it. I don’t expect any glory or anything anymore. The records speak for themselves. That’s an issue that I don’t really get too involved in. Hopefully, down the line, maybe 20 years from now, people will still have some Prong records to refer to if I’m still around at that time.
MS: Last question for you, Tommy. It’s kind of a crazy one, my favorite one; do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
MS: Why so? Any particular reason?
TV: Yeah, I like both of them, but it’s…sometimes-I have some holes in my teeth and sometimes the little pieces get stuck in em’, stuck in the teeth. If I want something crunchy, I’ll go for the potato chips.
MS: Is there anything you want the diehard Prong fans to know about the show when they come out to Pensacola, Florida,?
TV: We do a lot of old stuff, there’s no doubt about that. We sort of do a best hits set and you can hit me up on Twitter anytime. I’m into that all of a sudden. It’s https://twitter.com/prongmusic. Hit me up, I send a reply to everybody.
MS: How much of the new stuff are you guys going to be playing?
TV: I don’t really know what our set time is right now, so we’ve only been playing two new songs really. I think we’re going to bump that up to three, maybe. See how that goes, but I don’t think any more than that.
– Michael L. Smith