So are you just hanging out at home until the tour starts?
Dan Maines: We’ve actually been spending the last month and a half writing new material for the upcoming Clutch album. We’ve been getting together pretty often, and our hope is to go into the studio immediately after this tour and try to make another record.
How did The Bakerton Group first spin off from Clutch?
It happened because we had just moved into a huge house in West Virginia. It was an old stone house in Harper’s Ferry. It was the first time the four of us were living together. We really had a lot of time to jam. It was kind of an experiment to try something new without too many parameters. We wanted to keep it instrumental, and try to do something that we weren’t already doing with Clutch. That was about 1997 or 1998. We’ve been doing it for a while, doing local shows here and there, not trying to do anything big time with it until the last few years.
Why have you decided in the past couple years to focus more on The Bakerton Group and making it a stand alone band?
It was always fun to do. It was a good separation from Clutch. We never really focused on it much because we were so busy with Clutch at the time. Now that Neil is involved in The Bakerton Group as well, it has become part of the normal writing process. Now it’s the four of us getting together and throwing around ideas. It’s not until the song is near completion that we decide whether it’s going to be a Clutch song or a Bakerton song. It’s something that’s become easier to write for, because we don’t have to write something specific. It’s just us messing around, not putting any boundaries on what we are writing. If it turns out that it’s something Neil can words to, it’s a Clutch song. If not, it’s a Bakerton Group song.
How did you get Per from Opeth to do keyboards on El Rojo?
He’s somebody that we’ve known for a while. We went on a European tour that included some Japanese dates with a band called Spiritual Beggars. He was playing keys for the band at the time, which is how we met him. Then we crossed paths again when we did the Sound Of The Underground tour when he was with Opeth. We got to know him well, and the more time we spent together, we noticed we had a lot in common musically. We invited him to jam with us a couple of times on stage, and it seemed like a really good fit. When it was time to record the album, we asked for his services, and he was available.
Was he actually in the studio with you, or did he do his parts in Europe and send them to you?
Opeth were on tour in the U.S., and it just worked out that their tour ended a couple days before we were scheduled to go into the studio. He just stayed behind and stayed with us for a week in the studio.
Where did the album title El Rojo come from?
When we write songs, Neil is usually the one who comes up with song titles, whether it’s a rough draft or a final version. There was something about a song that reminded him of King Crimson, something from their Red album, so he was calling it “El Rojo” as a working title. At least that’s the story that I got. (“El Rojo” is Spanish for “The Red One”).
The Bakerton Group is opening for Clutch on this tour. Is it difficult to play two sets for each show?
No, not really, as long as there’s 45 minutes to an hour between sets we’re good playing an hour’s worth of Bakerton songs and two hours of Clutch. We’ve done it in the past and it’s seemed to work out fine. This time around there are going to be bands in between, so it will give us some recuperation time.
What led Clutch to form your own record label?
We’ve been on I think every record label. We jumped around so many times, and each time we’ve been on a different label it’s been a learning experience for us. Having been in it for so long and the current state of the way the business operates now, it just made a lot of sense for us to give it a shot. There are certain things that aren’t going to get done unless you do it yourself. That’s the idea we had going in, and it’s tough. There are things we learned about having your own label that we didn’t realize beforehand. But it’s something that’s working out in our favor, and I only think it’s going to get better.
Do you have plans for signing other bands to the label?
That’s something we’re not even thinking about right now. We just set goals for Clutch and Bakerton releases. It’s really time consuming. Right now we’re not thinking about different bands.
How was the Clutch Full Fathom Five DVD and CD that the label released last year received?
Great! I think the timing was perfect for us, because it was near the holidays and that was a big boost. People around that time of the year are going to the stores anyway looking for stuff. I think the DVD turned out really well and people are happy with it.
Clutch has had a pretty stable lineup for 20 years. Has it been easier or more difficult to keep things together as you get older?
It’s gotten a lot easier. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve fallen into a routine as far as touring schedules. When you have families you really have to pay attention to how much time you spend on the road and how much time you spend at home. It’s all about planning ahead. When you do those things and set schedules for yourselves as far as albums, it creates this machine that runs on its own. We get together more often now than we ever have, and we’re writing more songs than we have in the past.