Saturday 22 October 2016

An Interview with Paul Craig from CLAWHAMMER


Clawhammer hail from Mississippi, the hospitality state. This hard rocking stoner band officially announced their existence with the self-titled debut album in 2015, and just two months ago the sophomore album “In Space” was born. Heavy, driving, fuzzy tracks go one by one bringing the weight and bliss of real Rock. Don’t believe? Then taste the opener song “Lunatic Friends” of the new album! Paul Craig (vocals, harmonica, keyboards) is here to tell more about fantastic world of Clawhammer.

Hello Paul! If you do not mind I would like to start with the question of the band’s origin, so how did you start Clawhammer?

Clawhammer began about 30 years ago when Paul Hill and I (Paul Craig) were kids discovering heavy metal. At 12 years old, we were into Ozzy, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Dio, Metallica and all the other big names of metal at the time. We knew we wanted to be rock stars when we grew up. As we grew up, we went our seperate ways, each becoming musicians on our own. Paul Hill has been recording non-stop for 20 years with his bands Arise Within, Curse of Disobedience, Black Mountain Thunder and Sungod.

I had a band in the 90's called Secret Agent Mushroom and I worked on solo stuff for a while after that band split up and then I pretty much just fell out of it altogether until a little over a year ago when after getting a divorce, I decided to put a new band together. Paul Hill heard I was looking to get something started so he recruited me for a new project he was working on which became Clawhammer.

What was on your mind when you gathered for the first time under Clawhammer banner? Do you already know how you want it to sound?

When Paul first told me about what he was doing, he told me he wanted me to sing on his metal album. That was the only goal - to make some metal music. We didn't have a goal on what we wanted it to sound like but we are both heavily influenced by Black Sabbath so it was no surprise that a lot of the songs have a very Sabbath vibe to them.

Paul, you not only sing but also play keyboards and harmonica, how did you learn to deal with these instruments?

I am primarily a singer but I do have some minor skills with instruments. I learned music theory playing tuba in the high school band. Once you know the basic fundamentals of music well enough to play one instrument, it's not that difficult to apply what you know to playing another one in most cases. Except guitar. I suck at guitar. (Although I do have a very small uncredited guitar part on the first album on the track “Steam Roller”)

Clawhammer - Lunatics

There are two albums in Clawhammer discography, how do you value your progress? Do you feel that “In Space” is a bigger step further consider the self-titled debut?

In Space was a progression for us. As I said before, Paul Hill has been steadily recording for years but the first album was my first major exposure to digital recording. Previously I had only recorded with analog. Paul H was the only engineer on about half of the first album. As I learned the process, I set up my own studio at home. By the time we started recording In Space, I was adept enough with the software that I was able to engineer all the vocal myself. 

 This gave us a lot more time to work on tracks and be artistic since we could both work as often as we liked and were not locked into a schedule of only when both of us could be in the same room. Also, our first album was only about half new songs. The other half was songs that we had written in other projects and re-recorded for Clawhammer.

How do you share duties with Paul in Clawhammer?

We don't really have an official policy on which one of us does what. We both do whatever we can to move the band forward. That being said, Paul stays busy writing and keeping the other band members up to speed and I stay pretty busy on promotion.

What’s band current lineup besides you and Paul? I see three serious dudes on the artwork of the first album as you did it with a bunch of guest musicians and as I see “In Space” was recorded only by you and Paul.

The current lineup is me on vocals, Paul on guitar, Stephen McNeer of drums and backing vocals and Bass Player X on bass. Stephen has been with us for a while. He co-wrote Break My Chains on the new album. We've had trouble locking down a permanent bass player. Bass Player X is our newest member and we're hoping we can keep him around for a while.

In Space” starts with that striking artwork. How did you find it? Does it describe a concept of the album?

We started this album planning to call it Clawhammer In Space and write all the songs with a space to them. We wrote Polish My Rocket and did a cover of Ride the Sky by Lucifer's Friend and then we kind of fell away from the concept and wrote about whatever. A month or two before the release, we had decided to call the album Get Hammered. However, Eddy Sanchez, who played bass on Flowers on Your Grave and Betrayed started sending us the space themed artwork so stuck with In Space as the name of the album.

Speaking about non-musical influences… Some bands tend to base their songs on movies. Do you have something of this kind on “In Space”? And one more thing – do you prefer old school cinematograph or new stuff (including modern Star Wars) is okay too?

To my knowledge, none of our songs are based on movies. "Lost in a Maze" was featured in Lindsey Productions' short film "The Warning" but it was not written for the film. Also, we use movie clips in our YouTube videos sometimes, but this is only because we are too broke to produce our own content.

Well, metal-archives say that Clawhammer perform doom stoner, your Facebook profile says that it’s about heavy metal rock, I think that truth is somewhere in between. What’s your opinion? Which influences do you see in “In Space”?

The first song we recorded was 3D Death Machine, which was actually a remake of a song we made together about 15 years ago when we briefly collaborated over the internet to record a couple songs. The next songs we recorded were Gethsemene and Sunshine, both of which had a doom/stoner metal vibe to them. Paul's other band Black Mountain Thunder is a doom/stoner band. This is how we got the doom/stoner label. We never set out to be a certain type of band. We just play what we like. Some of it is doom/stoner, some of it is more mainstream rock and some of it is something else. When people ask me, I just tell them we play rock and roll.

In Space” opener track “Lunatic Friends” is a bloody awesome song, can you tell its story? How did you born these riffs?

Paul wanted to write a song in the style of Randy Rhoads and the result was the music for Lunatic Friends. I based the lyrics of the relationship Paul and I have but it could be about any two friends who are known for acting crazy together.

How do you participate in the process of songwriting? Do you discuss with Paul some details of the songs or he just brings ready tracks for you?

Paul is a recording machine. A week after we released the first album, he had 10 new tracks for me. Most of the time, he sends me a music track. If I like it, then I will write lyrics for it based on what emotion the music makes me feel. Sometimes Paul will write some lyrics and I finish them. Sometimes he writes them all and I record them as he wrote them and sometimes he writes them all and I make changes.

By the way, how lyrics are important for you? What kind of topics do you prefer to use in Clawhammer?

Lyrics are very important to me. I think every song should make you feel something and make you relate to something and good lyrics are essential for pulling that off. I try to make every song about something different. A lot of the songs on the first album were about different mental states (anger, depression, schizophrenia, etc). As far as In Space goes, you have Lunatic Friends which is about friendship. My Angel is about addiction. Break My Chains is about work. Polish My Rocket is about sex.

Vibrio Cholerae Records released both of Clawhammer’s CDs, did you search for bigger label? And how do you deal with promotional things?

Paul has had a relationship with Vibrio Cholerae for a while. They also released his other projects with Black Mountian Thunder, Curse of Disobedience, Sungod, etc. Personally, having a label is not that big of a deal to me. I'm not against the idea but I don't think that any label would be willing to invest a lot of money into us unless we were willing to quit our jobs and tour, which we are not willing to do. We promote ourselves through social media pretty well.

How often and with what kind of bands do you usually play live? How is it important for you to keep the living spirit of the band?

We don't play live very often. In the beginning, Clawhammer was only supposed to be a studio project. We were getting some demand from a couple of local club owners to come play so we put the live band together this year and we have played a few gigs but we have turned down more than we have played. Paul is a truck driver and is on the road for three weeks at a time so we usually are only able to get together for practice once or twice a month. Combine that with effort of constantly replacing and training bass players and we just don't have a lot of time to play live.

Clawhammer – In the Name of God

Man, you’re from Mississippi, and I don’t remember if I ever did an interview with bands from your region. What kind of local stoner doom scene do you have there? And how much of Mississippi in your music?

I don't know of any other stoner doom bands around here that don't have Paul Hill in them. Most of the bands in this area who play original music play either blues or country, and there are a couple of Clawhammer tunes that have a blues or southern rock influence to them, but not many. It's not a sound that we try to have but it's not something we try to avoid either.

How do you see prospects of Clawhammer? Which direction do you plan to follow with the next album?

I think prospects for Clawhammer are good. We may never be a household name, but our fan base is slowly growing. This all started as a hobby. We never expected to go anywhere with it so any success we have is surpassing our expectations. As for the next album, who knows? We're recording a few cover songs to give away on our ReverbNation page right now (reverbnation/clawhammer1) but once we are finished with those, I'm sure the new original songs won't be too far behind. "We Will Rock You" and "Electric Avenue" are already posted up by the way.

Okay, Paul, god speed you on your way! I wish you all the best with further spreading of Clawhammer Word! Do you have few more words for our readers?

To the fans of Clawhammer, I say thank you. You make all the effort worthwhile. To the artists out there, I say don't make success a goal. Record what makes you happy. You will have your share of haters but there will be people who like it. And to everybody, I say like us at and buy us at

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Paul Craig


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