He and his band were gone for years. A lot of Rock Music Fans may have asked themeselves: „What happened to Eric Clayton and the great Saviour Machine? Do they still exist?“ Even close fans did not know much for about a decade. The Band, that released two great Symphonic-Gothic-Rock-Albums ahead of their time, had disappeared. There were rumors about health issues and legal issues with the German Label and Management. Not more was heard about Saviour Machine. 2020 Eric Clayton is back with a great new album that explains quite a bit.
The Solo Album „A Thousand Scars“ is a deeply intimate, autobiographic Masterpiece. Those who dare to dive deep into it, will experience the long way of healing and reconciliation. The intensity of the Rock Opera is hard to put in words. As I talk to Eric about the past, the present and the future, he appears calm, peaceful and happy. „A New Man“ – like one of his new songs suggest.
1. Eric, thanks again for the readiness of giving some insights in your music and personal situation. At first – before anything else I’d like to ask you concerning your personal and families situation in the light of the Corona Pandemic. Are you, your friends and family, your daughters back in the United States all well?
Thanks, Brother. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. First of all, let me say to you, that we are all blessed to be safe and healthy. Everybody’s doing well. Here in Europe and in the States. My family is well, thank you. I pray the same for you.
2. Secondly I have to ask you a question asked all the time by a lot of people. But it’s meant very profoundly by me. I want to specify this concerning the release of « A Thousand Scars » a few daysago, your first album of original music in a very long time. Not in a general way of being proud and relieved after an album project has been success fully completed, but on a personal level : How is Mr. Eric Clayton feeling at the End of April 2020 ?
That is a lovely question and I think, I have a beautiful answer for you. I feel wonderful, and I really can’t put it into words to be honest with you. I have been kind of floating around on a bit of cloud for the past ten days I guess. I’ve lost track of time, I do feel well, I feel strong, I feel healthy and most important I feel at peace. I can’t say that I’ve ever been quite so satisfied and generally filled with joy after creating something. It’s pretty powerful.
3. The level of intimacy that you share with your story is very high, you also released liner notes / comments on the greatest part of all the songs and the real stories behind it. I don’t know if I had the boldness to do that. Did you ever hesitate to share this intimate story?Why did you share it in the first place, what was your intention ? Was it a way of self-help? And for that reason it was never a choice NOT to tell it ?
That’s another really powerful question and I will do my best to answer it. This feels like an album, that I was always wanted to make somehow. Maybe this is a story I’ve been trying to tell most of my life and I just didn’t know how to tell it or didn’t have the perspective to tell it or the maturity, the time or the wisdom. This is story that shapes back from my early childhood up to pretty much the present day. It covers some great deal, some really deep stuff.
A few years back I announced that Saviour Machine was working on an album. And we were and we are. But in between my spirit, my soul, my heart and my head were completely pulled to do this. I never had such profound inspiration and clarity in my entire life let alone artistic career. It was a record I just had to make, and I had to make it now. That’s why, that’s why it happened. We can of course get into some of those things, these really heavy things but maybe it’s better to stay focused on the fact that this crazy journey of mine had to be told at some time and now was the time to tell it. Basically I have a clarity of heart, a clarity of spirit and a clarity of mind. It’s a greater clarity and a greater peace than I ever had in my life. Maybe because of that, the perspective and the patience and the abiltiy to really, really focus and allow instincts to really create. It was a powerful experience, a catharsis on so many levels, a healing inside of me. Every step of the way, from the very first notes, the first time a pen hit a paper up until the final mastering just a few days ago. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. It’s been profound – there’s no other way to say it.
I have never felt a greater pull, a greater connection and a greater focus to my work. It’s a very, very clear time, I got pulled into this thing on levels I didn’t even comprehend myself. There were daily lamentation and prayers and moments of laughter and moments of deep psychological breaks. Heavy stuff, you know – when you’re re-living these moments. Day after day, hour after hour, moment after moment. I lived with this thing really close to my heart and way to close to my head for a couple years and now I am very, very thankful to have it out there. For my sake and maybe for anybody else who is looking for something special.
4. You should have gotten the first feedbacks from Fans and Journalists about the album. Do the people get the profoundness of it. And what kind of feedbacks touch you especially?
Yes indeed. There has been an overwhelming amount of love and appreceation for this album so far. I couldn’t be more moved, it’s everything I hoped for. I knew the pressure was on, I knew that it had been 20 years, I knew I really had to deliver. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to pour my soul into this and to somehow stay sane and healthy to the process. It’s been really powerful, the response has been just mindblowing. I think the personal messages that I am recieving, they are so sincere and so hearfelt and I can read between the lines as well. I know people are deeply moved by this an of course that’s what I hoped for. This was the focus of this album for me, to really share my heart and to share my soul. To give the people a chance to kind of walk through my soul and if they are willing to pull up with a few nightmares and walk a bit into my psyche as well. I couldn’t be more blessed with all of this. I am sitting on the top of the world in a lot of ways. I feel like this is my lifes work and it’s amazing.
Some very beautiful things have been said about this album. And I think more importantly for me is I see people really, truly connecting with it on a number of levels. You know, it’s a human story, and I always wanted to write a human story. And I think I finally did. This is as story that I think just about everybody can find themselves in parts of it
We all have our scars, right? And hey, thank god me do. Because the scars make us who we are, you know. And that’s what it’s all about brother. It’s a story of hope, and faith and most of all redemption. Grace and mercy.
5. So I understand you live in Germany right now. Is that correct? Close to the border to the Netherlands? Or even in the Netherlands. I know you have had a close relationship to Germany and I just wondered if you are learning German? You just married a German woman – so you have to learn German! Can you tell me a few things about that?
Yes, I live about 45 minutes east of Cologne, out in the middle of Nowhere. Just forests. And I am learning German very slowly – it’s a tricky language. I can say things like „Fußbodenschleifmaschinenverleih“, hahaha. So you see: I know many words, I am just learning to put them together. I am shy. A few years, and I will be able to speak to Children. Yes, my Wife is German, she is from Bavaria originally and we lived here for a few years, in this beautiful part of the country. And I try to learn German. She gives me a hard time about it, you know? You have to learn German! You have to learn German! I know. I wish I was 22 and not 52, it sure would be a lot easier.
6. I also asked myself if you had to work besides producing the album to make a living? I don’t think you get royalties from Saviour Machine to live off that. So was there a burden to work in addition to producing the album?
Yeah, that’s a good question, economics. I had a really lovely job in Utah. I was persuing an old passion of mine while I lived there. I was coaching Baseball and giving private lessons to kids from 3 or 4 years old all the way up to 19, 20 years old. It kept me really buys, 10 hours a day and I was making very good money doing it. And so I had a nice little, simple life for myself in Utah. And then this German woman went and messed it all up. (Laughs). So I left a pretty good job to come here. unfortunately Germany is not the biggest Baseball country, so it’s been difficult to find that kind of work here. I have been doing some other things in between and in the meantime. We’ll figure it out and I will find something eventually.
7. Now a few more musical questions about the album and all that has to do with. The thing that has been most obvious to me is that you did a few Live Shows over the course of the last two years. And there you named yourself not just „Eric Clayton“, but „Eric Clayton & The Nine“. I understand that „The Nine“ are your new Band, some musical friends from the Netherlands. But now the Album Cover says „Eric Clayton“. I understand of course, that it’s a very personal, intimate album. We talked about that. For that reason I understand, it’s solo album for the most part. So what’s „Eric Clayton & The Nine“? Your live band, that does old Saviour Machine Songs and a few Cover songs?
The Name, „The Nine“, was actually born out of a combination of things. These guys were in a Band, a cover Band. There were all playing together in a heavy Nineties Rock-Grunge-Band, Soundgarden and stuff like that. They were playing Nineties covers and they named themselves „Les Neufties“. I liked it, I thaught it sounded catchy. Then they said it had something to do with nine, which is my favourite number. We should just call you guys „The Nine“. That’s pretty much how it happened, man. These guys are five dutch dudes, that were looking for a singer, and I just happened to be looking for a band. We had a blind date and things just took off. You could say it was a match made in heaven. I love these guys, they’re wonderful musicians, they’re all completely dedicated to what they do, and they’re passionate. And that’s what I wanted, that’s what I needed. To be honest with you: I decided to put another band together so that I could perform here in Europe. Because that’s what it was all about. I was bored. I moved over here and I needed work, I needed something to do. It had been so long. I needed to perform. The fact, that I had been away for so, so long, I needed to get out there and reconnect with my audience and find out if I still loved to perfom and if anybody cared. So we did nine concerts over the course of a year. That wasn’t completely unintentional, these nine concerts were basically the perfect medicine for me. And during these performances I realized not only that this was the band I wanted to perform with, it was the band I wanted to record with.
8. Do you want to elaborate a little deeper about the people you worked with for the album? Of course, there are „The Nine“, but if I look into the production notes, there are a few more names unknown to me. Of course there is Devon Graves (of Psychotic Waltz, who is also a Producer nowadays). But there’s more. There’s choirs, there’s background vocals, there’s strings – a load of stuff. And I think, that was absolutely necessary to do the album the way it came out.
Which takes us to the chapter of recording the album. I presented early demos to this guys about a year and a half ago. I started sharing songs like „The Space between us“, „Revelation mine“ and „Where it starts“ – the first three tracks of the album. I shared Piano demos from some of the ballads like „A Man‘ s Heart“ and „The greatest of these“ and the guys were, from the very beginning, were blown away. There were also a bit nervous about it, because they didn’t know how and where this was going. But they were faithful every step of the way, they dug in and they really, really found themselves in this music. And because of that, you can hear it. This is a Band I am extremely grateful for. These guys really, really helped me to deliver exactly what I wanted to deliver here. I am so proud of them!
And to round out the rest of the production team, there were a number of musicians on this record. There had to be. I think there were 14 musicians including myself. My brother, of course. Devon is all over the record, his beautiful voice is supporting me and surrounding me through most of the record. Building up this backing vocal arrangements we were bringing in this wife and his lovely children to sing. What a beautiful experience. Really powerful – I lived with them for five weeks, it was something pretty special. And to finish out my production team was my Programmer, Adam Peterson. Who was with me from the very beginning with this. He was the one kind of knowing this was happening before anybody. And ironically, that’s eight man right there. Eight man in particular. The five guys in my band, my brother, Adam and Devon Graves. Eight brothers that helped me get here. I guess if I were to say who the ninth was, the ninth is not a brother. She’s a sister, that’s my Lady. So there you go. My little team of Nine. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Eric Clayton & the Nine. She is kind of right there in the middle of it. Like the heart of it, keeping it beating.
9. You said the album was a huge deal, and now you finished it and now you feel at peace with yourself. Even naming it your „Lifes work“ in a way. So there’s probably two ways to go on now. You could say: Okay, that’s everything I had to say. I can’t go any further, I can’t go any deeper as a musician, as an artist. I will, again, leave the music business and do something else. Or you could say: My heart caught fire again, I feel connected to this kind of writing, storytelling more than ever. So now this is just another beginning.
This is an excellent question and I feel exactly what you’re asking. It’s a crossroad. you know, I knew this would come when the album was complete, if I was truly pleased with it and truly felt that it was everything it was supposed to be. That it was possible that I would be in a position were I felt like: Okay, that’s it. That’s everything I got. I can retire now again, or disappear or whatever. But I have no plans of going anywhere. Not right now. As you know, I am a visual artist. So there is now way I could release an album like this and not want to bring it to life on stage. To continue to interpret it and to deliver it with visuals and visual storytelling. I am sure it’s no secret – when I write and anytime I am working on a concept, I always write with a concert in mind, a visual production in mind. How I am perform this songs live. And so, of course, as I was writing and developing this, I was also writing and developing a bit of a screenplay. In order to bring this to life theatrically. I have a beautifully, elaborate and elegant live concert performance designed for this album. And as soon as this Corona virus is all over and we get back to being able to perform concerts again and embrace the live experience I will bring this album forward and present it as a full concept piece. A little rock opera. And I am sure it will be a very profound and powerful live experience when we have a chance to do it. In the meantime I have to be creative and try to find solutions and other ways that I can visually connect to my audience over the next few months.
So to complete the question. As much as I’d like to say: Alright, that’s it. I’m good, I move back to Utah and go start coaching Baseball again. Just bring my German bride to America – I can’t. I can’t do that right now. I’ve got the music in me. Again. And it was away for a long, long time and I am more connected to what I do artistically and musically than I’ve ever been. And I’ve never felt that I was in such a pure, open state of inspiration instinct and it’s beautiful. I can’t wait to bring this to people live and to present it and to experience it with them from face to face.
Eric Clayton & the Nine are:
Eric Clayton (Gesang)
Twan Bakker (Schlagzeug/Percussion)
Rob Dokter (Bass)
Bas Albersen (Gitarre)
Ludo Caanen (Keyboard)
Jeroen Geerts (Gitarre)
Photos: Eric Clayton, Harry Heuts.
Header: Sven Scheffel