Eric Clayton, the legendary founder and frontman of SAVIOUR MACHINE. A great musician, with one of the most beautiful voices in the entire genre but, above all, a great man, speaks to THE GALLERY Web Magazine, sharing with us great news, information about his new album “A Thousand Scars” and many details of his life!
– Greetings Eric! It is a great honor having you with us! Let us start our conversation with a dive in the past! So, SAVIOUR MACHINE! What happened to them? Why were they disbanded? Did you believe that they finished their circle and it was about time for you to move on, or was the reason something more personal?
Eric Clayton: Thank you, brother, it is an honor for me as well and I do appreciate your time and your support, I was looking forward to this! Of course, we will start with SAVIOUR MACHINE. What happened to them is your question, why were they disbanded… well, it’s a long, complicated story my friend! But basically, the “Legend” Trilogy, that I was trying to complete for nearly fifteen years, destroyed the band, my obsession with it, my dysfunction with it and eventually, my complete paralysis working on it, became a very unhealthy process and destroyed me from within and of course SAVIOUR MACHINE died with that. That is a nutshell brother… and it is quite personal!
– With the exception of SAVIOUR MACHINE’s first album, all the following had a different sound. Why did that happen?
Eric Clayton: I think I know what you are asking, you are right, every SAVIOUR MACHINE record was different than the other, “Saviour Machine I” was the defining sound of the band and our early years from 1990 to 1993, “Saviour Machine II” was an evolution of that sound and a bit more melodic, a bit less produced, a bit -in many ways- a lot more piano-centric and then the “Legend” Trilogy, took things into a whole different universe! The sound of SAVIOUR MACHINE evolved and mutated into something that wasn’t a band anymore, it was something beyond that, so I think it was just the process of the evolution! I do believe, most artists, are truly interested in always pushing forward and see how far they can push themselves out of their own comfort zones, in order to possibly achieve a short of genius or uniqueness, something new, whether they are in music or movies or poetry. I believe that the artist that pushes forward, actually is going to create and shape something new, each time, whether it’s well received or not and I think that I was just an ambitious guy… is that it? I’m not sure!
– Partly you have already answered the next question but… Are you satisfied with how things evolved with SAVIOUR MACHINE? Acceptance by the audience, companies and, most importantly, you?
Eric Clayton: That’s a good question, I’m not sure if I could ever be satisfied with exactly what transpired with SAVIOUR MACHINE, it’s always going to have a little bit of a black spot, because the history kind of took such a dark, twisted turn. I’m very proud of SAVIOUR MACHINE’s early works, out first two albums, our live album. I really love the work that we did and I really think that it stands on their own, it is an enigmatic piece of music, bringing together many, many elements from many, many things. There’s a uniqueness in those early records that, I think they stood the test of time and I am, I guess, satisfied with that. But I don’t think I could ever be fully satisfied with the legacy of SAVIOUR MACHINE, because of the way the things went down, with the way they ended. So many troubles with the record companies and management, became such an ugly, publicized thing and during all those years, during the decline of SAVIOUR MACHINE and my madness set in with the “Legend” project… I had so many personal problems I was dealing with as well and I’m afraid my legacy with SAVIOUR MACHINE, will always have that mark, but I’m proud of what we did early on and I think that legacy will stand the test of time.
– Since you spoke about SAVIOUR MACHINE’s legacy, rumors want SAVIOUR MACHINE to reunite in the near future. Are there any plans, thoughts on seeing SAVIOUR MACHINE rebooted again? A tour or a new release perhaps?
Eric Clayton: Yes indeed! (Laughs) The rumors are true, SAVIOUR MACHINE do want to continue working together and we have been very much off and on for the past three and a half years. The last year and a half was dominated by my work on my new album of course, but the SAVIOUR MACHINE project is in the works, it is my brother and I which just finished working on my new album. He wrote four songs for my new album and those four songs were originally intended to be on the new SAVIOUR MACHINE record, but they evolved and became much more suited for this project but we will return to working on SAVIOUR MACHINE, very, very soon my friend! My brother and I, Nathan Van Hala, Samuel West and Charles Cooper, we are in contact and we’ve been basically sharing music with each other across the Internet and across the ocean for the past three years, working on material, developing that material. At this point, with Corona Virus so forth, we will see what happens. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to spend a little more time putting my energies towards the next SAVIOUR MACHINE project. My brother and I, are in discussions right now, we will begin some early stages, resuming production about the new SAVIOUR MACHINE project very soon.
– If these aren’t great news, I don’t know what they are!!! After SAVIOUR MACHINE, you stayed dormant for a prolonged period of time. Can you please tell us what made you active again in the music industry?
Eric Clayton: Dormant is a pretty good word (laughs)… I slowly disappeared brother. It started back in 1999, I started kind of become more inclusive and perform less. A lot of crazy things were happening with my personal life at that time and it just turned my world upside down and actually slowly brought me to my knees over the next twenty years. So, I definitely spend a decade slowly disappearing and then in 2013 I disappeared completely. I was coming out of the end of a thirty-year marriage and I disappeared altogether. I packed up a few things from my home and I moved to Utah, where my father lived and my grandparents who were both very old and kind of feeling healthy towards the end of their lives. I was at that time in my life when I really needed to get away from the memories of my life and my broken marriage and broken SAVIOUR MACHINE and broken career and all of these broken things. So, I moved to Utah and see if I could find a new perspective on things and put my energy somewhere else, maybe find my happy place again and it slowly happened. Over about three years I began teaching again, I went back to an old passion of mine which is teaching baseball to kids. And I had a really nice life, that I built for myself in Utah and basically, I was kind of content, being retired and being away from the music industry and I really never thought I would perform again and I definitely never thought I would write music again. It just wasn’t something that I imagined that I would do again.
In 2015, just about five years ago this time, in the spring of 2015, Arjen Lucassen (AYREON) and his people reached out to me. Τhey spend months trying to find me and through a friend of a friend of a friend they did find me and they invited me to perform in “The Theater Equation” project. After a few months of really thinking about it and considering it, I just couldn’t say no to them. No matter how much I didn’t feel that I was ready to come back into music, they just made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, a really special opportunity and I didn’t wanted to be the guy that didn’t show up (laughs)! So I took it and it was a tremendous experience. It was terrifying for me at the time, I hadn’t been on stage for a long time and it was quite terrifying but through that terror and through that experience, I really had a powerful brake through. By the end of the two weeks I spend working with AYREON and “The Theater Equation” crew, I was in love with music again. And even more ironically (laughs) on the evening of the Saturday performance, after the performance, I met a woman that I fell in love with and that, kinda really changed things. So, in the same weekend, I fell in love with music again and fell in love with a woman and the combination of the two, have been a very powerful experience and, here I am, you know. I guess, five years later the Bowie project really had another place in between. The death of David Bowie definitely inspired me to continue and maybe start recording again and I’m so glad my brother and I did that tribute project together, it opened me a lot of doors to be able to do the record I just made. So yes, there was absolutely something that made me active in music industry again! It was three things. It was AYREON, it was David Bowie and it was my lovely bride to be!
– Your new project, ERIC CLAYTON AND THE NINE, is your main occupation now. Tell us something about it, your lyrical themes and your musical direction. Four songs, were meant for SAVIOUR MACHINE’s upcoming album, yet, THE NINE’s style, is kind of different than SAVIOUR MACHINE’s.
Eric Clayton: Yes, I have another band, I have two bands. I moved to Europe almost three years ago, and it was in the middle of working the SAVIOUR MACHINE, working on the Bowie project and I got over to Europe and realized that yeah, there was music within me again that I wanted to perform. I really wanted to write this record and I wanted to have a band to help me develop this record and so that’s what I did! I just wanted to get back on the stage so, through a friend of a friend we had a kind of blind date meeting between me and these great Dutch guys that I ended up working up with and, yeah it was love at first sight, the blind date worked out well. The NINE was put together basically as my live band so I could perform here in Europe and what happened wasn’t planned all the way. We started performing SAVIOUR MACHINE songs and performing covers of other classic songs I’ve always wanted to sing, including some Bowie songs as well. I just put this band together cause I needed to get back on the stage and I’ve been away for so long and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I put together this band and I kind of fell in love with these guys.
They helped me reconnect with my audience and along the way we developed such a chemistry that I decided this was the band that I wanted to help me make this record, this very, very personal record and so, that’s where I am at, I’m going to continue for the next recording. So, as I said, we put this project together in order for me to get back on the stage, reconnect and just to find out if I still love doing it and I found out I do love doing it and I don’t ever want to disappear again, I really don’t! Ironically, the Corona Virus situation right now, makes it impossible to go out and perform live but, I am a patient man and I am sure there will be an opportunity soon. In the meantime, the NINE did became like brothers to me, and I knew this was the band I wanted to help me realize my vision for this project. I had quite a group of people, an amazing team assembled between the five guys of the band, my brother, Adam Peterson, my programmer and collaborator and Devon Graves. We put together a great team for this. And it was quite a production you know, a production that was built on two different continents and four different locations, almost five different locations, bringing together music and arrangements from my brother working in California, Adam working in Minnesota and the NINE working in the Netherlands, me working in Germany and Devon Graves working in Austria, but, through the magic of the Internet, we were able to put all our resources together and share files quickly and daily and we developed and produced an amazing record that I am so happy being here and talking to you about it.
– A new release in 2020, 15 original compositions, all new tracks. What is the message your brand new album wants to pass to the fans? What is its lyrical and musical direction?
Eric Clayton: “A Thousand Scars” is a deeply personal project. It is the most transparent and vulnerable narrative I’ve ever written. It’s my life’s story you could say. It’s a story that tracks back to my childhood and basically takes you from childhood till today. In many ways it’s an album that is a rock opera of my life, I suppose. But it is a concept album, it has fifteen chapters and it focuses on the wounds, the wounds that shape us and recreate us. It’s a simple metaphor, in order to have a scar it means you have to have a wound and a wound that is healed enough to make a scar and so, this is what this album really is. It is a musical journey through my scars, the wounds, the most profound wounds of my life that helped to shape the man that I am today. And it’s a dark, treacherous journey and there’s some really heavy stuff in there. It’s dark and there’s some very, very brutally honest material in there but, if you are willing to get the journey, it turns into a very beautiful journey at the end. A pretty great story and it is focused on the story of my life, brother. And hey man, I wouldn’t have shared this story with my audience and with new potential audience,
I don’t think I would have ever spend the last few years of my life working on this, if I didn’t believe it had something beautiful to offer. I think that it’s an album that if people invest the time and have a chance to take it into the lyrics of the story, I believe that they will find something overwhelming, a very powerful, powerful musical experience. I’m thankful and grateful I just had the opportunity to share it now and I can’t wait for people to hear it, it’s really something special. I didn’t really talk about musical direction, all I will say is this, it has always been difficult for me to define what my music is and what it was with SAVIOUR MACHINE or any of it, you know… I’m not sure what style you could even call SAVIOUR MACHINE, but I will say that if you like what I do and if you like my voice and if you are a SAVIOUR MACHINE fan, I just don’t really see anyone who would not appreciating it. I guess it’s what you really would expect from me, it’s a very, very moving record and I think it’s certainly the most mature and most perfectly produced album I’ve ever been part of. It’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s scary, it’s heavy, it’s rhythmic and fearsome, delicate and gorgeous and… I don’t know, there is not enough adjectives, it’s a very eclectic record that just flows beautifully. It’s really the most perfect story I’ve ever completed and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way this album turned out. It really is an emotional experience and I’m thankful for being here and saying that I am as pleased as I am. Devon Graves, really helped me turning this into something amazing, profound.
– An experiential album, describing the scars Eric Clayton carries. The description of the album, speaks about “An intimate journey of the wounds that shape us and recreate us”. Do you believe the listener can find himself in this album?
Eric Clayton: That is a beautiful question my friend, your English is far better than you realize, that is a really beautiful question! To answer your question, absolutely, that is a perfect way to shape up what this record is. It is an intimate journey on the wounds that shape us and recreate us and I really do believe that I wouldn’t have released this record if I didn’t believe that people can find themselves into this. I think it’s the most humanity-centric piece I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve learned a lot over the last twenty years about how to live, how to love and I think it comes through in this record, absolutely. There are so many aspects of this story that I think are universal. Childhood traumas and development and… you know, being a kid is a scary time and even as a 52 years old man you can look back and you realize there are so many aspects of childhood that greatly shape who we are… we carry those things with us, you know, and we learn to live with those things and grow and become stronger. The story starts there and it takes shapes as such a journey. There are things that you live with and elements of family and personal things and lessons and development. Certainly, by the end of that story, even through great tragedy and trials, I think the listeners can find themselves in some aspect in this record. Particularly towards the end, the end is a redemption story and it is a comeback story and a story of hope and faith and perseverance. I think we could all find something in that.
– SAVIOUR MACHINE’s main lyrical theme was Christianity. As a believer myself, I would like to ask you, what lead you to choose such a direction? And, as a closure, some final words, an advice or whatever you would like to say to your fans here in Greece and all over the world.
Eric Clayton: Yes, SAVIOUR MACHINE’s entire identity and I guess, mythos, pathos, all of it stands connected around Christianity, historically, religiously, metaphorically, allegorically and definitely, towards the end, theologically. SAVIOUR MACHINE was a very, very heavy project and it was my vision to create a project that felt like something out of this world. I guess, to fit the name of the band. As a young man I had a little bit of a messiah complex, so there was a lot going on there, a lot of layers. SAVIOUR MACHINE was at times an obsession for me and there were times where I felt like a true calling, like something mystical or maybe even more profound, something truly universal connected to a true calling. A true sense of purpose, why we are here and so forth and that drove me for a long time. But it also drove me into places of darkness and obsession and taking on far too many things that I wasn’t ready to take on, open up a lot of these scars that we were talking about.
But I don’t regret anything SAVIOUR MACHINE did, it all happened as it needed to happen in order to shape me into the man I am today and I do stand by the legacy of SAVIOUR MACHINE. I was just a much younger version of myself, it was the man I was at the time. Ιt was the man I needed to be during that time and it was were my passions lied for many, many years until they didn’t lie there anymore and eventually those passions did die with SAVIOUR MACHINE. I thought they were broken forever. But you asked me if I there’s anything I’d like to say to my Greek fans and my fans anywhere and I would like to say this: SAVIOUR MACHINE crashed me and nearly killed me, they became a poison, a toxic thing to me. It made me hate them as it made me hate all of these and it turned me away for many, many years. And I truly never thought I could find my love for music again, my passion for what I do and my honest place in it. I can tell you that, yeah, love is a powerful think and when you choose love and you choose to make love the center of your life, the focus of your life, it’s amazing the things that are stripped away and how clear your focus becomes. I’m so thankful to be here, just to be alive and just still be standing today after the journey I’ve taken. I know it’s a hard time right now and the world is in a confusing place but I just want to offer grace and peace, love and kindness to you all. God bless you and thank you so much for your time my friend and we’ll talk again soon!
Interview: Fanouris Exintavelonis
Cover Artwork: Alexandros Soultatos
Design & Editing: Alexandros Soultatos
Date: July 1st, 2020
External Links: ERIC CLAYTON AND THE NINE – Official Page
SAVIOUR MACHINE – Facebook Page
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