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  • Interview: Machine Head

    Fri, 22 Aug 2008 08:34:00

    Interview: Machine Head - Bringing the metal back

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    The past two years have been pretty killer for Machine Head. They released their best album to date in the form of 2007's The Blackening, and they've embarked on tour after tour. With impending Metallica dates, frontman Robb Flynn is more than just pretty stoked about how The Blackening-cycle has unfolded, especially since the band just finished a very successful stint on the first-ever Rockstar Mayhem fest alongside Slipknot. Flynn took some time to talk to ARTISTdirect about Mayhem, The Blackening and his favorite tour memories.

    How was Mayhem?

    It was killer, man! It was fucking great. There were so many fans there for Machine Head, and we were playing for tons of people. We've done OZZfest before, and that's killer too. I don't have anything bad to say about OZZfest. Considering that there were some extremely big bands on this tour, it was pretty mellow. There were definitely no crazy tour rules and restrictions.

    With so many long songs, was it tough to cram everything into a 30-minute slot?

    We tried to mix up the set list pretty much every night. We had played some of these markets four or five times now on The Blackening. We love playing those classic, killer songs so the person seeing us for the first time says, "Wow, these guys are awesome." Then, for the people that had seen us four or five times, we tried to throw in a total gem that we haven't played in years. In L.A., we played "Blood for Blood," which we haven't played in five years. Then we threw in the Iron Maiden cover "Hallowed Be Thy Name," which is the cover that we learned recently for that Kerrang! thing, but we've never played it there either. We gave something special to those kids that come out to see us every time we're in L.A. We're really making effort to do that. We did "Struck a Nerve" the other day, and we haven't played that song in about eight years. It went over great too. It's fun for us because we've got to go through this mad dash of a refresher course the day of the show. Basically, we don't decide the sets until an hour or two before the shows. No one knows. Not even the crew knows what we're going to play, so the crew's always like, "Jesus Christ, what's the set list?" It's been fun, man. It keeps everyone on their toes. You're like, "Oh fuck, what's that lyric?" [Laughs]

    Growing up, was "Hallowed Be Thy Name" one of your favorite Maiden songs?

    Fuck yeah, man! That song is awesome, and that's why we covered it. We recorded the cover for a Kerrang! Magazine compilation. It's been going over great, and it's been fun. We kept the cover pretty true to Maiden. It's a classic. I don't want to sit here and try to say, "We improved 'Hallowed Be Thy Name.'" [Laughs] I don't think we did. It was a fucking classic song to begin with. We tried to infuse ourselves into it a little bit, but we wanted to honor the original.

    Are you working on new material yet?

    No plans to start writing. We basically have dates booked all the way into next year. This record has just been so widely accepted; it's been loved by fans and critics. We've also been given a million amazing opportunities because of it. They just keep on coming. At this point, it seems like we're getting even more opportunities this year than we did last year when the record came out. Momentum's picking up, so we're just taking it. If we were a brand new band, I'd say, "Sure, we probably need to start thinking about writing new material." Because we're this far in our career and we have so much stuff, going on six albums deep, we're just going to keep on pounding the pavement. There are still people out there that can be turned on to The Blackening. I talk to kids all the time who are seeing Machine Head for the first time on this Mayhem thing. Some of them have been waiting to see us for years or they just discovered us because of The Blackening. We do signings every day, and we've got to cut off the line because we'd be there for hours. We're just keeping our heads above our shoulders, and we're going to tour this thing for a long time, man.

    Has this become the definitive Machine Head record? It was traditionally Burn My Eyes, but it seems like this has even usurped that. You must be stoked.

    Totally! Lord knows, we'd rather be the guys that wrote Burn My Eyes than the guys who didn't [Laughs]. The reverence that Burn My Eyes has definitely isn't a bad thing. We got out of the shadow of Burn My Eyes with Through the Ashes of Empires, and, with this, we've taken it to another place. There's a whole new generation that's been turned on to the band. It's rad, and we're stoked.

    Machine Head's weathered so many changes and trends in the industry, but you've never changed. It's comforting in this genre.

    Well thanks, man. It's crazy that we're still here. This record was really ambitious too. This record, of all records, has been so widely hailed. On paper, it looks like a train wreck [Laughs].

    What's your favorite summer tour memory?

    The one that comes to mind right off the bat is from Albuquerque on this tour. That was probably one of the craziest shows we've ever done. Everything was going great. It was a beautiful day: about 90 degrees and sunny. Then all of a sudden this crazy monsoon came in. It was insane how hard it was raining. It flooded everything. We're on the Jagermeister stage. Five Finger Death Punch was playing on it, and the water fucking took out the whole stage. Their equipment and the P.A. shut down. A bunch of bands got cancelled on both side stages. It was pretty crazy. We didn't know if we were going to play. At the last minute, they came up to us and said, "We can put you and Underoath on the Hot Topic stage. You can play an hour later, but it'll be up against a couple other bands." We didn't know if we were going to do it, but then Phil was like, "Fuck it, let's do it." The rain finally cleared up, and we came out. It'd been hours since a band had played the side stage. They announced it on the main stage. People just fucking poured into the side stage area, and we had one of the most ridiculous fucking shows of this whole tour. We had six pits for "Davidian." It was fucking unbelievable. It became two giant pits. It was insane. They chanted "Machine Fuckin' Head" for like 15 minutes after the set ended. They didn't leave. They just stayed up front. That's my favorite, current summer festival memory.

    Kids need this music.

    Totally man. I think it's cool that metal's "in" again. It's popular. We basically watched the thrash scene die when we started. When we came out, Metal was about as uncool as you could be. So many bands had either broken up or adopted a new style. When we started playing, we primarily played with punk rock or hardcore bands. We played with everyone from Deftones and Napalm Death to Rancid and Neurosis. Those bands weren't traditional metal. It was a challenge for us because we always have been a metal band. We had to fight for it and carve our niche because we weren't necessarily playing to audiences that we're receptive to metal bands. To see everything that we were doing come full circle here and now see all these metal bands becoming popular, it's fuckin' rad. Metal's definitely back "in."

    —Rick Florino

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