Machine Head’s Robb Flynn Talks New Album, Past Turmoil, Touring + More
Machine Head's Robb Flynn was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show and the frontman opened up about the band's 'Bloodstone and Diamonds' disc, their current tour and getting past their inner turmoil. Check out the chat below.
How are you?
I'm doing good. Hanging out in the French Quarter of New Orleans right now.
Awesome, excited about this brand new Machine Head record. It's out in stores now, 'Bloodstone and Diamonds.' And, of course there's this Machine Head tour. Rob, whether it's other bands or Machine Head itself, your opinions are always very outspoken. For you, why is such a direct honesty so healthy?
I don't know. The bands that I grew up loving, they tended to be a little outspoken and have opinions and now that was inspiring to me. I grew up in what I consider to be the golden era of thrash and right in my backyard was this amazing musical movement that had happened. I grew up in the bay area, I was a 15-year-old kid and I would go and see bands like Metallica, Exodus, Slayer opening for people and playing to 400 people in clubs. Megadeth and stuff like that. Right around that same time this amazing punk movement came out with bands like DRI, the Dead Kennedys and UK punk like Discharge and at the same time was this hip-hop movement with bands like NWA, Public Enemy. All these very provocative bands that stood on or something. They agitated and they weren't trying to be liked [laughs] they were trying to change the world. In so many ways, all of those three musical movements really helped shaped what became Machine Head. We try and carry that same spirit and fly that same flag.
Machine Head came its closest to breaking up at the end of the last touring cycle. Where do you hear that tension and anxiety on the new record?
I think more than anything, what I get out of it, is this sense of rejuvenation. This sense of rebirth. I feel like there's a lot of that sentiment on there from death comes rebirth. I feel like in some ways there was a part of Machine Head that died and this new Machine Head was born out of it. We're so lucky to be here. We've been doing [Machine Head] for 22 years. I've been playing with Phil [Demmel] for 28 [years including the band Vio-lence]. I've been playing with Dave [McClain] for 19 of them. It's amazing. We're lucky to do this. It ain't always the easiest road. We're not the biggest band, we're one of the biggest metal bands in the world but in the scope of things, we never got as big as the Beatles or Led Zeppelin. We've never even had a hit on the radio. We're lucky enough to have this diehard fan base that just loves our band. That's all you need, man. You just keep on doing your thing and that's what we're doing. We're out here doing our thing. We don't really know what else is going on, we're just doing our own trip. It's cool to have that confidence. It feels good to reach that place where we're just like f--k it, man. Let's just do our own trip.
What was the exact moment when you knew with certainty that the band would survive the turmoil that nearly killed it?
We were sitting around. It was Dave, my manager, Joseph, and I and we were sitting around -- probably last year around January. We had all been thinking the same thing but no one had really said it out loud. Dave, we were at this joint called Beer Revolution that we really like and Dave was like, 'I'm going to quit.' My manager was like, 'Oh no you're not. I'm gonna quit.' Then I was like, 'F--k you guys. I'm gonna quit.' We just reached this point where we were just couldn't take what was going on internally in the band, and we laughed. We actually just laughed at it. All this frustration that had been leading up to it for so long and I think we were like, 'What are we doing man?' The three of us have all independently come to this thought and we don't want to lose this thing. So we made a decision to make a change, and here we are man.
You've stated that you like the urgency of the new album in that it created a spontaneity. Is that hard to do when you're striving for perfection?
I think for me the part of perfection is capturing a moment and that movement is often, when it comes to metal, chaos. It's urgency, it's the guitar being strummed way too hard. It's the vocal cracking and just at its wits end. It's the drums going too fast. I think now probably more than ever, it's so easy to be perfect when you're in the studio. It's too easy to be perfect. You can fix everything in pro-tools. To me, especially coming from a punk rock background, some of those records -- you put on a record like 'Field of Darkness' by Poison Idea and it doesn't sound very good. The playing is all over the f--king place, but it's just frantic. There's this energy and it's about to fall off the rails. The entire time you're listening to it. To me, that is perfect. That's nirvana when you've captured this moment. I think that ultimately when you make a record -- I don't care what kind of record it is, if it's a pop record, hip hop record, mellow record. It's really about human beings. It's about, if it's a sad song, it's about capturing that ache. If it's an angry protest song, it's about capturing that f--k you attitude, that defiance. So, I think that that needs to be the goal and then it makes it perfect.
What does the album reveal about the way your strengths as a songwriter/singer and guitarist have evolved over time?
Thank you for the compliments! I don't know. I never put myself in a pedestal like that when I'm writing. Like, what am I going to do as a songwriter? I think it's always about challenging and bettering yourself. I've always loved the bands that evolved a little bit. That they've stayed true to their sound but they always brought in something new. It sounds so easy to do, but it's really the hardest thing to do. You look at a band like The Cure or Metallica and Slayer. I know Slayer loves to say that they're the AC/DC of metal, but to me those first 5 records there was a big evolution, man. They got faster and faster then they started bringing in acoustic guitars on songs like 'South of Heaven' and 'Seasons of the Abyss.' Slowing down for songs like 'Dead Skin Mask' and bands that can do that it's always exciting.
For us, it's just about challenging ourselves to -- in some ways, when you do it, it's almost like you start playing a song and you're like eh, I don't know about this. You can tell something is weird, something is different and it's a little scary. You're saying, 'What are the fans going to think of this?' And you live with it and if it's still good and if it's still rocking you a week later, you go through that fear. You go through that fear and just know in your heart that it's going to be awesome and more often than not, it's those songs that people relate to. I wasn't really sure what people were going to make of songs like 'Beneath the Silt' or 'Damage Inside,' off the new record. So many people come up to me like, 'Oh my god that song is so killer! Thanks for doing that.' To have these things that are different. When you hear things like that, it really makes your decision to go through the fear and feel like it was a good call, a good decision.
What's your favorite part of going back on tour when you had been off the road for a while?
When you've been off the road for a while and especially when you're in the studio, everything in the studio is delayed satisfaction. You're recording a drum part, guitar part, vocal parts. You're building this cathedral brick by brick, and it's this long process with the reward is so minuscule and incremental that you don't really get it and then you come out on tour and you play that song that's done and it's this instant reaction and satisfaction. It's the opposite of what that world is and that's to be in a band and to create music and make it for a living you to have that yin and yang. You have to have both sides of it.
Yes, definitely going out there, we played Houston, Texas and they were chanting "Machine F--king Head" and then they started smashing the walls. All the people that were on the backside of that balcony on the sides, they were just smash the walls as they were saying it and it was so f--king wow. The owner of the building was just like, 'I've never seen a show this crazy here.' He thought the house was going to come down. It was magical, and that's how it was last night, this amazing show. Super looking forward to New Orleans tonight because they do this thing that we call the Machine F--king Head Stomp where they stomp their feet. They do it in time, it's crazy [laughs]. It's the only place in America that does it, it's so killer. Those moments. Connecting, having these musical bonding, so much of music to me is about, I think when it's the best that it is, it's a release for everybody. It's a release of so many emotions, sadness and anger and joy. This feeling of connection. To me, that's everything. That's what it's all about.
This is a really long tour for you guys this time.
F--king epic tour, man. Longest tour we've ever done in America. 43 dates, 2 months. We're hitting every nook and cranny. All the major cities, but we're also hitting - we made a point that we really wanted to get into the smaller places that are 3/4/5 hours outside the big cities, that still have these diehard metalheads that they just often can't make the trip. So we're hitting Minot, North Dakota, and Missoula, Montana, and Bend, Oregon. Places that are ticket sales are killer, we're stoked man. We already saw four shows sell out in advance. NYC sold out in advance, Boston sold out in advance. Austin, Phoenix. It's killin' it man, we're having a blast out here.
Metal is alive and well and you guys are the proof. So excited for you guys on this tour. Hope to see you guys again soon.
You got it, thanks for having me Jackie.
Thanks to Machine Head's Robb Flynn for the interview. You can pick up the band's 'Bloodstone and Diamonds' album via Amazon and iTunes. And look for the band on tour at these locations. Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.