Monday, March 15, 2010

Machine Head interview (2010)


Although beginning in 1992, it was on the back of their last album, 2007’s The Blackening, that California’s Machine Head were finally elevated to metal god’s status. Its success, although a triumph, meant a grueling, wit-shattering non-stop three year tour that almost destroyed the band. Now marching on from near annihilation and towards Australian shores for the band’s first headline shows here, I catch drummer David McClain on a rare break at his home getting the jump on some domestic chores.

“I’ve been home for about a week now which is almost unheard of these days, and I actually just went out and bought some new curtains for the kitchen” He says, feeling a little absurd before adding, “Well obviously they’re black curtains, make sure you mention that bit.” David’s relief at being able to enjoy a non-music related activity is clear in his voice. Three of the four years since his band’s sixth album The Blackening was released have been one long tour, which resulted in the airing of more than a few demons and in David’s case, imaginative ways with vodka. “You mean the Butt Burner.” he laughs, referring to his bowel destroying creation; “How that came about was my drum tech and I barbecue a lot and there’s always a lot of sauce around so, one night I remember I was craving a Bloody Mary and we had the vodka but no tomato juice and I just thought what would happen if we just put a load of Tabasco sauce in it instead? Basically we only put it in there because it’s red, but it gets you really drunk and the heat also gets you really pumped up so it’s a very weird feeling.” He laughs, before sharing further stories of on tour indulgences. “I think the best drink was probably one that Pantera had made up. We used to get so hammered with those guys.” He recalls, “They would carry around their own supply of grape Pedialyte - which is like a super strong Gatorade for babies – they would use it to make shots so you get re-hydrated as you get drunk. The theory there would be no hang-over the next day, but that’s not possible when you’re drinking with Pantera.”

Pantera had been long-time supporters of Machine Head, inviting them to play support early on, but as David points out, gaining further support eluded Machine Head up until the break through album that was The Blackening, which allowed them previously unheard of billing; “Previously our longest tour cycle would have been about a year and a half, but this last one just kept on going and going. Before The Blackening came out, we never got offers to open up for anybody, I mean there was like a ten year gap where there was just a drought. All of a sudden The Blackening comes out and we’re getting offers from everywhere to open for some of our favourite bands.”

Metallica’s last tour was the breakthrough event for Machine Head, as their nightly opening act. David discusses. “Metallica really could have a puppet show opening for them and they’d still sell-out everywhere they played” He laughs, “But them asking us to be their main support band on the US tour says a lot about where they’re at right now, which is having fun with their music and each other again and also willing to take a chance on an opening band that would otherwise be playing small theatres.” The two band’s developed a strong mutual appreciation over the course of the tour. David exclaims. “Lars told me that they (Metallica) had been playing our album in the studio while recording Death Magnetic which is the biggest compliment to us as a band. When we were floundering for support slots we used to joke saying ‘…what we need is to be on Metallica’s bill…’ but we never thought we’d have a chance in hell really.”

The last Australian visit for Machine Head was as opening act for Slipknot. David points out how important their support was, perhaps even above that of Metallica; “When we opened for Slipknot we felt that we gained a lot of new fans from that tour than Metallica.” He states, “Metallica fans are a hard sell. I mean we’ll always be in debt to Metallica for taking a chance on us, but their fans are so much into what they do, we were always just going to be the opening act on that tour.”

The punishing tour schedule in support of The Blackening began to take its toll on Machine Head’s guitarist Phil Demmel. He collapsed several times on and off stage from exhaustion, David explains; “I think with that there were a lot of factors involved in that, more mentally than physically. He’s been dealing with a lot of stress and being on the road you don’t get a chance to work that shit out, everything on tour just becomes so exaggerated you know but thankfully he’s getting a lot better now.” In Metallica’s tell-all road movie Some Kind Of Monster the band allowed viewers a chance to see how destructive long tours could be for musicians. In a strange twist Machine Head would end up an off-screen imitation of Metallica. As their long tour rolled on, cracks began to appear within the group. David explains; “During the Slipknot tour in Europe, Rob (Flynn – vocals) and Adam (Duce - bass) started getting a therapist involved to sort out some pretty heavy stuff between them. They were having major personality conflicts and really Rob was done by that stage, he didn’t want to be in a band with Adam anymore.” He adds “Getting a therapist involved was a last resort and really it’s what saved the band from splitting up, which is what we were heading towards.”

David’s confident that the band’s leader Rob Flynn is still the main motivator within the band despite any conflict; “We all have things that keep us going I think, but I definitely believe Machine Head has kept going as strong as it has because of Rob; that dude is doing Machine Head stuff in his sleep. I don’t really like the business side of the band - I just love playing - but he’s doing all that, and he just never stops working towards his dream of wanting Machine Head to be the biggest metal band on the planet.”



  1. Machine

  2. I have been following this band for years and it's about time they got some well deserved credit.
    Do yourself a favour and get to the gig. You will thank will head banging and rockin on all night.
    Saw them with Slipknot and I personally feel as many did they out played them.
    Rock on Machine Head.
    By the way can you get me an autograph or a backstage pass Roadrunner.

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