MACHINE HEAD's ROBB FLYNN: How 'Bastards' Became Centerpiece Of 'Catharsis' Album

January 17, 2018

In the video clip below, MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn talks about the inspiration for "Bastards", the new folk-driven, political song which appears on the band's upcoming album "Catharsis".

Flynn told U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine about the track: "That song is a simple folk song to me. It's four chords that have been played a million times over for the last hundred years, and it's still the best way to tell a story. That song is based off a conversation my wife and I had with my two boys, the day after the election in America. It was a really intense conversation, it was a really difficult conversation. I was really affected by it and I ended up writing this poem the next day. When I was done writing, I just picked up a guitar and I started playing those chords and singing the chorus, I went and recorded a YouTube clip of an acoustic version, and at that time I thought that was it. I got what I needed to say out, and I wanted to get out what I needed to say in vulgar terms, in coarse terms and use the language that I was hearing them use against them. And that's where that idea came from. I wrote that song in 45 minutes, I was very affected, I knew what I was saying but it needed to be said."

"There was no plan to put it on the record," he continued. "MACHINE HEAD has always had empowering songs, but that whole idea of stand your ground, don't let the bastards grind you down, kept on popping up in all these other songs — 'Catharsis', 'Hope Begets Hope', 'Eulogy' — and it became this tie-in [on] the record. Even though the band hadn't played a band version of that song, at that point, it started making me think we should try a band version, and I wanted to tune it to F because it sounds fucking heavy, and in some weird way it became the centerpiece of the album.

"There was no 'Why should I say this or why should I say that,' I just did it because it felt right to do, it felt right to say, it was and still is a confusing time."

"Catharsis" will be released on January 26 via Nuclear Blast. The effort will be made available in several formats, including a CD/DVD digipak edition which contains footage of MACHINE HEAD's 2015 concert at San Francisco's Regency Ballroom.

The follow-up to 2014's "Bloodstone & Diamonds", "Catharsis" was produced by Flynn and recorded, mixed, and co-produced by Zack Ohren (FALLUJAH, ALL SHALL PERISH) at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California. Mastering was handled by Ted Jensen (HATEBREED, ALICE IN CHAINS, DEFTONES) at Sterling Sound in New York. Cover photography was created by Seanen Middleton.

"This album is like a movie... a really looong movie... 'Lord Of The Rings'-type stuff!" Flynn said. "There are a lot of special songs on this record, and of course, whenever you finish an album, you always feel proud, but this time... we've got something really special here. We can feel it. We know it. Nine albums deep, it would be really easy for us to coast and write some middle-of-the-road shit that won't offend anybody, but we pushed ourselves, and pushed the limits of what we felt MACHINE HEAD could be."

Regarding the songwriting process for "Catharsis", Flynn said: "When we were writing the record, I'd get up at 4:30 in the morning, damn near every day, and I'd just write lyrics. 80 percent was garbage, but 20 percent of it was gold, and the things I liked this time round were just really clear, really straight-ahead, completely non-metaphorical, coarse, vulgar language. The language of hip hop, the language of how people speak in the streets, how we speak now. I didn't want somebody to go, 'Oh, I wonder if he's talking about...' No, you know exactly what the fuck I'm singing about. It may not be for everyone, but we're releasing an incredible amount of emotions on this album."

MACHINE HEAD is conquering fresh territory on "Catharsis", via the aforementioned "Bastards" and the all-acoustic melancholy of "Behind A Mask", one of numerous songs that showcase the blossoming vocal harmony partnership between Flynn and bassist Jared MacEachern.

"We've got some brutal shit on the record, some classic MACHINE HEAD ragers," Robb said. "But we also have straight-up pop elements. When I think of pop, my earliest influences were THE BEATLES, the early BEATLES, the 'Love Me Do', 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' BEATLES, because my parents wouldn't let me listen to the drugged-out hippie BEATLES. We started doing a lot more vocal harmonies and we've really explored that on this record. There's a lot of melody and a lot of singing. It was Jared and me, 50/50, John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] kinda vibe!"

MACHINE HEAD recently released the official video for the "Catharsis" title track.

The North American tour in support of "Catharsis" will kick off on January 25 in Mesa, Arizona.

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