MACHINE HEAD's ROBB FLYNN Says Doing Weekly Livestreams 'Opened Up A Different Line Of Possibilities' During Songwriting ProcessJanuary 3, 2023
In a recent interview with Full Metal Jackie's nationally syndicated radio show, MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn spoke about the recording process for the band's tenth studio album, "Of Kingdom And Crown", which arrived last August via Nuclear Blast/Imperium Recordings. Asked if it was "stressful" making the first MACHINE HEAD album with the group's new lineup, featuring Polish guitarist Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka (DECAPITATED) and British drummer Matt Alston (DEVILMENT, EASTERN FRONT),Robb said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "There wasn't really anything stressful because we had already been on tour for a while together. We were doing [a tour celebrating] the 25th anniversary of [MACHINE HEAD's debut album] 'Burn My Eyes'. My two new guys were doing it alongside Chris [Kontos] and Logan [Mader] from the 'Burn My Eyes' lineup, and we were doing the 'evening with', so it was a three-hour show. The first two hours were Vogg, Matt, myself and Jared [MacEachern, MACHINE HEAD bassist and backing vocalist] doing modern MACHINE HEAD — basically everything after'Burn My Eyes'. And then the last hour was 'Burn My Eyes' in its entirety. So we had jelled as a band — we played a lot of shows. And I think the biggest challenge, as with anybody during the pandemic, was just, like, 'Oh my God. We're all locked down and couped up.' And in some ways, I think it made the record better.
"I talk to a lot of younger bands, and I'm constantly around younger metal bands and death metal bands," Robb continued. "And when you talk to these guys, when they write, they just e-mail riffs around — they'll just e-mail a vocal or e-mail a riff or e-mail a drum beat and they just kind of add on to it like that. They don't even have a rehearsal place; they just rehearse at home and they show up onstage and play together, 'cause they're, like, 'We can't afford rehearsal rooms. It's so expensive now.' And I'm, like, 'Yeah, I believe it.' I remember thinking, like, 'I can just do that. I'll just e-mail Vogg riffs.' So I'd just demo some stuff and be, like, 'Hey, finish this. I don't know where to go after this riff ends, so just add something to it.' He did the same thing; he'd just send over riffs. Jared and I still live in the Bay Area together, so that was a big plus.
"When the pandemic hit, I was just in tour mode and playing and I was just, like, 'I've gotta keep on playing.' I was the only person allowed in my building, 'cause the studio is mine, so the building owner would let me in. And I just started coming down to my studio here and I started doing a [Facebook Live] thing called 'Acoustic Happy Hour'. I'd just drink beer and play acoustic songs. [Laughs] And I'd do that for two hours, or an hour and a half, and take requests and I'd just figure out stuff on the fly. I tried to learn two or three new songs every week just to kind of mix it up.
"Anybody who knows MACHINE HEAD, I've sang brutal my whole career," Flynn added. "And we do sing [clean], and we've always sang [clean], even going back to the first album, but it's never been a focus and certainly I've never sang a two-hour show completely clean singing. And the first seven or eight of 'em were terrible [laughs], 'cause I'm not very schooled, but they were fun and they were loose and they were completely spontaneous. We were locked down, and I was, like, 'I'm gonna start taking singing lessons again.' I had taken singing lessons about a decade back for my heavy voice, but it was more just to kind of keep my heavy voice in shape while we were on the road. I started taking lessons for my clean singing. And it wasn't to make the record better; it was really just so that I didn't embarrass myself [laughs] on Facebook Live. And it worked. Some of the 'Happy Hours', my voice would do everything that I want it to, and I was, like, 'Wow. That was killer. I'm so happy.' And then the next week I'd come in and I couldn't do anything that I did the week before. And I was, like, 'I know I can do this.' I'm self-trained, basically, and I was, like, 'I've gotta learn how to do this right. And what time better now than when we're all on lockdown. I'll just do something to improve myself.' So I started doing that. And then eventually, six months later, Jared [started] coming down. And Jared and I have this pretty magical combination with our voices; they sound so incredible together. So now he joins me for the 'Acoustic Happy Hours', and now we're doing Bob Marley songs, and we're doing FLEETWOOD MAC, and we're doing Stevie Nicks, and we're doing BEATLES songs. Just messing around every Friday, coming down three times a week, we kind of get to this point where he can finish my sentence. He knows what harmony I'm gonna go to; I know what harmony he's gonna go to. So then when we started going to work on the MACHINE HEAD songs, which we were also doing in the middle of the week, it's, like, 'Hey, why don't we try that Stevie Nicks this.' 'Hey, why don't we try that — whatever — FLEETWOOD MAC [thing]?', whatever the case may be. And it just kind of opened up this whole different line of possibilities of what we could do. And we went with it — we just went for it. And I don't know if that would have happened if we would have just kept on touring. I don't know if that would have happened if we would have just gone down the route that we were headed prior to the pandemic."
The follow-up to 2018's "Catharsis", "Of Kingdom And Crown" includes the three songs that were featured on the 2021 "Arrows In Words From The Sky" single: "Become The Firestorm", "Rotten" and "Arrows In Words From The Sky". Much of the new MACHINE HEAD album was recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California with engineer/producer Zack Ohren.
As previously reported, MACHINE HEAD recruited HAVOK's Reece Alan Scruggs to play second guitar on the "Electric Happy Hour (Live)" fall 2022 tour. Scruggs filled in for Vogg, who was unable to make the trek due to his touring commitments with his longtime band DECAPITATED.
Reece made his live debut with MACHINE HEAD on November 3 at Strummer's in Fresno, California at the opening show of the "Electric Happy Hour (Live)" tour.
Vogg joined MACHINE HEAD's touring lineup prior to the launch of the band's "Burn My Eyes" 25th-anniversary tour in late 2019.
Back in November 2019, Flynn said that Vogg's audition for the band "just fucking blew" his "mind — it was so fucking tight and fucking accurate," Robb said. "He sent over [a recording of] 'Imperium' as his first song just as a test. We always had all the dudes do a sound test, just to make sure the levels are good and stuff. I was, like, 'Oh my God! This dude is playing 'Imperium' better than I can right now.' [Laughs] It was crazy. And we ended up talking. Super-nice guy."
In May 2021, Vogg told Finland's Kaaos TV that his addition to MACHINE HEAD's touring lineup was "a big surprise" for him, because he "didn't plan" to play with the band. "It kind of accidentally happened," he said.
In November 2020, MACHINE HEAD released a single, "My Hands Are Empty", via Nuclear Blast. The song marked the first musical collaboration between Flynn and original "Burn My Eyes" guitarist Logan Mader in 24 years.
"My Hands Are Empty" was just one in a line of singles to be released by MACHINE HEAD, which issued "Do Or Die" in October 2019, "Circle The Drain" in February 2020, and the two-song digital single "Civil Unrest", consisting of "Stop The Bleeding" and "Bulletproof", in June 2020. "Stop The Bleeding" featured guest vocals from KILLSWITCH ENGAGE frontman Jesse Leach, and was written and recorded just days after the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.
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