ROBB FLYNN Explains Why MACHINE HEAD Stopped Playing Festivals For Eight Years

September 5, 2022

On August 12, MACHINE HEAD played a surprise set at this year's Bloodstock Open Air festival at Catton Park, Walton-on-Trent, United Kingdom. Three members of MACHINE HEAD — frontman Robb Flynn, bassist Jared MacEachern and drummer Matt Alston — who were in the U.K. rehearsing for their upcoming European tour, played a secret mid-afternoon set on the Sophie Lancaster Stage at the long-running festival. Polish guitarist Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka couldn't join MACHINE HEAD at the show because he was scheduled to perform with DECAPITATED at Czech Republic's Brutal Assault festival the same day.

One day after MACHINE HEAD's surprise appearance at Bloodstock Open Air, Flynn spoke to Oran O'Beirne from Bloodstock TV about the performance and MACHINE HEAD's return to the festival stage. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "To me, music is so much about a connection — it's about making a connection with people. That's always the goal with what we're doing. We stopped playing festivals for eight years. That was my first festival in the U.K. in 10 years. And I stopped doing festivals 'cause I didn't feel that connection with the audience anymore and I just needed to get my break from it.

"Obviously if every festival was like yesterday, I'd be like, 'Fuck yes! This is fucking sick,'" he explained. "I mean, it was insane — just insanity levels of fucking mayhem. It was incredible. But you've also gotta do the festival circuit. That's what people don't realize. You've gotta go to Serbia [and] you've gotta go to Budapest.

"I was just talking to Chuck BillyandGary Holt from EXODUS and TESTAMENT yesterday, and they're, like, 'Dude, we've been out here for eight weeks. I'm done.' They're just frazzled. And they still have 10 more days here. And they're just, like, 'I just wanna go home. I'm fucking sick of it.' And I get it — I get it, man. It's fucking hard — it's really hard doing the festival circuit.

"And so… I don't know. Never say never," Flynn added. "But for now, all that matters is that we did an awesome show yesterday, and that was it."

MACHINE HEAD's setlist at Bloodstock included one song from the band's latest album, "Of Kingdom And Crown", which was released on August 26 via Nuclear Blast/Imperium Recordings.

Back in 2018, Flynn told U.K.'s Independent that he "hated" playing festivals. "The last festival we ever did I just wanted to get offstage as soon as possible," he explained at the time. "It was pouring with rain, I was freezing my fucking ass off, there's water getting in all our gear, everybody's there in their parkas standing in a foot of fucking mud and I'm just thinking, 'When did metal become this?' It sucks for us and it sucks for the people standing out there watching us. Don't get me wrong, there are some great festivals out there that create their own culture and their own vibe and I love that. But there's a lot of festivals out there that are just thrown-together bullshit and you can't afford to not do those ones when you're out on the circuit; that's the shit that grinds you down."

According to Flynn, he "just didn't feel any connection with the people" MACHINE HEAD was playing to on the festival circuit. "We've done festivals for 23 years but we got to a point where we had to try something else," he told Independent four years ago. "Just because it worked for us 15 years ago or 10 years ago or even 5 years ago, it doesn't mean it's going to work for us now. Everything's changing at such a rapid pace; I've been in the music business for 32 years and I've never seen as much change as we've had in these last five years. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm not saying it's a good thing but it is what it is and we've got to constantly re-evaluate and ask ourselves what's right for us. Believe me, we're making way less money and we're playing to way less people than we would be if we were playing a festival, but if that connection between us and our audience isn't there, then there's no point in us even being there. We might be playing to 3,000 people instead of 30,000 but those 3,000 people are losing their fucking minds and I feel this unbelievable bond when that happens. That's the sole reason why I do this, to feel that connection and that sense of release that unites us all."

The follow-up to 2018's "Catharsis", "Of Kingdom And Crown" includes the three songs that were featured on last year's "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.

Back in December 2021, drummer Navene Koperweis (ANIMALS AS LEADERS, ENTHEOS, ANIMOSITY) joined Flynn, MacEachern and Ohren at Sharkbite Studios to jam on the final tracks for "Of Kingdom And Crown" and add some finishing touches to the songs.

MACHINE HEAD will team up with Sweden's Viking metal overlords AMON AMARTH for a co-headline "Vikings And Lionhearts" European arena tour in September and October. Support on the trek will come from THE HALO EFFECT, the new band featuring five former members of IN FLAMES: Peter Iwers, Daniel Svensson, Jesper Strömblad, Niclas Engelin and Mikael Stanne.

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