MACHINE HEAD Frontman: ‘You Have To Let The Music Take You Where It’s Going’

Bram Teitelman of recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn of San Francisco Bay Area metallers MACHINE HEAD. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. On first listen, [“Unto The Locust” is] a way ambitious record, and you’re doing things that I’ve never heard on a MACHINE HEAD album before. Was it a conscious effort to stretch and do more than you’ve done before?

Flynn: I would love to say I had this grand vision, but if you sat in the MACHINE HEAD jam room, it’s just so “Beavis And Butt-Head”. It’s like, “What do you think of this riff?” “Oh, that’s cool.” “What do you think of this riff?” We just try stuff, and sometimes I get these crazy ideas. I just try and write it out, and the dudes just let me go with it thankfully. It seems like there are more harmonies than there’s been before.

Flynn: Yeah, and there’s a lot of — a lot of musicality. The neo-classical influence coming in really opened up a lot of doors that we could have. You know, where as opposed to your having just evil notes, and I’m not — that’s how schooled I am. I call it evil notes, or sad notes, or happy notes, or you know, like “Go to the third fret, go to the second fret.” I don’t know any theory, I just hear it in my head. But, to me, having those — as opposed to evil notes, a little more of the sad minor notes — in the classical context, it really opened up melodies, and then you could build things on top of it. And the more that we went, the more ambitious we were, like “Fuck it. Let’s just fucking pile it on, and see what happens.” Better to go too far and then pull back, than never go far enough. It seems like on “The Blackening”, your songs started getting longer and more epic. Were you trying to do that? Kind of as a reaction to maybe the “Supercharger” era, where you were kind of writing, it seemed, more radio single-y type stuff?

Flynn: We’ve always had long songs. I mean, “Burn My Eyes”“A Thousand Lies” was seven minutes, “A Nation on Fire” was seven minutes, “Death Church” was six minutes. You know, “Supercharger”“Trephination” was seven minutes. With that record, the first four songs that we wrote, there was no indication that the songs were going to be long. The first four songs that we wrote were the shortest songs on the record — “Beautiful Mourning”, “Slanderous”, “Aesthetics Of Hate”, “Now I Lay Thee Down”. The first four months of the recording it was just where we were going. And then, at some point, “Clenching” came along. We’ve never written for the radio. We’ve never timed our songs, and gone, “Is this gonna work?” We just write until we feel it’s done. And when we timed “Clenching”, we were all fucking shocked. Like, “This fucking song is 10 minutes fucking long, and it’s killer!” It doesn’t feel like it’s 10 minutes long. You know what I mean? I don’t think any of your songs do really.

Flynn: And that’s great. I mean, that’s a huge compliment to hear. I mean, some bands write a 4-minute song, and it feels like a 10-minute song, you know? I’ve always wanted to write a song in the classic sense and structure of a pop song. Like verse, chorus, verse?

Flynn: Verse, chorus, verse. Yeah, I want hooks. I want things that repeat. I don’t want to write riff soup. I’ve never wanted to do that. Even my favorite bands — you know, MERCYFUL FATE, METALLICA — there was still a song in there. Maybe in between that, they took all these turns and twists, but eventually it came back to the song. And I still feel that’s very important. Sometimes they’re shorter, sometimes they’re longer. You can plan all you want to, but at the end of the day, more often than not, the music will only go one way. You have to let the music take you where it’s going.

Read the entire interview from



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