“For those of you just tuning in today, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of our fifth album, ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’, I’ve written a multi-part story in my General Journals, today is Part 3 of the story. I’ve decided to do a Part 4 and 5 to ‘Through The Ashes Turns 10’, because I realize there is more of the story that needs to be told, so most likely on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, I’ll throw them up.
“Part 3 goes into the feud that happened between Kerry King [SLAYER] and I back in 2002.
‘For the record: I’m not re-telling this to start and/or dig up old shit. I love Kerry, he fuckin’ rules! We hung out two nights ago when SLAYER played in San Jose, we had a blast, got HAMMERED! But 10/11 years ago? Things were different, and in order to paint an accurate picture of where our heads were at for the writing of ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’, this part of the story has to be told. It played a role. Consciously or unconsciously it definitely played a role.
“In 2002, Kerry King of SLAYER and I got into a public war words over disrespectful comments he’d made about MACHINE HEAD. For over a year, I had bit my tongue in hopes that he would lay off, and just give it a rest, but he didn’t, and after a particularly brutal stab at us and me in particular, I went for the jugular. I fucking roasted him. Things got ugly in a hurry in public and behind the scenes it was even worse. The feud would last for 5 years until 2007, when at the Metal Hammer Awards in London it was squashed.
“I hated every minute of it.
“To have someone who had shaped your musical life so much, who took MACHINE HEAD on their second and third tours ever, who was a former friend and mentor to me, just ripping on you… it was tough. But after a while, you have to say ‘fuck this.’ It doesn’t matter who it is, you have to stick up for yourself. I couldn’t let the things being said go unanswered. It might’ve gotten truly ugly, but I think we both earned each other’s respect a little more in the long run. I respected him for calling us out publicly, when so many people in the music business just talk shit and plot behind people’s backs, he gave his opinion and what can I say? It stung. However, once squashed, I like to think he respected me for standing my ground and protecting what was mine. Maybe it was tough love from Kerry King? Maybe, but one thing’s for sure, in some ways it fueled a lot of anger in me. Maybe it worked.
“In and around this same timeframe, Kerrang! magazine had shredded us in a slew of articles and show reviews. The U.K. magazine was famous for building bands up just to tear them down. At this stage in MACHINE HEAD‘s career, believe me, they were in full-on tear down mode.
“I had mentioned in an earlier journal about the U.S. press and how they essentially had blacklisted us. Coverage in any magazine was just about nil, nada, zilch. To this day, we’ve only had one major cover story and that was back in ’99 for the now-defunct Metal Maniacs. American journalists were asking me during interviews to ‘apologize to our fans for ‘Supercharger’.’
“Tours still did well and despite what the press has repeated over and over again, our fans stood by us. Sure, there was complaints from Head Cases [MACHINE HEAD fans], often times they said them respectfully to my face, or on the Internet, but they stood by MACHINE HEAD, and the ticket sales for those tours (thankfully) proved it.
“But regardless of all that, we had hit a wall in the music business. Sure, we had just re-signed with Roadrunner in Europe but our future in the U.S. was terribly uncertain. Silently getting turned down by 35 U.S. labels… man… it was a lot of rejection. It weighed on me. I began to doubt myself.
“Other bands were talking shit; ex-band members were talking shit (and still do).
“We’d gotten a little merchandise advance, but we were living month to month and about to be broke again at any day.
“It felt like the world wanted us to stop.
“The vultures were circling.
“I was 35 years old, and a very public failure. MACHINE HEAD had never gotten ‘over the hump,’ as they say in the ‘biz.’ In many people’s eyes, we were over. We were simply just another band eaten alive and spit out dead by the music business. As the band leader, main songwriter / lyricist, that failure rested squarely on my shoulders. I felt every jab, insult and barb thrown our way and each had the tendency to draw blood.
“These thoughts were swirling around in my head as I sat down to write the lyrics to ‘Imperium’ (then-called ‘Buh-duh-duh-duh’ after the snare drum pattern in the intro).
“‘Fuckin’ Kerry King. Fuckin’ music business. Fuckin’ Roadrunner. Fuckin’ cocksucker journalists.'”Apologize? Fuckin’ APOLOGIZE!? Motherfucker, I ain’t apologizing for SHIT!! Fuck you! Fuck everyone! Fuck the whole human race!’
“As I sat in my car outside of Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, with the recently smashed-out window and the missing stereo, with the air conditioner blasting the suffocatingly hot summer heat away, I glared at the blank pages of my notebook. With pen in hand, I wrote down the words ‘HEAR ME NOW, WORDS I VOW, NO FUCKING REGRETS!’ The words poured out of me! Just pure fucking venom, spit and rage. ‘Challenge the whole human race, MY SPIRIT YOU CANNOT BREAK!’ ‘I’LL STAND HERE DEFIANTLY, MY MIDDLE FINGER RAISED, FUCK YOUR PREJUDICE!!!’ ‘Don’t succumb to the doubts inside,’ ‘every rage, every tear.’ It all came pouring out, ‘All my life, always I’ve felt alone!’ ‘I will fight for those I love, and I will fight for those I care, I will fight at any time, I will fight ANYWHERE!’
“Inside my head I was consumed with the thought we may never get to make music again after this. This might be our last fucking chance. And if it is? We’re going down fucking swinging! We’re going down screaming ‘FUCK YOU’ to the entire world at the top of our lungs.
“I went in and sang them, and when I was done doing the last screech in the last line ‘my spirit you cannot breeeeeeeak,’ my engineer Mark Keaton just looked at me and said ‘… JESUS!!??…’
“Some of the words I originally wrote for ‘Imperium’ ended in a song our drummer Dave had written, the song ‘Wipe The Tears’. And with that, I’d like to take this chance to give props to Dave right now. Much has been made of Phil Demmel‘s contribution to MACHINE HEAD, and there’s no doubt that Phil has brought nothing but good to MACHINE HEAD. I would never want anything to take that away. BUT, Dave McClain deserves A LOT of mention! Go ahead, check the writing credits. Dave borrowed my guitar (for like eight fuckin’ years!) and taught himself how to play. It worked out for the better. It’s one of the best things he’s ever done for the band.
“Dave and I wrote the music for ‘Imperium’. No one else. Dave wrote the chorus for ‘Descend’, Dave wrote the main riffs in ‘Wipe’, the opening riff and chorus to ‘Elegy’, and the intro riff / chorus for ‘Vim’. It was Dave who dug up the old ‘The More Things Change’ riff tapes and unearthed my old ‘All Falls Down’ riff and the ‘Days Turn Blue To Grey’ main riff and showed ’em (back) to me. Both of these riffs were written in 1996 and since forgotten about. It was Dave who said let’s ‘borrow’ the ‘Natural Science’ bit in the middle of ‘Days’.
“And it was Dave who wrote the chorus riff in ‘Pins And Needles’, and in a larger sense it was Dave who, after getting rejected by 35 labels said, ‘Fuck this song, fuck trying to write radio shit for these stupid record labels.’ He then added, ‘I just want to be a metal band!’
“Those last words really resonated.
“Most of ‘Ashes’ was written in some form or another before Phil joined, Phil gave us the glue to believe we could pull it off again.
“I know I’ve complained wildly about how shitty this song ‘Pins And Needles’ is, and really, after just listening to it for the first time in 10 years, it’s still just fucking awful!! One of the worst songs I’ve ever written when it comes to my vocals and vocal ideas, WHEW!!! I always thought the music was cool though and eventually used this as part of the 2005 ‘Roadrunner United’ sessions. I had originally enlisted Brock from 36 CRAZYFISTS to sing it and he didn’t do too much better than me, so I fired him. I got Tim Williams from VISION OF DISORDER to sing on it, and after rejecting his first couple attempts, he nailed one of the best vocals I’ve ever heard, he totally KILLED it! He crushed my version into the dust and allowed me to be able to listen to this song again. His version is called ‘Army Of The Sun’.
“I’d like to say Thank You to Dave McClain for saying ‘fuck this song.’ Why I’m putting this out I have no idea, I cringe listening to this, AGH! **barfs**. So here goes!
“Without further ado, here is the song that never made it on to ‘Through The Ashes…’ Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘Pins And Needles’.
“Happy birthday, ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’.
“P.S. – The art on the YouTube clip is the original picture that was on the CD cover of the demo sent out to labels.”
“Pins And Needles”:
“Army Of The Sun”: