Ten years ago, a young Californian quartet called Machine Head burst on to the heavy metal scene with a debut album that rivalled the mighty Pantera for intensity, riffs and aggression.
Although subsequent albums maintained most of the momentum, 2001′s Supercharger took a bit of a critical and commercial panning, leading some to label last year’s Through The Ashes Of Empires a last chance for the band to “return to form”.
With Through The Ashes… it’s fair to say that Machine Head spewed in the face of those doubters. As the band come to the end of a world tour that has cemented this progress, musicOMH took some time to ask drummer Dave McClain just how the band have managed to make their comeback…
For those familiar with Machine Head’s work, to say that the past few years have been “a bit patchy” is likereferring to “that diminutive conflict in Iraq” – it just ain’t the case. However, after a near break up,label and member changes, the Bay Area thrashers are back with a vengeance that spits out from the verystart of their latest album’s opener. Dave McClain agrees:
“Man, when we all first played through Imperium, we were all like, ‘Holy s**t, that’s it right there dude, that’s what it’s all about, that’s why we’re playing this music.’
Although McClain acknowledges that there was pressure on the band to come up trumps after the somewhatlacklustre reaction to Supercharger, he maintains that this only had a beneficial effect:
“That really was the best thing on the new album – we totally forgot that, and made it all about gettingback to the beginning. This band, from the start, was about playing heavy music as fans of heavy music, sowe made sure we did that again, writing not for radio but for ourselves.”
Having said that, McClain is still eager to stand up for the much-maligned Supercharger:
“… If you expect Burn My Eyes listening to that record, you will be disappointed. It all comes down to expectations. I mean some people want a band to never change, and then if you don’t, others complain that you always sound the same. So, at the end of the day, you have to just do what is right for you as a band, and that’s totallywhat we did with the latest record.”
One of the key changes that took place between Supercharger and Through The Ashes Of Empires was the departure of guitarist Ahrue Luster and the joining of Phil Demmel – a former bandmate of vocalist Robert Flynn. McClain explains that, although Demmel had little creative input into the new material, he has made an important difference:
“It was never an option for us to give up. It would’ve been to easy just to throw in the towel,but we knew we still had kick ass music in us, and we knew it would be hard – we didn’t have a guitarist…”
“… Although he [Phil] didn’t write at all on the new record, Rob and him played together years back in Vio-lence so they gelled straight away, no problem you know… We didn’t audition anyone,we knew Phil was up for it, so we got him in the studio, and there was that chemistry right off man, sonow he’s one of the family, and we’re looking forward to him writing with us on our nextrecord.”
Many Machine Head fans would cite the band’s live performances as one of the factors that draws them to the group. But with the sheer energy displayed by the band in a live setting, what do the individual members do in order to let off steam?
“Nothing that exciting man. We just drink, chill out, go shopping – normal stuff dude. We do drink a lot though, on tour. It’s straight off stage and on to the drinks!”
Touring (and drinking!) in the UK seems to hold a special, if a little hostile place in the drummersheart:
“Urgh, the weather sucks here, it’s freezing dude. It’s always raining too! But, the Indian food here is the best in the world – it’s really good.”
And with that Mr McClain goes off to play yet another show on yet another wet and rainy evening in England. Let’s hope he found a decent curry house after the gig.