I have another interview with Robb kicking around as well, but it’s on a tape somewhere and I’d need to find it, get a tape player and find the time to type it up. Don’t hold your breaths!
You had the biggest-selling debut album in Roadrunner history, almost 2 years ago now. It was one of the biggest-selling that year as well. How did you feel when it came round to doing the so called ‘difficult second album’?
Well, first of all we didn’t expect to be the biggest-selling debut act on Roadrunner ever! That was a shock to us to say the least. It was good. As to writing the second record – our standards to ourselves as a band are very high. We write these songs to please ourselves. We know what we’re capable of and there was no way we were going to fall beneath what we had done before. So that put the pressure on for us. We knew there were a lot of expectations on this. Not just from us but from the fans. We were challenged by that and also by the fact that we didn’t have long to write all these songs. That really motivated us too focus, and really pushed us to bring the best out in us. It wasn’t easy. We got halfway through writing these songs and the pressure really hit because we hit walls. Some of the songs were just fighting us. One song got written and then torn apart and then put back together and then torn apart… This riff’s good and this riff’s good so keep those and we’ll try again. And we’d put the song back together again and it still sucked. About four times before it finally came together and it was downhill from there. It was a little bit easier. We felt less stumped. We put a tremendous amount of time and effort into writing these songs, making each song as good as it could possibly be. We wrote ten songs for the record, and that’s all we wrote. We didn’t write fifteen or twenty and picked the best ones. We spent time making each song as good as it could possibly be and we feel that these songs are just that. We can stand behind it in all confidence.
There seemed to be a couple of delays in it coming out. There was a mix somewhere and it wasn’t quite good enough, and remixed again, and…
…it still wasn’t quite good enough! Finally, the third time was the charm. A lot of crazy shit went on in the recording and mixing processes. We all learned a lot in the process and we all spent a lot of money! We’re going to be paying for it the rest of our lives. It’s worth it, because we’d rather put it out that something inferior. We’d rather throw in the towel than put out something that we felt was inferior.
Having heard the final results yourselves, do you feel that you succeeded?
Yeah. Absolutely. That’s why it’s out and why we call it ‘done’. Because we approve, it’s got our stamp of approval. It wasn’t easy but we didn’t give up.
You said it was a lot harder than Burn My Eyes. Was it really the time factor that got you or knowing that you had to top this thing that had done so well?
It was a combination of the limited time schedule… We had two or three years to write Burn My Eyes. Those songs evolved into what they were in an almost leisurely way. This was almost like an assignment. All of a sudden we had all these deadlines to meet and that’s something new too us. It may be even a bit intimidating, but we were totally motivated by it and it gave us the drive to do what we did. And the fact that our personal standards are so high, we knew that we weren’t going to fool ourselves. We had to know that the song had to be absolutely amazing before we would call it done. It had to send chills up and down our spines. It had to be somethign new. All these songs had to push the boundaries of our styles so that we could break new ground and broaden our sound. But at the same time we had to stay true to what the core of Machine Head is. Which is extreme groove-oriented, dynamically-oriented metal with flavours of hardcore and rock and even rap. Everything we like all rolled up in there.
The album’s due out on the 24th of March in the UK. Plans are to tour the UK almost straight after that. April and May have been mentioned. Any plans for a single release before or during the tour?
There’s no single release. We made a video for Ten Ton Hammer. It’s the first track on the record. It’s not going to be released as a single I believe. They’re going to release the digipak right after the record comes out and that has extra tracks on it.
Is that going to be remixes or…?
No, no. There are two cover songs. One of them’s an old Discharge song called Possibilities of Life’s Destruction. And the other is Colors by Ice-T that we did. That came out fat! We were very impressed with ourselves with that one. It was experimental for us to try that because we didn’t do the typical metal rap crossover thing. We didn’t incorporate metal into it. There’s no hard guitars or real drums. It’s basically a hardcore rap song redone by us with six tracks of distorted bass, distorted vocals, drum machine drum loop, distorted kinda dirty sounding. Like the East Coast hardcore rap kinda style. It’s got all these little noises here and there. We did little guitar noises and scratches, trapped a little xylophone melody in there! We went crazy with it and it came out really good. We’re real happy with it.
We also re-recorded one of our own songs, My Misery. That’s the third extra track from the digipak.
Last time you were touring, you were playing Hard Times by the Cro-Mags. Are you likely to be playing any covers this time, or with having two albums to draw off, won’t there be time?
Oh, yeah, we’ll always play covers. It’s a really fun part of the set to do an old hardcore cover song. Plus, it only takes a minute or two out of the set.
As I said, the UK dates are hopefully planned for April/May. Is it actually going to be the UK before anywhere else?
Actually, I think UK will get our very first show. It’s kind of early to talk about it though. But from there we plan to headline shows in Europe and then come back to the UK for more shows. Ticket’s will be cheap. We’re planning on doing some clubs. Get back to… well, I wouldn’t really say ‘get back to’ because in Europe and England we stepped right over the club circuit and into the Brixton Academy and stuff which was just amazing! We do want to show people that we can crush people in a small club. We really enjoy that. Having people right in front of us, on the stage in an overpacked, sweaty hot club. We can make eye contact and interract, and exchange energy with the people a lot easier than with a huge venue. All the security and the big production… It’s all cool, but we want to show the other side of it too.
That must have been quite a big jump. I presume the first really big dates you were doing were suporting Slayer over here. Was it a sudden jump? Clubs one day then Leeds T&C and Brixton Academy supporting Slayer. Then back again inside of 2 months selling the same venues out yourself.
Well, yeah. It felt like a big sudden jump to us. To be on the Slayer tour was just a tremendous honour and a dream come true.
And there was Castle Donington which must have been a kick in the ass as well!
To say the least, yeah! That was one of the highlights of all time for me.
Would you say you’ve got a ‘most memorable gig’?
Erm… I’d have to pick three. The Dynamo for the sheer fact that I had never seen that many people looking at me in my life. A hundred and thirty-something thousand people all just raging! It was amazing. My first time out in a big show like that and it’s something I’ll never forget. What I saw, what I felt…
And the Slayer tour – Belfast, Ireland. We got there and it was right after the cease fire and after the border became open again. The kids were telling us there hadn’t been a show there in nine months prior to our show. And let me tell you – you could tell! Those kids were starving! They gorged themselves on us and it was amazing! The energy was amazing. We were just blown away by those kids. Fucking amazing show.
Then we get to Donington which I’m very proud of. A very prestigious thing for us to do. It was fucking huge – I dunno what to say. In a way with the bitter-sweet part of it that Chris [Kontos – now ex-drummer – Mosh] wasn’t with us. There were a lot of emotions going on that weren’t so good around that time. Although our friend Walter Ryan helped us out. It just wasn’t the same, though.
You haven’t done any live dates anywhere for quite a while with working on the album. Are you warming up, ready to get back on the road again?
I’m very anxious to get back on the road. It’s been a while like you said. And these songs are going to crush in a live setting! We feel confident about that!
I’ve got a copy on tape and in my personal opinion, I think it’s better than Burn My Eyes.
I feel that Burn My Eyes is a great record. Nothing can take anything away from that. Our objective was to do something better, push the boundaries back of our style so that we took a few risks. Did things a little different, took on some new themes – musical styles and Robb with his vocals. It worked. I think we accomplished what we set out to do with that idea.
Again, I know it’s a little in the future, but any idea for who you’d like to have support you on the tour?
Yeah, we’re going to have Napalm Death for the European dates, and hopefully an opener from the Bay Area. You might not have heard of them. They’re a new signing on Century Media – Skinlab. And they’re fuckin’ hell-heavy. We trying to get some bands in the Bay Area signed because nobody there has since us. It’s a good feeling, getting down to support our home, our friends. But the bottom line is that they’re a good band. They’re totally worthy of it.
That was a Roadrunner idea, or maybe the journalist who was doing it. I’m not totally sure. Were you involved?
I was trying to, but couldn’t seem to catch it at the right time! [The whole world should be on GMT! – Mosh]
He told me about it. It sounded pretty funny! I guess they were joking around and stuff.
It’s a novel idea. Not many bands have done that. Normally it’s a closed forum with one person asking the questions.
I think it’s fucking cool. I mean, I just came from New York and we were doing a lot of press interviews over the phone. A lot of the fanzines were very small and couldn’t afford to mass-produce their magazines and distribute them in large regions. Now they’ve changed their format to a web page.
That’s what I do!
That’s what we’re doing right now? I think that’s fuckin’ amazing because you can just reach the fuckin’ world like that. Whereas before it wasn’t as easy to reach that many people.
Are any of you actually on the ‘net?
I don’t have my own computer, but any time I’m near one I like to surf. I think it’s amazing.
Well, I think that’s about all I can come up with, so thanks for your time. I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to the tour!
Well, I’m looking forward to being there and thanks for the interview!