【face-to-face / interview】MACHINE HEAD
After a glorious come-back in 2007 with “The Blackening” — an epic album which has confirmed the talent of its authors, MACHINE HEAD finally announced its highly anticipated successor. Titled “Unto the Locust”, it will be available on September, 26th. Here are the frontman, Robb Flynn, remarks on this new work.
Where did the inspiration behind ‘Unto the Locust’ come from ?
Robb : The inspiration behind « Unto the Locust » came from the fact that we really wanted to challenge ourselves and push ourselves as musicians and artists. I cannot deny the fact that we had a lot of accolades and some incredible moments with « The Blackening » but we really felt that we needed to make a record that wasn’t « The Blackening 2 », a record that could stand on its own, a record that wouldn’t get swallowed by the shadow of « The Blackening ». So, we started looking at bands like JUDAS PRIEST, the SCORPIONS, RUSH and some others that made very great albums in their career. With an album like « Screaming for Vengeance » or an album like « Painkiller » – which they made 10 years later – JUDAS PRIEST allowed themselves to take in these new-modern influences which they seeped into their music and yet somehow, they have retained what was the essence of the band. Plus, we heard about K.K Downing (JUDAS PRIEST) and Glenn Tipton (JUDAS PRIEST) taking guitar lessons and learning how to shred… That really inspired us and took us thinking about where we wanted to go.
Which track(s) are you most proud of on the album and why ?
Robb : We are not a band that does singles so it’s not really a track-by-track thing. We look at the album thematically, we even look at it cinematically. We look at it as a movie. There is a beginning, there is a middle, there’re peaks and valleys and there is an end. We kind of look at it in a big picture, in a big context. As for the feedbacks, I am here on a press tour right now and all the reactions have been very positive so far, a lot of people are zooming in on the song « Who We Are », others are zooming in on the song « Darkness Within ». That’s really cool to hear because both songs came out of a left field.
The first song released-off of the album is ‘Locust’. Can you tell us more about its special meaning ?
Robb : This song is about a type of being that comes into your life and has a similar effect of a swarm of locusts. They come in, cause destruction and leave you in the aftermath of the devastation. That being could be a friend, a lover, a governement, a religion and so on. We’ve choosen it as the title of the song and the album because it is a metaphor and we loved it being a metaphor. It allowed us to do things with the artwork-cover : the insect creature ties with the thematic but this mutant-locust also means something else. It is something else. It stands for something else. The duality of it is what we really liked about having it as the title.
On the special edition of the album, there is footage of your kids coming in and providing vocals on the closing track ‘Who We Are’. Whose idea was that ?
Robb : Yeah, you can see Phil’s son, my engineer’s two daughters and my two sons. It was great to have them on there. When I wrote that song, the kids were downstairs. They were going crazy, screaming and yelling. As they started singing, I was like « wow, how cool it’d be to have the kids on there » ! We took a page out of the Pink Floyd « Another Brick in the Wall » song but we wanted our song to sound kind of messy, not perfect, not like a choir, more like kids singing at school. They did really good, they had a lot of fun. They are very proud of each other. They actually like the song which is cool because it’s the very first in the history of the band that they like one of our songs (laughs).
How would you compare ‘Unto the Locust’ to ‘The Blackening’ ?
Robb : For us, « Unto the Locust » and « The Blackening » are very different records. They were written in very different times. We started writing « The Blackening » in August 2005 and we started writing « Unto the Locust » in May or June 2010. A lot of life happened in between those 5 years. We have evolved as musicians. The « The Blackening » was basically the peak of our abilities to that point. Then we went on tour for three years and that playing ability became easy. So when we went to write the new record, we were better players. It just took on a whole different level with « Unto the Locust ».
Can you tell us more about the artwork-cover ?
Robb : The artist that we used for the « Unto the Locust » artwork is a UK-based artist named Paul Gerrard. He does art basically as a hobby. I was so amazed by his work. It just blew me away. It has this modern Giger-ish feel. So, we contacted him, reached-out and he was into it. The thing which was very appealling for us about it was the fact that he wasn’t in the music industry. He didn’t have any idea of what was going on with other bands. He didn’t have any idea of what was going on with other artists. So, it was something very appealling to us that he could operate in his way, in his own little world, oblivious to what other people were doing. And he killed it ! He did an amazing job ! He came-up to us with about 8 different images for the package. The artwork is very insistent, really bizarre. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest packages we’ve ever done. It’s very unique, very different from anything I’ve seen from many other bands. We are stoked about that.
You have produced every Machine Head album since ‘Through the Ashes of Empires’. Tell us more about it. Would you ever consider producing any other artists in the future ?
Robb : I started producing MACHINE HEAD’s albums in 2003 with « Through the Ashes of Empires ». At first, it was a necessity. The guy we wanted to work with, Colin Richardson, wasn’t available, he was only available to do the mix but not the recording, so we talked to some other guys. But they wanted to put too much of their sound, their sound unto our sound… I ended-up doing it by myself. You know, I’ve been producing our demos so everybody was pretty used to me. It wasn’t that big of a step and everybody was very happy with it. They asked me to do « The Blackening » and they asked me to do this one. There’s a lot of hats I gotta wear, I kind of have to play the psychologist from time to time but they seem to be content with it. Yeah, I consider producing other artists in the future. If I have the time though. With MACHINE HEAD, it’s a labour of love.
The Blackening had an extremely long touring cycle, do you anticipate a similar length cycle this time round ?
Robb : « The Blackening » was a very long touring cycle, we’ve been touring it for three years. It’s probably the longest tour ever (laughs). It was amazing, it was a dream come true type-of-scenario. We had so many opportunities. It’s one of those things that happen once in a lifetime. It was incredible. I can’t really see it happening again for that long. I do miss my kids and my wife a lot. And I don’t know if another situation like that would even present itself again. But who knows ? We will probably stick to the length that we normally do which is still a hell of a long time. I mean, we’ve toured for 20 months for « Through the Ashes of Empires » which is a long freaking time.