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Interview: Machine Head

Machine Head
Questions Answered By Ahrue Luster (Guitar).
August 16th, 2001
Interviewed by Brian Webb

Related Links:
Official Website

PRP: With the band taking heavy criticism for the direction taken on "The Burning Red", did you feel much pressure when writing the material for "Supercharger"?
Ahrue: With all the criticism that we got from the media with "The Burning Red", it was still our biggest selling album, we sold twice as many tickets as we ever had, twice as much merchandise as we ever have. When we play shows we talk to the fans afterwards and almost every fan that we've met loves "The Burning Red" and we have letters and letters of how it changed peoples lives. We are more concerned with what our fans think than the media. Anything that's outside the four of us isn't really an influence on when we were writing the record so there wasn't any pressure.

PRP: "The Burning Red"'s producer Ross Robinson at one point praised your last effort and later publicly launched into a series of negative comments about it, sparking a feud of sorts which involved barbed responses back from both parties, Have you guys made amends or are you still at odds?
Ahrue: Since then he has apologised for everything he said both publicly and privately and he said he was in a bad place in his own life when he did that stuff. We had a list of producers that we were choosing from for the "Supercharger" record and he was still on the list although we didn't end up using him he was still in consideration.

PRP: You took a lot of fire for the slightly hip hop oriented direction that your last effort pointed in, how do you feel about that?
Ahrue: We find that kind of amusing because the hip hop element has been a part of Machine Head since the beginning. The verses in "Block" are basically hip hop as well as "A Thousand Lies" and "Colors" on the digi pack of "The More Things Change" album. "The Burning Red" comes out and all of a sudden people are up in arms because there's rapping now and we are like when wasn't there?

PRP: Although its been said that Johnny K wasn't your first choice to produce the album, how do you feel about his work with the band and how was the experience working with him?
Ahrue: Johnny K was our first choice, we interviewed a lot of producers and he by far stood out more than the rest. He was so excited about doing the record, he was getting us excited. We thought it would be the perfect thing. He was the first choice.

PRP: With Colin Richardson mixing the album, do you feel it possesses some similarities to your older bodies of work?
Ahrue: I think the mix Colin did this time doesn't sound like the mix on the other two records. He has more experience mixing Machine Head records than anyone else, the "Supercharger" mix is a lot different sounding though, we didn't get him because we wanted it to sound like those records. This records stands out on its own.

PRP: The new album title "Supercharger" somewhat abandons the darker themed titles of past efforts, is there any distinct reason behind this?
Ahrue: When we were on "The Burning Red" tour all those shows were amazing and the energy between us and the crowd was incredible and we used the electricity as an analogy to describe that. Coming off the tour we began writing almost immediately, so the feeling of the shows carried over into the writing process and that's where the title "Supercharger" comes from. It's a tribute to our fans.

PRP: The feel of "Supercharger" seems to be a bit more loose, more dynamic and laid back, even progressing heavier into melodic areas at times, what would you attribute this too?
Ahrue: It's a lot more up tempo for sure. Yeah it's looser and I think that comes from the comfort level the band has now. This is the first time Machine Head have had the same line-up two records in a row. We are the same four guys that have been through ups and downs together and laughed together and we feel closer than we ever had and with that comfort comes confidence. When we are around each other most of the time we are joking around and that feeling came out on the record. Perhaps some of the stuff we were feeling would not have come out in the past.

PRP: The new effort also sounds a bit more playful, with Rob's chant on "American High" and the inclusion of the Star Wars "Imperial March" riff on the title track, not too mention lyrical content that is a bit more raw and open. Do you worry that the diehard fans of your older material might lash out at you for such things?
Ahrue: We didn't do it because we are worried about what anyone thinks. A lot of the time when we get interviewed people think that what we do, we do because of what other people think. We do what we do because we are trying to be true to ourselves and do what we want to do.

PRP: "The Burning Red" was a very intimate album lyrically, bearing a lot of emotional wounds. But this album seems to be a bit more guarded, tackling subjects that are a bit less personal. How do you view the lyrical content of the new album?
Ahrue: I hear the songs musically for months and months before I hear them with vocals and when I hear them with vocals on, I'm hearing them for the first time as a band. When I finally hear it with vocals, its finally a song and I think the lyrics on this record are the best he's ever written. When I hear them, they move me more than I have been in the past. All Rob's lyrics in the past have been great but these lyrics, there's something special about them. I think they are more focused and when he's talking about something, I can totally relate to it.

PRP: You chose to record everything to tape on this album and when working on new songs, only played them a few times before moving on. In turn, the album has a very raw, almost live feel, what prompted you to go in this direction?
Ahrue: We did the last record completely analog. We are a band that are very emotional. 99% of the bands these days use Pro Tools and with that you can fix anything that's a mistake, move things around, basically put the whole song into a computer and cut and paste things and make the song perfect. We strongly feel that we want the human feel to come out as much as possible. Humans aren't perfect so we thought the best way to capture that is to record us how we are without using Pro Tools and using nothing but analog equipment, which is the best medium for capturing that.

PRP: With the finality of the album and the way it was tracked, do you look back and wish you could change certain things or are you happy with how it turned out?
Ahrue: I could definitely listen to it and know where there's a few mistakes in it but I think its perfectly imperfect. It couldn't be any better because of the imperfections in it.

PRP: What song would you feel best represents the direction of the new album?
Ahrue: Its hard to say that. Every song on there defines the record.

PRP: A video was recently shot for the first single "Crashing Around You" with Nathan "Karma" Cox, can you tell us what we can expect to see in it?
Ahrue: I don't want to give away what was on the video because I'd like it to be a surprise, but it has elements of the "Exorcist", "Se7en", "Fight Club" and The Matrix. We are playing against this big backdrop of San Francisco and fire.

PRP: Your label Roadrunner has come into some criticism as of late from more of its earlier acts, such as Sepultura and their decision to leave the label, as well as other bands like Fear Factory speaking out against them at times as well. Being one of the more established groups on the label, how do you view your experience with them and are you supportive of the recent equity in the label purchased by Island/Def Jam?
Ahrue: We have a great relationship. Sometimes there be issues we may fight about but all in all its a great relationship. As for the merger, I think It's a really good thing, it means there's distribution through Universal in the states. Its definitely a good thing for Roadrunner and for us.

PRP: With the "Doomsday In The USA" tour recently being cancelled, are there any tours you guys are eyeing up at present?
Ahrue: We are still in the works of figuring out what to do. We might do a headline tour but we might hook up with somebody else.

PRP: So with the band now getting back into the touring and promoting process, what can we expect from Machine Head in the coming months?
Ahrue: First we are going to start in Korea and Japan, go to Australia and a states tour and then come to Europe in probably December.

PRP: During the writing sessions for the new album, drummer Dave McClain exited the group for a short stint with Systematic and returned almost immediately after. What happened there and is the band a solid unit now?
Ahrue: That's one of the many rumors I've heard on the internet. It's wrong like the rumor about Rob being run over by a crab cheese truck and being held hostage in a night club in San Francisco.

PRP: The music scene has constantly been changing, with heavier music really beginning to take a more prominent place within the mainstream as of late, are there any newer heavy bands out there whom you guys respect?
Ahrue: We like System Of A Down, Slipknot and At The Drive-In. I don't know if there's any brand brand new bands we are into.

PRP: With four influential albums under your belt, surely there a lot of up and coming bands who cite you guys as someone they look up to, does this humble you or just make you feel old?
Ahrue: It's very flattering that so many bands are influenced by Machine Head and that we have taken the style of music to where it is at the moment.

PRP: How do you feel about the current state of the Bay Area scene with groups like Unjust and Skinlab arguably following in the footsteps you helped pioneer?
Ahrue: Those bands are cool. I see Machine Head influences in those bands.

PRP: Are you relieved that the guy from Nsync cut off his dreads and you don't have to be compared to him anymore?
Ahrue: Well I cut off my dreads too so we still might get the comparison but actually my hair doesn't look like his now.

PRP: That's about it, any shoutouts, fuck you's or shameless self promotion?
Ahrue: Yeah, we are looking forward to seeing all our fans. Buy our record!

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