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Machine Head's Robb Flynn

Machine Head’s Robb Flynn Feels “The Burning Red” & “Supercharger” Have Stood The Test Of Time


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Machine Head vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn appears as the guest on the most recent episode of ‘Talk Toomey Podcast‘. A considerable portion of the conversation centers around what’s often viewed as one of the band’s more controversial periods: their 1999 release “The Burning Red” and 2001’s “Supercharger“.

With Flynn often citing “The Burning Red” in particular as an influence/comparison for the group’s upcoming new album “Catharsis“, and it’s nü metal leanings generating controversy, such topics are particularly relevant at present. Speaking of “The Burning Red“, Flynn commented:

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“That’s our second biggest record, even now. So it did really well. It was different in the sense that it was really us expanding—in a lot of ways—you know kinda like what we’re doing with this new record [“Catharsis“]. And I’ve been saying that too. I feel like this record could be the record that came after “The Burning Red“. Because “The Burning Red” was really us… I think with that record, I really felt like we had backed ourselves into a corner. Like we did “Burn My Eyes“, came out strong out of the gate, and then with our second record we kinda had that sophomore slump.

And I didn’t want to go heavier, because I just felt like the times were changing. And I felt… I had just kind of gone through some big changes in my life, and I started going to therapy, and I started like digging up all this shit from my fucking past. You know, I had a really dysfunctional childhood and family, and we got really melodic. And what came out of that time period with the music was just really melodic music.

And there was rapping—and there’s always been rapping on Machine Head records—it was a little more front and center. But for me, when I look at that record, to me the biggest change is really in the melody. That’s really where I became completely unafraid to sing. I totally got confidence in singing and singing a lot. I could sing through a whole song and be OK with it. Before I could never do that, I could never do that.

Before we were playing with fucking grindcore bands and hardcore bands and death metal bands and it was like ‘Alright I’m just gonna fucking do the heaviest I can do.’ And somewhere in there, you know touring, you just know that you can do something else and you believe in yourself. And I tried it and it really just expanded where we could go.

And to me that record, you know maybe sometimes when the pendulum swings the other way, it can go a little too far. And I think maybe, when I look at that record, the way we were dressed—I had fucking blonde and black hair and shit, people were just like ‘what the fuck?’ and it sounds totally different. So I think from a visual standpoint it was a little more shocking. And a friend of mine once said ‘people listen with their eyes.’

And I believe that. And I think that twenty years—you know it’s almost twenty years old now, that record… 2019 is gonna be the twenty year anniversary of “The Burning Red“—those songs stood the test of time. And I knew they did even then.

So take away the “From This Day” video, take away whatever you thought about me, I didn’t fucking care, I loved it. I’m fucking in a rock band, I’m a fucking rockstar, I can do whatever the fuck I want. It’s fun. By most standards I was actually probably pretty tame by some of the fucking other bands at the time.”

Commenting further on the nü metal look the band had also adopted at the time, he added:

“…It was the style at the time! You know, you look back at it now and you’re like… I don’t care, I don’t give a fuck about it at all. I look back on that and it’s just fucking great to me. I look at my first video—I’m rocking cornrows in the “Davidian” video. We’re walking around with fucking pit bulls and walking through Oakland, like it’s a rap video. Like how nobody missed this gigantic rap influence on our band I’ll never understand. You know what I mean? We were recreating a rap video, straight up.

So to me, I just look at it, I always believed that… I’m a firm believer that bands should have a look, man. You should be larger than life up there. When you get up on that stage, you should project all the way to the very back of the venue. You should be larger than life. I love it when bands have a look. I don’t really like it when bands look like a bunch of nothing staring at their feet, that never really has done anything for me. With that record we kind of rolled with it.”

He then dove into the much-maligned follow-up to “The Burning Red“, 2001’s “Supercharger“, stating that time has changed the perception of the album:

“It [Supercharger“] gets a bad rap, for sure. But that record, those songs kill live. People lose their shot to those. We play “Bulldozer“, motherfuckers go crazy. Now especially, ’cause it’s like a Machine Head classic… It’s pretty much a bonafide classic at this point. The title track, “Supercharger“, the song “Crashing Around You“. And it’s funny because I think if you only look at the time, when a record’s released, if you just gauge it by what people think right then and right there, it’s a little bit skewed.

Because I feel like music has this butterfly effect. It has this thing, and maybe songs that people don’t need right then, they go back whenever, a year later, five years, ten years later, and they need that song then. And they need that music then. And that’s the one thing that I continually hear about those two records.

Which by all accounts, if you ask anybody in the media [is that all our fans left us around then]. Our fans didn’t leave us. We were selling out Irving Plaza, selling out the Fillmore, selling out Brixton Academy. If all our fans left us we couldn’t sell out 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 seaters.

I think that people have gone back, and again, the music stood the test of the time. And yeah it was a tough time in the media for us. Because they basically said fuck you. I mean straight up said ‘we’re not covering anything by your band.’

You know, you have to reach a sales… I remember on “Through The Ashes“, Revolver Magazine, the editor at the time, said you gotta to sell 40,000 records in order for us to do a story on you. We sold 40,000 records. You gotta sell 50,000 records. OK, we sold 50,000 records. You gotta sell 60,000 records. We sold 60,000 records. Then they said, ‘well the record’s too old, we can’t do a story on you.’

And it was that kind of shit. So from a media standpoint it really was hard. And this was kind of like the beginning of the internet still so people still looked at magazines as important. So if you didn’t get coverage in a magazine… I mean back in the early 90s you didn’t get coverage in a magazine, you may well not have existed.”

He also spoke of the nü metal genre, which many accused the band of wading into on “The Burning Red“:

“You know what’s funny is I never even heard that term—nü metal—when we started. Like that term didn’t exist. So when we were starting out, we were taking elements of Biohazard and bands like Poison Idea and stuff like Neurosis and stuff… And you know the thrash stuff that we grew up [on] here in the Bay Area and a lot of hip hop. And combining it into… And even like Alice In Chains and Ministry, it was a lot of shit. And it should have never worked. But it somehow did.

But there was a big rap influence. But back then there was no name for it. We just kinda thought it was hardcore. In a lot of ways I think that we kinda used to be almost a hardcore band. Because that was the vibe.

And then I want to say somewhere around ’97, I started hearing that term nü metal. And then suddenly we were nü metal. And then we were the godfathers of nü metal. It was like ‘you’re the godfathers of nü metal.’ And I was like ‘OK, cool…” and then all of a sudden nü metal was lame and then it’s like “ugh, you’re fucking nü metal.” And it was like what? I don’t even know any of this shit. We’re just metal, that’s all I consider us. I’ve never considered us anything other than that. With a lot of influences.”

The conversation then led to the band’s forthcoming new album “Catharsis” (out January 26th) and how nü metal has indeed resurfaced in the band’s music:

“In a lot of ways, there’s some nü metal on the new record. There’s some straight up nü metal, there’s a straight up song where I’m just straight up rapping. And it’s heavy as fuck and it’s cool. And I know some people are gonna be bent about it. And I know some people are gonna be stoked about it. And we just rolled with it.

It happened really spontaneously, written in like fucking two days. And it’s a heavy, dark fucked up song. It’s really cool, it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record.”

During the discussion Flynn also revealed that he is working on a podcast titled ‘No Fucking Regrets‘, and has thus far already interviewed Lars Frederiksen of Rancid and members of Sworn Enemy (whom he recently produced their new album). He envisions the podcast as also eventually incorporating life on the road and more.

You can hear the whole episode over at Buzzsprout.com.

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