DATE OF INTERVIEW:
23rd February 2010
Eighteen years in existence, Machine Head's popularity has surged massively since releasing what has transpired to become their most successful and popular album to date, 2007's 'The Blackening'. Still touring in 2010 on the back of that critically acclaimed, multiple award winning release, Metal Discovery's Siobhan Hogarty met up with the Californian metal legends' drummer, Dave McClain, one-time sticksman for Sacred Reich, before their show at the Academy in Glasgow towards the end of February...
METAL DISCOVERY: So hey, nice to meet you! First of all, how is the tour going so far?
DAVE McCLAIN: Tour is going awesome, it’s almost over now.
(Dave McClain on Machine Head's currently open-ended plans for the next album)
“Right now, the next album is a complete blank slate; we don’t know if it’s going to be a few more ten minute songs or like a bunch of two minute songs or four minute songs, so that’s the exciting thing.”
Dave McClain backstage at the Academy in Glasgow, 23rd February 2010
Interview by Siobhan Hogarty
MACHINE HEAD DISCOGRAPHY
Burn My Eyes (1994)
Official Machine Head Website:
Official Machine Head MySpace:
The More Things Change... (1997)
The Burning Red (1999)
Through the Ashes of Empires (2003)
The Blackening (2007)
Thanks to Michelle Kerr at Roadrunner Records for offering, and arranging, the interview
MD: Glad about that fact?
DM: No, I’m not actually! I always kind of get an end of tour depression, especially now as it’s the end of the whole of ‘The Blackening’ tour cycle, so it’s weird.
MD: Why was it you decided to stop touring for ‘The Blackening’ after this long? As it has been about 3 years.
DM: Yeah it’s been over 3 years; we have to get in and write a new album. We keep getting offered more dates and more dates but we have to put an end to it at some point and we need to get in and start writing new music.
MD: Ah, I saw that you had added the UK dates to the tour and then extra European dates had got added to it as well, and it just seemed like it was going to continue.
DM: Yeah, that’s how the whole tour cycle has been, it just keeps going and going, but finally we all agreed we need to stop and put an end to it so we can start writing new music.
MD: Considering the new material, I know during the writing and recording process of ‘The Blackening’, you especially were really influenced by the band Rush, so I was just wondering if there are any bands you think will be an influence on the new record?
DM: Hard to say, we just…I don’t know. Right now, the next album is a complete blank slate; we don’t know if it’s going to be a few more ten minute songs or like a bunch of two minute songs or four minute songs, so that’s the exciting thing.
MD: So it’s not like you have anything predetermined so it’s all completely new for when you head into the studios…
DM: Yeah, we all have a few riffs in our heads and things, but we haven’t tried to put anything together; it’s scary and exciting all at the same time.
MD: From ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’ to ‘The Blackening’ there was an obvious difference in the song styles as well as song length, people quite often use the term ‘epic’ to describe it due to the length of songs and the powerful style in which they were played as well.
DM: Yeah, I mean on ‘Through The Ashes…’ we had a couple of songs that were longer, you know 7 minutes, 8 minutes kind of thing, I think we just kind of took that further. Writing ‘Imperium’ for us was this huge breakthrough; ‘Imperium’ became our new ‘Davidian’, with it being kind of long and kind of epic. When we were writing on ‘The Blackening’ we didn’t mean to start writing really long songs, it just went there. Since ‘Through The Ashes…’ there’s been this total musical freedom going on and just whenever the song was done it was done - if it was short cool, if it was long, cool!
MD: With ‘Clenching…’ I think the song length really helps as the earlier parts of the song to build up to the heavier parts dropping in and I think the crowd really enjoys that, as well as the classics like ‘Imperium’ for just getting the crowd crazy. The longer songs work really well live and I think some people were really apprehensive about that at first. I saw you guys play in Glasgow in 2007 when you first played the new ‘Blackening’ material and I think people were really surprised by just how well it came across in a live setting.
DM: I think hearing the idea of a 10 minute song to people might be like “oh boy” because there’s a lot of 10 minute songs out there which are just one or two parts; they are just jamming on and taking forever. I think you can make a long song if you just have a lot of different parts going on and not just ‘intro, verse, chorus’. I think there’s also songs which are 3 and 4 minutes long but they sound longer because there’s so much interesting stuff going on in it.
MD: Recently, Metal Hammer classed ‘The Blackening’ as one of their top 10 metal albums of the decade. I’m not sure if you saw that, if you did, what did you think?
DM: Oh yeah, we saw that! We thought that was awesome, I mean that’s amazing for anybody to think that and everything that’s happened to us, from that to Kerrang Awards and being nominated for a Grammy, it’s not something you think will happen when you are writing an album. If we had said we hoped we would get nominated for a Grammy for this, we would have laughed. All that stuff is amazing and, at the same time, you can’t really buy into it completely as we’re just still trying to soak it all in.
MD: The reaction to ‘The Blackening’ has been pretty insane since it was initially released and that hasn’t really died down since then; it is continually hyped up as one of the best metal albums around.
DM: Yeah, so that’s another scary thing for going in to record a new album.
MD: I think everyone has that, regardless of how well their previous album has done, but with yours being so highly renowned it must be more difficult. But yeah, you guys have toured with pretty high profile bands like Metallica, is there anyone you would personally like to tour with?
DM: Touring I’m not sure about, but I’d love to play a festival with KISS and Judas Priest. Of all the festivals we’ve ever done we’ve never played a show with KISS and for me they were the band that got me into music. It would be cool just to play with them.
MD: Would you ever consider doing a stage show similar to that of KISS? Or are you just happy with keeping it simple and not over the top pyro style?
DM: Doing a KISS style show? That would be fucking awesome! We actually kind of did it a little bit when we played at Wacken this past summer because we had lots of pyro and video screens. I’d love to do a full tour where we had pyro and explosions and drum risers that go 25ft in the air. I’ve thought about a drum riser before but you can’t have it go up and do a flip anymore because Joey from Slipknot does that. I could have my drum tech attach a grill to my drum riser because he’s a big BBQ guy so that would be good for outdoor shows.
MD: That would be interesting, you should definitely consider it. But yeah, back to the serious stuff! How do you feel about playing the older material before you take the break for recording opposed to playing a lot of ‘The Blackening’ material? I know before you played ‘Burn My Eyes’ in its entirety to switch things up a bit.
DM: Well, ‘Through The Ashes…’ kind of put the band back on the map again, so when we were in Manchester on the ‘Through The Ashes…’ tour it was the tenth anniversary of ‘Burn My Eyes’. We did it in the middle of the set, so we had started off playing stuff like ‘Imperium’ and everyone was going nuts and singing along, then once we announced we were going to play ‘Burn My Eyes’, as in the whole record, people knew ‘Davidian’ and ‘Old’, but some of the songs in between they didn’t know. They knew more stuff from ‘Through The Ashes…’ and that was when we realised that all that stuff was behind us and that we had a new generation of Machine Head fans and it’s like that now; people at our shows now know more of the material from ‘The Blackening’ opposed to our first two albums.
MD: I have been waiting on material from ‘Supercharger’ since it was realised and every time I see you guys I just set myself to realise that I’ll never hear it all!
DM: See, that’s cool! You always have your critically acclaimed stuff and then there’s material which is looked at as not your best, and people look at ‘Supercharger as the last one’. We still play stuff like ‘Bulldozer’ from that, but it’s stuff that in hindsight people look back and realise that there was some good material on there. It’s good, we love to see people singing along to stuff from ‘Burn My Eyes’ and ‘The More Things Change’ but when people are getting into stuff from ‘The Burning Red’ and ‘Supercharger’, it’s cool because they are the reason we are playing this headline tour for them, for people who came to see us support Metallica and Slipknot and just had to see us play 45 minute sets of all the hits.
MD: Well, yeah I’ll get you get on with your night and not take up anymore of your time; thank you very much for speaking to us!
Photograph copyright © 2010 Siobhan Hogarty - www.metal-discovery.com