Intervju med Dave McClain i Machine Head!
Först var det intervju bokad med Phil Demmel, men diverse strul ledde till att den föll bort och sitället blev det Dave McClain som fick frågas ut några dagar senare.
Dock höll även denna intervju på att gå om intet då Holly från Roadrunner ringer upp kl 18.00 och frågar om jag är redo. I mitt trötta tillstånd hade jag blandat ihop USA-tid med svensk tid och fick be henne ringa upp om en minut så jag skulle hinna rigga inspelningsutrustningen.
Det blev ett kortare samtal om bl a nya plattan, överblivna låtar, omslaget och kommande setlist.
Dave McClain: Hey man, how you doin´?
I´m good! How are you?
DM: I´m doing great!
Where you calling from? Oakland?
DM: Yeah, back home. I live in… yeah basically it´s Oakland. I live in Alameda. It´s like an island right next to Oakland.
The whole locust thing, where did that came from?
DM: Phil had these lyrics and when we first started writing… he brought some lyrics and the song was called “Locust” and I thought it sounded really cool. It didn´t mean anything to me at the time, but I just thought it sounded cool and then I started reading the lyrics and it´s a metaphor basically for a person, an actual person, the type I´m sure everyone´s experienced. This person just kind of floats into your life and destroys things for you and then is out of your life and just leaves you to pick up the pieces. It´s a metaphor for a person because that´s what… when locusts are swarming they´re not really flying, they´re just going with the wind and wherever they land is just like complete devastation and then there off to the next place. That´s what it is! A metaphor for a person that does that.
Locust is in the title of the album and you have this song, was that one of the first songs you guys were working on?
DM: No, it was probably in the middle or towards the end. The first song that we worked on was “This is the end”, so it was probably the fourth or fifth song we were working on.
How many songs were recorded? You’ve got seven songs and about 50 minutes of playing time and I know you recorded cover versions of a Rush song and a Judas Priest one, but was there anymore original Machine Head material recorded that didn´t make the album?
DM: Yeah, we had a couple of songs. There was one that I wrote the music for. We were working on it and Robb was working on it for a long time, lyrically and melodically and just trying to get a melody he was happy with. I wrote it to be a bit more of a mellow thing and I gave it to him and told him I wanted it to be kind of like “Changes” by Black Sabbath. We kind of took it into this… there was a piano at the end and he started working on it and had this guy do some piano stuff and then he also put like these kind of little orchestra pieces on there, like cellos and violins and stuff, but Robb just never got to the point… By the time we got to the studio, we were so swamped with doing stuff that he never got to the point where he was happy with it. Maybe it will surface somewhere… Then there was this other song that we had. Me and Robb wrote it and it was kind of the same thing, it just never really took shape. It´s a good song. A lot of the time, Robb tries a hundred different things with melodies and stuff, but it´s not just up to par with the rest of the stuff. We´ll leave it on the backburner for now and maybe somewhere it will come out.
Usually when you guys work on a new album, do you ever go back and pick stuff that wasn´t finished from the last album or do you always start from a clean slate?
DM: We always start off with a clean slate. Once we´re in the writing process we´ll kind of remember riffs more, like on my laptop I´ve got from the time we started writing “Through the ashes of empires”, probably literally 150-200 riffs on there that never were used. We´ll go back sometimes and I always listen to stuff and I´ll go back and listen to some of my old riffs and see if there´s anything that could do something for us now that it didn´t back then or if it fits something that we´re doing , so we´ll bring the stuff back, but we usually always start with a clean slate. I think there was something… I´m trying to think here… something that was left unfinished from “Through the ashes of empire”. There was a riff and I was in the practice room one day and in the storage there was a tape from… it was one of Robb´s riff tapes and I found this riff that was like “Dude, this riff is amazing!”. I think it might have been left unfinished, but there are things that kind of resurfaces.
Cool! The reason for you settling for seven songs and about 50 minutes of playing time, was that because of… usually these days with the cd, people try to cram in a lot of music and there´s music for like 78 minutes worth and it usually gets boring and songs that really wouldn´t have made it get in there as well, was that the reason for it? To keep it short and keep the listener more interested?
DM: Yeah, I mean, sure! When we did “The blackening” there were eight songs that we felt… you know, there are always songs that you´re doing on every record we´ve ever done before that and we´re like “Well, this song is kind of a lame(?)!” and it´s this and that and the record company really want 10 or 11 songs and for “The blackening” we were like “These are the eight that we love! This is it! This is a solid record!” and it´s the same with this one. These seven songs we felt were super solid and it´s like 53 minutes of music. All the records we were looking at, like doing “Witch hunt” by Rush… we looked at like “Moving pictures” by Rush and there´s six songs, I think and you look at “Reign in blood” and that album is like 32 minutes long! It goes by fast and the songs are really short, but they´re such good songs, that it doesn´t seem like there two, three or four minute songs. We didn´t wanna put more on, like the two that we had, we don´t wanna clutter it out just because maybe the record company wants more songs. I guess it looks better buying the record, but to us it´s more about quality.
Machine Head, being what you are today and you´ve had tremendous success over the years, is there any kind of pressure from the record company these days? Do they even look for a metal band to come up with something they would call a single or anything like that? Any pressure recording today?
DM: No, I mean, not with us. The type of deal that we have with them, we know that we´re not gonna be this radio band. There was a time in our career when Roadrunner was wanting to take stuff to the radio, but it´s not gonna happen now. The cool thing was when we were doing this record, they were saying that “If we hear anything that we think could work on the radio, we´d love to take it!”. I think that´s cool! It´s not forced and it was cool to hear, but it wasn´t anything that made us write anything different for the radio. That’s a bad thing about… having that aspect in your mindset, if you do something for radio and it fails, it´s like putting all your eggs in one basket as far as that goes. I think a lot of the times with radio, radio bands have like one song on the radio and next time nothing and you´re getting fans just for that one song. The way we look at it, we would rather build our following by being a great live band and touring and really work hard to make more lifelong fans.
The artwork, how did that come about? Did you put a lot of work into creating it and did you come up with ideas and then gave it to an artist or did you go “Do whatever you want as long as there´s a locust on it!”?
DM: (laughs) No, we were definitely involved in all the creative parts and for this record we kind of started our own research and the record company will show some people to us and we started looking around and googling art stuff and looking for people. This guy who did the cover, Robb found some of his stuff and this guy lives in the UK and does a lot of CGI stuff and he just had this coold style of art. We told him the idea for the album and about the locust and kind of telling him the whole metaphor for a person and he did this locust with like human parts coming out. So for that and the videos, we always get together and talk about what sort of concept we want for a video.
It´s kind of like the movie “The fly”. Kind of the same kind of vibe to it.
DM: Yeah! (laughs) Not anything that we thought of, but yeah.
I read an interview with Phil that he did in July with some paper out of Denver and he went through all the songs and “Darkness within” was in that interview called “Darkest of day”. Did that title change?
DM: No, it was always “Darkness within”.
Ok, must´ve been a misquote or something.
You´ve been playing the song “Locust” on tour now. What other songs are you planning on playing live? Are you still working out stuff?
DM: When we were playing on Mayhem, we had like 35 minutes to play, so we didn´t really have a whole lot of time. Once we get into these next few runs that we´re doing, we can really get into playing songs from the record. We´re really gonna try… we did a little bit of it on the last tour. Like when we did the tour with Metallica and that is that they would do… every night they would have certain parts of their setlist… it would be the same every night and they had interchangeable parts to where on every night they would play different songs and we definitely wanna do that! Try to work in all of the songs on the record at some point. I think songs like “I am hell” “Locust” and “darkness within” are gonna be like stables probably and from all the records really, we wanna try to work things in. It´s cool when a bands goes a little bit deeper into their albums and not just playing the same songs. Like if you ever see Rush, you know they´re gonna play “Tom Sawyer”, but when they get in they play like parts of “Hemispheres” or something.
“I am hell” would be a perfect opening number with the a capella thing and all!
DM: Yeah totally! (laughs). I think we´ve got our intro tape and our opening song for the whole run. (laughs)
One last thing, speaking of Metallica, do you think Machine Head could ever do something in the vein of what Metallica has just done with Lou Reed? Could you ever see Machine Head do something that different music wise?
DM: Man… yeah, I could definitely see us doing something. I don´t know about Lou Reed, I´ve never really gotten into him. I could see us doing something really different with somebody. I can´t think of someone on top of my head, but yeah, sure there´s some pretty different people out there. We could do something with Prince! (laughs)
That would be cool! (laughs) have you heard any of the Metallica/Lou Reed stuff?
DM: I haven´t!
Well, I´m looking forward to you coming here in November and you´ve got a ton of bands with you and I´ll be here in Stockholm banging my head. I saw you when you played here with Metallica.
DM: Which one, the first?
Yeah, the one where James didn´t get sick.
DM: Ok! (laughs)
Thank you so much for calling Dave!
DM: Alright man, thanks a lot!