Machine Head’s Robb Flynn talks Beatles, Bay Area thrash scene and reveals some surprising fan favourites
The first song I remember... I Want To Hold Your Hand - The Beatles
“When I was growing up my parents listened to The Beatles and old R&B and soul, so there was a lot of Earth, Wind & Fire, Commodores... they would listen to what they called ‘the nice Beatles’ like I Want To Hold Your Hand. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the hippy Beatles, because that was ‘the bad Beatles’. There was a friend of mine who had Sgt Pepper’s, I went over and I remember being like, ‘What the fuck is this shit?’ It was so weird and cool and whacked out, it was really intriguing.”
The song that made me want to play… Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
“I was always pretty musical. I always wanted to be on stage, and in school plays I wanted to be the main dude. I was really socially awkward and I literally couldn’t talk to people, but I could go on stage and be fine. Sabbath came along, which made me want to play music and then my buddy Jim Pittman turned me onto the early thrash stuff that was coming out of our backyard.
“At that point Jim was like, ‘We need a guitar player... play guitar!’ so I said, ‘Okay, we need a singer... you’re the singer’ [Jim and Robb would end up playing in Forbidden Evil together]. I was so introverted I never would have said, ‘Let me be the singer,’ he saw something in me that I would never have seen by myself.”
The first song I played live… Black Magic - Slayer
“We started emulating our heroes and going to famous thrash places like Ruthie’s Inn and On Broadway, then we’d come home and play these thrash songs and we started our own scene 50 miles from the Bay Area. We would host backyard parties and be playing Black Magic by Slayer and A Lesson In Violence by Exodus as well as our own songs.”
The most difficult song to learn… Whiplash - Metallica
“I remember Whiplash took a really long time for us to master; we worked on that for a while. For us the picking on that song was the fastest thing we’d ever heard. Compared to that (as well as Accept’s Fast As A Shark), Discharge and those punk bands were pretty easy. We also played a song by a British band called Holocaust who had this song that went: ‘Get so bored, going nowhere’ [Death Or Glory].”
The song that’s most requested by fans… Deafening Silence - Machine Head
“So many people request Deafening Silence. I probably need to ask Ahrue [Luster, former Machine Head guitarist] how to play it because I can’t remember how. I started trying to figure out the harmonics in the opening verse but I cannot fucking remember how to play this song, but we will bring it back for sure.”
The song with the most surprising crowd reaction… Crashing Around You - Machine Head
“We play Bulldozer and Crashing Around You from Supercharger live and people lose their minds. When we started doing An Evening With Machine Head shows and were playing two and a half to three hours a night we added these songs that we hadn’t played for years and people started going fucking nuts. We were like, ‘Holy shit, I thought everybody hated this song!’. So much time has passed they’re now classic Head songs.”
The song we never intended to write… Halo - Machine Head
“There’s this perception that music is written by people saying, ‘I’m going to write like this.’ It’s definitely not like that for us. The Blackening is a perfect example, the first four songs we wrote for the record were the shortest.
“For five months, there was no indication that we would have 10-minute songs and then we ended up writing Halo, A Farewell To Arms, Wolves and Clenching The Fists Of Dissent. You never know what you’re going to do or where you’re going to go and that’s part of the journey, the struggle and excitement of creating a record.
“Maybe Robert Plant and Jimmy Page sat down in front of a fire and Stairway To Heaven flowed out of them in an hour but there’s no fucking way that happened.”
Machine Head’s Catharsis is out now on Nuclear Blast. The band tour the UK in May.