INTERVIEW: Machine Head’s Robb Flynn

The Blackening was an unstoppable juggernaut of metal power for Machine Head. Conceived in 2005 and released in 2007, it kept the band on the road for quite literally years. But all good things must come to an end. And so finally, in the year of our lord 2011, Machine Head present Unto The Locust. Produced by Robb Flynn at Green Day’s Jingletown Studios, it’s a surprisingly diverse album which tempers its thrash edge with classical influences, wild mood swings, laser-focused precision, blunt-force-trauma riffage and some of Flynn’s best ever vocal performances. It may be hard to ever forget The Blackening and the way it captured the charred hearts of both modern and old-school metal fans in equal measure, but Unto The Locust its own animal and it makes neither concessions nor apologies for its history-making predecessor. It simply gets on with it in its own kickass way.

So I guess the question everyone wants to know the answer to is, did you have The Blackening‘s success in mind when you started working on this one, or did you try to ignore it? 

We definitely didn’t have The Blackening in mind at all. We lived that moment for so long. It was an amazing moment, but when it was done, we were really excited to start writing again. You’ve got to remember, when we started writing The Blackening, it was August of 2005. And we started writing for this record in June of 2010, so five years had passed. We were ready to write, and we were ready to create a new moment.

It was almost like that album wouldn’t let itself die, y’know? It just kept going and going.

Yeah! It was amazing. It was an incredible moment. The Slipknot tours, Metallica tours, Grammy nominations. It was an endless stream of good news! It was really amazing, but it just went on for a while. We were lucky enough to finish the tour in Australia. That was the last dates of the whole album cycle. The last show we played in Sydney. It was killer, a great way to end it, and we totally went triumphant into the writing sessions. We were really charged up.

I really dig the classical guitar influence on the new album. I understand you actually took classical lessons?

I did. I actually took classical guitar in high school. It was an elective I had to take and I mainly just smoked a lot of weed and played Black Sabbath songs. Haha. I got a C minus, which isn’t a very good grade. It’s below average. I guess I showed that teacher, huh? Haha. But it really got my mind into that mindset of playing it, and once I really started playing I always leaned towards classical players. Like, I always liked Richie Blackmore, and Randy Rhoads in particular was a massive influence. Randy Rhoads on the first two Ozzy albums brought a lot of classical vibes and that was a huge influence. So between that and Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, those were pretty much my main masters.

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INTERVIEW: Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher

Mastodon’s Crack The Skye is a hard album to top. Heavy, progressive, psychedelic, multilayered, complex – any concept album that knits together such disparate elements as Rasputin and astral travel has gotta be followed up by something pretty big. Just like Crack The Skye, The Hunter finds Mastodon doing what they do best – combining lyrical and musical creativity – yet the approach is different, the songs are shorter, the themes less interwoven and the results more eclectic. The Hunter is a crucial album for the band. After the strength and influence of Crack The Skye, The Hunter has to prove it wasn’t a fluke – it just has to. Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds are one of the most interesting and creative duos in modern metal, and I spoke with Kelliher a week before the album’s release. But first we have even more important matters to discuss, about a shared interest… 

(Oh, and, uh, language alert.)

Before we get into talking abut the album, there’s something I wanted to ask you because we both have this in common: what do you think about the new Star Wars Blu-ray and all the changes they’ve made?

Y’know, I’m a fuckin’ Star Wars fanatic. I’ve got all the tattoos, all the toys… It’s like Beyond Thunderdome with the fuckin’ toy collection. I didn’t really know what was going on with the Blu-rays until I paid attention. I don’t really watch too much TV. And I turned the TV on and saw a commercial for it. My buddy had just told me about the spoiler – Darth Vader saying ‘Noooooo!’ as he’s throwing the emperor off the fuckin’ thing, and he was like ‘Fuck all that, it’s a bunch of bullshit. Can’t they just leave it alone? But I’m gonna buy it anyway.’ And after I saw the fuckin’ commercials, the advertising for it on television, I was like, ‘Man, it looks so awesome!’ I’m not gonna lie, I was completely sucked in by George Lucas once again. Just the little scenes that they showed on television, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to watch the whole thing.’ I’ve already seen the movies like fifty trillion times. I’ve got them on every format – Beta, VHS, LaserDisk – you name it. I’ve got every version. And it’s a shame that they had to fuck with the originals. They should have a Blu-ray of just the original movies separately if you want to watch those. Don’t fuck with it, man. Don’t put fuckin’ Hayden Christensen in where Darth Vader’s ghost was at the end of Jedi! What the fuck is that? Everybody aged except for him? What the fuck does that mean? Why? That’s just a sell-out. It makes me mad! I can go off on that shit. I was like, ‘What is that, a Walmart fuckin’ special?’ Maybe they should have done a young Yoda. Maybe Phyllis Diller or somebody could have done that. I don’t know. It’s ridiculous!

But the thing is, when people always ask me, ‘What do you think of the new movies,’ well, they’re fuckin’ horrible, but then again I’m not an 8-year-old boy any more. And when I was an 8-year-old boy – my kids are young, my son’s name is Harrison, for god’s sake – my other son’s name is Cohen, so I’m a little nerdy with the sci fi stuff. But the thing about Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, they’re still cool to me when I’m 40 years old. The new movies to me, they’re horrible. The fuckin’ fart scenes, where one of the creates farts, the whole Jar Jar thing, it’s fuckin’ retarded. But my kids, they think it’s awesome. They’re like, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing ever.’ And when they watch Star Wars they think it’s kind of boring. They know the characters and they’re interested, but movies have changed so much since when we were kids. I tried to watch that movie Transformers when it came out a couple of years ago, on a small television on our tour bus, and I could not even watch it, because a) there’s way too much shit going on, because kids these days need to see like 50 bazillion laser beams and explosions happening on a TV screen at once rather than an actual story, and, like, feelings and script going on. It’s just all about the action and something happening on the screen. And I couldn’t watch it. I was like, ‘I’ve got to turn this off. This is shit.’ Everything’s in focus, everything’s CGI, it doesn’t look real, I just can’t stand it. So who am I to say anything about movies these days? Let them release it. I don’t have a Blu-ray player but I’ll probably buy one just so I can watch the movies again and boo at the parts they redid.

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Neutrino discovery could prove existence of Yngwie Malmsteen

The interwebz is buzzing today with news that CERN may – may – have detected neutrinos travelling at 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. There’s still a lot of testing to be done to verify if this is a real result or if there was some kind of measurement error, but if true it has huge implications for the guitar world. Simply put, it would prove the existence of Yngwie Malmsteen, who to date has only been theorised as being a real three-dimensional object and not some kind of quantum hologram distorted via gravitational lensing and reflected off swamp gas.

I’m judging Rockstar Bowling Demon Rock Off guitar competition

Now this is going to be fun. What could possibly be more awesome than duking it out in a guitar battle royale where you must ultimately face the horned one him/her/itself, while being judged by an esteemed panel of respected guitar experts, and also me?

1ST ANNUAL DEMON ROCK OFF GUITAR COMPETITION

Celebrating ROCKTOBER, Rockstar Bowling proudly announces the first annual DEMON ROCK OFF GUITAR COMPETITION, to be held Sunday 16 October at 4pm at the venue’s Rock Bar.

Turning the volume up to “11” and inviting all amateur guitarists to showcase their signature “facemelting”, contestants will battle each other in a series of judged elimination rounds with two finalists selected for a soul-saving face off with the Devil himself. The Grand Prize winner will receive:

• A Gibson Epiphone Guitar
• $500 voucher to Gallins Musician’s Pro Shop
• Professionally Recorded Demo CD and Video
• Feature Showcase Gig at Rockstar Bowling Rock Bar
• Music Press Coverage Annoucements
• An Eternity of Free Bowling

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