In celebration of the 10 year anniversary of through The Ashes of Empires (yes, it's been 10 years!), I have been telling a multi-part General Journals of the story of the record. If you’re on our Facebook page, just scroll down, or go to MachineHead1.com and check out the first 4 parts. I know I said that Part 5 would be the last part, but dammit, there's gonna have be one more early next week where I'll share some more rarities from the vault!
In early August of 2003 I boarded a plane for London Heathrow to start the mixing our fifth album with Colin Richardson. Colin was already set up at The Chapel recording studios in the remote village of Lincolnshire (population 60!!) The plan was for me to land at typically-rainy-London Heathrow Airport and take a cab (that Roadrunner UK had arranged) the remaining 4 hour drive out to the studio. When I landed, to my absolute shock the typically-rainy-London wasn't typically-rainy or overcast at all. Instead, it was un-typically-sunny and 95 degrees! Shit, it was hotter than California! All of Europe was going thru some nutty heat wave and man I was fuckin' STOKED!!
It was a good sign.
So sunny and hot or not, I still had a 4 hour drive ahead of me. I arrived at The Chapel where I'd be living for the next few weeks. Now, The Chapel is literally in the middle of nowhere and as much as Colin had prepared me for this, it was still a bit of a (in Keanu Reeves voice) “hwhoa!”. But what he didn’t prep me for was…it was beautiful. The English countryside, open fields, slow-running brooks, rabbits; it was like being in a goddamn Led Zeppelin song! Thankfully, per English-tradition, even a little po-dunk village like Lincolnshire with a population of 60 needs to have a pub every half mile. We headed down to get some beers and watched some local cover bands jam the English hits of the 60's and 70's.
For the first few days the engineers had a lot of setting up to do. Now, because the crazy heat wave, the weather was getting up in the 100's so Colin and I went on long walks. He and I talked about life and work and everything under the sun. We’d kick around a soccer ball and then go and pick up fresh eggs from the local farms. Colin is awesome. I fuckin love that dude. It was a much needed change of pace and shook off some of the depression I was sinking into. The nearest grocery store was a 10 mile drive, so about once a week we’d go into town and stock up food and vodka.
There was mind-numbingly slow dial-up internet, but the head groundskeeper was cool enough to let me jump on his laptop when I needed. There was also cable TV and Kerrang! TV was playing the shit out of a new band called Muse whose latest record, "Absolution" had just come out and was starting to hit. I fell in love with the song "Time Is Running Out," and would soon come to worship this album and this band.
Amazingly, several of the songs were still un-titled at this point, including "Vim" (called "Devil Beat") and "Imperium" (still called "Buh-Duh-Duh-Duh") even as we began mixing. The label was freaking out for titles, final lyrics, the thanks list, etc... Fuck, I needed to get a title for the song and fast; I mean it’s only the lead track off the album, right? So I took to the internet for inspiration and 2 days later, after stumbling upon an online thesaurus I looked up alternate words for "power" I fell upon the word "Imperium.” Hmmm..., Imperium = command; supreme power". I knew that was it so I ran it past Dave and BOOM!
The first song finished for mixing was "Bite The Bullet" and it sounded crushing! For "Left Unfinished," in my head I heard an intro that sounded like a music box you might hear in a baby crib or carriage. During the recording I had Mark Keaton transcribe the chorus melody (since I can't read or write music, shit, I can barely read tabs!) for the guitar and vocal. He and I found a company in China that if you supply the music they turn it into a real-deal music box. It was exactly what I was hearing in my head so we ordered. It arrived so close to the deadline I actually had the Asian fellow meet me at the airport and do the transaction! It was so drug-deal-like it was awesome! I still have a few, they were cool. For all the collectors out there Roadrunner made an additional 100 music boxes for promo. We set up mics and recorded while I spun the music box handle, and soon "Left Unfinished" was mixed.
Colin had just finished mixing the first Bullet For My Valentine album, and after-hours we'd drink vodka and play the first 3 songs a lot, but I didn't like the rest of the album, too poppy. Apparently they A/B’d their mixes to "The More Things Change" constantly. They should probably start doing that again!
Nevertheless things were running smoothly and Kerrang! asked for a new song we could put out on a CD sampler. It was decided that "Imperium" should be the track and the only reason this is of note (collectors) is that it wasn't the final mix. It also didn't have the clincher last line "and we won't lose!" In its place was one of my Tom G. Warrior death-grunts, "UGH!" In fact that line wouldn't be added until I went to Andy Sneap's old studio to do a test mastering with him and I decided try out the phrase "and I won't lose." Ultimately settling on the final version, the one you’ve been listening to for 10 years, "and we won't lose."
**Collectors, if you find the Kerrang! version, please send it me in hi rez!!! It's one of the few MH items I do not have!!**
Kerrang! Magazine had begun an Awards show in London and Roadrunner thought it would be good if I went. I was ambivalent. They had been shredding us pretty brutally lately and the last face to face interview they did with me was quite hostile. I was so ready to tell them to "fuck off" but my ever-awesome press girl and voice of reason, Michele Kerr calmed me down. She said it be fun, "we'll get hammered!" I said "OK." Such a pushover!
Maybe it was in my head but when I arrived at the awards show it felt like walking into the lion’s den. Something about just seemed all hoity toity and fancy schmancy, that I felt not welcome. It totally felt like I was not a part of this world. These didn’t feel like “my people.” The RR US thing had sapped me of some of my confidence. So as I got ready to go, in my hotel I had to give myself a stern talking-to in the mirror. I looked at myself and said "dude, go out there and fucking rule this shit!" "LION HEART MOTHERFUCKER!" Stop being such a pussy!! You're Robb Fuckin' Flynn, go out there and walk the god damn walk!!!"
I threw on my cut off camo shorts, metal shirt, and a backwards trucker hat and said "fuck these hoity toity motherfuckers!"
I got there, and the first music-bizness-cock-face I saw, walked up to me and said:
"Hey Robb, it's nice to meet you, shame your band never made it..."
Me: "FUCK YOU!"
I walked right up to the journalist who had shredded me, got 6 inches from his face and said "oh hey, what's up dude?" He practically stumbled over himself backing away. I took a shit in the bathroom, didn't flush it, didn't wash my hands, walked up to another journalist who had recently ripped us and shook his hand just to be an asshole.
Despite all this, I had a lot of friends there. Christian and Laz from Ill Nino hung with me all night. Nick Barker from Cradle/Dimmu got hammered with the singer for The Used (who I'd just met) and also a bunch of the Funeral for a Friend guys. I rapped with Lars for a few minutes too, which I'd never really done before, and was very cool.
I'd brought along a CD of the latest mixes and a CD Walkman and headphones. I basically cornered as many people as I could with one request, "motherfucker, check this new shit out!!" I got about 20 people to listen, all-in-all including one of the coolest Kerrang! journos and future-Kerrang-editor, Paul Brannigan. Most people I played it for were pretty into it, either that or just telling this drunken madman they approved so he'd leave them alone. When the evening was over I felt good. Sure even after a great night I still didn’t feel like I “belonged,” but I knew the next time I went to one of these things I’d fucking own the place! The next night we had a playback session in London at the Intrepid Fox and fans seemed really into it.
I went back to Lincolnshire to finish mixing and after a week I started getting cabin-fever. Being out in the middle of nowhere, away from home, I started to second guess the mixes. In fact, truth is I lost it a little. I had a meltdown, then realized I was trippin out and that I had to trust Colin. I’d find myself saying “He knows what he's doing” in my head. It would actually be the last time I ever attended a mix. I can't be there. I need to hear things as a whole. I learned I'm a big-picture-guy. The hyper-focused-attention-to-detail that’s needed for mixing? Nope, I can't do it. My brain just doesn't work like that. Colin is the king when it comes to mixing.
With mixing complete I went straight into a press tour and the excitement on both ends was high. They wanted to hear it and I wanted to play it for them. People were saying it's the best thing we'd done and as soon as the European press got their advance copies, the album leaked. DOH! Now, I ain't saying that a journalist leaked it, but a journalist leaked it!! Yep, 2 months before the album hit, it was on every torrent site on the face of the earth. But unlike what we'd been told by the record company it didn't hurt a damn thing, in fact it got our fanbase really fucking stoked! And because our American fans knew there was no imminent release date, they were even more stoked!
As soon as I got back from the press tour we started rehearsing for our upcoming tour which was set to start in Dublin, Ireland on Halloween night. Dave and Phil had practiced a few times while I'd been gone but honestly we were sounding rough. The record came out on Oct 28th and 3 days later we were playing the tunes to a bunch of crazed Dublinites with all of us dressed up for Halloween and hammered. It was magical! It was our first night of the ‘Through The Ashes of Europe’ tour and it sure didn’t feel like we were “done.” The sing-a-longs were insane, something was happening.
The album reviews had started to come in and were across the board stunning. Metal Hammer Germany gave the highest combined rating that had ever been awarded to a record!!! Rock Hard praised it, Metal Hammer UK praised it as a masterpiece. Even Kerrang! Australia scribe Dom Lawson gave it a staggering 5K review. But some of the UK press still wanted to "have a go at us," and in particular Kerrang! UK journalist Daniel Lukes, (the same douche who had reviewed the Ten Ton Hammer show), decided that this would be the album review to crush Machine Head into the dust. That this would be his big chance to make his mark in music history, he was going for it.
With a frankly admirable amount of belligerence and gusto, Lukes took the biggest shots he could swing at us and out and out attacked the band. Giving it a lowly 2K review and calling 'Through The Ashes Of Empires' (and I quote), "a directionless mess of an album,” “chock full of widdlesome solos and moments of musical 'complexity' that actually get in the way." He ended his pissy tirade declaring it, "the sonic equivalent of eating last night’s delivery pizza, reheated today."
When I read this, to say I "hit the fuckin’ roof" would be the understatement of the year.
My aforementioned press girl Michelle begged me not to do anything stupid. She told me amongst other things, "Kerrang! is sponsoring your UK dates!" But there was no going back. It was the final straw. After all we'd been through there was no taking this kind of fuckin bullshit from anyone, anymore. Not Kerrang!, not Revolver, no one. This motherfucker thinks he's gonna bury us, from behind a fucking computer?! NOT A CHANCE IN HELL!! We drafted up a press release and once-again took to the internet. Dave McClain said his review was "gutter journalism" and I simply added that Daniel Lukes could "SUCK OUR FUCKIN DICKS!"
It was "fuck everyone" from here on out.
Lukes "made history" all right...
The tour on the other hand went fucking ridiculous. People came out in droves, the shows sold out left and right and merch sales were almost shockingly great. As we knocked out gig after gig Machine Head, as a unit, hit a rare state of musicianship that we may not have ever had. All four of us were really clicking on stage, even Adam with his lengthy absence during the writing/recording process was totally locked in with the three of us. People were still not sure of Phil though and in Madrid, Spain a small group of jerks spit on him all night. All-fucking-night, so at the end of the show he jumped in and pummeled them! We followed suit, jumped in, pummeled more, and after that, the word spread. Yep, same ol' Machine Head and there were no more incidents. In Hamburg at the MarketHalle, Phil started jamming a riff at soundcheck that was pretty awesome. It would soon morph into a new song called "Seasons Wither."
And now that the record was a bonafide European success, all those labels that had passed on us in the U.S. suddenly came back around. These labels wanted to talk and they wanted to sign us. Of all the labels now calling us I’d say the most surprising was Roadrunner U.S. They approached us and said they'd like to release the record now...?
“You mean the record you just passed on?”
Truthfully, there was A LOT of genuine resentment towards Roadrunner at this point. That's the reason we wanted off the label in the first place. Then after the last round of demos and the back and forth bullshit...how could there not be? We debated and argued about it fiercely. Some folks felt it was a no-brainer to re-sign, some were dead set against it.
Since the time of my press release saying RR US had passed, we actually had more than a few other options. Both Nuclear Blast and Century Media were extremely hot to get the record and made it a priority to tell us so. As the tour winded down we set about narrowing our best choice.
Regardless of who released it though, the best case scenario for a U.S. release would not happen until at least April of 2004. That meant the record was going to be available on any torrent site for 8 months in between release dates. Anyone who wasn't into illegal downloading could buy it via import, and fuck, at that point how many people in the states would even want to buy something they’ve listened to for over half a year?
At the end of December of 2003 we returned home from Europe for the Holidays and to ponder our future…
Subscribe to The General Journals: Diary Of A Frontman... And Other Ramblings
For those of you just tuning in today, in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of our 5th album "Through The AshesOf Empires", I've written a multi-part story in my General Journals, today is Part 3 of the story. I've decided to do a Part 4 and 5 to "Through The Ashes Turns 10", because I realize there is more of the story that needs to be told, so most likely on Tues and Thursday of next week I'll throw them up.
Part 3 goes into the feud that happened between Kerry King and I back in 2002. For the record: I'm not re-telling this to start and/or dig up old shit. I love Kerry, he fuckin' rules! We hung out two nights ago when Slayer played in San Jose, we had a blast, got HAMMERED! But 10/11 years ago? Things were different, and in order to paint an accurate picture of where our heads were at for the writing of TTAOE, this part of the story has to be told. It played a role. Consciously or unconsciously it definitely played a role.
In 2002 Kerry King of Slayer and I got into a public war words over disrespectful comments he'd made about Machine Head. For over a year I had bit my tongue in hopes that he would lay off, and just give it a rest, but he didn't, and after a particularly brutal stab at us and me in particular, I went for the jugular. I fucking roasted him. Things got ugly in a hurry in public and behind the scenes it was even worse. The feud would last for 5 years until 2007, when at the Metal Hammer Awards in London it was squashed.
I hated every minute of it.
To have someone who had shaped your musical life so much, who took Machine Head on their 2nd and 3rd tours ever, who was a former friend and mentor to me, just ripping on you… it was tough. But after a while, you have to say "fuck this." It doesn't matter who it is, you have to stick up for yourself. I couldn't let the things being said go unanswered. It might've gotten truly ugly, but I think we both earned each other’s respect a little more in the long run. I respected him for calling us out publicly, when so many people in the music business just talk shit and plot behind people’s backs, he gave his opinion and what can I say? It stung. However once squashed I like to think he respected me for standing my ground and protecting what was mine. Maybe it was tough-love from Kerry King? Maybe, but one thing’s for sure, in some ways it fueled a lot of anger in me. Maybe it worked.
In and around this same timeframe Kerrang! Magazine had shredded us in a slew of articles and show reviews. The U.K. magazine was famous for building bands up just to tear them down. At this stage in Machine Head’s career, believe me they were in full-on tear down mode.
I had mentioned in an earlier journal about the U.S. press and how they essentially had blacklisted us. Coverage in any magazine was just about nil, nada, zilch. To this day we've only had 1 major cover story and that was back in '99 for the now defunct Metal Maniacs. American journalist we're asking me during interviews to "apologize to our fans for Supercharger."
Tours still did well and despite what the press has repeated over and over again, our fans stood by us. Sure, there was complaints from Head Cases, often times they said them respectfully to my face, or on the internet, but they stood by Machine Head, and the ticket sales for those tours (thankfully) proved it.
But regardless of all that, we had hit a wall in the music business. Sure we had just re-signed with Roadrunner in Europe but our future in the U.S. was terribly uncertain. Silently getting turned down by 35 U.S. labels... man... it was a lot of rejection. It weighed on me. I began to doubt myself.
Other bands were talking shit; ex-band members were talking shit (and still do).
We'd gotten a little merchandise advance, but we were living month to month and about to be broke again at any day.
It felt like the world wanted us to stop.
The vultures were circling.
I was 35 years old, and a very public failure. Machine Head had never gotten "over the hump" as they say in the “biz.” In many people’s eyes, we were over. We were simply just another band eaten alive and spit out dead by the music business. As the band leader, main songwriter / lyricist, that failure rested squarely on my shoulders. I felt every jab, insult and barb thrown our way and each had the tendency to draw blood.
These thoughts were swirling around in my head as I sat down to write the lyrics to "Imperium" (then-called "Buh-duh-duh-duh" after the snare drum pattern in the intro). "Fuckin' Kerry King. Fuckin' music business. Fuckin' Roadrunner. Fuckin' cocksucker journalists.
Apologize? Fuckin' APOLOGIZE!? Motherfucker, I ain't apologizing for SHIT!! Fuck you! Fuck everyone! Fuck the whole human race!"
As I sat in my car outside of Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, with the recently smashed-out window and the missing stereo, with the air conditioner blasting the suffocatingly hot summer heat away, I glared at the blank pages of my notebook. With pen in hand, I wrote down the words "HEAR ME NOW, WORDS I VOW, NO FUCKING REGRETS!" The words poured out of me! Just pure fucking venom, spit and rage. "Challenge the whole human race, MY SPIRIT YOU CANNOT BREAK!" “I'LL STAND HERE DEFIANTLY, MY MIDDLE FINGER RAISED, FUCK YOUR PREJUDICE!!!" - "Don't succumb to the doubts inside," "every rage, every tear.” It all came pouring out, “All my life, always I've felt alone!" “I will fight for those I love, and I will fight for those I care, I will fight at any time, I will fight ANYWHERE!"
Inside my head I was consumed with the thought, we may never get to make music again after this. This might be our last fucking chance. And if it is? We're going down fucking swinging! We're going down screaming "FUCK YOU" to the entire world at the top of our lungs.
I went in and sang them, and when I was done doing the last screech in the last line "my spirit you cannot breeeeeeeak," my engineer Mark Keaton just looked at me and said
Some of the words I originally wrote for "Imperium" ended in a song our drummer Dave had written, the song "Wipe The Tears." And with that, I’d like to take this chance to give props to Dave right now. Much has been made of Phil Demmel's contribution to Machine Head, and there's no doubt that Phil has brought nothing but good to Machine Head. I would never want anything to take that away. BUT, Dave McClain deserves A LOT of mention! Go ahead, check the writing credits. Dave borrowed my guitar (for like 8 fuckin' years!) and taught himself how to play. It worked out for the better. It’s one of the best things he’s ever done for the band.
Dave and I wrote the music for "Imperium." No one else. Dave wrote the chorus for "Descend," Dave wrote the main riffs in "Wipe," the opening riff and chorus to "Elegy," and the intro riff / chorus for "Vim." It was Dave who dug up the old ‘The More Things Change’ riff-tapes and unearthed my old "All Falls Down" riff and the "Days Turn Blue To Grey" main riff and showed em (back) to me. Both of these riffs were written in 1996 and since forgotten about. It was Dave who said let’s "borrow" the "Natural Science" bit in the middle of "Days."
And it was Dave who wrote the chorus riff in "Pins and Needles," and in a larger sense it was Dave who, after getting rejected by 35 labels said, “Fuck this song, fuck trying to write radio-shit for these stupid record labels.” He then added, "I just want to be a metal band!"
Those last words really resonated.
Most of "Ashes" was written in some form or another before Phil joined, Phil gave us the glue to believe we could pull it off again.
I know I've complained wildly about how shitty this song "Pins and Needles" is, and really, after just listening to it for the first time in 10 years, it's still just fucking awful!! One of the worst songs I've ever written when it comes to my vocals and vocal ideas, WHEW!!! I always thought the music was cool though and eventually used this as part of the 2005 "Roadrunner United" sessions. I had originally enlisted Brock from 36 Crazyfists to sing it and he didn't do too much better than me, so I fired him. I got Tim Williams from Vision Of Disorder to sing on it, and after rejecting his first couple attempts, he nailed one of the best vocals I've ever heard, he totally KILLED it! He crushed my version into the dust and allowed me to be able to listen to this song again. His version is called "Army Of The Sun".
I’d like to say Thank You to Dave McClain for saying "fuck this song" Why I'm putting this out I have no idea, I cringe listening to this, AGH! **barfs**. So here goes!
Without further adieu, here is the song that never made it on to "Through The Ashes…" ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Pins and Needles.". Happy Birthday TTAOE.
P.S. - The art on the YouTube clip is the original picture that was on the CD cover of the demo sent out to labels.
"Pins And Needles"
"Army Of The Sun"
In May of 2002 not long after we finished the 'Supercharging America' tour our-then-guitarist Ahrue Luster quit the band. It seems weird even talking about the Ahrue-era of the band as feels like a lifetime ago, probably because it WAS a lifetime ago! Literally thousands of bands have come and gone from that era he was with us (98-02). We get on fine now, so I don't have anything negative to say about him other than he was just really a bizarre choice to get in the band. However to his credit he did bring in a some cool songs ("Blood, Sweat and Tears," parts of "The Burning Red," parts of "Silver" and "Blank Generation"), but yeah, when he quit no one in the band was surprised, and most Head Cases just went "meh."
Once he was gone we decided to continue as a 3 piece and to write and record the next album that way. It was a good decision as we weren't interested in bringing in another person and truthfully we couldn't think of anyone off hand if we wanted to. We figured we'd cross that bridge when touring came up and guess what? We had some pending European festival dates coming up in June. Someone (possibly Adam or our manager Joseph) brought up getting my old Vio-Lence guitarist, drinking buddy and partner-in-crime Phil Demmel to fill in for the dates. Phil was recently back on our radar as Adam had filled in playing bass for Vio-Lence in the Summer of 2001. But Phil playing with us? At first I wasn't into the idea. After I'd quit Vio-Lence there was a long period where Phil and I didn't talk, things didn't end on a good note, and I blamed him for a lot of it.
On top of that, I had also taken a personal vow to never to mention Vio-Lence in interviews, advertisements, album covers, ANYTHING related to Machine Head. I wanted Machine Head to stand or fall on its own merits and I wouldn't use my previous band in any way to help sell or sink it. When Vio-Lence broke up, his next band Torque opened for Machine Head a few times, and later his next band Technocracy would open some shows too, but we didn't really hang out anymore. It wasn't until almost 8 years later than him and I had a real heart to heart (leaving an Oakland Raiders game) that we cleared the air, and after that we hung out a lot. Usually at football games or shows.
Once I was on board we decided to see what he'd say, so Adam reached out to him (via AOL AIM... anyone remember that? ) and Phil came back and said "yes." In fact he told us that it would be perfect as he had decided he was retiring from the music business. He'd been doing it for 10 years since Vio-Lence ended and he was frustrated. He had been married for a while, had a long-standing steady job and the band thing hadn't been working so what better way to end his music career than by jamming with one of his favorite bands? His choice was a good one, he'd be jamming with his old friends, touring the world for 2 weeks where he'd be playing over Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, headlining festivals to 20,000 people and then go and settle down.
It was perfect situation. We didn't want a band member and he didn't want to join a band and it was a simple agreement. Phil wheeled his stuff over from the Vio-Lence rehearsal room, (they'd recently re-united and had done a string of weekend shows, but were also getting ready to retire) and when we jammed together, it was just awesome! There was a chemistry. Something was different about the energy in the room. We all felt it.
And while I felt something, I didn't voice it, I didn't want to.
We went on tour and the first show was in Dublin, Ireland with Evile and Gama Bomb opening. The show was nutzo!!! About halfway thru the show I looked to my right and thought, "hey, I remember that guy!" There he was, stage right muggin' it up and smiling like a Cheshire cat every chance he got. The next show was a "secret” Ten Ton Hammer show in London at The Garage (or as the Brits say "the gair-ige") and hanging out on that small stage, jamming cover songs, annihilated on vodka, having onstage chug-a-lugs with hammered fans, and playing to a frankly insane group of Head Cases, there was something happening, something real, a connection.
And it wasn't ok to talk about it...
Because he was retiring...
And we didn't want someone in the band...
While we were at the London show, Mark Palmer and his team from Roadrunner UK came out. They supported the show, they arranged press, helped spread the word. Before the gig even began Mark pulled me aside and said "we'd still like to work with Machine Head, would you consider signing another deal with us?” The RR UK office had always kicked ass for us, but I said, "what about the American office, they'll be pissed", he said, "fuck them, they're idiots, they don't know what they're losing, we've always had a great relationship, think about it".
And think we did.
On a side note; A dickhead journalist for Kerrang! magazine would review the show, he did a quick chat with us before the show, and I knew he was gonna slam us, and we'd soon cross paths again later on.
We played Germany's With Full Force festival and the Roadrunner Germany office came out, arranged press, pulled me aside and said the same things as Mark, "the Americans don't know what they're losing, would you consider re-signing with us?" We debated it a lot. Some people were against it. But as we traveled back from Northern Finland on a dangerously rickety bus with plywood bunks, while Phil slept, the 3 of us talked in the back, and agreed. Maybe the best thing to do is continue a great relationship with Roadrunner in these territories and we could just look for an American-only deal once home. So that became the plan, get signed in America, release the record simultaneous overseas on Roadrunner Europe.
When the tour ended, we said our goodbyes to Phil. We were in the back lounge of the bus trying to make eye contact with the guy who brought in the magic chemistry we needed. It was the strangest goodbye we'd ever been a part of, "all right, well, thanks, and er, uh, happy retirement, it was uh... great...." He wished us well and we went our separate ways for what seemed like the last time.
We made a 4 song demo, we wrote a song that we thought could "get us signed in America." A horribly cheesy radio track called "Pins and Needles." We then made a cringe-worthy video (EPK) to sell our band to labels as our lawyer solicited us to every major label in existence. David Draiman courted us to sign to Disturbed's new label imprint thru Warner Bros., and McClain and I brought the CD demo to Draiman when they played in San Jose, CA. on the Music As A Weapon Tour.
I specifically remember this show not for this, but because my friend Mike Parker had burned me a copy of a new band called Lamb Of God, the CD was "As The Palaces Burn." As I picked up Dave to drive down to the show, I threw it in and when it got the song "11th Hour," Dave and my perspective jaws just hit the fucking floor. We both looked at each other and went "HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!", "PLAY THAT AGAIN!!!". That album floored us, it signaled a change in the guard. As we got to the show and watched all these also-ran radio acts opening for Disturbed, I knew right then and there I didn't want any part of that world.
It may not have happened immediately, but about 4 months later Lamb Of God's "11th Hour" would give some inspiration to the fast end section of "Imperium."
And so we waited to hear back from the labels. We waited and waited, and waited. Months went by with no word, nothing. Finally David Draiman did what was, I'm sure a difficult thing to do, and called me back and said, "they (Warner Bros.) are gonna pass on the record." I was pissed, but looking back, he was the only guy who manned-up and called me back. I'm sure it wasn't easy, and he deserves respect for doing it the right way.
In the music biz when people don't want to sign you, they just ignore you, it's like you don't exist. It silently says, "the door is closed," "you don't belong anymore." At the end of the day, Machine Head, with 4 albums, a consistent sales record, a large die-hard fan base would be passed on by 35 different American record labels.
No one wanted to sign Machine Head.
Sure there were smaller independent labels as well as bigger independent labels, but at the time labels like Century Media and Earache, while damn respectable labels, would have been a step down, and to us if it wasn't a step up, or even sideways...
Roadrunner UK told us we needed put the record out in October. We needed to hit the studio in July.
Which was great news, but we were still three piece. From time to time I'd run into Phil at shows or parties, he stumble up all hammered, put on that big ol' “aw-schucks” smile of his and be like, "so when are gonna jam again?" I'd be like, "Uh, I don't know Mr. “I-retired-from-the-music-business-and-aren't-making-music-anymore." We'd laugh, and then it'd happen again, and we'd laugh. Then one day he said "hey, I really want to do this, that tour was one of the best moments of my life, and well... look... my wife and I... we're getting divorced... it's not working out... I want to make music for a living... what do you think?"
It seemed inevitable. Sure, the previous 9 months had been some long drawn out tease, a bizarre courtship playing out. Of course I wanted him in the band. I had reservations about him re-adjusting to band life after being out of the game for so long, quite a few reservations about him now joining MY band where I'm the boss, as opposed me joining HIS band (ala Vio-Lence) but in the end, it was the right choice. We made a goddamned formidable guitar team, and had gotten along in the most grueling conditions on van tours in Vio-Lence, so we said "let's do it!"
We made Phil a full band member and announced him joining publicly in April 2003 on Nikki Black's Metal Zone show on (local station) 107.7 The Bone. Around the same time we signed with Roadrunner Europe and focused on writing the rest of the album. During those sessions several US labels threatened to sign us but for various reasons didn't work out When Phil joined a lot of the record was written already but he brought the main verse riff and intro for "In The Presence Of My Enemies" (aka- "Davidian Jr"), "Days Turn Blue To Grey" (aka-"Natural Science II", since we stole the middle section from the Rush song) and I think parts of "Vim." At this point "Imperium" and "Descend" were largely unfinished, only the verses and chorus of “Imperium” were written musically, with no intro and no second half explosion, it was largely forgettable. "Descend" in particular was a horrible 4 minute Deftones rip-off, but it had "that" chorus and "that" middle section and I knew it was something special.
But dammit, I was an island, shit I was a fucking sandbar in the middle of the ocean! As we got two weeks away from the recording date we were at practice that Phil wasn't at, Dave and Adam said they wanted to drop "Descend" from the album. I was like, "WHAT??!! guys this song is amazing, c'mon!?" They were united, "Nope it sucks." we argued for a bit and I said, "gimme 24 hours, I'll bring in a version of this that blows it away!" They said "uh, ooooo-k, pffft!" I had been listening to the first two Coldplay records a lot and had since written a bunch of acoustic stuff that I'd demoed but never showed the band cause I thought it was "too gay." But I dug into it, and the next day I brought in, essentially the version you hear on the album Everyone went "fuck, that's way better."
A few days later I got the flu, and not just any flu, but I'm talking some goddamn S.A.R.S Bird flu shit or something, I mean this thing took me down and I ended up being the sickest I've been in years! Alone while my wife was at work, feeling like dog shit, I picked up my acoustic guitar and started playing. I soon hit on the intro chords to "Imperium", I just wanted something simple before I added the next bit. Then I thought “maybe I can make a heavy version of that quiet part?” Hmmm... it works, what if this goes into that song that Dave wrote (the verses/ chorus of Imperium)? I sat there jamming it thinking, "fuck, this is pretty cool, hopefully it's not because I feel so shitty." I have no idea where the fast section at the end came from, I was inspired by "11th Hour" for sure, all I know is that somewhere at 418 42nd St. in Richmond, CA. some dude, who was sick as a fuckin' dog, finished what he thought, "might be a pretty cool song."
I walked into practice a couple days later and said, "I think I got the album opener." As soon as we were done playing it we all looked at each and went "FUCK YEAH!! Let's play that again!!"
In a bizarre twist, not soon after, Roadrunner US came back into the picture and our longtime A&R man Monte Conner reached out and said they “might want to resign the band.” "Huh?" I asked, "Ok what's the deal?" he said "We want to hear some new stuff, can you whip out a demo?" I explained we were going into record the record NEXT WEEK, so not really. Monte said "Well, see what you can do." So, I'll admit the idea having a simultaneous release with Europe on our old label in the States the excitement levels ran high.
We entered Sharkbite Studios in July 2003 with mark Keaton engineering, me producing for the first time and the first thing we did was track drums and I decided to do a quick pass of guitars and bass on tape for the Monte demo. Now even though “Imperium,” “Days Turn Blue To Grey” and to some degree “Descend...” had been "finished", musically only a week prior to this, I had never really even sang these songs. I busted ass and wrote as many lyrics as possible, sang some lyrics I had about Genevra's heroin addict father over the verses to "Days," wrote the quiet middle section of "Days" after hearing the Gregorian chant at the beginning to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River," and somehow, barely pulled off some acceptable, but corny lyrics in “Imperium” but the end of the demo is pretty much just me jumbling sounds together to sound like words.
We sent it to Roadrunner US, and hoped for the best.
I'll stop here and leave you with that 3 song demo. For the record, this has never been released publicly, it is the first time anyone outside of Roadrunner US has heard these versions.
Enjoy Head Cases.
P.S. I will be putting up the incredibly horrible version on "Pins and Needles" in Part 3 of the story of "Through The Ashes Of Empires" on Friday.
"Imperium" (DEMO aka: "Buh-Duh-Duh-Duh")
"Days Turn Blue To Grey" (DEMO aka: "Natural Science II")
Descend The Shades Of Night (DEMO 2003)
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Yesterday the guys and I were having a beer down the street from our jam room at a place called Beer Revolution. While I was sitting there sippin' on an Altamont Beer Works "Dirty D" brown ale, Phil turned to me and said, "Through The Ashes is 10 today." I knew it was coming up, but forgot to look up the date. Fuck me, it's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since this era of the band has happened, I mean really hard to believe.
Back in the day there was an old Virginia Slims cigarette ad aimed at empowering women to smoke and it said, "You've come a long way baby."
A lot of you know the story by now, as it was well documented in 2005's "Elegies" DVD and re-told (and often twisted around) ad infinitum by the press regarding the struggles we went through as a band just to even get the album out.
But on this momentous occasion, it's definitely worth re-telling and maybe even filling in a few blanks for you guys. And make no mistake, it IS a momentous occasion! It’s a milestone for Machine Head and something that deserves to be celebrated by both us and our fans, and an album we should be, and are, very proud of.
I going to tell this in 3 parts, because I think it's important to frame "the times." Where we were at as a band, where we were at as people, and where the music business was at. Honestly so much of what went in, and came out of that record is what we were up against.
So without further adieu in honor of the 10 year anniversary of “Through The Ashes Of Empires,” here is part 1 of the story:
It all started back in Sept. 2001; we were getting ready to release our “much-less-than-spectacular-but way-better-than-most-people-complain-about” 4th album, “Supercharger.” Then 9-11 happened some two weeks after we had shot a video for our song "Crashing Around You" that had images of buildings on fire, and an original treatment that had us playing on top of buildings that were "crashing around us", needless to say, this and "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" were the worst song titles of the time and were instantly banned off of every radio playlist in America.
We got into a huge fight with our-then label Roadrunner Records, our stance was that we needed to push the record back, that no one was going care, that it was too much of a national tragedy to get people to care about music. They, and in particular their dickhead radio guy Dave Lancao insisted it would be fine, that in 2 weeks 9-11 wasn't going to affect people buying records, and the release would go on as planned. We went on tour "6 days" after 9-11 in the U.S. with Fear Factory, Ill Nino and Chimaira on the ‘Road Rage’ tour and played to a depressed / stunned / confused nation, and in many ways, these dates shaped what was to come.
It was a confusing, shocking, at times overwhelming tour. Every night walking out onstage and looking at a crowd of Machine Head fans whose faces said "why am I here?", "is it going to be all right?", "what's happening?". And unfortunately our faces said the same thing; we didn't know the answers either. We were just as confused and fucked up and wanted to be home with our wives/girlfriends because if it “wasn’t going to be all right, who the hell wanted to be alone?”
But we had music. And in that moment, we had each other. And we needed each other. We got thru it together. As crazy as the World around us was, for a short time, somewhere in a half-filled club, somewhere in the United States, the world made fucking sense. I will never forget that U.S. tour as long as I live, in the end it was one of the best tours I've ever done. Machine Head changed on that tour, it wasn't about headbanging and getting drunk and having a good time, it was about connecting, surviving, believing, being alive in the moment.
We headlined Europe in November, when every other band cancelled cause “they were too afraid to fly.” We said "fuck that!" That’s exactly what the terrorists wanted, for people to be scared and not live their lives anymore. If we die flying over to play for our fans, well... there's a lot worse ways to go. The tour went amazing, we sold out Brixton Academy, recorded it for "HellaLive". Somewhere in there we fired our then-manager (Slayer's manager) Rick Sales, hired our old manager Joseph Huston back, and then went and headlined America in January 2002. Roadrunner had told us they would re-launch the record since as we had predicted; the world was in too much shock to care about buying anyone’s album.
They reneged on the deal, and in combination with many things; the fact that we had originally signed an incredibly shitty deal, signed over our merchandise and publishing, had gotten atrocious rates, owed them 1.2 million dollars, and had our publishing rights sold out from under us in the middle of a renegotiation, we demanded to be let go from our recording contract 3 albums early. I wrote the "letter" myself on a day off in a hotel room on a cold January morning somewhere in the mid-west on the ‘Supercharging America’ tour. The tour went well selling out most major cities, but things were changing.
Roadrunner soon complied, wrote us off as a tax write off, and we were released from our contract as per our request. Just like that, amidst all the other things swirling around in our lives, Machine Head was unsigned.
"Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true"
Up until that point, Major labels had been gobbling up every heavy-ish band out there, throwing 'em at radio, and often having success. Now, radio wouldn't touch a heavy band with a 10 foot pole. On previous tours we had been courted by many labels, all insisting they loved what we do and how we did it and if we were to go with them it would be a seamless move. Now they all wanted "singles" and "hits". A band with 4 albums and a solid track record was worthless to them when a new upstart band could go "DIAMOND" (a new award that certified 10 times platinum) in the era of mega hits like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, et al.
We didn't know how to operate in this new world. We wrote heavy, that's what we did. The American metal media blacklisted us, magazines like Revolver told us, "we can't cover you, but if you get to 50,000 copies we'll give you an article." When we got to 50,000 they said, "Well, when you get to 70,000 we'll give you an article." When we got to 70,000 they said, "well, the record is too old now." The metal media of the time continued that blacklist well into ‘The Blackening’ album cycle, when after that, they just didn't matter anymore.
We solicited label after label, but everyone said “we want to hear new songs”, “we want to hear hits.” Ahrue quit the band, and we soldiered on as a 3 piece. Adam got a job and became consumed with rebuilding a house he'd just bought and for the next 12 months we rarely saw him. In a stroke of luck, Genevra and I got a settlement from our landlord to move out of the house we were renting, who wanted to move back in, we took the money and bought a house in Richmond, but the happiness would be short-lived, the month that we moved in, Machine Head ran out of money. We wouldn't see money for another 5 months. Genevra would (much to my embarrassment); pay the mortgage on our new house for the next 4 months. I got a job doing some guitar tech work at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. We fought endlessly about me quitting the band and getting a job.
In the middle of all this, Dave Williams, Drowning Pool's singer passed away and their manager offered me both a chance to sing for them as well as a pretty hefty paycheck. So for about 2 weeks Genevra and I debated about why I should or shouldn't do this. We desperately needed the money. So finally, I stood in front of a full length mirror, looked myself right in the eye and said to myself, "go ahead sing “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" with conviction AND, believe it.” It's a decent song, I'd seen them a few time live, they and Dave were good, but as I began singing it, something in my body just stopped. I couldn’t sing it, I couldn’t feel it and there wasn’t an ounce of conviction in the delivery. My body, my entire being rebelled on me!
It felt so wrong in every way possibly imaginable, I just could not do it. I called the manager and said "you don't want me in your band, I have to lead bands, I'll take over Drowning Pool, you don't want that, good luck, and thanks for considering me."
Genevra and I got in a huge fight when she found out I passed. "The dream is over Robb, get a job." We argued, we cried, we screamed, we sat in silence, but in the end, she took my side when I asked, "dude, do you see me as the Fed Ex guy?" Through tears she answered "no, you're a fucking star, you're meant be onstage." Her answer hit me like a ton of bricks, she'd never said anything to me like that before, and in that moment I said, "Then believe in me for just a little while longer." We cried, we hugged, and in typical Genevra fashion she replied, "then fucking hurry up!!!"
I went back to practice with a newfound determination. Within days we’d recorded a 4 song demo that had “Bite The Bullet,” “Left Unfinished,” “Elegy,” and our attempt at a radio song "Pins And Needles" that we would begin to shop to labels. We had some festival dates coming up in Europe that were a big deal, we needed a guitar player to fill in, and we decided to keep the fact that we were unsigned a secret, at least for a while, but what lie ahead would be even harder than we knew.
To be continued tomorrow...
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It's a question I often ask myself; what DO I want? And if I get what I want, will I be happy? Is it really what I "want"? There's the old saying "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." Sometimes you just gotta look deep inside and figure out what you truly want first, and that's where I'm at right now. What do I want?
Do I want a #1 album? Or am I wanting a legacy like Bob Marley (who also never got to #1), which flourished long after he died, (and who was no doubt "jealous" that he never got to #1).
What do I want to hear? It's a question I ask myself every time we begin to write music. What is the band that I'm NOT hearing sound like? Can we be that band?
I been hitting the gym regularly, I never bring headphones or listen to music or watch TV while working out. One of the main reasons I chose the gym I go to is BECAUSE they don't play stupid dance music all day like seemingly every other gym out there. My gym has no music, and for a guy that has music in his head nearly every moment of every day it's awesome to just work out in silence. So when I get to the gym, I jump on the elliptical machine to warm up and often the TV has been left on the CMT (Country Music Channel) and sometimes I'll change it to the news and other times I'll just stare at the CMT channel and watch in silence. Well, virtual silence because I stare in disbelief and seethe at the soundless images coming off the screen at me.
So what do I see? I stare at the blinding of America. I stare at an endless stream of country music videos all showing the same thing - programming, subverting, and manipulating the viewer with religion and the well-oiled military machine. Visually the current theme is "heroes coming home from war, and their damsel-in-distress-lonely-women waiting for them as they stare at Jesus and touch their cross necklaces, praying." I watched this same video play out over and over and over again. The not so subtle message playing out: “War's over guys, pray to Jesus!”
And all those video images are cut with carefully manicured guys and gals in jeans and cowboy hats, playing songs written by a high paid group of other writers who produce simple pop songs that have slide guitar and acoustic and sound all shit-kickin' and country-fried.
Every once in a while you'll get a video like Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" which is just about partying and acting a fool, and I dig that, it's not mindless propaganda other than well I guess... selling Solo cups and booze for his alcohol sponsor. But fuck it, I love that song!
But again, I ask myself while watching these fucking mind-meltingly bad videos, what do I want?
I was talking to my buddy Johnzo from Devildriver, and I was telling him about the new Machine Head songs and how I felt like we didn't have a "Halo" or a "Locust" type track, yet. I specifically name checked those tracks as our history has shown these two songs are what I’d refer to as our “universal songs.” Songs that we can play at any show on any bill with any band and they resonate. And he was like "dude, I love “Halo” but “Locust”, dude, that is the song that I play for my non-metal friends when they're trashing metal bands as noise, and I say, HEY, want to hear some good metal? Check this out!”
It was a rad statement and all around amazing compliment.
And songs like that are important. The world needs songs like that. Not just from Machine Head, but in general.
Before ‘The Blackening’ was written, I went and asked the fans on our message board what they would like to hear out of the new Machine Head album. I got some great feedback. Some of which we took to heart, but ultimately we had to follow our own hearts and go where it led us, but I still enjoyed hearing it
So I'm here asking you;
What do YOU want out of the new Machine Head record?
How do you want it to sound?
And while I'm at it, what kind of Special Edition items would you like to see?
Digipaks have been pretty standard by now, and our new record label Nuclear Blast offers an array of AMAZING limited special edition items for their bands.
Have you seen / collected any really cool ones lately?
What haven't you seen that you'd maybe like to?
Angels and Airwaves recently offered a "hardcore fan bundle" for $750 that came with a guitar, vinyl, CD, digipak, t-shirt, poster. They offered 100 of them and that all sold out first week. The guitar was really cool!
As some of you know, I'm also an obsessive Star Wars collector who has spent WAY too much money on that goddamn movie, but are there other movies that you've seen that offered cool collectible items that you'd like to see?
Machine Head beer?
Machine Head dark chocolate with sea salt?
Head Cases, Undesirables, tell me, what do YOU want?
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Well it wasn't quite the "ah-ha!" moment we were looking for, but it was slow and steady progress on a new song that our resident riff-miester Phil brought in, and that's what wins the war.
It rarely is ever that "ah-ha!" moment, writing music is often just a slow and steady progress, chipping away at songs, little improvements, and then one day you sit back and go "wow, cool song". And sometimes you never even get that "ah-ha!" moment, but end up writing a great song anyway.
There's a long running joke in the band "well, we'll never play that one live anyway", as famously coined by Phil Demmel as we we're putting the finishing touches on "Halo". It went thru so many changes and re-arrangements, re-writes, different endings, it took 6 months to get to the version you hear on The Blackening, and when we were done, we were just thrilled to NOT be working on it.
Once we had the chorus hook, and the end chorus, I knew we had something special, but even Monte Conner and Mark Palmer our UK A&R people didn't really see it as a song that was a big deal. In fact the first person who actually "called it", was ex-Metal Hammer magazine editor Jamie Hibbard, I was in London doing press at the mix studio while Colin was still mixing tracks, and we had a playback session for the London media, before the song was even done playing Hibbard said "that's the song!". I was like "hmmm, uh, ok...". We didn't even know what we had, shit, we only played it 3 times in the first 6 months of the tour cycle, but when we did, WOW.
Funny how things work out.
We'll never not play it now.
Yep, slow and steady progress, it was a good day yesterday.
Thank you Dave McClain happy face.
Halo demo (aka-I Want Your Soul) **MAN, this sucks!**
That's how yesterday felt, a frustrating day, where we bashed out new tunes, talked about things that weren't pleasant to talk about, and hammered at new tunes trying to find that special something, that killer hook, that amazing vocal melody, that brutal riff, that great lyric to shout, that magical thing that makes all 4 of us go, "fuck yeah, that's killer, or, "now we got a song here!!"
But all to no avail.
Songs, songs, songs!! That's all my brain is thinking about, I've had to meditate before I go to bed every night or all I do is stare at the ceiling thinking... and thinking... and thinking. About life, about things, moments, about lyrics, about songs, "maybe it can go this way, or maybe it can go that way..." AGH!!
Last night I didn't meditate, instead I went to see my friends Orange Goblin crush The Metro in Oakland. Jared and I demoed new tunes til 8:30 or so, then met up with the OG guys at Beer Revolution (cool punk rock beer-only-bar that has 400 beers available), drank some of my favorite Belgian beer "Foret", then went and rocked out. I caught the support band Holy Grail, who were rockin', great frontman, both guitarists were SH-RED-DERS! The Goblin killed it, great drunken vibe, touring the US now, don't miss 'em!
Got home late, thought about meditating, but was buzzed enough to crash out and not think.
And today is a new day.
Before we left the jam room last night, Dave drew a happy face w/ buckteeth on the dry/erase board and said "this is how tomorrow is gonna be".
Heading to practice in a few minutes, I'll let you know how it goes.
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Because being #1 often means playing to the lowest common denominator. It means dumbing your music down to such a level that every soccer mom and mini-van driving dad can enjoy it as it plays in the background. That said, there have been some exceptional, authentic records that came in at #1, but it's very rare, to me 95% of the time it means watered down music.
So I started researching it, fucking-around-on-the-internet, and man, there are a lot of records, surprising records, that never got to #1 here in the US. I was gobsmacked considering the importance of the music.
Here's a list of my favorite albums that DIDN'T chart at #1 and never got to #1 on the US charts: ("peaked at" refers to the highest position it got to, not what it "debuted at" which many times was much lower)
Back In Black (peaked at #4, over 22 million sold in the US)
Master Of Puppets (charted #128, peaked at #29, certified gold a year later, 6 million sold in the US to date)
Ride The Lightning
Vulgar Display Of Power (peaked at #44, 2.7 million in the US to date)
...And Justice For All
Reign In Blood (peaked at #94, six years later certified gold)
Seasons In The Abyss (peaked at #57, four years later certified gold)
Peace Sells...But Who's Buying
Revolutionary Vol. 2
The End Of Heartache
Never Mind The Bullocks...Here's The Sex Pistols
Among The Living
Dirt (peaked at #9)
Feel The Darkness
Straight Outta Compton
A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Songs For The Deaf
Paranoid (peaked at #23)
Masters Of Reality
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Appetite For Destruction (debuted at #182, and took over a year to eventually get to #1)
The Real Thing (didn't even enter the charts until 8 months after release, peaked at #11)
As The Palaces Burn
Led Zeppelin IV (peaked at #2, yep, the album with "Stairway To Heaven" never went to #1, over 23 million sold in the US)
That's right, read that again. The album with "Stairway To Heaven", one of the biggest rock songs of all time, from one of the biggest rock records of all time, by one of the biggest rock bands of all time, never got to the top of the charts in the US with Led Zeppelin - IV. That is fuckin' crazy to me!?
And #1 doesn't mean great album, or long term success. Let's not forget that back in 2001 rap-rockers Crazy Town had the #1 single in-the-world (!?) with "Butterfly" and sold 1.5 million records in the US, did 2 Ozzfest's, and was managed by Q-Prime (Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers management) for a minute. Huh!?
There have been a few records that have gone to #1 that were great, heavy, authentic metal albums. Probably the finest example is Pantera's - Far Beyond Driven, a record so brutal and uncompromising it's shocking it did what it did. As far as rap records go, Eminem's - The Marshall Mathers LP is by far the most extreme record lyrically to ever go #1, songs about killing his wife, (and well, everyone) drinking, drugs, sodomizing journalists, LOL! (1.7 million sold in it's first WEEK alone, 10 million to date). Metallica's - The Black album also a fine record, though there was an obvious conscious decision to slow down, and be more accessible. It worked on every level imaginable.
We're finishing up writing our new record, we have 6 songs done, and 2 half-songs that feel like they're going somewhere. From time to time you wonder where things will end up or chart, but it never really comes on our radar, it can't, it dilutes the priority: authenticity. We've never tried to write a #1 album in our lives, the world is too fickle, tastes change, lives change, you just write for yourselves, maybe think ahead to what might work live, but ultimately, come up with "what feels right".
It's an arcane process, like walking thru a pitch-black room feeling the walls, looking for a door knob, and soon you find it, and that opens up to another pitch-black room, but eventually you see light under the door crack, you can feel when you're getting close, and soon find your way out. It's an incredible feeling when you do. I feel like we can see the light under the door crack, but haven't found our way out yet. It's daunting, a little nerve-wracking, and exciting all at the same time.
We've booked Green Day's "JingleTown" studio in East Oakland again, and we'll be starting on Oct 30th. Behing the board stuff will be the same team that did "Locust", Juan Urteaga and Brad K. engineering, myself producing for the 4th time.
So like I said, we're 6 songs deep, not quite finished, I feel like we still need a "Locust" type song. Still need an epic opener. We posted a picture of the song titles a week ago: "Killers & Kings" definitely feels like a "track 2". Uptempo, will be great live, big shout-along chorus, not sure where the rest are as of this Journal. There are some fast ragers ("Ojos De La Muerte"), one with an old school hardcore / "More Things Change" flavor (the Manson-murder-themed "Night Of The Long Knives"), "Beneath The Silt" has a "Elegy"-type vibe to me, but with way better execution, "Sail Into The Black" has a "Descend The Shades Of Night" sorta-feel but darker, and is the only long song of the bunch at 8 minutes, the others (for-no-reason-in-particular) all clock in at 4 or 5 minutes.
Do any of them sound like radio tracks? Do any scream #1 album, fuck no. That isn't the goal. It can't be. You know why? Because we're metal musicians, we're supposed to be the pioneers, the ones railing against the system, the ones challenging the norm, the ones pissing people off, the ones who 20 years from now will be held in the same reverence that we now-hold the Classic Rock artists or the Classic Thrash artists for testing the limits, for pushing the boundaries of music as we know it. For going where the other bands of that era wouldn't, who were on a Highway To Hell, who went faster and heavier and longer, and more intricate, more provocative, more confrontational, more "FUCK YOU!", that's what made that music so damn exciting, so god damn exhilarating!!
If we're not doing that, as artist, as metal musicians, as songwriters, then were just stagnating, were loitering. What’s the point? Have you ever seen a cop get rid of a group of people loitering? They just calmly break up an aimless crowd and go about their business.
This is Machine Head and if we’re doing something we stand behind, the authorities better break out the riot gear because there’s nothing aimless about this.
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This past Friday night after rehearsing and demoing new MH jams all day, I went and saw the punk rock / hardcore band Attitude Adjustment. It was at the long-running punk rock club in Berkeley world famously known as "Gilman St.," which I hadn't been to in maybe 15 or 20 years.
Truth be told I always hated Gilman St., no booze, and most of the people running the joint back-then were dicks, and there was no love lost from them towards Machine Head either. So you can say the lack of love was truly mutual! Machine Head was were banned (well, voted against by committee) from playing there, mainly on the grounds that we would just fight people, and bring a bunch of our fans who just wanted to fight people the whole show.
Now before you gasp with your mouths agape, they had every right to believe this because this is basically what happened at every local Machine Head gig back then. We individually had already been in a few fights in front of Gilman previously so they had some grounds to stand on, and we had already been banned from 3 other Bay Area clubs for fighting (The Stone, One Step Beyond, and The Omni). So in retrospect, it was probably all true, but they were still dicks anyway.
Tim Armstrong (or "Lint" as everyone called him back then) from Rancid actually spoke on our behalf at one of the committee meetings where they decided what bands were "ok" to play at Gilman. He tried to talk them into letting us play, but in the end, they voted us "off the island.” We gave em' one more shot back in ‘94 when we were shooting the "Davidian" video and we wanted to try and shoot some footage there, but again, they wouldn't let us. However this time it wasn’t based on our violent past but because we were signed to a "major label" Roadrunner Records, which ironically back in 1994 was actually still very much an independent.
I gave up on Gilman after that. So while we had genuine roots in the punk and hardcore scenes and were absolutely a part of them, looking back it’s rather simple. It was probably best for everyone involved as Machine Head was and is a metal band.
I still went there a couple more time to see bands I liked, Neurosis during the "Souls At Zero"-era (fucking mind-blowing, and I never missed a show of theirs back then, big influence on "Burn My Eyes"), and also to see my buddy Ray Vegas play in his band Social Unrest, and it would be Ray who brought me back to Gilman St. for the first time in a long time.
Ray and his wife Carla are part of The Flynn Camping Crew, and he now plays guitar in Attitude Adjustment, he still jams in SU, but "not as much" he says. AA got back together a few years ago and recorded a new album (which I have yet to check out) but it was apparently well received and really good. The drummer on our first album, Chris used to be in Attitude Adjustment. I freakin' LOVED AA's first album and used to go to Ruthies Inn (also in Berkeley) and see them play. At this point in time they had Kevin Reed singing, he was a formidable frontman and definitely a little out of his mind. They ended up being at the forefront of the crossover movement, playing equally dexterous on punk shows and metal shows.
Most people familiar with the AA story know the Andy "Airborne" Anderson version of AA. Andy was the singer after Kevin and he appeared on the CLASSIC debut "American Paranoia," and was already locally infamous for his death-defying stage dives at Exodus shows where he was immortalized in a photo collage on "Bonded By Blood", hence the nickname "Airborne."
And while I thoroughly enjoyed the Andy Anderson-era, it was the Kevin Reed-era that I saw first and always seemed to be a little more connected to. I saw shows with both singers but Kevin was and is intense. Pissed. He had "problems". He was fuckin' scary to watch, intimidating, I loved that! I saw him a few times at BART back-then, wasted, panhandling for money with other punk rockers, ready to punch anyone out who looked at him funny, dude's the real deal. In the early 90's when their 2nd album "Out Of Hand" came out, Kevin Reed back in the fold and I saw a bunch of those shows too, it was still brutal and awesome, and was inspiring for early-Machine Head.
So Friday night I meet up with my buddies Joey Cabral and Bill Callow at the Pyramid Brewing Company across the street and had a few beers (we all agreed the Alehouse Amber was the best). Ray and Carla soon joined us, I saw my old friend Gary Wendt (ex-Sacriledge B.C. / Skinlab and current Ghost Next Door guitarist) and his wife Bekki, and after a few beers we all headed over. I had to buy a new $2 Gilman membership card, as I think I wiped my ass with my old one, so I paid my $10 bucks and waltzed into the joint like I owned it. Oppressed Logic was playing and I was instantly taken back to the early 90's where I used to see them all the time at warehouse shows in Oakland.
Time has stood still in Gilman St., literally not a single thing has changed, it was exactly how I remembered it, and there was a weird charm to it, they kept their world exactly as they wanted it.
AA took the stage and was happy to see our ex-fill-in-drummer Walter Ryan (later-of-Madball), I guess he's now playing drums for them. Old school MH fans may remember Walter from Australia dates around '95, he did a couple of euro festivals back then in Holland and Belgium and played the 1995 Monsters Of Rock in England with us. He killed it, I forgot how good he is.
Here's a YouTube clip of "A Thousand Lies" with him and us back in '95 and me talking a lot like a black guy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHYX9k_tysM
Attitude Adjustment was awesome, people were going fucking nuts, old school punk rock skanking, endless whirling circle pit, it was a blast. Eric "Bobo" on the guitar with Ray making a devastating punk rock racket, a new dude on bass who just held it down hard, and Kevin Reed who hasn't lost a bit of that intensity. Ferocious. Didn't smile fucking once.
Played a lot of new stuff, which sounded great and went down great, but for me it was all about "Dead Serious" and "Dope Fiend", when they hit "Dope Fiend", that thing happened, that thing when music is done just right and you feel this thing physically take over your body, where this energy just compels you to scream the words, point your hand and sing the words back at the band. It was fucking awesome. I needed it. And to hear these simple songs with these simple, powerful messages / slogans / rants was fucking rad. Inspiring. Reminded me what it's supposed to be about.
If I had one complaint: They should run a few clusters of songs together. Song, break, song, break, it's fine every once in a while, but it broke up the momentum quite a bit over a whole set. Maddeningly, they didn't play "Grey World" which is a straight up punk rock CLASSIC, a fuckin' HIT!
For the first time in my life I actually enjoyed being at Gilman St. I'm glad Gilman hasn't changed, I'm glad they banned Machine Head, I'm glad they kept the outsiders out and just stuck to what they believed. That's the problem with the world today, everyones too quick to be someone else just to be accepted. In the end, that "un-acceptance" (on many fronts) made Machine Head a better band, and Gilman St. a better place for punk.
Attitude Adjustment - Dope Fiend w/ Kevin Reed
Attitude Adjustment Spotify Playlist
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Congratulations to Avenged Sevenfold on their latest "covers album" coming in at #1, who knew that re-recording Metallica, Guns N Roses, and Megadeth songs could be such a worldwide hit!!?? Ba-dap Psssssss!!
I'm on fire!!
In case you've been living under a rock, Avenged came in at #1 in multiple countries throughout the world. I'm happy for them. Good band. And while I like the new record, and really dug the last record "Nightmare", hopefully we're all coming down from our post-orgasmic #1-album-bliss, because it's time to call a spade a spade!! It's time to poke a little fun at A7X, cause there's some blatant jackery goin' on there wiggas!!
So here are my top 10 jokes about the new Avenged Sevenfold record:
10) Avenged Sevenfold - "Now with even MORE Metallica"
9) Avenged Sevenfold to change name to "Sad But Two"
8) Number of "spurting penises" drawn on Avenged logos suddenly skyrockets
7) Eyeliner sales skyrocket as thousands of heartbroken goth girls realize "Hail To The King" is actually "that ugly AC/DC bands song 'Thunderstruck'"
6) After hearing "Heretic", Dave Mustaine flips out, blames Obama, Metallica and UFO's for the A7X stealing "Symphony Of Destruction".
5) After seeing how much success the band Bush had stealing other band names for song titles, A7X decided to steal "In Flames" for latest chorus. Future chorus lyrics include "Tr-vi-um" and "Kill-switch En-gage"
4) Upon hearing latest album, Lars Ulrich goes all gangsta, breaks bottle of Dom Perignon on M. Shadows head, while his 11ft girlfriend put Shadows in headlock, as he screams in Shadows face, "You're gonna rip off St. Anger next right, HUH? You're gonna rip off St Anger NEXT RIGHT? HUH, HUH, HUH!!"
3) "Black album" sales skyrocket as fans realise where new songs came from.
2) After hearing Avenged's Guns N Roses cover "Doing Time", Axl actually calls Slash, says, "Dude, What The Fuck?!"
1) And the #1 joke about the new Avenged Sevenfold album: Avenged Sevenfold release statement that they're NOT ripping off Metallica, announce side project with Lou Reed.
"LYING ABOUT SYRIA, AND THE LYING LIARS WHO LIE ABOUT THE LYING"
I don't watch the news.
It's depressing, fear-mongering, and there just to keep people scared and down.
I don't get a newspaper, I don't go to CNN or FOX to "catch up", and don't follow a news blog. So the other day when I saw President Obama on the screen imploring us to go to war with Syria, I had to step back a minute a go "what...?", "again...?", "I didn't now Syria had oil...?".
He touted out the same bullshit about chemical weapons that the last guy did, he did it strategically right before Sept. 11th so we could get all gushy and patriotic about "Merica", and in the end, he turned out to be no better than Bush. Fucking politicians.
But, I hadn't researched it yet, so I have over the last few days I did, trying to understand why we "need to go to war with Syria because they used chemical weapons on their own people", cause lord knows we've never done that *cough* chem-trails *cough*. And while I'd love to write a compelling General Journal on war, and how war-mongering politicians like Bush/Obama/ are why albums like The Blackening came to be, instead, I'll leave you with a funny, thought provoking article, that I hope you'll read titled: "Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying" by peace activist David Swanson.
Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying
By David Swanson
"U.S. prepares for possible retaliatory strike against Syria," announces a Los Angeles Times headline, even though Syria has not attacked the United States or any of its occupied territories or imperial forces and has no intention to do so.
Quoth the article:
"the president made no decisions, but the high-level talks came as the Pentagon acknowledged it was moving U.S. forces into position in the region."
Forgive me, but who the SNAFU made that decision? Does the commander in chief have any say in this? Does he get to make speeches explaining how wrong it would be to attack Syria, meet with top military officials who leave the meeting to prepare for attacks on Syria, and go down in history as having been uninvolved in, if not opposed to, his own policies?
Threatening to attack Syria, and moving ships into position to do it, are significant, and illegal, and immoral actions. The president can claim not to have decided to push the button, but he can't pretend that all the preparations to do so just happen like the weather. Or he couldn't if newspapers reported news.
(Yes, illegal. Read the U.N. Charter:
"All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.")
"The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies," said the so-called Defense Secretary, but do any of the contingencies involve defending the United States? Do any of them involve peace-making? If not, is it really accurate to talk about "all" contingencies?
In fact, Chuck Hagel only has that "responsibility" because Obama instructed him to provide, not all options, but all military options.
Syrian rebels understand that under all possible U.S. policies, faking chemical weapons attacks can get them guns, while shifting to nonviolent resistance can only get them as ignored as Bahrain. (Ba-who?)
"Obama also called British Prime Minister David Cameron," says the LA Times, "to talk over the developments in Syria. The two are 'united' in their opposition to the use of chemical weapons, the White House said in a statement issued after the call." Well, except for white phosphorus and napalm. Those are good chemical weapons, and the United States government is against bad chemical weapons, so really your newspaper isn't lying to you at all.
What did Obama say to CNN on Thursday?
"[T]he notion that the U.S. can somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated"
CNN's Chris Cuomo (son of Mario) pushed for war:
"But delay can be deadly, right, Mr. President?"
Obama replied that he was still verifying the latest chemical weapons horseshit. Cuomo brushed that aside:
"There's strong proof they used them already, though, in the past."
Obama didn't reply to that lie, but spouted some vacuous rhetoric.
Cuomo, his thirst for dead Syrian flesh perhaps getting a bit frustrated, reached for the standard John McCainism. Senator McCain, Cuomo said, thinks U.S. "credibility" is lost if Syria is not attacked. (And if the U.S. government were to suddenly claim not to be an institution of mass-murder, and to act on that -- then how would its credibility be?)
Obama, undeterred, went right on preaching against what he was about to do. "Sometimes," Obama said, "what we've seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region."
But you promised, whined Cuomo, that chemical weapons use would be the crossing of a Red Line!
Obama replied that international law should be complied with. (For the uninitiated, international law actually forbids attacking and overturning other nations' governments -- even Libya's.) And, Obama pointed out, there are options other than the military.
I've found that when Obama starts talking sense like this, he's actually moving rapidly in the opposite direction. The more he explains why it would be wrong and illegal and stupid and immoral to attack Syria, the more you can be sure he's about to do just that.
Here are my, previously published, top 10 reasons not to attack Syria, even if the latest chemical weapons lies were true:
1. War is not made legal by such an excuse. It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution. It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage. (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)
2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium. Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating. Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness. Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want? Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive? Why in the world risk such a thing?
4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people. This happened in Libya and we looked away. But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed. Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.
5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities. Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side. Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?
6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes. Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists. They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy. Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and createan Iraq-like hell in its place.
7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government. In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation. Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?
8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government. On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely. Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.
9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.
10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly. Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.
In sum, making the Syrian people worse off is not a way to help them.
But -- guess what? -- the evidence suggests strongly that the latest chemical weapons claims are as phony as all the previous ones.
Who would have ever predicted?
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The other night Phil Intragram-ed the album cover of Vio-Lence's ‘Eternal Nightmare’ and the photo said "Happy 25th ya fucker!" (He is @DemmelitionMH if you want to follow him as he posts picture after picture of his ENORMOUS CRANIUM!... LIKE AN ORANGE ON TOP OF A TOOTHPICK!!!!).
Man, was I surprised.
I don't really like talking about this subject, but...
25 years? A quarter century???
25 years since I recorded my first album, (with one Mr. Phil Demmel); it took me a second to digest.
That night I went to bed and had a dream. And let me just say, I have been having really intense dreams ever since I started doing this "theta waves" audiobook that I got from my buddy Nick who I mentioned a few journals ago. It's basically a few hours of waves-crashing-on-the-shore but the sounds are drifting left and right in stereo, it’s pretty mellow. Ever since I started listening to this I’ve been having really intense, sometimes totally fucked up, sometimes totally amazing dreams, theta waves apparently help what's called "lucid dreaming".
One night I dreamt that our merch guy (and man-of-many-hats) Pando, died. Not only did he “die”, but he died right in front of me! He was having heart attack and his face and arms turned black, I pounded on his chest, crying, trying to resuscitate him. That dream sucked. Another night I dreamt that Phil recorded this really big (though ultimately good) argument we had on his iPhone and then at the end of the dream, like some fight scene from the Batman TV show, the words "Vendetta" scrawled across the screen of my mind’s eye.
I’m telling ya, weird stuff, and always pretty clear and concise.
So the other night after seeing the album cover post, I have one of these crazy dreams, so I thought I'd tell you about it, cause it was fuckin trippy and kinda cool. I dreamt that I was watching myself, from the outside, like the ghost of Christmas past or something. The first thing I saw was me joining Vio-Lence (always hated that stupid spelling). As I’m watching myself join this band I was trying to tell myself different things. I’m telling myself to ask this or check that, or look into other things that when you’re in the moment, just doesn’t come into play.
The dream started out right after I had quit Forbidden (Evil, as it was back then, and yes, I took the evil with me when I left!) and joined Vio-Lence. I was hanging out with my sorta-friend Vance, snorting crank, and he convinced me that we should go steal two cases of beer from the new gas station on the corner of Fremont Blvd. and Thornton Ave.
Well in 1987 that sounded like a damn good idea, so we did it. We grab the beer, and jet out of the gas station and the owner just explodes out the door and he’s chasing after us with a shotgun, jumps in his Trans Am and chases us down the streets of Fremont. Running for our lives we ditched the cases of beer and cut thru a car dealership and jump a chain link fence. Well, as I was climbing over, my shoelace got caught on the top of the fence and I'm twisted up for a few seconds until I fall. Well not only do I fall but I heard an awful, aching, crunch as I land on my elbow and break it. (True story).
As I’m watching myself and all this unfold in my dream all I can do is shake my head. What the fuck was I thinking? But that’s it right there, I wasn’t thinking, and truthfully for as cool as I thought I was back then, watching myself hanging there from my shoelaces was fucking ridiculous.
So it’s a few days later and I’m now at my Dad’s house on 3141 Kipling Place. This is very surreal as I can see the way things were set up back then and it feels like I can just reach out and touch shit in the house. So as I’m there, there’s a knock at the front door, Phil walks into the house and wow, and he’s so young (but still possesses that GIANT CRANIUM!!). We walk into the living room, my dad's at work, he’s here to teach me how to play Vio songs. I’ve got my arm in a sling, I’m high on pain pills yet coming down from speed, and him going "oh wow...", and I'm sure he thinking in his head, "WTF, this is my new freakin' guitarist...?"
Now it’s a few weeks later after my arm is healed and my dad kicks me out of my house, for the 2nd time. This time it was for having incredibly loud (and incredibly awesome, I must say) sex with this hot Filipino girl who I stole away from my rival neighborhood guitarist Mark Branson. Let me clarify, it wasn’t a full on theft, it was more like a week-long tryst behind his back, but man, she was so hot! My poor dad, recently separated from my Mom, he had to wake up to go to work at 2AM every day to the Merritt Bakery in Oakland, and there I am a drunken teenager, having wild teenaged sex on the floor up against my bedroom door with an unbelievably loud girl. He's screaming, pounding on my door for me to shut up and get out of the house and what do I do? I just turn my skateboard upside down and cram it under the door up to the trucks to block him from opening it (which worked surprisingly well), so he's pounding on the door, I'm pounding... well..., and then I stick a sock (one of the old school knee-high gym socks with 3 stripes on top) in said girls mouth to make her quieter...
But of course, don't stop.
Man, she was hot.
It was SO worth getting kicked out all over again. However, this time it was for good.
So there I am watching myself, homeless, no car, just a Powell & Peralta skateboard, and the bus (AC Transit) and BART for transportation. Of course I was shaking my head again at myself and my situation. I mean yes, the Filipino girl was smokin’ but now I’m fucking homeless with an on again/off again job with my Uncle Donny doing construction where my title on the job was simply: GRUNT. I spend the next cluster of time moving around from various couches and floors with different acquaintances or friends until I’m sitting there watching myself living with Vio drummer Perry Strickland, his wife and young boy in his small Hayward, CA. apartment, it's empty, I'm eating Spaghetti-O's, day in and day out. I then move in with a crazy friend of ours named Jimbo where we have some of the most insane alcohol-and-crank-fueled parties known to man. While I fast forward through the parties in this dream, they were legendary.
I can’t exactly place where I was physically at when I see myself receiving the news that Forbidden was getting signed, not only were they getting signed but they were getting signed before us! So I get the news and I’m seeing myself just pissed off to no end. I then am witness as Vio gets signed (though I wasn't really involved in any of it as I was low man on the totem pole).
I watch as we record the first album with John Cuniberti, we were in Hollywood, drinking, not getting along, the struggle, the laughs, getting asked by John to play half the bass tracks on the record after coming back hammered on Margarita's from a dinner with the label. I’m watching while I’m asked to play some of Phil's guitar parts the next day. Everything is so real, I want to go and fix more than a few of my guitar parts during the recording, or grab my Charvel out of, well, my hands to re-record something that I know I could have done better, like the rhythms in "T.D.S. (Take It As You Will)" which I always thought I slopped thru.
I’m now on the road in the summer of 1988 and I have a great view watching us on the Testament tour. Having this perspective is crazy. We’re nuts on stage, just a constant blur of motion from the first note to the last, but as I watch us perform I know exactly what we were thinking at the time, we were arrogantly thinking that we were drawing all these people! We had the album with great distribution; we had the back pages of every Metal magazine in the world, our label sent out how many free demo tapes? Of course we’re drawing a “ton” of people!
I’m now backstage and watching myself go crazy, I was a kid in a candy store and wasn’t leaving until I had a mouth full of cavities! I fast forward through parties, groupies, blowjobs, bathroom stalls, Newark, New Jersey, good times. I see me loading my own gear, changing my own strings, paying my dues, not realizing it. I smiled at the young me because this due paying stuff would work to my advantage later in life.
I can hear Motorhead's "No Remorse - The Best Of" blasting with "We are the road crew" on endless loop. I can still hear Joe Gizmo and The Spudmonsters demo titled "Garbage Day" also on endless loop. Don’t ask me where the hell I fit in the van with all of us, our equipment, luggage, and 7 people with no trailer, but I was back in the van driving for 7 hours after the shows. I’m then in a Motel 6 somewhere in America sharing beds with Phil Demmel and Debbie Abono, listening and watching Phil sleep-walking/talking in his sleep (which he still does!), I'm at our daily Denny's stop watching Phil and Perry argue.
I fast forward to later, watching us on the road with Voi-Vod. Again, we’re on fire on stage but instead of thinking we’re the main draw, our arrogance was fading, the tour was a DUD. I found myself back in the van, the vibe was different, I was dealing with a crippling back injury after a hit 'n run while skateboarding, pain pills and speed, getting thru the shows. I wish I could have spoken to myself on any one of those drives, instead of wasting the hours in a hungover, pain pill stupor or sleeping to avoid my surroundings, I would have told myself that "you're in this for the long haul".
I had gotten a taste of the road and couldn’t see any other route in life I wanted to take.
Perspective is a valuable thing in life, it’s not something you can buy or borrow. It’s something you have to live through to achieve. You have to survive. You have own your victories. Own your mistakes. You have to go through the good, the bad and the in-between to grow.
If during this crazy dream sequence I was able to actually speak to 1988 Robb what would I have said? Of course knowing what I know now I probably would have wanted to say a lot. But I also know that 1988 alcohol and crank-fueled Robb would have told me to “fuck off!”. Even as he was swinging from the top of the fence by his shoelaces I doubt he would have listened.
I sometimes ask myself, is there really anything I would have done different?
Not at all.
The journey made me who I am.
Happy 25th Birthday Eternal Nightmare.
Joe Gizmo and The Spudmonsters - Garbage Day
Motorhead - We Are The Road Crew
Please check back later for any upcoming tour dates.