MACHINE HEAD Frontman On Playing Dubai, 'The Blackening' And Illegal Music Downloading

Karma E. Omowale of webzine recently conducted an interview with MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn. A few excerpts from the chat follow: Tell me a little about your experience when you guys played the Middle East at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival. How was the climate of the people: were you well-received? What was your impression of it?

Robb: It was actually completely shocking, to be honest, you know. It was just one show and it was in Dubai; it was in the United Emirates and it was us, SEPULTURA was opening…a couple of other band, WITHIN TEMPTATION, MACHINE HEAD and THE DARKNESS. It was like totally out of nowhere and randomly THE DARKNESS was headlining, but this was when THE DARKNESS was worth something! [Chortles ensue] You know it was kind of scary when we were going over there, you know we were just like…you see all of this stuff on the media. We had never been there so we didn't know what to expect. Then my wife was literally pleading with me the night before, "This has got to be some kind of terrorist plot…" and I was like, "I don't think so…" They were paying us a lot of money and I don't think they would do that, you know. But I've got to say that it was in the back of my head and just landing there. We got there, we were expecting to see nothing but mosques and turbans and camels… We drive out of there and we the first thing we see is Starbucks and Roundtable Pizza! We were like, "What the f…" and the next day it was McDonalds and Burger King and Arby's and Nordstrom's and Cactus Jacks… [Shakes head in disbelief, reliving the moment] They put us up in the Fairmont Hotel, they took us to the Rock Hard, I mean the Hard Rock Hotel for a press conference. It was like Las Vegas on crack but it was on the beach. So, it was like Las Vegas on the beach, which was the coolest thing about it. In the outskirts, it was a little weird but the show, I mean 5,000 people, kids from Iran, Grenada and just like all these crazy places like Beirut, and obviously Dubai and Saudi Arabia…and they were all just metal heads, you know. [Beams] Long hair, METALLICA shirts, MACHINE HEAD shirts, SLAYER shirts, SLIPKNOT shirts…they were jumping and headbanging. They knew the "Machine Fucking Head", [eyes widen] we were like, "What the fu…" I mean, we ended talking to a bunch of…[coughs]. They had kind of a big after-party and a bunch of the kids that were at the show actually got to come in and hang out. They were all just SUPER-COOL man! We were just talking… [Robb's phone rings unexpectedly] and we were just so freaked out what it was going to be like to be [there] You know how the media, especially here in America how the media really manipulates everything. We expected bombed out cities and it was one of the nicest cities you could ever be in, you know. But they hammer that perception into America and totally build that fear. It‘s total fear-mongering and in the same they expected us to be a certain way. Americans, just a bunch of "la, la, la la's" And you know it was this cool cultural experience that we got to trip off of. First off I want to say "The Blackening" is a phenomenal release. And I know Phil's [Demmel] stance on the album being leaked before the due date is that he sees it an awesome approach being a "pre-buzz" and he's, right no matter what there will always be people of there that will not buy records. But what are your feelings on the matter?

Robb: Well, I mean it was leaked by an American journalist unfortunately who got an advance of the CD and who wanted to be a jerk and put it up there [in cyberland]! You know, it's unfortunate that had to happen but the same time, it's really creating an unbelievable buzz on the record and on the band. And nothing like we ever had before, you know. It's pretty amazing! I guess in the one sense, you know, it's pretty much inevitable that's it's going to happen with every record. And I guess it's kinda a great equalizer, you know, it's leveled the playing field. You know, so there's Internet street buzz vs. record company hype and if they hype matches up to the street buzz, then you're seeing a lot of bands selling a lot of records in the first week. If the street buzz does not match up to the record company hype, you're not seeing that big first week and that success. In some ways, it's definitely leveled out the playing field and especially for a band that's like maybe doesn't have a very big record company behind them that doesn't have a lot of push or whatever, they're getting like a huge buzz on it. I think of other bands that definitely have something to worry about but with us, our fans are very loyal and very dedicated and you know they will go out there and buy that record. You know, they'll test drive it, but they'll go out and buy the record because they know, a band like MACHINE HEAD and a band that plays the type of music that we do, a very extreme form of music that for the most part isn't going to get played on most mainstream radio and won't get played on most mainstream video stations. You know, this is the way that we have to survive, we're given this platform, not because or record company or magazine that writing ten-minute songs are a good idea, you know. [Laughs] We're given this platform because the beast is fed and so they go out and support us and you know, it's cool. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is and there's other things to worry. How do you feel you've evolved as musicians especially in the past fourteen years?

Robb: [pause] There's a lot less fear-based decision-making, you know. For instance, we refuse to play the song, "I'm Your God" now off "Burn My Eyes". For the first five years that we were a band because we thought, [changes voice to a gruff intonation] "Everyone will think we're pussies"… [laughs] so we never played it until like '99 or 2000 or something like that. Everyone just went bananas for the song…it's like, "What the fuck were we thinking?" you know! We wrote the song. It's a great song, you know but it's just a lot of that. Like songs like "The Burning Red", were other melodic passages and bringing out influences like THE CURE and CURE guitar tunes even though they are a band I've loved forever, we just never would have brought them out because of things like that, you know, people thinking we were pussies or doing too much melodic stuff. And now there's just a lot less of that, you know. We're just going to go for it and if it feels right then it feels right. When music is good, it's good, you know, it shouldn't matter.

Robb: Totally! I think with how we currently write, it's almost like when you're writing a ten minute song, for me the hardest challenge for me is to not make it all sound the same. You've got to add so many things in there just to break up all the parts, if not, it all starts to blur into one thing. I think if I have any songs like that, it's forced us down that road even more, like we have to challenge ourselves to mix things up. We wrote twenty-six songs for the album, some of them were half songs but we narrowed it down to the eight because these were the eight that seemed like they had the best ups and downs; they ended the strongest, they seemed like they all went together. And so as a musician, it was cool to have so much variety on a record. Like I listened to it and we're like, "Jesus". We never would have done some of this stuff like six, seven years ago. We never would have done it, and it's cool we're still evolving! We never really tried to make the same record twice and we've always tried to bring in new things just to keep ourselves excited about doing this and continuing to do this.

Read the entire interview at


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