Machine Head

Interview with Dave McClain 7/2/99

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Here's some insight into the new Machine Head album, the lowdown on the new guy on guitar, and how "Message in a Bottle" got covered

This interview was done over the phone and it turns out the phone I used to record with sucks and Dave didn't come out too loud, so when I typing this out if there was a spot were I couldn't hear everything Dave said I either guessed and put a question mark, or left it out...

Sam: How did the recording go this time around?
Dave: "Um, it went really good, smoothly (?) compared to our last recording..." Sam: No one tried to kill anybody this time?
Dave: "Not at all, was actually the opposite, Ross has a really good way..differently, of working. He makes it fun, makes you get into your...give 100%. He's pretty different from any other producer...ok, here's the song..he doesn't really go for total perfection, he goes for more of a vibe. And then he's sitting there in the room with you, with his headphones on, jumpin' around, probably jumping around probably more than anyone else who's there, and making you play hard, as hard as you can. If you're slacking off...Ahrue got whacked a couple times...(editor laughs, and laughs...) they just fell off his head...ya know? he threw a water bottle at me. A flattened one, but a water bottle none the less.
And he was really cool..he makes you...he usually told me, 'If I don't get goosebumps when you count that song off..' ya know, just counting it off with your sticks ya know? He's like a really good football coach..ya know?

Sam: I noticed the drums sound different on this album, I was wondering if you wrote more parts this time around?
Dave: "yeah, actually..well when I was going into this record I kinda wanted to take the anti-drummer's approach to it, because I wanted to make things alot simpler this time. Kinda doin' that sort of ..more neanderthal..on this record, where I'm just kinda bashing along. The last record I came in about 3 songs into writing, was kinda nervous and everything for that record, and this time it was nothing like that at all. I wrote guitar parts on the record too.."

Sam: You play guitar too?
Dave: "yeah, a little, not very good, like I can play a riff and then Robb speaking broken english and someone can interpret ya know? fixes it up for you..."

Sam: Who came up with the idea for the distorted drums on "The Burning Red"?
Dave: "That...we were mixing it and Ross kinda suggested it. I totally wanted to do something like that, I'd actually thought about doing it on another part of another song...I love it."

Sam: That one is gonna surprise alot of people I think...the whole album actually.
Dave: "Yeah, that's a good thing, ya know...actually there were alot of people out there when...just, before we even recorded the first note on the record, that's when people heard we were using Ross Robinson. Ya know, it's not nessesarily...pissing people off isn't a bad thing ya know? For people to be narrowminded is bad and people don't...they just hear Ross Robinson and think 'Korn'. They don't even know if they hear the record, they're gonna tell 'um 'Korn'. Fact of the matter is, when we of the first things we said to Ross is 'we DON'T want to sound like Korn'."

Sam: Thank god

Dave: "Well those bands..they're good ya know? but this is our third record ...and alot of bands that go to Ross are new bands, and on your first record you usually sound alot like your influences alot. And so those bands go to Ross and they want to sound like Korn, and that's cool because it's like their first record and whatever, and they want to sound like that. Just like probably 7 or 8 years ago, on their first record most bands were going 'dude, can you make us sound like Pantera?' to whatever producer, whoever did it. And we told Ross, we like Korn, we like Limp Bizkit, but ya know, we have two records under our belt and people expect a certain sound. We're not gonna use different (toms?), we're not gonna use different drums, and... but people are still gonna hear the record and still go 'oh Robb is rapping on this part or that part' ya know?

Sam: I was expecting that, it was starting to happen on the last album...

Dave: "Yeah, exactly, I mean we did Colors on the last record.."

Sam: Yeah, that was cool...

Dave: "Maybe alot of people didn't hear that but, at the same time, when we started writing we talked about where we wanted to go with this record, what we wanted to do. We're a metal band, we're not gonna deny that, ya know? We're a metal band but we're...there are labels that can get put on you when you're a metal band, or a set of rules, things you're not supposed to do"

Sam: Yeah, I know Metallica has been pissing people off for awhile...

Dave: "Well, they are doing what they wanna do too"

Sam: Exactly

Dave: "And there's nothing wrong with it. On this record we wanted to break down all these boundries like 'oh this part sounds like The Cure, we can't do it' well, screw it, let's do it. Robb's voice has evolved over the last record, he's got a really (sick?) singing voice, and he's also still got his gravel voice...kinda wanted to be more melodic with his voice, and it's all good"

Sam: I think alot of people forget that Ross did Sepultura too, all they care about is the Korn thing

Dave: "Yeah, Ross has done alot of good things, like bands that people might have never even heard of like Cold. People wanna think what they want. I've heard people say 'Oh I hate Ross's mixes' Ross didn't even mix our record ya know? They just hear Ross's name and they automatically hear what they wanna hear...whatever. I doesn't bother us at all, we know we're gonna piss people off with this record...but some people hopefully will actually sit down and listen to the whole record.

Sam:'re not the guy guy anymore eh?

Dave: (laughs) "Not anymore, I don't have to lock up the practice room anymore, that's Ahrue's job"

Sam: You pick on him and give him shit now that he's the new guy?

Dave: "Oh yeah.."

Sam: Breakin him in? New Scapegoat?

Dave: "Absolutly, anything that goes wrong, it's all Ahrue's fault"

Sam: So he's working out pretty well?

Dave: "Better than..we could've..actually, we were auditioning guitar players ..alright what do we want out of a guitar player? Has to be cool...he has to be able to play the old stuff obviously...we wanted somebody to write...we wanted someone that's not a log onstage, someone that can actually have a stage presence. And it's like 'who are we gettin ya know? We're gonna get like maybe 2 out of 5, or whatever ya know? And Ahrue is like one of, one of the last guys we auditioned, and um, ya know when he came in...just by meeting him... after you audition for awhile, we were auditioning for 2 or 3 weeks... After awhile you can just tell, like when they pull their guitar out of the case and put it on, you can tell how it's gonna be. Ahrue walked in, with his guitar on, plugged in, and hit a couple notes. By the end of the audition, it just felt totally right. And then we wanted to see how he was, so me and Robb took him out, took him out drinkin...and he was a really cool guy, he just fit in perfect."

Sam: Didn't he accidently kinda help you guys cover "Message In A Bottle"?

Dave: "Yeah, we practice and start playin like old metal songs like, just mess around, we'll play like Motley Crue songs..."

Sam: oh god...(screams and runs away)

Dave: "Bust out Ratt or Doken every once and awhile..just messin around.."

Sam: Cheese metal man...

Dave: "Totally cheesy, and uh, Arhue would play that the rest of the time, we never really played the song along with him, but I guess it kinda stuck in Robb's head, and uh..I think we were recording Robb's guitar tracks and he started playin it..singing along with it, like kinda mellow..and someone goes 'we should cover that' we needed songs for B-sides. So, one day Ross...we were on a break, Ross is like really spontainious, he likes things to be really, like unrehearsed ya know? For this song, we were all just kickin it the studio there's like acres and acres of land, we were just out there throwing oranges and stuff at each other, and Ross just rounded us up, and was like let's go do this song...and we didn't know it, so I went out and bought the cd for it, so we could learn it, but had to like kinda figure everything out, and we didn't know it, so he was like 'great, you guys know like the basic riffs, like turn it into a Machine Head song, it'll be killer'. So I went in there and after an hour of working on it, we played it once came out killer. And so we wanted to use it on the record but, we were kinda of afraid, to put it on the record just because right now there's this whole trend.."

Sam: Yeah, everyone is doing 80's covers now..

Dave: "So, Roadrunner promised us that it would be, ya know..we wanted our songs to be first out."

Sam: Going back a few years...a few Machine Head fans know you were in Sacred Reich...

Dave: "Oh you had to bring that up..."

Sam: yep! (laughs) What were the exact details? you just heard Chris was leaving and decided to try out?

Dave: "I actually got contacted were in Phoenix when I was in Sacred Reich, the guys in Sepultura pretty much rehearsed right next door and uh, me and Igor hung out or whatever..."

Sam: Igor is a sick drummer...

Dave: "Yeah he is...we toured with them many times..we were...we were good friends and everything...I was kind of unhappy in Sacred Reich. To be honest they were just lazy ya know? They didn't really like to practice that much...they didn't like to work too much..I would just tell Igor that, if you ever hear of a band needing a drummer tell me... and, so (can't figure out this sentence...damn phone) Machine Head...he was helping the band out..helping them find a drummer.. and he refered me to them, and we got in touch when they were in the studio..I talked to Robb and basically I told him..out of either stupidity or whatever you wanna call it, I basically told him I wanted to stay and try to stick it out with my seemed like (they could turn around?) but they didn't, after a couple of days I realized they weren't. I got back in touch with Robb and by this time they had a replacement drummer for the last leg of the tour. He wanted me to do that tour, but when I called him back it was too late to go out..we set up a time for an audition, I came out, got in, kicked some ass and got in the band." More coming soon, (as I type it out)'s a half hour long and this is only the first 10 minutes or so!