Mayhem Fest may have come to an end this past weekend, but things are only getting started for Machine Head. Unto the Locust, Machine Head’s follow up to 2007’s massive The Blackening, is without a doubt one of the most anticipated records coming out this Fall. And the wait will finally come to an end once the album hits stores on September 27.
We got the chance to catch up with Machine Head bassist/co-founder t Adam Duce during the Mayhem Festival’s stop in Camden, NJ. During our chat, Duce discussed the band’s goal to write music for themselves and not others, his preference for performing in for “the craziest fuckers” in front of the Mayhem Fest’s side stages, and the record labels’ struggle with digital media.
Even though it’s been four years since The Blackening came out, Machine Head have been going nonstop on the road touring behind that album. Do you feel the nonstop touring helped or had any influence on the new album?
No, I don’t really think so. I know that it had a detrimental effect on my beach body. [laughs]
So is Detrimental Effect On My Beach Body what you wanted to call the album but the rest of the band turned it down? [laughs]
[laughs] No. I think we did what we had to do on that record [The Blackening] and then it was done. And we had to kind of move forward from that and just get that behind us. When you’re so widely critically acclaimed, if you let any of that shit go to your head it makes the next thing that you do harder. I ended up after so many different things we’ve done, like from after Burn My Eyes, we had huge success on that, then we all kind of freaked out, like “What the hell are we going to do now?” But then we wrote The More Things Change, which was not that much of a departure from Burn My Eyes. That was a product of feeling too much pressure, The More Things Change. Then we tried to predict what the world was wanting at the time, and in comes The Burning Red. And that reacted in a good way in the United States, but I think it alienated a lot of fans just because of the production really. Had we had Terry Date [Pantera, Deftones] record and mix the entire thing, I think it would have been looked at completely differently, but we didn’t and it is what it is. Then again we go trying to basically figure out what the world wants with Supercharger, and we end up getting dropped. And we just decided “Well look, if this is the last fucking chance that we might have to make a record then let’s hoist our middle finger flag in the air as high as we can fucking get it and go down like that on our own fucking terms! This is how we’re going out!” But as soon as we did that of course it reacted.
And that was kind of a fucking hard pill to swallow just to know that fucking the only thing the world wanted from us was whatever we wanted to do. It was like” Jesus Christ, we just wasted how many fucking years?!” So it’s been a giant learning process. Of course after Through the Ashes came The Blackening. We were calling the next one from Through the Ashes when we were sitting here doing this press and stuff, it was like “Well you know what? We’re just jelling as a band right now. Wait until the next one. The next one is going to be the one!” And we hadn’t written one fucking note for it, but we knew it. It’s a basic continuation of just making music for the sake of it because it’s all that anybody wants out of us anyway. They don’t want us trying to “figure out” what they want. We’re not that fucking smart, we’re a fucking handful of musicians. [laughs] We do one thing and we do it well. So I think that Machine Head fans, if you’re a fan of our back catalog then you’re going to feel this one. It’s undeniably Machine Head and there’s new, fresh ideas and new, fresh songs that deliver what a Machine Head fan’s looking for.
I love hearing you saying that the band is able to go in with the mentality of “Fuck the world, let’s focus on what Machine Head wants.” It’s just really refreshing to hear a band doing what they want to do.
Yeah. And then inside that there’s also a bunch of arguments between what we want as individuals. [laughs] At the end of the day it’s just the Machine Head process. It takes a little bit longer than most but whatever.
I noticed in the track listing that the song “I Am Hell” has been broken into three parts. Does that mean there’s a bit of a theme going on with that song or maybe even within the whole album?
No. There’s a long intro to it that we’re calling a song because after hearing it so many times it’s just easier to just click through it. So we put that long intro as its own thing so that you don’t have to listen to it every time if you just want to get to the meat of the song.
See you’re still thinking about the fans!
What nice guys, huh? [laughs]
So even though you’re in the middle of the mixing process for this album, Machine Head still made an effort to be on this year’s Mayhem Fest [editors note, mixing for the album was complete until the last week of Mayhem Fest. During a majority of the tour, frontman Robb Flynn traveled back and forth to the studio to finish the mixing]. Was there a reason that the band felt so passionate about being on Mayhem Fest once again?
Well, we thought it would be a good set up for the record and the way that it worked out, the time frame. I mean, we were fucking hustling to get this record out on time because our record release is based around this tour right now. And it’s an awesome tour. It’s an awesome time. I think this is the most fun tour going on right now. I’ve got a lot of friends that are on this tour and it’s the most fucking grown up experience that I’ve had on tour ever. I mean, like the other day I was sitting in a hotel room and they’re like “yeah there’s a bus call at 7am.” And I was like “Aww that sucks. Let’s see if we can get Nick’s truck and just take it in later.” [laughs] So we pulled the truck off the trailer and fucking woke up at the crack of noon and fucking drove to work! And it’s cool because when you have regular amenities like you would have at home it makes you feel more human and less like a fucking kid crammed on a school bus.
Well I’m sure you’ve had a long enough time on the bus as it is these past three years.
Yeah, and that’s one of the things that’s the worst about being on the bus is the fact that I’m fucking 39 years old and I’ve achieved a certain level of lifestyle that I don’t really want to do without when it comes time to get on fucking tour. It’s like “Ok, leave your motorcycles and your fucking airplane at home and fucking get on the god damn school bus.” And it would be awesome if we could just do whatever we wanted to do, but you can’t. You’re fucking stuck. You don’t have transportation, you’re like a little kid. This [Mayhem Fest] is not like that. This is fucking awesome! [laughs] It’s a really well put together festival, I can’t say enough about John Reese for the fucking great job that he’s been doing out here. I mean, he owns the festival and he’s really laid back, really easy going and I fucking love him for it.
For a majority of Mayhem Fest, Machine Head, In Flames, and Trivium have been rotating slots on the main stage and side stages [editor’s note, In Flames dropped off the tour just hours before this interview occurred]. Having also played at Mayhem Fest in 2008, do you personally prefer performing on the main stage or on the side stage?
I prefer playing in the parking lot just because it’s crazier. You’ve got the fans that could only afford the lawn tickets and in the parking lot they can fight their way to the front. The people who want to be at the front are the ones that are at the front. The people who are in the pit want to be there. You’ve got the craziest fuckers down there responding to it, that’s what they came for. And when you’re on the main stage, these guys are about 100 yards away on the lawn up there and you’re looking at a bunch of seats. Now over the years, and we’ve been doing this for 20 years, we’ve gotten good at being able to transition from one thing to the next and being able to work the seats people and stuff. It’s just not the same. You don’t see the visual response of what they’re feeling. You go out into the parking lot and it’s a god damn hurricane in the middle of it and it’s fucking awesome.
In addition to Unto the Locust, a lot of big metal releases are coming out this Fall. I was just curious if you had, besides your own of course, one album that you were really looking forward to being released.
I don’t know. I don’t really anticipate anything like that anymore. I used to do that, but I don’t know. We get a lot of stuff on the bus all the time and most of it’s just crap. [laughs] I mean I appreciate their enthusiasm and I remember being that kid so I try to be as nice as I can to everybody but at the end of the day usually it’s not very good. [laughs] I mean, what’s coming out this year that I’m really anticipating?
Unto the Locust! [laughs]
I already know what that sounds like. [laughs]
Well, I’m glad to hear that you’ve heard it then. [laughs]
Go out and fucking buy 10 copies EACH! [laughs]
Absolutely, because everyone’s buying at least one copy.
Yeah, they’re not even doing that anymore. “Oh wait, Hold on, download that shit!”
Well actually, with illegal downloading being so heavily done nowadays, did you ever feel hesitant to record a new album?
That’s just what we do. The powers that be have not done a very good fucking job at being able to work within the new digital media. They’ve always had this fucking product that was a bag full of fucking something that they’re selling, and now it’s this cyber idea and they fucking failed miserably at being able to capitalize on that. So there’s a huge breach in security there and there’s no guard at the door. It’s just Oh, There it is. Grab it!” You can steal shit in the privacy of your own home. If it’s that easy to get, I can’t really fucking blame some kid that doesn’t have a job for fucking taking it. Does it suck for us? Fuck yeah it does, but you gotta roll with it. When the record companies fail as miserably as they have been with selling records, then you gotta concentrate on making money in other places like tickets and t-shirts. And then fucking in comes the fucking record company again with a 360 deal. Are you fucking kidding me? Really? We figured out how to continue to make money and you want more of ours? Fuck you! [laughs] 360 this motherfuckers.
So I guess we know what Machine Head is NOT going to do once the contract is up. [laughs]
You know what, I’m not saying that we’re not going to do it because that seems to be the way that it’s going. But it’s going to have to be sweet as fuck to put my name on anything. I’d rather fucking put it out myself personally, but that’s going to be another fucking Machine Head battle/war of attrition there. [laughs]