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Why Machine Head Think 'Basically Everything You Read On The Internet Is Wrong'

17 July 2018 | 1:30 pm | Brendan Crabb

"There's a huge silent majority who just doesn't bother to say anything, until all that's left is the shitty comments. That's a weird place that we're at as a whole in society."

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"He was always there with a smile, and that dude was a fucking rager-and-a-half," Machine Head vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn laughs as he recalls friend and recently departed Pantera/Hellyeah/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul, who he first met in the early '90s and eventually toured with on several occasions. "He fucking lived it. It's a devastating loss to the metal community. It's really sad. He was a pioneer, his drum style has fucking influenced every modern metal band out there. And he was just a fucking great dude, man. Gone too soon, 54."

Given Flynn turned 50 last year, do deaths like this result in reflection on his own mortality? "Of course, dude. I think every time a metal musician dies, or even when Prince died, or Chris Cornell or Chester Bennington. But you think you're going to live forever... I think the first time it really hit home for me as a young metal-head was when [Metalica bassist] Cliff [Burton] died. When Cliff died it was like, 'Holy shit, we can die?'" he chuckles. "'Us metal dudes don't die.' Yeah, we do, man. Recently we've lost [Jeff] Hanneman, him, Dimebag. I guess we're getting up there; it doesn't seem like we're getting up there but I guess we're all getting up there in age," he laughs again. "It makes you realise how short life is, and to enjoy it."

The US metallers have indeed done that recently — and on their own terms. The quartet are an anomaly on the road; during the touring cycle for 2014's Bloodstone & Diamonds they began exclusively playing "evening with" shows. That means no support acts or festival appearances. It's an exercise they've continued supporting with latest record Catharsis, and Flynn says some recent sets have surpassed the three-hour mark.

However, The Music ponders whether Machine Head lament not being able to engage in the off-stage peer camaraderie associated with festival shows and conventional package tours. It could be an isolated environment. "I miss the way it was, like, 14 years ago. But the way it was 14 years ago isn't the way it is now. And it's never going to be the way it was 14 years ago ever again. To me, especially like in the past five to six years of playing festivals, it was just a bumout, man. It blows, I hate it. I like hanging out with my friends, but I hate playing the show, because nobody cares. Nobody fucking cares. They're just there to have a good time, the festival's more important than the band. There's nothing wrong with people wanting to have a good time; people are there to take selfies, hang out with their friends, get laid, get drunk, smoke weed and have fun. And if they catch a few songs by one of their favourite bands, cool. And if not, that's cool too."

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Defying modern metal convention by eschewing the litany of European and American multi-day events that afford lucrative paydays for heavy music's biggest names is a bold move, especially for a band who's headlined enormous gatherings such as Germany's none-more-metal Wacken Open Air. "There's like 160 bands on festivals nowadays, eight stages... I'm the type of dude, I never go to a buffet. Because I don't need a bunch of shitty food, I'd rather go to a good restaurant and just get one good thing that they do awesome.

"The 'evening with' thing has been mind-blowing. Most successful, highest attendances, biggest merch numbers, the most crazy shows. It's awesome, we love it, our fans love it... I do this to feel a connection, because this is the shit that makes me feel alive. And playing a festival, I just wasn't feeling that connection any more. When we do these, that feeling is there ten times over. It moves me; to tears sometimes."

The frontman says the performances feature "multiple songs off of every single record", including the aforementioned Catharsis, which largely received a press battering. Machine Head themselves haven't been afraid to publicly criticise outside parties; several years ago they "fired" San Diego, vowing never to play there again due to underwhelming crowd responses. Flynn also blasted ex-Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo in one memorable video.

The group continued to air grievances in this manner when they took one high-profile US publication to task for a scathing review of the latest LP. "Fuck that guy," the vocalist spits. "Fuck them, that was fucking bullshit. That was the most ignorant-ass fucking review I've ever read in my life. Like, a zero out of ten? Come on, dude. Like, getting a Triple Beam confused with a gymnastic move?" he laughs. "What the fuck?

"Their job is to review, and that's cool. But if your review's fucking ignorant and stupid, we don't have to fucking be quiet about it. Just like you can spout off your stupid opinion, we can spout off our stupid opinion. This is our art, and of course a lot of work went into our art, a lot of effort. We wrote that record for a year, and for them to just fucking blow it off like that, it was like, 'You know what, man? No.' Every record that comes out by any musician deserves some level of respect, and you just didn't give us any respect."

Flynn acknowledges that metal fans are passionate, and the fact that they're talking means they care. "The only thing that I don't get is just kind of where we've gone as a society now, is that he who has the shittiest, smarmiest comment wins. So because you post it and all your friends see it, and then everybody can chime in and laugh. And there's a huge silent majority who just doesn't bother to say anything, until all that's left is the shitty comments. That's a weird place that we're at as a whole in society. I'm not just talking with Machine Head, or even with just metal or music. That's kinda where we are with everything. He or she with the shittiest comment wins, and I don't know if that's a good thing. I think public discourse is a great thing, and people saying what they say is a great thing, but who knew that giving everybody a voice..." he laughs as he trails off momentarily. "Suddenly here's so many people that you just didn't want to know their fucking opinion.

"The thing that's been not the most vindicating, because that sounds like we were in the wrong. But the thing that's been the most rewarding has been playing these songs live, and watching the absolutely phenomenal, ape-shit motherfuckers losing their minds to these new songs. So, basically everything you read on the internet is wrong," he chuckles.