Interview Outtake: Machine Head Frontman Robb Flynn on Metallica’s Enduring Love for Metal

Photo by Scott Kirkeeng

Although nearly two years has passed since Machine Head opened for Metallica on the Death Magnetic tour, touring with the thrash titans had a lasting impact on Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn, who is interviewed in the current issue of Revolver. The experience influenced him well into the songwriting process for the recently released and critically acclaimed Unto the Locust, which features numerous sonic twists and turns and a previously untapped creativity reminiscent of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets.

“To me, one of the raddest things in the world was touring with Metallica and watching ‘Master of Puppets’–not ‘Enter Sandman.’” Flynn explains. “I get why ‘Enter Sandman’ is so frickin’ huge, but to watch ‘Master of Puppets,’ this eight-minute song with a million parts in the middle of it with complicated choruses and off-time rhythms–to watch arenas every night sing every fuckin’ word, that was amazing. There’s this whole other part of music that can be well-written and well-constructed that can be somewhere over here [points away from him] and still translate to millions of fuckin’ people.”

It wasn’t just the crowd that inspired Flynn, it was everything: the scale of the production, the quality of sound and especially the attitudes of the members of the biggest metal band on earth.

“It’s amazing to see how passionate those dudes still are about music,” says Flynn, who recently celebrated his band’s 20th birthday . “They don’t have to give a shit about music at this point. They don’t have to care about other bands. They’re fucking Metallica. But there were times when I’d sit there and talk to Lars [Ulrich] or [James] Hetfield and listen to them geek out on a band. Lars and I went and saw the Sword, and he’s singing every word and doing air guitar to all the right parts. I’m like, ‘You know every fucking word to the Sword’s songs?’”

Another experience was even more revelatory for Flynn. A couple hours before Machine Head go on, the frontman starts warming up his fingers and voice. One time, Hetfield walked in and the two started talking. When Hetfield noticed there was an electronic drum kit set up in the corner of the dressing room, which Machine Head drummer Dave McClain bashes around on, Hetfield took a seat behind the kit.

“He said, “Do you know any ‘Tallica?” Flynn says. “I’m like, ‘Do I know any Metallica?! Fuckin’ call it.’ So we did ‘Master of Puppets.’ Then he goes, ‘Do you know any Maiden?’ And I’m like, ‘Fuckin’ ‘Wrathchild.’ And then I realize, ‘Oh my God, I’m jamming with Hetfield and he’s on the fuckin drums, playing it killer.’ Then he says, ‘Let’s jam [Machine Head’s] “Aesthetics of Hate.”’ I’m like, ‘You know “Aesthetics of Hate” on the drums?’ He knew every fuckin’ drum beat, every part, and that ain’t an easy song to play. While we’re playing, Dave [McClain, Machine Head drummer] comes in and goes, ‘He’s playing my drum parts. This is amazing!’ To see a band at that level and think, ‘Wow, man, those dudes are still fans. They still love music’ is kind of a revelation. But I mean, I don’t know why I didn’t know [they still loved metal]. I think I might have thought they’d be different now because they’re huge and they’re Metallica.”

 

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