What started as "huge and aggressive" leftover music from a Fucked Up recording session has blossomed into a full-fledged new project called Masterpiece Machine featuring Mike Haliechuk (Fucked Up, Ruination, Jade Hairpins), Jonah Falco (Fucked Up, Career Suicide, Game) and Riley Gale (Power Trip). While the pedigree of that lineup would indicate a certain sound and aesthetic, Masterpiece Machine ducks convention for an approach that's more Nine Inch Nails and Ministry than, say, Cro-Mags. It's a refreshing digression for these veteran artists that leans into Fucked Up's melodicism while also feeling raw and even — gulp — danceable.
Masterpiece Machine are readying their debut EP for Triple B Records (U.S.) and Quality Control HQ (U.K.), due on April 15th and 17th, respectively, but they've teamed with Revolver today to unleash the record's searing lead single. Check out "Rotting Fruit" below, look out for the EP on Bandcamp and read on for our exclusive interview with all three members on the genesis of the project.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR MASTERPIECE MACHINE FIRST COME FROM? HOW DID IT THEN COME TO FRUITION?
MIKE HALIECHUK Jonah and I were in the studio for two years writing the last Fucked Up album, and ended up with tons of music that didn't fit on the album. We had these two specific songs that sounded huge and aggressive, so we wanted to carve them off into their own project. We sent them to Riley because we felt that his voice would go perfectly over them and he's someone that we've been friends with for years. After we started getting back vocal mixes, it became something that we were all excited enough about to try and turn into a real project, and not just a one-off track.
RILEY GALE I'll back it up a little further and say that Fucked Up was one of the first bigger bands we ever got to tour with, and that Mike and Jonah have remained good friends since that tour. Everyone in the band, really, but especially Mike and Jonah. Between talking about comics and movies and other shit, Mike's been asking me to appear on a Fucked Up record for a few years now and while I've always wanted to, very badly, our timelines just never matched up enough to get the thing done.
So when Mike and Jonah came to me with these tracks, Power Trip had just finished like two years of touring nonstop, so I had a lot of downtime on my hands and a friend with a good studio for recording vocals in Jojo Centineo. This was way different sounding than anything I expected to do on a Fucked Up record, and I was going to have to step way outside the box on what I do vocally, but I wasn't going to not give it a shot. This was my chance to make music with two friends whose music I looked up to before we met, and that meant a lot to me, to be asked by such prolific dudes that are also my friends.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MARKS YOU WANT TO HIT WITH THIS PROJECT?
HALIECHUK I'd like to do an LP, for sure. The first guitar stuff I got into as a kid also had heavy electronics — Ministry, Nine Inch Nails. I kind of skipped all that stuff when electronics and punk music started merging within the last few years, but the heaviness of compressed drum machine sounds and synths has always been in there subconsciously. So it's fun now to try and put it all together again with this project.
GALE For me, this couldn't be further out of my comfort zone. Before discovering stuff like Big Black and Godflesh in my late teens, my only real flirtation with "industrial" music was maybe the Mortal Kombat soundtrack. Before adulthood, "digital" and "guitar" music fell into two distinct different categories. As an adult, my tastes have evolved and I love lots of music that blends analog and digital tones, but a band where industrial music is a primary influence was not something I ever saw myself joining. I don't play an instrument, I know virtually nothing about electronics, but I like to think I have a good sense for good music. And I knew these Masterpiece Machine songs were good music. Still, this was almost entirely uncharted territory for me. The only mile marker I really had was that my vocals would be good enough to get me into the band, and I guess it was.
JONAH FALCO The fact that these two songs could have been just musical debris but are now coming to life is the great first marker. Even though we have all known one another for years and have lots of experience making music, moments of trepidation over new steps feel really good. Working closely with friends and bringing those separate experiences together is always positive.
MASTERPIECE MACHINE IS QUITE DIFFERENT THAN EACH OF YOUR RESPECTIVE PROJECTS, BE IT FUCKED UP, CAREER SUICIDE, POWER TRIP OR WHATEVER IT IS. WAS THAT PART OF THE POINT OF THIS PROJECT? TO DO SOMETHING CHALLENGING?
HALIECHUK Ya, I think for all of us ... we're come from bands with very specific aesthetics and very separate places within punk. From my perspective in FU, I've always written with a certain pop sensibility, but it's always been couched within a very standoffish end project. With this, I want it to be hard but in a more accessible way, with some groove, and it's stuff I've never really written for before.
GALE Joining up with Mike and Jonah, for me, is simply 50 percent having fun with this and 50 percent seeing what I can learn about music and how far I can push my personal abilities. Barking well over metal music like PT takes time to build up that strength, but it's nothing compared to going into a studio and trying to actually belt it out and sing, or yell in key, or whatever it is I did. Jonah and Mike never made it feel like a tryout, but after I tracked the vocals, I was so unsure of myself I half expected them to say, "Thanks for trying but no." They obviously see something in me, and that's a huge confidence booster to keep the Machine going.
FALCO Masterpiece Machine is different but in writing these songs, our first drive was to create something familiar. Through the process of recording this song, it stepped away from those expectations and developed into this hard-rock, industrial space with unexpectedly cinematic elements: the sweeping, rising, guitar string manipulation on "letting you in on a secret," the groove heavy tempo on "rotting fruit" — these are glimpses of things that didn't always fit into the sonic worldview of my projects ...
WILL THERE EVER BE A LIVE SHOW?
HALIECHUK Ya, hopefully, once this comes out and we can have it lead for a full-length, I would love to tour with these people
GALE I really hope so. If there's enough demand we've gotta do at least one, right? But I'd love to take this on the road, too.
FALCO Three cheers for a gig.