For many thrash and groove-metal fans, Logan Mader is best known as the original Machine Head lead guitarist that played on the band's caustic 1994 debut Burn My Eyes and its follow-up 1997's The More Things Change... Recently, he rejoined Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn for a triumphant 25th Anniversary tour of Burn My Eyes. But that's only a part of Mader's legacy.
In the decades since leaving Machine Head, he has produced and/or engineered albums for Gojira, DevilDriver, Soulfly, W.A.S.P., and others, and toured and performed with lesser-known acts. Perhaps most significantly, since 2014, Mader has teamed with singer Lauren Hart in the melodic death/groove outfit Once Human. They've released two albums, 2015's The Life I Remember and 2017's Evolution, and shared stages with Fear Factory and others. But it's with Once Human's dark, swinging, bludgeoning new album, Scar Weaver, that Mader could again reach the heights he enjoyed in his former band — even though he didn't play a single note on the record.
Mader openly credits enigmatic guitarist Max Karon, who joined Once Human in 2016, with writing Scar Weaver's healthy musical balance between hatred and hooks. Ironically, Karon wrote, played and recorded all of his parts for the record while Mader was reliving past glory with Machine Head. Sadly, halfway through the Burn My Eyes anniversary tour, the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the shows and Mader headed back home to L.A. At first, he was bummed. Then he heard the 10 songs Karon carved out on his own, and his melancholy turn to euphoria.
"I went, 'Holy shit, dude, these are amazing,'" says Mader. "For a while, I thought about what I could add or change, but everything was there and it was killer."
With the songs written, Mader worked with Hart to track her parts, but Hart wasn't feeling as productive as Karon. Burdened by depression and anxiety and worried that her vocals wouldn't complement Karon's surging, shifting arrangements, Hart became insecure and battled writer's block.
"Even if it was for a chorus. I kept thinking, Oh, no, my voice doesn't work for this. I'm just going to ruin it," she says. "Eventually, I was able to overcome that and write something really great. And that felt amazing — like I had just solved this huge algebra equation. But it was really hard and I had to dig deep."
Drawing on the chaos and turmoil swirling around her, including COVID-19 and the mysterious death of a close friend, Hart barreled through her stress and crafted bleak, brutal and beautiful passages, ranging from the Alice in Chains–style melodies of "Erasure" to the tuneful lament in the dissonant guitar and double-bass drum attack of "Only in Death," the latter addressing a desperate act as the only escape from misery: "Only in death will I cut your weight out of flesh/No, I won't take the pain."
In a conversation as candid as the lyrics of Scar Weaver, Mader and Hart discuss mortality, depression, the fallout and reconciliation with Mader's former bandmate Robb Flynn (who also guests on Scar Weaver), the duality between Mader's sobriety and his day job with cannabis entrepreneurs and more.
WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT MAX WROTE ALL THE MUSIC FOR SCAR WEAVER WHILE YOU WERE ON TOUR WITH MACHINE HEAD?
MADER I was stoked, dude. It was really inspiring. Max is an amazing, really creative, special, unique kind of talent, so I knew he was totally capable of doing something this good. We let him just be himself. Some moments are so disgusting and so heavy and, just, wrong. But it's awesome. And then there's the melodic, artsy side that's even more beautiful and sometimes more esoteric than our last album.
SINCE MAX WROTE ALL THE SONGS, HOW DID YOU APPROACH THE GUITAR PARTS WHEN YOU PLAYED THEM ON THE ALBUM?
MADER This is how I played on the album. I burned a CD and played tiddlywinks on it. [Laughs] No, man, Max did all the rhythms and leads — everything. Then I worked with Lauren on the vocals and mixed it.
WERE YOU ABLE TO BENEFIT FROM THE EXTRA TIME YOU HAD SINCE YOU WERE AT HOME AND UNABLE TO TOUR?
MADER Yeah, 'cause we didn't have to rush anything and Lauren needed to write her parts. We work well on deadline, but being locked up gave us more time to spend on the songs.
LAUREN, WERE YOU GLAD TO HAVE THE ADDITIONAL TIME TO WORK ON YOUR PARTS?
HART I'm a perfectionist, so all of this extra time was actually not as good for me. I was like, I'm just going to rewrite everything. It's never done and I can always do better. Logan is really good at telling me, "What? This is great. Stop! You've done it. Move on." But sometimes I'm still not happy and I get really frustrated and down. And I really wasn't happy being at home. Being on tour feels like home for me. I don't feel like I'm at home unless I'm on the road. But I surround myself with cats and that helps some.
THE PAST TWO YEARS HAVE BEEN FRAUGHT WITH POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL TURBULENCE. DID THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND SUBSEQUENT ISOLATION IMPACT YOUR LYRICS?
HART At first, I felt like I wanted to give people a positive message with the album, but I couldn't do that. I really tried. I really wanted to do something upbeat because everyone around us was so sad, I wanted to do something that people would feel good about — like a light at the end of the tunnel. And no matter how hard I tried to do that, the energy of the world kept dragging me back down.
ARE THERE COMMON THEMES TO YOUR LYRICS?
HART Every song's different. "Deadlock" is about the way the media controls and puppeteers the people. "Scar Weaver" is about anxiety and battling with yourself. Like I said, I did a lot of that throughout this album. And "Cold Arrival" was about a friend of ours who died in 2020. That was my first experience with a really unexpected death. Everyone expects their grandparents to die, but never someone so young. Suddenly, he was just gone. That hit me really hard.
WAS IT A FELLOW MUSICIAN WHO PASSED?
HART No, it was a friend in the fitness industry. He was spin class instructor.
MADER He had a spin studio near where we all lived. Max discovered it and brought us there and we all loved it. The exercise was great for us and he became a really good friend.
HART When it was just us in the room with him, he would crank metal and we'd all go crazy while we were spinning, which was really fun. He let us borrow a spin bike to take on tour. We took it in and out of the trailer every day and when we brought it back to him it was completely trashed. [Laughs] But yeah, his death was tough on all of us.
LOGAN, YOU LEFT MACHINE HEAD IN A TIME OF FRICTION AND DYSFUNCTION. WAS BEING BACK WITH ROBB FLYNN FOR THE BURN MY EYES ANNIVERSARY TOUR LIKE GETTING BACK ON A BIKE OR WAS THERE ANY AWKWARDNESS TO NAVIGATE?
MADER Robb and I had friction back when I left the band in 1998. But not in many years. And it's not like the friction came out of nowhere. I don't remember it, really, because I was a little high all the time — no, a lot high — and it got out of control. But I'm sober now.
HOW DID YOU WIND UP PLAYING ON THE BURN MY EYES ANNIVERSARY TOUR?
MADER Five years went by and Rob and I didn't speak. Then one day he called me out of the blue and said, "Logan, I'm just calling to say I'm not mad at you anymore." 'Cause he was mad at me. He had reason to be mad at me. I said, "That's really good to hear." I was genuinely happy that he got to the point where he wanted to let go of all the anger he was carrying towards me. So I'd hang out with them when they came to L.A. and things were good. Then around 2018, I texted Rob and said, "You know, Burn My Eyes is going to turn 25 in a year. Have you ever thought about doing a 25th Anniversary tour?" And he said, "I don't know? Anything's possible." But it didn't seem like there would be time because [drummer] Dave [McClain] and [guitarist] Phil [Demmel] had not left Machine Head at that point.
DID THEIR DEPARTURE CREATE THAT OPPORTUNITY?
MADER It was weird. A few months after I originally talked to him, I had a dream that we were doing the tour. Then, all of a sudden, Dave and Phil quit out of nowhere, which opened that door. It was great because it allowed us to celebrate this amazing thing that was Burn My Eyes that people still care about.
DID THAT GREASE THE WHEELS FOR ROBB TO SING ON THE ONCE HUMAN TRACK "DEADLOCK."
MADER We just felt like that song needed a guest feature. It had kind of a different, groovy vibe and we thought Robb would just nail it.
HART I kept hearing some kind of nu-metal rhythmic style and I felt like an idiot when I tried to do it. So I felt like having a guest on there and doing some kind of back and forth vocal with the song would be really cool. I actually had a chorus already done on that song and we sent it to Rob with holes in the song, where he could insert his parts. When he sent it back, we listened to it and the chorus I did was gone. The only word he kept was "Deadlock." At first, I was like, "Hey, you took away my chorus!" But then I was like, "Fuck, his chorus crushes mine." It was so much better, with an immediate hook. So, obviously, his chorus stayed. Then we worked on the verse and we were both really excited.
LOGAN, YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU'RE SOBER. YET, WHEN YOU'RE NOT PLAYING MUSIC YOU WORK IN THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY WITH SYSTEM OF A DOWN BASSIST SHAVO ODADJIAN'S COMPANY RED22. DID YOU SUBSTITUTE WEED FOR HEAVIER DRUGS AND ALCOHOL?
MADER No, all I do is coffee. I don't drink and I don't smoke. I don't do anything else, and I feel great. Seriously, dude, I'm lucky to be here because there have been many nights in my past where I was lucky to wake up the next morning. I was self-destructive and I loved the whole rock star party thing. I think a lot of that addictive behavior is genetic. But also, I would get onstage and play shows for 130,000 people with Machine Head at festivals like Dynamo back in the day. That's the best high you could ever experience. But a little bit later, it starts to fade and then you come down. I never wanted to come down. I wanted to keep that high going. So "showcaine" turned into cocaine. And once that happens it's very hard to stop that train. Basically, it turned into a near-death experience every other day. I thought I was indestructible, I guess, but I realized I'm not and I'm lucky I got this far and am now healthy and strong and clean and sober.
IS IT HARD TO WORK IN THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY WHEN YOU'VE HAD A HISTORY WITH DRUGS?
MADER No, because it's a great business and I know that the medicinal benefits of cannabis are huge. There are people who have used high concentrated tinctures of THC to cure cancer. And it's a great anti-inflammatory. It works for anxiety and depression and lots of other things. It's a good natural plant medicine. Basically, I'm hanging out with creative people who sell weed — entrepreneurs that are basically stoners turned multimillionaires. So, it's a cool space and it creates a good alternative revenue stream for me without getting in the way of Once Human.