Dave McClain / Machine Head

Dave McClain talks
with Kenneth Beaumont
Machine Head have had a roller coaster career of up and downs that has spanned almost fifteen years. Now with the release of their sixth studio album The Blackening the band is back with a vigour and freshness that reminds drummer Dave McClain of a band working on their second album.

Congrats on a blistering release, correct me if I’m wrong but I imagine the whole band must be really excited about the outcome.

Totally, we couldn’t be happier actually. We’re really happy with how it has been received, it’s selling good and it’s got a lot of people talking so it’s good stuff.

You’ve had troubles in the past with getting the American Press to back Machine Head, have they come around at all with The Blackening?

Some of it has, there’s been one or two magazines that maybe never really listened to what was going on but for the most part it’s coming around and we’re getting into magazines that in the past haven’t really wanted to cover the band. It has kind of opened a lot of peoples eyes.

You have some huge sows lined up this year, one of which is with Iron Maiden and Moterhead at Rome’s Olympic Stadium. How does it feel to still be surging ahead and gaining memento after six albums?

To be honest with you we feel like a new band. We feel like a band on their second album and we have so much freedom now with our songwriting and that has opened so many doors for us. It gives us a fresh outlook with our music and everything. We’re writing songs for the metal kids we used to be when we were younger, it’s a killer time for us and I think it’s a good time for metal right now. Timing has a lot to do with everything so I think we’re in the right time now for an album like this to come out.

You’ve been bashing it out in the metal scene for roughly fifteen years now, what are some of the more significant changes you have witnessed within the scene… for better or worse?

I think one big thing that happened was the downloading of music. It caused a lot of major labels to either collapse and or merge together and I think with that it kind of brought metal back to an independent record label level and back in the day that’s where a lot of it was coming from. There were always a few bands that were on big labels but at the same time you always got to look to independent labels to find the best music, the heaviest music that was going out there and I think right now it’s kind of going back to that.

As your fans get younger do you find it difficult to turn them onto your brand of metal where musical prowess is far more important than fashion sense and style?

That’s one great thing I see all the time when we go out on tour. Our audience seems to get younger and younger and I think right now United States it’s almost like seeing kids from back in 1985. There’s kids in tight jeans and white hi-tops and Megadeath t-shirts walking around with long hair and I’m like “Hey man, that was me back in ’86!”

I think it’s crazy right now, like I said timing is a good thing and metal is so healthy and it is a young thing. I mean right now we’re out with Black Sabbath with Dio singing and Megadeath and you see all these young kids in the audience that are wearing old t-shirts.

There’s some huge epic numbers on the new album, how have audiences taken to songs of such lengthy proportions?

They’re going over really good. We’ve done some headline shows out here and when we do those songs people are reacting to them the same way we react to them. For us they’re great, they’re fun to play. There’s a lot going on and there’s a lot of challenging stuff going on and I think because they are such long songs but at the same time there’s so many different parts it’s not like we’re playing just two or three parts in a song. There’s a lot of different stuff going on. One minute it will be this heavy groove and then the next minute we will be going full on double bass and I think being in the crowd and hearing those songs, people seem to be digging it so that’s pretty awesome.

The new album The Blackening and the band itself are really pushing the boundaries of heavy metal song structure and composition, what are some of the difficulties that come with opening the envelope so far?

There are no difficulties for us maybe just some of the parts, some of the stuff that we wrote for ourselves is a little difficult so we’re really keeping ourselves on our toes but other than that we are writing the music that we want to hear and we’re having a great time.

You’re rumoured to be coming down to Australia to play with Lamb of God, do you know anything about this?

We’re definitely going back, we’re definitely coming back this year. We want to go back and headline. The last time we were through there we had an amazing time. Going to Australia is amazing but the bad thing about it is that there’s only about five places to play and so your tour is over in like a week and a half and we like literally didn’t want to leave. We’re definitely heading there soon but we don’t really know with who or whatever yet.

So with a little inspiration from RUSH and the idea that you should write the new album for yourself and not the radio stations it must be a great feeling to have the new album be such a success. Can you see this being an attitude Machine Head will take into the studio again in the future?

Totally. It’s such a good feeling not having to worry about who’s going to play your stuff or if you write this type of song they’re not going to play it. We definitely found I would say the rulebook but there are no rules in the rule book and that’s the good thing. There’s no limits to what we can do and so next time we start writing we’re definitely following that blank page of rules.

You interact with bands through your forum which is totally kick arse, tell me about the time you invited all the fans in the Bay area to come down and record vocals with the band.

It was for the song Clenching the Fists of Dissent and it was a chant part like an old school metal “Fight! Fight!” and we put a thing up on the web-site basically saying that if board people could make it up to the bay area or were in the bay area, we gave them the studio contact and ended up giving them the studio address and everything and had a bunch of people come down. We bought a bunch of beer and a bunch of vodka and stuff and basically made a party of it. It was cool, we actually had kind of a guys vs. girls chant. We would get dudes in there and tell the girls that the guys were talking crap about you, saying that you can’t sing because you’re chicks and so they got in there with this attitude and they were going for it and it just turned out to be a killer night and for us, anytime that we can do stuff like that for our fans. That time before Through the Ashes, basically we were label-less and we had nothing, we didn’t even have a guitar player so that’s all we have, we have our fans and we built up our fans not by always having a song on the radio we built our fans by touring and by including them in things. We love our fans man, what more can I say?