After being on the road for 86 days straight, I got home and celebrated Xmas with my family.
It felt like I blinked and next thing I knew it was Feb. 2005 and I was back at Sharkbite Studios with Mark Keaton working on the mix of the audio for the "Elegies" DVD.
In March of 2005 we played the 2nd annual Desert Rock festival in Dubai, United Emirates. Now if you remember, in 2005 the middle east was a scary fucking place place for everyone, let alone a bunch of long-haired Americans! In 2005 we were 2 years into the war and the American media had pounded relentlessly into our heads how the whole entire multi-country region was entirely made up of terrorists. It was a bit daunting, but the money was so good we said "fuck it."
So effective was the media manipulation that Genevra and I got into huge argument over doing the show! She was convinced, 1,000% that it was a "terrorist plot to kidnap an american heavy metal band for ransom!" I was like "dude, why would they kidnap a buncha nobodies like us!?"
I left for my 3 plane, 23 hour flight to the Middle East, half-wondering if she was right.
When we finally arrived we departed the plane and were greeted by our friendly promoter Jacki. Jacki escorts us and our manager Joseph off the tarmac to an inconspicuous bus. We board the bus, get comfortable and the next thing I knew the ride started feeling really long. Right there and then there my mind starts, maybe Genevra WAS right. Maybe they are kidnapping us! We drive for what seems like 10 more minutes and at this point I'm freaking the fuck out. It also sucks that I'm the only one on the bus who aware of this. It IS a terrorist plot, FUCK! We arrive at a completely nondescript warehouse and the whole time I'm thinking "ok, this is it... goodbye cruel world!"
We're walked off the bus and into a building and the first thing I see is a giant Rolex clock on the wall.
We're in the private passport control for Emirates royalty!
They take us to our private waiting area and deliver us a giant multi-level tray of delicious middle eastern deserts and pastries, dates, and nuts. They turn on the giant plasma screen TV and offer us tea or coffee while our passports get cleared.
As we get in our vehicles to leave I am expecting to see nothing but camels and mosques as far as the eye can see. I couldn’t be more wrong. We begin to drive and the first things I see are Starbucks and Round Table Pizza, then Cactus Jacks, Subway, McDonald's, Macy's, Nordstroms, I'm like "what the fuck?" Along this same route we passed an area where there's casinos and giant luxury hotels everywhere. All super impressive and from what we were told, all are all super modern. It's Blade Runner meets Las Vegas-on-the-beach.
The Desert Rock show itself is incredible! Just staring out into a sea middle eastern metal heads, all in leather jackets, Slayer shirts, Slipknot, Morbid Angel, Metallica, Megadeth shirts. These fans just didn't look the part, they knew all the words as they moshed and headbanged. They chanted "Machine fuckin' Head" just like anywhere else in the world. Music and for us Metal, is time and again the universal language.
Speaking of language... the venue had a couple of strict rules like no drinking alcohol onstage and no swearing, which of course I promptly disregarded! Our manager Joseph was left to explain my blatant disregard to the armed guards who had gathered and were quite unhappy with my “immoral” stage banter. Joseph Huston was a bit, uh... miffed.
After the show we spoke with kids from all the neighboring middle east, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, I was eager to talk with them about what their world was like, was it true? Was it just over-flowing with terrorists like the news was telling me?
They asked me the same thing to me, is America all gangs and Crips and Bloods killing everyone all the time? All they see on their news about America was cities like Compton over and over again. We both agreed that there was that element, but the vast majority of our countries weren't like that. That we were being duped.
It was an eye-opening experience. It changed my perception of the middle east and our media forever.
During the Dubai run we started noticing our tour manger acting really strange. We had a short break as we geared up for the "States Turn Blue To Gray" tour at the end of April. Upon arriving home from Dubai, I went straight into Sharkbite again, and began recording the tracks for the Roadrunner United album, and that's when I got the news that our TM had completely fallen off the deep end. He went on a crack cocaine binge and stole over $10,000 of our tour start up money then quickly disappeared off the face of the Earth. For months we were terrified he was dead (we genuinely cared about this dude) but eventually he re-surfaced. Though it took four years, we were eventually paid back...with interest.
The tour started off with us supporting Lamb Of God for 3 shows and all of those shows went amazing. They treated us great and honestly, it was the first time that a band had taken out as support in years. In fact the reason we did 3 headline tours in America on 'Through The Ashes...' is BECAUSE no one would take us out in the US. We couldn't get Ozzfest's, Warped's, we couldn't get support slots. So when I say no one, I mean NO ONE. The only option was to headline. Machine Head were stoked to be out with them.
With our friends Devildriver and the then-insanely-hot-band It Dies Today, we embarked on what would be hands-down the biggest and best U.S. headline run we would do up until that point. Attendances at most of the shows were sold out, and we sold out House Of Blues in Chicago which was awesome considering the last time we played. We hit a lot of smaller cities that normally don't get shows, the U.S. fans were INSANE on this run and everyone had a rip roaring blast.
But remember this is Machine Head so it wasn't without it's hiccups.
The metal media was colder than ever and we got zero coverage by any magazine with publications refusing to even review the concert. Health wise I came down with a brutal flu and viral throat infection that wiped my throat out for 5 shows. Not wanting to cancel in Toronto Canada, we had members of Devildriver and fans from the audience come up and sing the tunes. We had fun, the audience had fun, but it was a mess and we decided to cancel a few shows.
We cancelled, then played, then cancelled 2 more, played again, then cancelled 2 more.
What was the deal? Well, the first doctor misdiagnosed me and gave me a short-term steroid injection, told me to take 12 Advil a day... when I lost my voice again a few shows later, the next doctor told me it "might be allergies." I was like, "Lady, I’ve cancelled four shows in 11 YEARS, and so far I’ve had to cancel four shows on this tour alone... it AIN'T fuckin’ 'allergies'!!!" So she gives me some short-term steroid pills and recommended I continue the 12 Advil a day.
Finally, after the 4th cancellation, I went to the best throat specialist in Atlanta, Dr. Jeffery Sherman. He stuck and camera-tube up my nose and down my throat and said "Dude, your vocal chords are severely bruised from singing thru this throat infection, the WORST thing you could do is take 12 Advil a day - Advil is a blood thinner and makes any existing bruising WORSE by filling up the bruised area with TWICE the blood it would normally have as a result." UGH.
That and the fact that I was drinking 6 or 7 blood-thinning shots of vodka on stage certainly didn't help matters. He gave me a long-term steroid injection, forbid me from Advil, told me not to speak to anyone, at all, and I played 6 in a row. 3 sets of steroids had me go into a couple of "roid rages," but other than that I made it thru, and in the end was totally killing it again.
Being sick on the road sucks. No matter what you do for a living having, to be away from home while sick just sucks! In the music world, I'm sorry, but if you’re a singer? There's nothing worse than that. I remember when I was just playing guitar in Vio-Lence and getting sick on tour, though at the time I thought it was horrible, looking back, it was a breeze.
But when you're a singer, a throat infection or a chest infection on the road, fuck man, it is such a helpless feeling. Your vocal chords get swollen from coughing, they won't close in and out anymore, and that "closing in and out" is what makes the sound of "singing," or in my case "barking in key." No amount of stretching, warming up, or as Dave likes to point out, "dude, just suck a cock and open it up"... well... even THAT won't help. (Though I haven't tried... maybe I should. Just gob down on a giant cock all "ooooowgh" and start singing, maybe I'll be like "dude, this sucking cock stuff REALLY DOES open up my vocal chords!!")
I beat myself up pretty good over the cancellations. It really bummed me out. I felt like I was letting the band down, letting the fans down, letting the promoters down, letting our tour mates down, and ultimately, letting myself down. I probably felt it harder than I should have and had to constantly remind myself that what I do is in no way whatsoever fucking "easy."
I try to make what I do look easy. My heroes made it look easy and that was why I looked up to them. But all modesty aside, this shit ain't easy. You think you can do what I do? You can't. I'm not trying to come across as anything but honest. But you need to understand I've been working at my craft for some 28 years now. I'm a master. The first 6 years as just a guitar player and 22 plus at singing, playing guitar, and owning the stage. If you work at something for 28 years you're probably going to be damn proficient at whatever it is you do. I've just never stopped.
And I'm not even saying I deliver 100% every night, just most nights. There's plenty of nights where I'm a bit hungover or out of it. There's plenty of nights I'm dealing with bad stuff back home, or just ultra haggard from 13-in-a-row and trying to make it through.
But you shake it off and you "keep on keepin' on. "
Like I said, it ain't easy, I just make it look that way.
The Italians have a name for it; "Sprezzatura."
It means: "the art of making the difficult, seem effortless."
In August I wrapped up the Roadrunner United mixing sessions, and Matt Heafy, Max Cavalera and I did some press at the Kerrang! Awards. In many ways, doing the Roadrunner United record was a strategic move on our part. Sure, I wanted to be a Captain and help Monte out but it also forced Roadrunner US to commit to Machine Head. As a result of this and because the tour generated a healthy spike in record sales, Roadrunner US agreed to release our next album.
In June, we were the main support on farewell shows to Böhse Onkelz. If you have no idea how huge this was band was, look em up. They were the biggest band in Germany since, well, fucking, ever! Machine Head ended our epic 22 month tour cycle in style. We played a frankly stunning headline show at Germany's infamous Wacken Festival. Few words can describe the sheer massiveness of headlining an event like that. It was fucking mind-melting. It was brutal and beautiful all at the same time and a near storybook ending to an epic World Tour on the highest of high notes.
In October that year we released the "Elegies" live concert from London's Brixton Academy on DVD. It charted at #12 in the US and marked the final piece to the “Ashes” puzzle. In a 30 minute "making of" documentary we openly and honestly discussed the challenges and obstacle we faced up until this point.
I know it's a fan favorite, but honestly it's hard for me to watch, there are some cringe-worthy moments.
Even writing this has been difficult at times.
Writing about your victories is easy. Writing about your short-comings, or failures.... mmmm, not so much.
Laying your faults, mistakes, mishaps, inter-personal dramas out for all to see... to judge... to cheer, or condemn...
I know in my heart of hearts that everyone has thoroughly enjoyed reading these, and that has made it all worth it. I've thoroughly enjoyed writing them, a lot more than I thought I would.
But I'm NOT going to write a book.
I'm happy to do these for free, and I believe you guys like that aspect too.
I love the stream-of-concious-vibe, deadline-free, weekly-ish nature of these. I don't HAVE to do these. I could stop anytime I want. The 3 to 5 hours, over 1 or 2 days it takes to write these, it's not work, I enjoy it, I get lost in them sometimes. I like that it continues and evolves. Sometimes you catch me on good days, and sometimes on really shitty days, a lot like life. Because it is.
Maybe when I'm dead these will all come out in a book and people can read em' all at once... or not. And me being dead probably isn't that far away anyway, at 46, I'm well past the halfway mark, and considering the life I've led, I've most certainly shaved off quite a few years.
But I do know this.
I don't want to be an author. I don't want to be a reality TV star. I don't want to be a movie star. I don't want to be a DJ / VJ. I don't want to be a judge on a singing / talent anything. And I don't want to be a solo artist. I've had big money offers to all of these things.
I don't want that.
I want to be the best guitarist, and the best frontman, of the best metal band the world has ever known. Machine Fucking Head! Some people might think were there now, I'm gonna say we have to push harder to be just that. We must aspire to greatness, ALWAYS.
I'm grateful to have the bad-ass Team that I do. The guys in the band, my manager, my crew, man... a guy couldn't ask for better people around him. I hurt Phil and Dave's feelings in part 6 of these Journals. I want to publicly apologize for this. I'm their captain, their leader, their "General", and I shouldn't have said what I said. I've apologized to them in person, and I'm saying it again here.
Not to worry, we worked it out.
Hold on to the things you love.
With all your might.
I may be master at the stage, but I gotta a long way to go in life. It is my life's work to master myself. I'm not there yet.
During the writing of this, I now realize the biggest thing that transformed Machine Head was examining the mistakes we made on “The Burning Red” and “Supercharger,” and learning from them. Examining them in pain-staking detail, asking ourselves "what the fuck went right? And what the fuck went wrong?" As a band, shit, as human beings, we must to constantly do that or we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
Somewhere at the end of the nineties, between the booze and the pills and the drugs and the little bit of fame we got, we lost the plot a little. Not musically, but spiritually. We did some things for the wrong reasons, and what can you do? I am still vehemently proud of the music, but yes, there was a higher degree of shittier songs and me dressed up as like an orange-juice-box in the "From This Day" video is definitely one of those "what-the-fuck-was-I-thinking" moments. It bothered me for a while. Now I just laugh at it.
Yes, this picture is comedy: http://frontlines.machinehead1.com/images/img/flynnfrom.jpg
It's hard to adapt to a changing musical landscape. The second you try, you lose your footing and everything that you knew is suddenly gone – just-like-that! The music business is fickle, it's cut-throat, people place their money where there's a hot band and then on-to-the-next when they're not.
"You are only as good as your last record."
Man, NEVER has a saying been so true.
People will leave you in droves on the slightest whim.
It's very similar to how things are now. We will see how many of today's bands can adjust to the transition, but I'm not putting my money on too many of them. Bands don’t stick around like they used to. Most current bands wont last long enough to have to adapt.
But we did adapt. A lot of times gracefully, often times embarrassingly... but we did it. We're still here and doing damn good when SO MANY of our compatriots aren't. There are probably thousands of bands that released their first album in 1994 that are either broken up or just inactive. We're talking about bands we toured with or ran parallel with through the years. Our brothers and sisters, great people who were in great bands that SHOULD be here, but aren't or can't anymore.
On "Ashes" we remembered what it's all about. On "Ashes" we remembered it's about connecting, it's about believing.
To date "Through The Ashes Of Empires" has sold just under 80,000 copies in the US. Hardly staggering numbers, but not too shabby considering most people had already grabbed it off a torrent site several months prior to it's US release.
In Europe “Ashes” faired better as it went silver in the UK (60,000 copies), and combined with Europe did over 200,000 copies throughout the continent.
We'd love for that number to be higher, I think it deserves to be higher, but that said, it could be way, WAY worse.
At the very end of the “Elegies” DVD, there's a scene in the documentary where Monte Conner says, "just think, Machine Head wrote "Through The Ashes" when their confidence was at a low, can you imagine what they'll do now that their confidence is back at an all time high?"
I know Phil has turned to this quote time and time again over the years, as have I, many times, writing “The Blackening“, and beyond.
Sometimes all it takes in life is someone believing in you.
Just someone who genuinely believes.
And sometimes, if you're lucky, you get that person.
Because we all need to be believed in.
Because we all need to believe.
And my friends, I believe in you, because you believe in me.
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On June 21st, 2004 Genevra and I welcomed Zander Robert Flynn into the world.
It was, without a doubt an amazing moment. Though it was a crazy birth for Genevra. It all started on the evening of the 20th at 11PM after being up all day, she went into crippling drop-to-the-floor-in-agony-back spasms. The only thing she could do to try and control these spasms was to soak in hot water. (We thought it might be something called "back labor", but never found out.) After soaking in a hot bath for 4 hours to no avail, we drove out to Kaiser Hospital in Walnut Creek where they gave her some heavy duty muscle relaxers but told us she hadn't gone into labor. When the meds didn't make the pain go away, they gave her even more muscle relaxers! When those didn't stop the spams they decided to induce labor with the medicine Pitocin.
So after 10 hours of agonizing back spasms she then went into 9 hours of labor. WHEW!
And we men think we've got it bad?!
Thankfully they gave her an epidural, but when that didn't take the pain away, she was given another epidural, then a morphine drip. When the morphine kicked in she felt fine! Shit, she was flyin' high after that, throwing me the metal horns in between contractions! (No joke!). I was signing autographs with the staff, with me like, "uh dude... this isn't a really good time..." and man, thinking about it now? It was bizzaro. Being marginally-famous and having a baby.
Regardless, when Zander came into the world it was nothing short of incredible. Truly one of the best moments of my life was watching that little guy burst out. It's a life-changing experience, and one, no Man should miss out on. We filmed it!! And though Genevra didn't want to watch it for a year, on Z's first birthday we watched it and she tripped out!
And though he probably did a little, it felt like Zander didn't sleep for the whole month I was home.
We had the Road Rage '04 tour coming up with our friends Chimaira and a new band called Trivium in tow. Trivium had just gotten signed to Roadrunner and were a young band with a good buzz getting their road chops honed. They were young and hungry and at 19, had nothing to lose. The tour itself started out a little rough. The first show was in Cleveland and Chimaira had arranged a rehearsal day-before at The Odeon. Adam and I had been fighting bitterly over the last couple months, partially over band business and partially over just insanely trivial bullshit.
On the first day of rehearsals at the hotel we had a massive fight. It was eventually swept under the rug like all our arguments were and we went about our business and rehearsed. It was more important to spend the day hanging with our bro-dogs in Chimaira. They're a great bunch of dudes, killer band and I just remember they just tore it up on this run.
The tour itself was a complete 50/50, it felt as if every show was either killer or a bit of a stiff. Maybe it was because all the summer tours of the day (Ozzfest, Warped) were rolling thru, or because WE had just rolled thru 3 months prior? Regardless of the reason(s) most of the major cities did about 25% less than the previous tour, which was already 25% less than the Supercharger U.S. tour. So yeah, playing the normally psychotic-ly packed House Of Blues in Chicago to 600 people was a bit of a "whoa!"
However, the smaller cities actually were the best we'd ever done up until that point. Shows in Columbus, Ohio (at the Al Rosa Villa), San Antonio, Texas, and the pre-Disney-banning-House Of Blues in Orlando, Florida, might have been the craziest show of the tour!
Man, I miss our people in Orlando.
Something I'll never forget was Chimaira and us celebrating "Monday Night Mosh." “MNM” was where you basically just get wasted on a Monday night and go fucking crazy! More than a few times I remembered the Chimaira guys crowd-surfed me to the back of the bus to terrorize their bassist Jim! MAN, this tour was fun! Good times, good memories.
On Aug 8th we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of our first album "Burn My Eyes" at The Theater Of The Living Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We performed the album in it's entirety, and while the idea has never appealed to me, (playing records in their entirety) having all the fans there for that reason, knowing what they were getting, was a blast! We had a handful of friends fly out from the Bay Area and Chicago to celebrate with us.
For the gig itself we brought back the ”old-school-Machine Head stomp” intro (later-"Desire To Fire" intro) and opened with “Davidian.” We played some covers, we played "Block" for a closer and people were fucking losing it! We filmed it with the idea of releasing it soon after but the playing was just short of a mess. You know how I sometimes say, “The more you drink, the less we stink” at certain shows? Well there wasn’t enough alcohol in Philly to save this one.
We eventually re-recorded some tracks and put it on The Blackening special edition, but all I can say is, I didn't think we were even close to replicating that album the way it deserved. Thankfully, most people were celebrating way too much to notice and had a blast anyway.
The rest of the tour was fun, though it ended on a little bit of a downer. Shows in San Francisco, Ventura and Hollywood having surprisingly low turn outs. But the pre-Disney-banning-Machine-Head House Of Blues in Anaheim California was packed and fucking furious!! We got annihilated after our show and I changed into my alter-ego "Rufus" who hadn't made an appearance for quite some time. There's a clip in the "Elegies" DVD of Phil and Rufus singing our drum tech Mudbilly's revision of the REO Speedwagon song, "so take it to the dome, baby" (translation: blowjob). It's pretty fuckin' hilarious.
Well, here's the thing. I'm not exactly sure why, but on the “Live 101” tour with Pantera, Dimebag would get me and everyone else hammered on Seagram's 7 and for completely inexplicable reasons, I adopted a character named "Rufus." I was Robb's cousin/ brother "Rufus" and I'd strip down to my underwear, throw on an Afro wig, Elvis shades, Billy Bob teeth, tape gaff tape "X's" over my nipples, scrawl "RUFUS" across my bare chest in giant black marker, and walk around absolutely obliterated out of my mind.
Acting like a complete idiot? Oh, you fucking bet!
Amazingly enough, the “stupider” I acted, the more people loved Rufus.
Soon stripping down to my underwear was replaced by stripping down to generic-Depends-adult-diapers and going pee in them all night. That lasted until a cheapo-generic adult diaper didn't hold my pee and I felt a warm trickling sensation run down my leg and right into my shoe.
Hammered as I was, there was no point whatsoever in changing my shoes, so I proceeded to walk around in my "squishy-pee-shoe" all night, absolutely determined to, "get some REAL fucking adult DIAPERS!"
Rufus became very popular at parties!
I'd pass out drunk in my diaper sometimes, only to wake up and find my butt breaking out in a rash and my penis shriveled down to a "stack o' dimes."
There was a lot of peeing going on in Anaheim on the last night of Road Rage.
In late September we held a band meeting. It was stressful before the meeting even started. I was fried, partly because Zander hadn't let my wife or I sleep for the last 4 weeks and I / we were beginning to crack. The band had recently received news that there was a very good chance that even after the success of TTAOE in America, Roadrunner US might not release the next record.
Our sales had stalled in the US, and after 5 months we were still a good ways away from reaching our "sales plateau" that would guarantee them releasing the next record. After hearing this, I lost it. I wasn't going thru being unsigned again in the US. If we didn't reach the sales and they passed on our next record, I was going to do something else.
Or at least in my, I-haven't-slept-for-a-month-and-I'm-wiped-out-state that sounded like what I was going to do. I had a meltdown followed by a full on breakdown and the meeting ended chaotically.
As I drove home from the meeting at midnight, exhausted and frustrated, my cell phone rang. I answered it assuming it was my manager Joseph calling to try and calm me down, and on the other end I heard, "CAR JACKER!!"
Me: "What the fuck...?... Dimebag?"
Dime: "YOU KNOW IT! I got someone here who NEEDS to talk to you!"
He passes the phone to someone, and the voice on the other end goes "uh, Robb?... Is this Robb Flynn?"
Me: "Uh, yeah..."
Dude on the other end: "HOLY FUCKING SHIT DUDE!!!! OH MY GOD!!!"
You see; Dime had ran into a Machine Head fan at a Mexican restaurant he'd been drinking at and they got to talking about Machine Head. They got to talking about how good "Through The Ashes..." was and the fan said it was his dream to meet me, so Dime said, "LET'S CALL HIM UP!!" I rapped with the fan for about 15 minutes driving home, mostly about how much we both loved Pantera, and then he passed the phone back to Dime. I told him he was "a fucker," and that that was "awesome!" Dime had already told me at Download '04 that he loved "...Ashes," and in particular the song "Elegy,", "Album of the year" he kept saying, and he raved more about the record. Looking back, I think Ashes was the first MH record Dime really "got." We talked about the letter I'd faxed him at the Astoria, man, he was really blown away by that. It meant a lot to him.
It was a rad conversation on the drive home.
Sometimes you get something in your life, right when you need it the most.
We promised to rage with one another soon.
We said our goodbyes.
He said "I love you brother."
I said "I love you too, man."
It was the last time we ever spoke.
On October 1st we played our first date of our 'World Turns Blue To Gray Tour' in Brisbane Australia. Also known as the "Around the world in 80 days" tour it was a MAMMOTH Australian / European / UK tour. The term "around the world in 80 days" was exactly what this was down to the 80th day! It was our first Australia headline tour in 9 years and was the most extensive European tour we'd ever take on. It was a huge success! Australia was INSANITY, seriously mind-blowing. In Europe most dates sold-out and nearly all of the UK and French shows sold-out a month in advance. The Head Cases were maniacal! We were out for seemingly forever and it took it's toll on each of us at one time or another. But that being said it was also fucking amazing in every aspect. The absolute highlight being the DVD shoot at a rabid, Sold-Out Brixton Academy in London for the “Elegies” DVD with God Forbid and Caliban in tow.
If the “Elegies” shoot was the highlight, the lowlight happened just a few days later on Dec 9th in Belgrade, Serbia. I was awoken by our tour manager ripping open the curtain of my bunk screaming "Dude! Dimebag has been shot! Dimebag has been fuckin' shot! It's all over AOL, Dimebag's been SHOT!"
It didn't seem real. We had just played the Al Rosa Villa a few months before. The 3 of us had toured with Dime, twice. Dave had toured with him more than that, back in Sacred Reich before he was in Machine Head.
Was it true? It was a helpless feeling.
This was before the days of Wi-Fi, iPhones, Facebook. News traveled slow, especially if you were in Eastern Europe on tour. We were in an ice cold sports hall in Belgrade with sporadic internet service, no TV, no cell phone service.
Slowly throughout the day, we realized it wasn't a hoax. It was true. We traded Dimebag memories with the God Forbid and Caliban dudes in the freezing, un-heated dressing rooms.
That night it was freezing onstage. Despite it being an indoor show, the high-ceilinged, window-filled sports hall prevented any heat from congealing that bitter December evening. We dedicated "Descend The Shades Of Night" to Dime and I couldn't sing the 2nd verse, I lost it. We all cried onstage. Everyone in the crowd cried. Even in Eastern Europe people were crying for Dimebag Darrell. It was surreal. What the fuck was going on back home?
A few days later the "Around the world in 80 days tour" ended with two shows in Greece. As a band we had never been there. Athens was in-fucking-sane, mind-boggling, life-affirming especially in light of the recent events. The last show in Thessaloniki was just bizarre. It was weird and just a huge let down after the highs and lows we'd been through the last few weeks, with no one singing or moshing, all just standing and staring, as we played in some random, old discotecha.
We celebrated with the other bands but we were wiped out. The tour had officially taken it's toll on us. I had already lost my voice once in 80 days from a severe chest infection and the day before in Athens I had started getting the flu and a punishing sinus infection.
As we boarded the 4:30 AM plane to Zurich, Switzerland (the first of 3 flights), for our 30 hour trip, we were all so glad to be going home. I was proud we had finished strong, but happy to be done with it. As the flight took off and we gained altitude, my ear began to ache, then hurt, then kill. It felt as if someone was turning a screwdriver into my ears. It was agonizing and I became nauseous enough to lose my balance. As the plane descended into Zurich the pain was unbearable. I got off and immediately began looking for an airport pharmacy to buy as many decongestants as I could but it was 6am local time and none were open.
When I boarded the next flight I asked the stewardess if she could get me some decongestants, after a short conversation about why, she walked away. When she returned she said, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to exit the plane."
Her: "Sir you could really damage your ear by flying today, you are going to have to exit the plane."
Between the pain, the exhaustion, the fucking everything, in my most aggro whisper I spit, "I'm not going fucking anywhere, I've been on tour for 80 fucking days and I'm going fucking home." She left. They began calling for me up front to talk with the Captain. Then the Captain came back and said he needed to speak with me in private.
We went up front, and he explained to me that when flight personal get severe sinus infections and flu symptoms like I had, they can't fly, it's a common yet un-spoken rule. He assured me in no-un-certain-terms that if I took the flight, I would most certainly blow out my eardrum and very likely do permanent damage. He repeated, "permanent." If it didn't happen by the the time we got to London, it would for sure happen on the ultra-high-altitude flight from London to San Francisco. He ended with, "Do you want to lose your hearing?"
I stood there frozen. Speechless. This can't be happening. I want to see my wife, my little boy, my dog, sleep in my bed.
By then security was there.
They weren't letting me back on that plane.
I exploded. Security pinned me up against the wall.
Then, I begged.
Then, I accepted it.
I broke down.
I grabbed my stuff off the plane, my guys looking at me like "what the... ?" Everyone else looking at me like I was a terrorist or something. Phil offered to stay with me, which was super nice, but there was no point. I said "no, go home"
I left the plane.
For the next 5 days I would stay in quite possibly the most expensive city in the world Zurich, Switzerland! People, this is where fucking hamburgers are $23 bucks (cheese is extra!). Thankfully we were able to get a great rate at the Inter-Continental Hotel where they remembered me from earlier in the tour and treated me like royalty.
Over the next 5 days I sank into a depression.
I read Blabbermouth and PRP endlessly and caught up on the Dimebag story. This is the day that websites became more important than magazines. The speed which and wealth of info brought forth in the days following his murder was staggering. Amazingly, Dimebag's murder had brought out the best in Blabbermouth's notoriously vocal bunch. A letter from the mother of murdered-fan Nathan Bray had pretty much everyone on Blabbermouth in tears, and in a bizarre way, brought everyone together. It showed how un-important things, our petty differences, really were.
During this time an article was put up on Blabbermouth from the conservative website The Iconoclast by author William Grim. The article was called "Aesthetics Of Hate: Goodbye Dimebag Darrell, And Good Riddance.” I seethed with anger reading this article. I wrote a long tribute to Dimebag that night and in it I attacked William Grim. I ended it with "You WILL burn in hell."
A song began forming.
Monte Conner called me at my hotel. He was working on a project where he needed teams of musicians as well as “captains” to organize these teams. I had passed twice on being a “captain” on the project, what later became the Roadrunner United record. During that 5 day purgatory he finally convinced me, I accepted.
A few days later, I got permission from the doctors to fly home.
Don't ask me why, but I was convinced the plane was going to crash the whole flight home. I felt the same way after finishing the mix for "Ashes" flying back from Lincolnshire. That I was going to die, but now would never get to see my little boy again. I've never been so nervous on a flight in my life before or since.
'Til then I'd never kissed the ground getting off a plane. Thought it was stupid.
I kissed the shit out of the floor in the airport when I landed.
“Dad” was home for Christmas with his family.
“Robb Flynn” had one more US tour to determine if Machine Head would get to release another record in America.
2005 would prove interesting.
Part 7 and 8, the final pieces of the "Through The Ashes Turns 10" journals will be up on Monday and Wednesday of next week.
I've been focused on writing lyrics and because of this The General Journals have taken a back seat, but I'm almost done with parts 7 and 8. As promised I will have some rarities from the Flynn Vault in the final Journal.
As you may have noticed there aren't any, "hey, were in the recording studio" updates happening. That's because were not!
A few Journals ago I said we'd hit the studio at end of October, and while we tried our damnedest to make that deadline, the fact is, we weren't ready.
We started writing in January of this year but between the bassist auditions, teaching Jared all the old tunes, rehearsing for headline dates, doing Mayhem, getting Jared up to speed on the new tunes, and back into writing mode in September, we just didn't have the songs yet. We probably only wrote music for 4 out of those 9 months, if we went in, it would have been rushed.
This is an important record for us. With a new label, a new member, and this being the follow up to "Locust" all eyes are on us. This record cannot be rushed or hurried, it needs to be great. It needs to be classic Machine Head. It needs to be a timeless album.
Our new label, Nuclear Blast agreed and said "hey, if it comes out in April or August, who cares? In 5 years, they're only going to remember if it's great or not."
It was refreshing and we were grateful that's how they felt.
We are now going in the studio the first week of February, 2014.
We already have 5 or 6 song demoed, some are in more finished stages than others, so we'll continue demoing through the New Year. Shit, who am I kidding? We’ll probably be demoing up until the day before we hit the studio, LOL!
Thanks for the patience my friends.
In September of 2003 Dave McClain got married.
At the wedding reception in Arizona, when festivities were over, my wife and I went back to our room and had wild, drunken, slobbery sex. In October, right before the record came out in Europe we found out she was pregnant.
It was good news.
We had been trying for about 5 months, though we had taken a break over the summer so we could wakeboard (Genevra is a ridiculously good wakeboarder). But as soon as the Summer was over we started "trying" again (basically not using the "pull out" method) and at the reception it worked!
Like so many other couples, we had put off having kids for a while, waiting til "the time was right," til we had "enough money," and all the typical excuses people say why they wait to have kids. But we weren't going to wait anymore. Whether we had money or not, if Machine Head was signed or not, we weren't going to plan anymore, however the cards fell we would make it work.
I told the guys in the band and while I think there was some apprehension and concern if I could still commit, most were congratulatory.
(Little did I realize that that would be the last wild, drunken, slobbery sex I had for years, AGH!!)
The record came out in Europe right as we began a European tour and seeing the success of the album was almost instantaneous. A lot of the labels that passed on us 6 months before had come back to us offering deals. Roadrunner U.S. was one of the labels. It was a real surprise and complete thorn all at the same time. There was A LOT of arguing over whether we should sign with them again or not. Some people felt betrayed, others were more forgiving. Me personally? I felt that from the outside it looked like business as usual. Our “public” status was solid, with our decision we didn't go down a notch, we didn't go up a notch, and we held our ground.
So, in the end, for the second time in the bands career we decided to go with Monte Conner and Co. There were a lot of people at the company that had our backs, people that really believed in us and while there would always be challenges ahead, they grew up with us and us with them. It meant a lot to have people that had been with us our whole career on our side.
We are in fact the only band on that label to ever be released from our contract and taken back. However this time it was under a completely new and far fairer deal.
All the US labels we had been talking with knew full well that the record would have been out for 6 months before “their” version hit the stores wanted "bonus tracks" to add to the U.S. version of the album. Roadrunner was also of this mindset. So in January of 2004 I started putting together the main and verse-riff that Phil had started playing in Hamburg at sound check, with a kinda-Biohazard-y riff I had for a chorus, this complicated-slurry-riff I had for the middle, a really cool riff for a mellow breakdown, and then a heavy breakdown at the end.
Soon I had, what I felt was an interesting vocal hook for the mellow part in the middle. We got together an jammed it a few times and in February we went back to Sharkbite Studios with Mark Keaton to cut what would become "Seasons Wither."
I banged my head up against a wall for a while about what to write the song about. The melodic middle section had taken on a Morrisey-esque tone, with a beautiful almost-pop melody with really fucked up lyrics, something which always intrigued me, how Morrisey worked in so cleverly. Inspired I wrote "We pray you die, we pray you suffocate, in pain you'll writhe, this day we celebrate."
One night during the middle of all this I had been talking with a friend of Genevra's and she told me a horrifying story about how when she was 14 she was raped by 4 guys. When she told her mother, she didn't believe her and called her a slut. She had fantasies of getting back at them, of killing them.
It was brutal and sickening.
So with that in my head, I sat down to write "Seasons Wither." A rape-victim-revenge-fantasy, told thru a women's eyes, (though it could have just as easily applied to what happened to me when I was a kid).
In many ways musically, this song would serve as a template for what came later with “The Blackening.” We were starting to write longer songs with more diverse arrangements, all-over-the-neck-riffs, and visceral lyrics.
“Through The Ashes of Empires,” the U.S. version was now ready to go with “Seasons Wither” inserted "into the album" rather than as an extra "bonus track", becoming the new track 8.
We booked a U.S. headlining tour and RR US scheduled the album for 4-20-2004 release date (4-20 KID!!!!). Excitement was high and I took to the internet and let our fans know and folks were indeed stoked. I knew even before the record came out that the tides were beginning to change in the US. I'd go to Bay Area shows and run into people who had torrent-ed the record and dudes were like "HOLY SHIT DUDE, NEW ALBUM IS SICK!"
But not everyone in the US was stoked. The vast majority of the metal media of the time was obsessed with “name-your-stupid-band-that-everyone-has-forgotten-about.” In particular Revolver's editor was frankly a cock. Upon its release they gave “...Ashes” a smarmy review. Taking it one step further they also refused to give us even a small story and told us that, "they wouldn't give us any coverage until we got 50,000 copies." when we got to 50,000 copies they said, "get to 70,000 copies"... when we got to 70,000, they said "no thanks". Almost every US and Canadian magazine slagged us off with the Canadian press in particular having a hard-on for us.
The record dropped in America on April 20th and it certainly wasn't without it's hiccups. Because we had been signed with Roadrunner so close to the release date, we missed all the magazine deadlines to place ads in, only one would appear before April 20th. The major video channels of the time, all accepted, then rejected the “Imperium” video. Word was apparently our censored version wasn't censored enough, so they wouldn't play it til we re-censored it again. Remember this was pre-YouTube, pre-iPhone, pre-Facebook, pre-everything.
But in the end word of mouth prevailed and at Philadelphia show on the "Weapons Of Mass Destruction Tour" we came in at #88 with 11,000 plus records sold. We beat out the “Supercharger” first week and tied our highest ever chart position with “The Burning Red.” Considering it was available for 8 months on the internet and 6 months via import, while hardly earth-shattering numbers, “Through The Ashes...” did damn respectable on the Billboard charts.
With our friends God Forbid and 36 Crazyfists in tow the "Weapons" tour did well, though surprisingly did draw about 25% less across the board than the “Supercharger” headline run, with a couple shows only drawing about 150 people.
5 albums deep, it was a tough pill to swallow.
The tour was fairly un-eventful except for the fact Phil and Dave were often too hungover to play well, and that Arch Enemy missed the first 2 shows, then showed up for the New England Metalfest, then dropped off the tour the next day. We got in to a public pissing-match with them and wrote a fairly hilarious parody press release about why they dropped off.
We hated each other for a few years but eventually squashed it, and in 2007 toured the whole world together. They’re great people.
Speaking of the New England Metalfest. Not all the metalheads of America were stoked about Machine Head in 2004. New England and Massachusetts at the time was the center of the then-wildly-popular "metalcore" movement. With bands like Shadow's Fall and NE Metalfest headliner Killswitch Engage selling gangbusters at the time.
The promoter didn’t want Machine Head to play the fest. The only reason we were on the bill was because of Arch Enemy was on tour with us. He finally said we could play, but only if Arch Enemy was billed above us (we were closing all the dates on that run). His reluctancy gave way to a rant, finishing his rant with "and they'd better bring it!"
To say that we went in with a fairly hostile attitude would be understating it.
Unfortunately things deteriorated rapidly when our very-inexperienced-new-crew (unbeknownst to us) took almost a half hour to get us onstage. We played, and I can guarantee we "brought it,” but most folks were not interested. What we didn't know is that our crew snafu getting us on stage 30 minutes late this affected the headliners. Killswitch Engage had to cut their set short by 30 minutes. We had no idea this was even a possibility. But when that was announced and apparently blamed on us, the entire Palladium crowd started a "FUCK MACHINE HEAD!" chant.
Boy, I caught an earful about it the next day.
We ended the tour in Hollywood with a sold-out House Of Blues show that was stunningly awesome, violent, and gloriously brutal. We had to stop our set several times for fights and at one point to save a fan that shattered his leg in the pit.
Once the US ”Weapons” tour wrapped up it was home for maybe 3 or 4 days and then off to Europe for festivals. It was a great run, though Adam was already sick of touring, and despite all evidence to the contrary, had convinced himself the band was making him go broke. That combined with a chaotic flight schedule resulting in no sleep, tensions ran high during this run.
But the highlight had to have been Download. Slayer was on the bill and the beef was already in full swing between Kerry and I and the Download folks figured they play that up to the hilt by pitting us right next to each other on the bill. Slayer’s bus broke down at the last minute and they wouldn't arrive until the evening, so Slayer took Damageplan's place headlining the side stage. Machine Head moved up to the Slayer spot, and DP took our spot on the main stage, though not before valiantly trying to take Slayer's spot. They took our spot.
The hilarious part in all this is that Dimebag, ever the rager, had done the math, and realized "hey, I'm not playing til 9PM tonight." So when they got on the 6 AM ferry boat over from Europe to the UK, he decided it was time to get wasted and he could sleep it off for 10 hours. Unfortunately for him, while passed out, the stage switch happened and he was rudely awoken a mere 3 hours later and told he had to get up and play.
As the Damageplan "bus" (more like airport van with bunks) pulled up, a fantastically HAGGARD Dimebag stumbled off with an equally haggard Vinnie Paul behind him and they were due to be onstage in 20 minutes. Dime took his lay of the festival dressing room world (where we were conveniently placed next to Slayer's room) saw me, and stumbled over and said, "hey brother, can I warm up on your Flying-V... and get a shot?" I howled with laughter! It was so fuckin' classic! Me: "dude, of course, it would be my honor, hopefully you'll leave a little of that "Dime Magic" on there for me." He laughed.
We chatted for a while and he told me the story of his ill-planned drinking trip aboard the ferry. Because I let him warm up on my guitar he promised me that he'd send me another case of vodka (Dime used to buy cases of Ketel One vodka and randomly send them to my hotel rooms on days off; I'd open the door and a delivery guy would hand me a box of vodka with an often-hilarious note from Dime... fuckin' guy). I told him he'd better not "waste the fuckin' money sending me anymore fucking vodka, fucker!" We laughed and he went out and unsurprisingly killed Download with his one-two punch of over-the-top guitar pyrotechnics and larger-than-life presence. You'd never even know he felt like utter dogshit!
We hung for a little after our set but we had insanely early flights back home and had to leave. Of note: this was the show were Lars missed the Metallica show and Lombardo and Joey Jordinson filled in for Metallica. Dave was asked to rehearse with them, but it didn't happen for some reason.
We arrived home on June 8th and my son's arrival date was June 21st so we were cutting it close and I absolutely wanted to be there for his birth.
I thought a lot about Dimebag when I got home.
I thought about the 2 tours Pantera and Machine Head had done (Ozzfest 97 and the "Live 101" tour) and about his influence on me as a guitarist. From his playing to his devastating guitar tone, he’d left his mark on me. I realized that in all the years I'd known him I'd never let him know any of that. Maybe I was too insecure, or maybe I was just too busy playing it "cool", but I had never told him how much he influenced me.
So the day after getting home, I wrote him an email and said "all of that" to him. I added that I was "too insecure" or "too cool" to say those words before, and that "I really wanted him to know these things." I told him what a blast it was hanging with him all those years, and reminded him NOT to send me anymore vodka!
I ended the email by wishing him and Vinnie the best in their new band Damageplan.
I printed it up and "faxed it" to the London Astoria where Damageplan was doing their first headline show that night.
I still have the letter.
I'm glad I sent it.
I'm grateful he read it.
For the next 2 weeks Genevra and I waited for what seemed like an eternity... for our lives to change.
10) Amon Amarth - Deciever of the Gods
Bonus Disc. 'Nuff said.
9) Sevendust - Black Out The Sun
8) Evan Brewer - Your Itinerary
Rad solo bass record.
7) Intronaut - Habitual Levitations
I dig the low-fi, dirty, ambient nature of this heavy prog rock/metal.
6) Butcher Babies - Goliath
Don't think for a minute that the Butcher Babies dual-hot-frontwomen are a gimmick. These guys and gals are the real deal, and deliver a solid and catchy effort.
5) Daft Punk - Random Access Memory
I'm pretty sure this is the one I'm gonna get shit for. I just have one thing to say: I dare you not to move to the music.
4) Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent
Killswitch is part of the unofficial soundtrack to my "professional" music career. Props to a band that can still make it soooo hard to keep from singing.
3) Darkane - The Sinister Supremacy
I really dig their version of Swedish metal: sick ass guitar work, tight and technical drumming, multiple vocal styles, and hooks!
2) Carcass - Surgical Steel
I intentionally didn't listen to previous albums because I wanted to listen to this record with fresh ears, and its an excellent record, considering the timing. Carcass pulled off a great job, remaining true to their sound without sounding dated.
1) Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of Conciousness
This one gets my inner hyper-kid excited the same way that Kill 'Em All did when I first heard it. From the first track "Awaken The Serpent" it evokes head banging and severe scowling aka metal face!
Sevendust - Black Out the Sun
Winery Dogs - S/T
Volbeat - Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies
Alter Bridge - Fortress
Byzantine - S/T
Killswitch Engage - Disarm the Descent
Black Sabbath - 13
Hatriot - Heroes of Origin
Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones Pt. 2