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
In celebration of the 10 year anniversary of through The Ashes of Empires (yes, it's been 10 years!), I have been telling a multi-part General Journals of the story of the record. If you’re on our Facebook page, just scroll down, or go to MachineHead1.com and check out the first 4 parts. I know I said that Part 5 would be the last part, but dammit, there's gonna have be one more early next week where I'll share some more rarities from the vault!
In early August of 2003 I boarded a plane for London Heathrow to start the mixing our fifth album with Colin Richardson. Colin was already set up at The Chapel recording studios in the remote village of Lincolnshire (population 60!!) The plan was for me to land at typically-rainy-London Heathrow Airport and take a cab (that Roadrunner UK had arranged) the remaining 4 hour drive out to the studio. When I landed, to my absolute shock the typically-rainy-London wasn't typically-rainy or overcast at all. Instead, it was un-typically-sunny and 95 degrees! Shit, it was hotter than California! All of Europe was going thru some nutty heat wave and man I was fuckin' STOKED!!
It was a good sign.
So sunny and hot or not, I still had a 4 hour drive ahead of me. I arrived at The Chapel where I'd be living for the next few weeks. Now, The Chapel is literally in the middle of nowhere and as much as Colin had prepared me for this, it was still a bit of a (in Keanu Reeves voice) “hwhoa!”. But what he didn’t prep me for was…it was beautiful. The English countryside, open fields, slow-running brooks, rabbits; it was like being in a goddamn Led Zeppelin song! Thankfully, per English-tradition, even a little po-dunk village like Lincolnshire with a population of 60 needs to have a pub every half mile. We headed down to get some beers and watched some local cover bands jam the English hits of the 60's and 70's.
For the first few days the engineers had a lot of setting up to do. Now, because the crazy heat wave, the weather was getting up in the 100's so Colin and I went on long walks. He and I talked about life and work and everything under the sun. We’d kick around a soccer ball and then go and pick up fresh eggs from the local farms. Colin is awesome. I fuckin love that dude. It was a much needed change of pace and shook off some of the depression I was sinking into. The nearest grocery store was a 10 mile drive, so about once a week we’d go into town and stock up food and vodka.
There was mind-numbingly slow dial-up internet, but the head groundskeeper was cool enough to let me jump on his laptop when I needed. There was also cable TV and Kerrang! TV was playing the shit out of a new band called Muse whose latest record, "Absolution" had just come out and was starting to hit. I fell in love with the song "Time Is Running Out," and would soon come to worship this album and this band.
Amazingly, several of the songs were still un-titled at this point, including "Vim" (called "Devil Beat") and "Imperium" (still called "Buh-Duh-Duh-Duh") even as we began mixing. The label was freaking out for titles, final lyrics, the thanks list, etc... Fuck, I needed to get a title for the song and fast; I mean it’s only the lead track off the album, right? So I took to the internet for inspiration and 2 days later, after stumbling upon an online thesaurus I looked up alternate words for "power" I fell upon the word "Imperium.” Hmmm..., Imperium = command; supreme power". I knew that was it so I ran it past Dave and BOOM!
The first song finished for mixing was "Bite The Bullet" and it sounded crushing! For "Left Unfinished," in my head I heard an intro that sounded like a music box you might hear in a baby crib or carriage. During the recording I had Mark Keaton transcribe the chorus melody (since I can't read or write music, shit, I can barely read tabs!) for the guitar and vocal. He and I found a company in China that if you supply the music they turn it into a real-deal music box. It was exactly what I was hearing in my head so we ordered. It arrived so close to the deadline I actually had the Asian fellow meet me at the airport and do the transaction! It was so drug-deal-like it was awesome! I still have a few, they were cool. For all the collectors out there Roadrunner made an additional 100 music boxes for promo. We set up mics and recorded while I spun the music box handle, and soon "Left Unfinished" was mixed.
Colin had just finished mixing the first Bullet For My Valentine album, and after-hours we'd drink vodka and play the first 3 songs a lot, but I didn't like the rest of the album, too poppy. Apparently they A/B’d their mixes to "The More Things Change" constantly. They should probably start doing that again!
Nevertheless things were running smoothly and Kerrang! asked for a new song we could put out on a CD sampler. It was decided that "Imperium" should be the track and the only reason this is of note (collectors) is that it wasn't the final mix. It also didn't have the clincher last line "and we won't lose!" In its place was one of my Tom G. Warrior death-grunts, "UGH!" In fact that line wouldn't be added until I went to Andy Sneap's old studio to do a test mastering with him and I decided try out the phrase "and I won't lose." Ultimately settling on the final version, the one you’ve been listening to for 10 years, "and we won't lose."
**Collectors, if you find the Kerrang! version, please send it me in hi rez!!! It's one of the few MH items I do not have!!**
Kerrang! Magazine had begun an Awards show in London and Roadrunner thought it would be good if I went. I was ambivalent. They had been shredding us pretty brutally lately and the last face to face interview they did with me was quite hostile. I was so ready to tell them to "fuck off" but my ever-awesome press girl and voice of reason, Michele Kerr calmed me down. She said it be fun, "we'll get hammered!" I said "OK." Such a pushover!
Maybe it was in my head but when I arrived at the awards show it felt like walking into the lion’s den. Something about just seemed all hoity toity and fancy schmancy, that I felt not welcome. It totally felt like I was not a part of this world. These didn’t feel like “my people.” The RR US thing had sapped me of some of my confidence. So as I got ready to go, in my hotel I had to give myself a stern talking-to in the mirror. I looked at myself and said "dude, go out there and fucking rule this shit!" "LION HEART MOTHERFUCKER!" Stop being such a pussy!! You're Robb Fuckin' Flynn, go out there and walk the god damn walk!!!"
I threw on my cut off camo shorts, metal shirt, and a backwards trucker hat and said "fuck these hoity toity motherfuckers!"
I got there, and the first music-bizness-cock-face I saw, walked up to me and said:
"Hey Robb, it's nice to meet you, shame your band never made it..."
Me: "FUCK YOU!"
I walked right up to the journalist who had shredded me, got 6 inches from his face and said "oh hey, what's up dude?" He practically stumbled over himself backing away. I took a shit in the bathroom, didn't flush it, didn't wash my hands, walked up to another journalist who had recently ripped us and shook his hand just to be an asshole.
Despite all this, I had a lot of friends there. Christian and Laz from Ill Nino hung with me all night. Nick Barker from Cradle/Dimmu got hammered with the singer for The Used (who I'd just met) and also a bunch of the Funeral for a Friend guys. I rapped with Lars for a few minutes too, which I'd never really done before, and was very cool.
I'd brought along a CD of the latest mixes and a CD Walkman and headphones. I basically cornered as many people as I could with one request, "motherfucker, check this new shit out!!" I got about 20 people to listen, all-in-all including one of the coolest Kerrang! journos and future-Kerrang-editor, Paul Brannigan. Most people I played it for were pretty into it, either that or just telling this drunken madman they approved so he'd leave them alone. When the evening was over I felt good. Sure even after a great night I still didn’t feel like I “belonged,” but I knew the next time I went to one of these things I’d fucking own the place! The next night we had a playback session in London at the Intrepid Fox and fans seemed really into it.
I went back to Lincolnshire to finish mixing and after a week I started getting cabin-fever. Being out in the middle of nowhere, away from home, I started to second guess the mixes. In fact, truth is I lost it a little. I had a meltdown, then realized I was trippin out and that I had to trust Colin. I’d find myself saying “He knows what he's doing” in my head. It would actually be the last time I ever attended a mix. I can't be there. I need to hear things as a whole. I learned I'm a big-picture-guy. The hyper-focused-attention-to-detail that’s needed for mixing? Nope, I can't do it. My brain just doesn't work like that. Colin is the king when it comes to mixing.
With mixing complete I went straight into a press tour and the excitement on both ends was high. They wanted to hear it and I wanted to play it for them. People were saying it's the best thing we'd done and as soon as the European press got their advance copies, the album leaked. DOH! Now, I ain't saying that a journalist leaked it, but a journalist leaked it!! Yep, 2 months before the album hit, it was on every torrent site on the face of the earth. But unlike what we'd been told by the record company it didn't hurt a damn thing, in fact it got our fanbase really fucking stoked! And because our American fans knew there was no imminent release date, they were even more stoked!
As soon as I got back from the press tour we started rehearsing for our upcoming tour which was set to start in Dublin, Ireland on Halloween night. Dave and Phil had practiced a few times while I'd been gone but honestly we were sounding rough. The record came out on Oct 28th and 3 days later we were playing the tunes to a bunch of crazed Dublinites with all of us dressed up for Halloween and hammered. It was magical! It was our first night of the ‘Through The Ashes of Europe’ tour and it sure didn’t feel like we were “done.” The sing-a-longs were insane, something was happening.
The album reviews had started to come in and were across the board stunning. Metal Hammer Germany gave the highest combined rating that had ever been awarded to a record!!! Rock Hard praised it, Metal Hammer UK praised it as a masterpiece. Even Kerrang! Australia scribe Dom Lawson gave it a staggering 5K review. But some of the UK press still wanted to "have a go at us," and in particular Kerrang! UK journalist Daniel Lukes, (the same douche who had reviewed the Ten Ton Hammer show), decided that this would be the album review to crush Machine Head into the dust. That this would be his big chance to make his mark in music history, he was going for it.
With a frankly admirable amount of belligerence and gusto, Lukes took the biggest shots he could swing at us and out and out attacked the band. Giving it a lowly 2K review and calling 'Through The Ashes Of Empires' (and I quote), "a directionless mess of an album,” “chock full of widdlesome solos and moments of musical 'complexity' that actually get in the way." He ended his pissy tirade declaring it, "the sonic equivalent of eating last night’s delivery pizza, reheated today."
When I read this, to say I "hit the fuckin’ roof" would be the understatement of the year.
My aforementioned press girl Michelle begged me not to do anything stupid. She told me amongst other things, "Kerrang! is sponsoring your UK dates!" But there was no going back. It was the final straw. After all we'd been through there was no taking this kind of fuckin bullshit from anyone, anymore. Not Kerrang!, not Revolver, no one. This motherfucker thinks he's gonna bury us, from behind a fucking computer?! NOT A CHANCE IN HELL!! We drafted up a press release and once-again took to the internet. Dave McClain said his review was "gutter journalism" and I simply added that Daniel Lukes could "SUCK OUR FUCKIN DICKS!"
It was "fuck everyone" from here on out.
Lukes "made history" all right...
The tour on the other hand went fucking ridiculous. People came out in droves, the shows sold out left and right and merch sales were almost shockingly great. As we knocked out gig after gig Machine Head, as a unit, hit a rare state of musicianship that we may not have ever had. All four of us were really clicking on stage, even Adam with his lengthy absence during the writing/recording process was totally locked in with the three of us. People were still not sure of Phil though and in Madrid, Spain a small group of jerks spit on him all night. All-fucking-night, so at the end of the show he jumped in and pummeled them! We followed suit, jumped in, pummeled more, and after that, the word spread. Yep, same ol' Machine Head and there were no more incidents. In Hamburg at the MarketHalle, Phil started jamming a riff at soundcheck that was pretty awesome. It would soon morph into a new song called "Seasons Wither."
And now that the record was a bonafide European success, all those labels that had passed on us in the U.S. suddenly came back around. These labels wanted to talk and they wanted to sign us. Of all the labels now calling us I’d say the most surprising was Roadrunner U.S. They approached us and said they'd like to release the record now...?
“You mean the record you just passed on?”
Truthfully, there was A LOT of genuine resentment towards Roadrunner at this point. That's the reason we wanted off the label in the first place. Then after the last round of demos and the back and forth bullshit...how could there not be? We debated and argued about it fiercely. Some folks felt it was a no-brainer to re-sign, some were dead set against it.
Since the time of my press release saying RR US had passed, we actually had more than a few other options. Both Nuclear Blast and Century Media were extremely hot to get the record and made it a priority to tell us so. As the tour winded down we set about narrowing our best choice.
Regardless of who released it though, the best case scenario for a U.S. release would not happen until at least April of 2004. That meant the record was going to be available on any torrent site for 8 months in between release dates. Anyone who wasn't into illegal downloading could buy it via import, and fuck, at that point how many people in the states would even want to buy something they’ve listened to for over half a year?
At the end of December of 2003 we returned home from Europe for the Holidays and to ponder our future…
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