Dave McCain – RAG Interview


Burn My Eyes- 1994 ♦ The More Things Change- 1997 ♦ The Burning Red- 1999 ♦ Supercharger- 2001 ♦ HellaLive- 2003 ♦ Through The Ashes Of Empires- 2004

Machine Head is one of the premiere metal bands that hail from San Francisco, California. With the combination of Robert Flynn (vocals, guitar), Phil Demmel (lead guitar), Adam Duce (bass, backing vocals) and Dave McClain (drums) meshing together like the cogs in a heavy metal nitro injected supercharger, that forces out some of the heaviest music of today.
Dave talked to R.A.G before a show at Bogart’s in Cincinnati

Rhythm, Art & Groove- Tell us how the band was formed.

Dave McClain- Rob (Flynn) was in a band called Violence and kinda wanted to start his own band. He met up with Adam (Duce), the bass player, and kinda got some guys from around the area, set it up and from what I’m told…started playing cause everybody was playin’ grunge. The whole grunge scene was in full effect and they wanted to do something else…what they were all about…metal.

RAG- How did the band get its’ name?

DM- Rob just came up with a name thought it sounded kinda cool. It wasn’t from a Deep Purple song. He thought it sounded kinda cold & mechanical and liked the name.

RAG- Define your style of music.

DM- Full on metal! It’s what we were all raised on. It’s the only music! We listen to a lot of stuff but, for us as far as playing, metal is the only stuff that gets our blood flowing!

RAG- Balls to the wall.

DM- Totally!

RAG- Who were some of the bands that you’ve toured with?

DM- We’ve done Ozzfest in ’97. Which was killer! That was the one where Sabbath did the reunion. Pantera. Marilyn Manson was promoting the “Antichrist Superstar” album, which was really cool to see every night. They’re just a train wreck on stage. You never knew what they were gonna do. We’ve toured with Corrosion Of Conformity. We did another tour with Pantera. Touring with those guys…it’s an adventure. You just never knew what was gonna happen. Those guys are f**king nuts! Drinking constantly…everyday was a new adventure.

RAG- Dimebag (Darryl) and Vinnie (Paul) have a project together with David Allan Coe that’s supposed to come out after the Damage Plan gig.

DM- Yeah, that’s been done for some time now. That could go either way. It could be cool or it could be f**kin’ nothing but drunken stupidness going on. (laughs) DAC by himself is pretty
f**kin’ crazy. Then…mix in those guys….

RAG- I did an interview with him a while ago.

DM- DAC? Wow that’s cool! He’s getting pretty old now.

RAG- 64!

DM- He’s still crazy!

RAG- Speaking of Ozzfest, I was at the one in Columbus, Ohio the year Ozzy didn’t show.

DM- Yeah. (smiles)

RAG- What’s your memory on that fiasco?

DM- I don’t have too many memories on that because I was getting tattooed the whole day. I just remember all the craziness going on backstage. I remember Phil (Anselmo) from Pantera, Rob our singer standing there and Sharon Osbourne comes up to them and said, “You’ve got to get out there. Can you do the set?” Phil was like “I’m not going to do it without him” pointing to Rob. They went out there and sang some songs. I think Rob sang one. Burton (Bell) from Fear Factory sang one. I remember Phil telling the fans that Ozzy wasn’t gonna show. The s**t went down real fast. I remember just watching everything go down. It was funny watching everything go down, like the people tearing the wall down and setting it on fire. Helicopters flying around…I think if anything, that made it worse. The police had riot gear and everything. I remember watching the news that night and the people that were being interviewed were saying stuff that didn’t even happen. “The p.a. blew up and everybody rioted” Stuff like that. You had all these different stories on the news. It seemed like “The 50’s” all over again.

RAG- I remember Pete Steele (Type O Negative) carrying Marilyn Manson around while he (Manson) sang “Crazy Train.”

DM- (Busts out laughing)

RAG- Do you prefer big festivals or small venues?

DM- It depends. I prefer the shows where there aren’t seats. That was one of the problems when we did Ozzfest. We were a second stage band that was put on the main stage. All of our fans were way in the back…in the lawn. We’d see them tearing up the lawn and you’d see these old Ozzy fans just sittin’ there looking at there watches going “Yeah, whatever…just hurry up.” I like the small places where you have people right there. (Points in front of himself) We’ve done festivals in Holland where it’s like 100,000 people in a group just bouncing. It’s like you become one with the audience. If you can connect with the audience, that’s cool. I prefer a place where it’s flat…no seats.

RAG- Who were some of you major influences?

DM- Growing up, it was all about KISS. Peter Criss! KISS just blew me away when I was a kid. My dad would actually plead with me and offer to take me to a record store to buy something other that KISS. I got into Rush after that. Neil Peart is like “the drum god of all time” Now I kind of look at a lot of bands as peers. There is like one band that I could call my all time favorite band…Pantera. I’ve been lucky enough, in this band and the band I was in before, Sacred Reich, to tour with them. I’ve seen Pantera no less that 200 times! I was on stage every night watching them. There wasn’t a night I didn’t watch them.

RAG- Plus you got to hang out with them.

DM- I could walk around the stage. Go behind Vinnie Paul for a while…go over to (Dimebag) Darryl and drink with him. They’re my all time favorite band.

RAG- What happened to make you guys leave Roadrunner Records U.S.A.?

DM- Basically after the “Supercharger” record we’d kinda run our course with the record label. They were caught in a hard place because contractually they were bound to give us a s**t load of money. You really can’t blame it on any one thing. “Supercharger” came out right after 9/11 and there is a lot of bad stuff surrounding that record. Roadrunner was gonna have to give us a lot of money and they didn’t want to do that! We were unhappy at the time and asked to be let go. They were fine with that and said “Okay.” Roadrunner International the people in the U.K. were fully into wanting the band back really bad. We always had a good relationship with them. We kinda had a weird relationship with Roadrunner in the states. We made a deal with Roadrunner International for everywhere but the U.S. It was more of like a licensing deal. They gave us some money and we made a record. There wasn’t any talking to them about “Okay, who are we going to do the cover with?” “Whose gonna produce it?” They just gave us money because they knew they were going to get a killer product! The album came out in Europe in October and we had a few labels looking at us for an American deal. All of a sudden, Roadrunner U.S. came into the picture again. We just stepped up to the plate again and we wanted to do stuff again. For us, it was cool and surprising because, that never happens! I can’t think of any band that’s been separated from a label, and then come back. So the album came out and outsold “Supercharger”. They (Roadrunner) were just freaked out when that happened because they told us “There was a 99.5% chance that your record isn’t gonna sell anything what Supercharger did.” “Supercharger” had a pretty good first week because it was coming off The Burning Red, which was our biggest selling record in the states. They (roadrunner) said, “It’s probably going to sell like 6,000 copies.” We ended up outdoing “Supercharger” and charting exactly where “Red” did its first week! Number 88 on Billboard. It was a good feeling. Everybody at Roadrunner is f**king completely happy. We’re completely happy.

RAG- So… it’s an all around good vibe from Roadrunner?

DM- Yeah…we’re lucky. Not a lot of bands get a second chance. We’ve been doing this a long time and consider ourselves fortunate to be able to keep doing what we do. We can go out and tour and not borrow any money from the label. Go to Europe and back…make our living playing music.

RAG- Where in the U.S. is your biggest fan base?

DM- Probably all the major cities like… New York, Chicago, San Francisco, our hometown. Chicago is probably our home away from home. They’ve like adopted us. Whenever we go there, it’s just sick. That was one of the first places on our second record where we sold out to 1500 people.

RAG- What about over in Europe?

DM- Europe is the best place for us! Definitely London and Paris. It’s just a different animal over there. People like live for it. Everything about Europe is different than being over here.

RAG- Your latest release “Through The Ashes Of Empires” was acclaimed “Album Of The Year” by Metal Hammer’s Critics Poll. Tell us about that.

DM- We’re fucking very happy! (smiles) I was just talking to Brock (Lindow) about this. We’ve ridden that whole wave over there. There’s magazines like Metal Hammer, Kerrang…all these magazines. At first they were all about us. Almost in every issue there was something Machine Head in it. It was all killer. We were fresh. Then, by the third album, they were like “We’ve done so much for this band” and like started looking for dirt and stuff. Then Slipknot came out and all the magazines latched onto Slipknot and then it was like “Machine Head…oh…whatever.” That’s just the way it is with every band. Every band goes through that. Slipknot went through it too. It’s like a cycle. You’re riding that wave. You’re huge…everything’s good. Then, you start coming down. A lot of bands…when it gets down to that point…break up or something. A lot of bad stuff starts happening. I think that’s when you really see what the band’s made of and what everybody in the band are made of and how they can handle all that stuff. We just rode through it. ”The Burning Red” was received well. Then, “Supercharger” came out and people just started slagging the record and all this stuff. When we did this record (“Through The Ashes Of Empires”) they came back…full circle. We’re on top of the wave again. Everything is just positive. In hindsight, you can see why they didn’t like certain things you did and why they do the things they do. You just got to be like “Okay man, you’re gonna hate on us awhile…that’s cool.” You gotta deal with it.

RAG- So there’s not a lot of pressure to keep continuing on a certain level?

DM- Well…you always want good press. But, there’s nothing you can really do. You can be their buddy and go “Hey, let’s have a drink” and hope for the best. Some of the magazines like Metal Hammer have been there for us the whole time. Through the good and bad. You get to know a lot of the journalists as friends and their moods and how they are. If they’re f**king gonna write something sarcastic. We had all this killer press for this album and Kerrang, which are kinda known like The National Inquirer, gave the album to a guy who didn’t care for Machine Head at all. He probably saw all the good press and thought “Okay, I’m gonna be the guy that stops this thing!” He slagged the record…tore it apart! He didn’t even do it justifiably. I would understand if he didn’t like it and could explain stuff but he was just going off. I don’t even know what he was listening to. “Oh, it’s as stale as last nights’ pizza.” he said. It’s like whatever man…you can’t do anything about it.

RAG_ You’re also nominated for “Best Live Act” at this years’ Metal Hammer Awards. How does that feel?

DM- That’s awesome! That’s what we pride ourselves in…the live show. One thing we do is get the crowd into it. We let them participate. We want them to go off as much as we go off. To be voted something like that…

RAG- Tell us how your latest album differs from “Supercharger”.

DM- I think it shows where our heads are right now. We always try to expand on our records…try to do something different and if it means writing some songs that can be played on the radio, a couple songs to expose our heavier songs, then that’s where we’re at… at that time. On “Supercharger”, it didn’t happen. The album came out and we had these songs that were actually gonna go to radio and be number one most added to radio. But, when 9/11 happened, it just shut down the whole set up of the record, which was based around airplay and on MTV. It wasn’t an album that was gonna be a “word of mouth” kinda thing. This album (“Through The Ashes Of Empires”) is the exact opposite. This record is like our first record where when you hear the opening track “Imperium”…that track is sick! (laughs) We know that we’re not gonna get played on the radio. We’ll get played on Head Banger’s Ball. We have already. That’s like, if there was a hit on this record, it would be “Imerium” and it’s seven minutes long! The way this album is gonna take off is by touring and people hearing it. That’s where the two albums are different. The new album is like the albums that we grew up on. We heard about them through “word of mouth… bands that we were into like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Back in the day we had to sit through 10 hours of Huey Lewis and the News and f**kin’ Berlin videos just to see that one killer Iron Maiden video. That’s where we are today. That’s where we’re most comfortable being.

RAG- What are your plans for the future?

DM- Band wise, we’re just touring. We’re gonna go over to Europe and do some festivals with Metallica and Korn. Then come back here and do another states tour. Australia… maybe.

RAG- Is there anything that you want to say to your friends or fans?

DM- Just check out our record. I think it’s definitely one of the best things that we’ve done. Check out our website…And Rock!

Troy would like to thank Maria Gonzales and Mark Workman for all their help and support.

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