Known for their trademark down-tuned riffing guitar sound, Machine Head arrived on the heavy metal scene in 1994 with Burn My Eyes. Their extensive touring schedule and subsequent releases elevated their success. Although the group has experienced several personnel changes over the years, they have managed to maintain a dedicated fan base.
Machine Head, based in Oakland, California, joined forces in the early 1990s. The original lineup included Adam Duce on bass, Robb Flynn on vocals and guitar, Chris Kontos on drums, and Logan Mader on guitar. Duce and Mader became friends at the age of six, and when they were about 10 years old, they decided they wanted to play together in a rock band. Duce met Flynn in the early 1990s when Flynn was in a thrash metal band called Violence. Flynn decided to leave Violence to form his own project, and Machine Head was born in June of 1992. After a couple of months of writing and rehearsing, the band started out by playing house parties in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group approached music with their own heavy style which included down-tuned guitars. To obtain the sound they were looking for, Flynn and Mader tuned their guitars to a lower pitch than the standard used by most guitar players. “It makes for a heavier sound, more body, and a lower end,” Mader told Sheila Rene at Machine Head Online. “It makes the guitar sound so much heavier. It’s not conventional tuning.”
It didn’t take long for Machine Head to gaining the attention of record labels. They signed a recording contract with Roadrunner Records and began work on their debut album. Produced by Colin Richardson, Burn My Eyes arrived in 1994. Machine Head followed the release with 15 months of touring in the United States and Europe. They spent much of the tour in the opening slot for the legendary metal band Slayer. Before the tour ended, Machine Head contributed the song “My Misery” to the soundtrack for Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight. They ended the tour in 1995 with a performance at the Castle Donington Festival in London, England, where they shared the stage with Metallica and White Zombie.
During the tour, the group began experiencing conflict with Kontos. He left Machine Head at the end of the tour and went on to play with the band Testament. Not wanting to lose any momentum from Burn My Eyes, the remaining members immediately began their search for a replacement. Dave McClain, who previously played drums with the band Sacred Reich, was hired to replace Kontos. The updated lineup returned to the studio to work on their sophomore release, again with producer Colin Richardson.
The More Things Change, which included the single “Ten Ton Hammer,” was released in 1997. “Some of the
For the Record…
Members include Adam Duce, bass; Robert Flynn, vocals, guitar; Chris Kontos (left group 1995), drums; Ahrue Luster (joined group 1998), guitar; Logan Mader (left group 1997), guitar; Dave McClain (joined group 1995), drums.
Band formed in Oakland, CA, 1992; signed record contract with Roadrunner Records, 1993; released Burn My Eyes, 1994; released The More Things Change, 1997; released The Burning Red, 1999; contributed to Heavy Metal: 2000 film soundtrack, 2000; contributed to Black Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black II, 2000; released Supercharger, 2001.
stuff on this album is weirder than anything we’ve done before,” Flynn told Sonicnet.com, “but it’s still along the same lines as far as the eerie, dark feeling that it brings with it.” With another album out, Machine Head was ready to hit the road for another lengthy tour. They landed a slot on the Ozzfest tour, which also featured Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, and Black Sabbath.
The end of the tour for The More Things Change brought changes for the band once again. This time they were much more surprising. Mader announced that he was leaving the band, sending the remaining members into chaos. Flynn took the departure as a personal betrayal. Duce, who had been friends with Mader since childhood, fell into a deep depression.
Flynn had already began abusing alcohol and drugs and had also developed bulimia. Mader’s exit sent him over the edge. “For so long in my life, I had been fighting everything around me,” Flynn recalled to Don Kaye in Metal Edge, “and I couldn’t fight everything around me anymore. So I started taking it out on myself…. After [Maden] quit, it just spiraled so hard out of control that it reached a point where I was just gonna live or not live.” By April of 1998, Flynn had recovered and started looking for a replacement for Mader in preparation for a return to the studio.
Machine Head began recording with guitarist Ahrue Luster and producer Ross Robinson, who had previously worked with Limp Bizkit and Korn. With a new lineup that resulted in a new sound, they released The Burning Red in 1999, which included the singles “From This Day” and “Silver.” They chose the title, and particularly the color red, as a metaphor for the music on the album. “Typically, the color red represents a lot of things, like blood, death, and on the other side, it can represent like love and beauty and lust,” Luster told Hookidup at Machine Head Online. “We thought that this record had a lot of contrast to it because it has things that are really heavy going into things that are really beautiful and melodic. The color red is like a metaphor for the record. The Burning Red just means that it is just that intensified.”
Machine Head’s work on the album did not go unnoticed by the press. Don Kaye wrote in Metal Edge, “On The Burning Red, the band seems to have found the perfect balance of musicality, aggression, experimentation, and songcrait, melding an abundance of styles into a seamless whole that is Machine Head’s heaviest, yet most accessible, work to date.”
“I think that on this one, we went for it a lot harder and didn’t hold anything back,” Flynn told David L. Wilson in Blistering Online Magazine. “We tried to challenge ourselves and tried to go places that we hadn’t been and other places that other bands were not going.”
Following the release of The Burning Red, the group was able to tour as headliners, setting off on The Year of the Dragon tour with Reveille and Primer 55 in supporting slots. The Year of the Dragon tour started in the United States, then traveled to Europe and Japan. The Japan tour was so successful that the group put out a live album called The Year of the Dragon, Best of … just in that country.
The year 2000 brought more potential turmoil for Machine Head, but this time, the changes were not permanent. McClain left the band to join another group called Systematic, but his membership in the band was short-lived. He returned to Machine Head just a week after he quit, and the band remained intact. The band contributed a song called “Alcoholocaust” to the Heavy Metal: 2000 soundtrack, and also did a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Hole in the Sky” for the Nativity in Black II, a Black Sabbath tribute album.
Machine Head headed back to the studio early in 2001 to record their next release, Supercharger. Again, they titled the album to reflect the music. “The vibe in the band is just more charged up now,” Flynn said on the Roadrunner Records website. “We felt calling it Supercharger just summed up the power in the music.”
All that “charged up” power doesn’t only apply to the music. Machine Head has managed to maintain their energy and talent through rigorous tour schedules and member changes over several years. And because of the style of music they play, they may never be rewarded with the number one slot on the Billboard charts. Luster credits their love for the music as the fuel behind their ceaseless stamina. “We don’t really care if we’re the best band, or if we’re selling the most records,” Luster told Kate Smith at Newmetal.com, “we just want to enjoy what we’re doing and be doing it for another five, 10, or 15 years down the road.”
Burn My Eyes, Roadrunner Records, 1994.
(Contributor) Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight, Atlantic Records, 1994.
The More Things Change, Roadrunner Records, 1997.
The Burning Red, Roadrunner Records, 1999.
(Contributor) Heavy Metal: 2000 (soundtrack), BMG/Rest-less Records, 2000.
(Contributor) Nativity in Black II, Divine/Priority Records, 2000.
Supercharger, Roadrunner Records, 2001.
Entertainment Weekly, January 13, 1995.
Guitar One, November 1999.
Metal Edge, October 1999.
“Best of ’00,” The PRP, http://www.theprp.com (January 20,2001).
“Interview with Machine Head,” NewMetal.com, http://www.newmetal.com (January 20, 2001).
“Machine Head,” Absolut Metal, http://www.absolutmetal.com (January 20, 2001).
“Machine Head,” Blistering Online Magazine, http://www.blistering.com (January 20, 2001).
“Machine Head Biography,” Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (January 20, 2001).
Machine Head Official Website, http://www.machinehead1.com (January 20, 2001).
Machine Head Online, http://www.geocities.com/machineheadmayhem/ (January 20, 2001).
Roadrunner Records, http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com (January 20, 2001).
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