Machine Head’s Robb Flynn Talks Hernia Surgery, New Live Album + 2013 Plans
Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. Flynn spoke all about his hardships and fears with his hernia surgery as well as how going through that experience may impact future material for Machine Head. Flynn also spoke in depth about recording the band’s new live album ‘Machine F---ing Head.’ Read the full interview with Robb Flynn below:
How are you feeling, sir?
I’m doing alright, could be better, could be worse.
You obviously had to drop off the Dethklok tour for some surgery and pretty amazing that you jumped back on so quickly.
Thank you, we took nine shows off – I had an emergency, double hernia sugery. About a year ago I got a hernia and it was right before we started touring for ‘Locust’ and I went in to get it fixed and the doctor was like, “Well you’re not going to be able to sing for a couple of months,” and I was like, “Well I’m going on tour next week so that’s not going to work.” So he was like, “You know what if it’s not hurting that bad, basically it’s your intestines are poking out, you just push them all back in” and I was like “Oh, okay” [Laughs] so I did that and it didn’t really hurt that much.
About three months ago I don’t know what I did but I got a second one in my nuts and basically my guts would drop into my nuts and that was a little more painful – having to push those back in, it was a little more complicated. I was touring and I just kept on touring and then we had a break and then we went back out on this thing and I figured, “Hey I’ve been on tour already with both of these things it should be fine.”
I had already scheduled a surgery for January and about halfway through the tour – this whole tour has just been nuts it was like the f---ing hurricane and getting banned [by Disney] and the hernias and the bus breaking down [laughs] it’s just like Jesus Christ.
The three shows leading up to Minneapolis it was pretty brutal after every show and then the day off -- I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand and I was like “Alright guys” I pulled everybody in my room and I’m like “This is it, I’ve been doing this for a year and a half, my body’s having a mutiny on me here.” They were cool and we just shot for Portland and here I am and it’s been going good. I thought I would take it easy, I told myself when I started going back out, “Okay take it easy, you’re going to take it easy now” and I don’t know how to take it easy. I get up there and do my thing and pay the price after if I have to.
Documenting the sugery as a series of video diaries is pretty revealing. Was that about creating a greater bond with fans or more for you to see yourself throughout the whole process?
I mean at first it was just kind of a goof [laughs] like I want to see what I look like coming out of all this great anesthesia and all the great drugs they’ve got me on. I don’t know I guess I was a little nervous and I just wanted to film it – I don’t know it sucks, the whole thing sucks, I’m dropping off, missing a bunch of shows, a bunch of people were bummed.
I just thought maybe show people what I’m going through and share this thing – lots of dudes are like “I’m f---ing invincible” even if that’s how I feel sometimes that isn’t the way life goes and it was cool to share it. People were stoked about it like, “Wow man that’s a pretty brutal thing to show” and it was pretty f---ing brutal those first couple of days. I had to have Pando, my merch guy – he was with me the whole time, lifting my legs into beg, it took me about a minute to stand and a minute to sit down or lay down.
I just felt like doing it and even for my own posterity just to see this moment in my life and I guess I thought I might die or something under the anesthesia. My goddamn wife planted all these stories in my head and I was like, “Jesus Christ, stop telling me all this crap” and so I was like, “Maybe if this is the last time, f--- it there it is.” It’s like this morbid thing going through my head but that’s just how my brain was thinking at the time.
What part of the surgical process will most likely become lyrics or somehow influence Machine Head music? Thinking about almost dying maybe?
Yeah maybe, something like that – I was going to say writing a song about a hernia would be super lame. [Laughs] I don’t know yeah, maybe the thoughts about dying.
What was pretty cool when I went into the actual surgery room – my wife watches a bunch of shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and all the hospital shows, all the emergency room shows and I’m expecting it to be this f---ing totally dimly lit like, “Pass me the scalpel now! Stat.” I walk in and it’s this super brightly lit room and everyone’s like “Oh hey, how you doing?” And I’m like, “This isn’t like f---ing ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ what the f---?” [Laughs]
I want to talk a little bit about the new live record ‘Maching F---ing Head’ Live. The album just came out, what do you like best about how you’ve evolved as a live band compared to what the ‘Hellalive’ album represented back in 2003?
I think that the coolest thing about the live record for me, is that the ‘Hellalive’ documented up to ‘Supercharge’ where we were at in 2001/2002 and this is documenting up to where we are now –so the three records after that ‘Through the Ashes,’ ‘Blackening,’ ‘Unto the Locust.’ For me as I was going through the tracks and getting ready to mix them and we’re picking from all these different cities and countries and just listening to the fans, man
The fans and the sing a longs and just chanting Machine Effin’ Head every three or four minutes and going on for a minute or so – it was amazing. When we started mixing it, we started listening to a lot of live records and a lot of live records now are like crappy studio records with a little bit of crowd here and there. There are screw ups on it, you can tell when the city changes and my voice is cracking here and there. There was a night where we were on fire and you’re going to miss a note here and there.
Ultimately, as I started mixing it – I was just like the crowd needs to be louder I was telling the engineer the whole time “Dude, turn it up” and he’s like, “It’s making everything go out of phase” and I’m like “I don’t care.”
We’re not the stars of this album, the fans, the head cases, those are the stars of this record. Listening to it, I got goosebumps – just listening to some of the live tracks it’s awesome. It’s amazing to walk out there and see those people lost their minds like they do. The head cases are intense.
Robb, putting together the new live album for you, what was the biggest challenge when it came to differentiating between multiple recordings of the same song from an entire tour?
My two criteria were if the band played it good [laughs], you know if we didn’t suck that night and sometimes you just hear something – there’s just a vibe, we’re playing with more power, if the drums are hitting harder, if there’s more spit going into the mic and the guitars are locked in tighter. Sometimes you just found a show where that happened a lot and then also how the crowd was, if the crowd was singing along, if the crowd was kind of quiet. We weren’t going to do something corny like fly in a crowd – we wanted the crowd to be the crowd from the shows.
So those were the two things, a lot of times it was the band was on fire and the crowd was on fire too and it was almost like you could hear them feeding off of each other like they’re getting more pissed, we’re getting more pissed. It was just that back and forth and that was amazing to stumble upon when you finally find like “Oh s—t listen to that, that’s killer, that’s it” and you know it in a second.
What can we expect after this current tour, going into 2013? You guys are done touring for the year - I hope you guys get a break.
Yeah, for this year we got some stuff coming up and next year, we’re going out in March and April. It looks like we’re going to be doing some stuff in the summer, more touring. We’re going to start writing though in the beginning of the year or at the end of this year we’ll start writing.
Do you think there will be a new record out next year?
I don’t know if it’s going to happen next year, I’d love for it to happen next year – maybe some songs though. We might throw out maybe three or four new songs on an EP or on iTunes or do something where we just put up a song a month, maybe even just on the Internet or something. Who knows, just give fans something, I don’t necessarily think it needs to be a record that comes out. It can be new stuff that gets people talking and gets people excited and just put something out.
Even for us, when we did ‘Through the Ashes of Empires,’ we put it out and it came out in Europe first and then when it came out in America six months later the label asked us, “Hey can you write another song to give people an incentive to buy it,” because if they’ve already bought the import from Europe which a lot of people had in America. It kind of lit a fire under us, we had to push, we had to put a new song together really quick. Just having that pressure in many ways made people stoked because they like the new song after something they had already heard for six months.
It almost laid the foundation for the direction of ‘The Blackening’ and how it was going to go. I love the idea of doing something now and putting it out in April or May right before a summer tour and see how that inspiration takes us into the next record. I don’t know if it’s going to happen but that’s where my head’s at right now, that’s what I’d love to see happen.
Full Metal Jackie will welcome Anders Friden of In Flames to her program this coming weekend. She can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.