Machine Head’s Robb Flynn: I Cried Watching My Son Hit First Home Run in Baseball
Machine Head's Robb Flynn was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The vocalist / guitarist discussed the band's current lineup, which consists of classic members for the performance of the band's Burn My Eyes debut as well as new ones who play the remainder of the set alongside Flynn.
After the exit of longtime members Phil Demmel and Dave McClain in 2018, Flynn contemplated putting Machine Head to rest. Instead, he took some time to regroup and has released two brand new standalone singles, which he also talked about, embracing the digital age and the era of streaming in regards to the ease of getting new music out to fans almost instantly.
Elsewhere, Flynn recalls his upbringing and life lessons handed down from his father as well as the toll the road takes on family life in addition to his elation after watching his son hit his first home run in baseball before going on to win the championship game.
How are you doing, my friend?
I'm doing all right. Everybody in the band is battling "tour AIDS" right now. [laughs] We've all got either the flu or brutal chest infections or diarrhea. So we had an amazing show last night and when the fans are that crazy, it just gives you so much adrenaline and just feeds out of it. An awesome show kind of makes you forget about all your sickness and stuff.
Resilient is a good way to describe the determination you've exercised throughout your career. Who's been the biggest role model for you in terms of resilience?
Probably my dad. He's a tough son of a bitch. He grew up right after World War II. He was very poor. I grew up three blocks away from a trailer park that he grew up in and we had a kind of a lower/middle class small home. We used to walk by that trailer park that he grew up [which was] an aluminum shed with five people. There was no bathroom, no heat and no air conditioning. If he had to go poop, he went in a bucket and then had to carry the bucket to the community dumping hole that was about a quarter block away.
We'd walk by there and he would tell me these stories. We were poor, but I never felt poor because my dad would tell me these stories about what his life was like. I was like, 'Man, we've got a toilet. [laughs] We're doing good." I had that perspective and having him teach me these little lessons about that kind of stuff just made me look at life in a different way.
My dad is 83 years old and just this last year on his birthday, he said, 'I want you to take me on the most brutal hike that you can take me on.' It's a three mile hike on a super savage mountain that I go on and he did it and he killed it — he just killed it. And I'm like, 'Dude, you're 83 years old. You're so freaking strong. It's crazy.' A lot of it's just his mindset and his mentality has had a huge effect on me.
Vogg (guitar, Decapitated) and Matt Alston (drums, Devilment) joined the band last year and obviously Logan Mader (guitar) and Chris Kontos (drums) came back to tour the anniversary of Burn My Eyes. How has straddling the past and future invigorated your enthusiasm about this band?
It was the craziest idea and a million people were just like, 'It's never going to work.' But we decided to try it. We've been doing these "Evening With" shows for coming up on six years now. The fans love it, we love it — it's us for three to three and a half hours every night.
When the idea came about to do the 25th anniversary of Burn My Eyes minus the instrumentals, it's only 45 minutes long. We couldn't even do a headline set with that, so we knew that we were going to have to fill it out with something. We found some great players in Matt and Vogg and then just reconnecting with Logan and Chris was incredible. In a lot of ways it was very cathartic and healing for everybody involved.
Machine Head, "Davidian" — Live (2020)
Logan and I had reconnected a long time ago back in 2004. In fact, when we got nominated for a Grammy for The Blackening, Logan was our designated driver and he drove us around to all the parties. We had been hanging out with him and talking to him for some time. But Chris I just hadn't seen — he had actually retired music and was racing BMX, so it was really awesome to connect with him.
Just to be able to go up there and do this and have this kind of wild, crazy success with this tour and this tour cycle has been amazing, humbling and incredibly gratifying. The vibe in the band is killer, too. I've got six band members, which is fucking crazy, but it's been amazing.
You started releasing one off singles with Machine Head which gets new music out much sooner than waiting for a new album. What changes creatively when you're not writing within the typical context of making an album?
It doesn't really change much because I'm always writing no matter where we are. I love how much the music industry has changed. I love that we have the ability to put out these standalone songs. So far we've put out six standalone songs from the Burn My Eyes, record and we put out two new standalone brand new songs. We've got live stuff too.
Machine Head, "A Thousand Lies" — Live in the Studio (2019)
With the digital world now, it's amazing that you can get it out there that quick and keep fans engaged. Especially in Machine Head's case, we tend to take about three to three-and-a-half years between albums and it's a long time. Granted, we tour for probably 20 months behind that record, but it's been liberating in a sense that when I got an idea and I can get something done that I don't have to wait for a year-and-a-half or two years to get that idea out to fans. I love it.
Robb, reflecting on 2019 on Facebook, you referred to recording an album of cover songs with friends. What are the details of that project and when will we get to hear it?
For the last seven years now for my birthday bash, I have a thing called "Robb Flynn and Friends" and I get a bunch of my friends together and we just jam cover songs. It's a lot of it's '90s hip hop, classic rock, some thrash — all the kind of stuff that we grew up with and and it's a blast.
I have probably 30 to 40 different musicians playing. The last one that we did turned out really good and thought, "Let's just track this like that. I own a recording studio now." I was like, "Let's go in and bang this out and we'll see what happens." So we did it live and it was just super fun. I've got five songs tracked and done and now I'm going back and I think I'm going to do it the '90s hip-hop groups — we did some Snoop Dogg songs and some other stuff. It's pretty wild — it's a loose, greasy, sweaty, good time and, and it's just for fun.
I don't know when that's going to come out now. I know that Nuclear Blast is loving it and they loved the whole concept, so hopefully soon. Right now the priority is obviously the "Circle the Drain" single.
Machine Head, "Circle the Drain"
Between social media and your new podcast, there's a lot of transparency to Robb Flynn. What's been the biggest benefit and the biggest downside to being so outspoken?
The biggest benefit is just making a connection with fans and being okay with people knowing we're all kind of screwed up — we were all filled with demons, we're all kind of a mess and we're all figuring it out in real time. That's the most rewarding thing about it — you put something out there that maybe you're ashamed of or maybe you're embarrassed of or whatever and then you find out that there's all these other people who feel the same way. It's just like, "Wow, this is just so crazy —you're as screwed up as I am and I love you for that."
I have been outspoken about certain things and even political things and the biggest downside is when you get death threats against your wife and your kids. That's when it's a little scary and it kind of brings reality into stuff.
There are some crazy people out there, but it goes with the territory. I've been in a band now since I was 17 years old and I was playing thrash metal clubs when I was 18 years old, so I've literally lived my late teenage and adult life in the public eye — I'm used to that kind of stuff. When it crosses into your kids and your wife, they're not used to that and that's where it becomes difficult and challenging.
Machine Head has been your primary outlet for creative self expression for much of your adult life. How has that outlet nurtured you to be a better husband, father, and overall person?
There were times when it didn't nurture that. It's a strange life, that's for sure. There have been times when my kids didn't understand why I was on the road for so long and they'd ask, "Why are you gone?" They kind of started blaming themselves and that's tough — you're trying to reason with a six-year-old and it's not working. Those lessons help make you a better person and to realize that when you are home, you've got to be the best dad that you can be — you've got to be there for them. For me, I'm lucky enough that Machine Head is my job.
When I am home, I don't have to do anything else other than that, so I can spend more time with them. When I go on the road, that's the part where I'm probably going to be gone for the next year. Not a year straight — you get your breaks and I think it teaches you to appreciate the moment, to live in the moment and to cherish what you have while you have it.
When you get those little moments with your son — I've got two boys and this last year I was so fortunate to be home. My son was playing baseball and he's been playing baseball since he was really young, about six years old, and he's 15 now and he's always kinda struggled with it. Sometimes he'd just get on teams where they lost every single game. Other teams were great teams, but he was kind of struggling with his performance. This year during my last break at home, he got his first home run and then a few games later they made the championship and his team won the championship.
It was just this rocket ride of a season for him and when he got that home run I literally lost my mind — I was screaming my head off. I cried. It was just such an amazing moment. I was super proud of him and then his team went to the championship. You've just got to learn to cherish those moments. You learn to be grateful that you could be part of those moments.
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