Machine Head swarm drummer's hometown
Published: February 7, 2012
Machine Head drummer and native San Antonian Dave McClain often contemplates his band's endurance. "The writing and touring cycle for our last album took over five years," he says. "That's longer than most careers."
He stops to consider how Machine Head — now 20 years strong — nearly derailed once.
"We'd been having label trouble when Supercharger came out, and that was a very divisive album," he says, referring to Machine Head's questionable attempt to go nu-metal. A shelved record and a fired guitarist later, the band decided to reboot. And the Oakland-based band has not stumbled since.
The monstrous Through the Ashes of Empires begat the masterful The Blackening, and last year's sick Unto the Locust manages to top even that record. "We had an epiphany about 10 years ago, when we met Judas Priest," McClain said. "They'd been going for over 30 years. They'd seen the top, they'd hit rock bottom, but they kept at it, and were rising again. That reinvigorated us, and it reminded us to keep our music true."
"We're a metal band," McClain said. "Machine Head started as a metal band when grunge was killing metal. But we have to do things differently, because writing the same record twice is a bad idea. We did that with The More Things Change, and we won't do it again."
So how does McClain, bandleader Robb Flynn, bassist Adam Duce, and guitarist Phil Demmel keep things fresh? "It helps to be open-minded," McClain says. "We grew up on Angel Witch and Saxon, but we're also into Korn and My Chemical Romance. We maintain our identity because we're very good at stealing."
Ahead of the band's show Sunday at Backstage Live, McClain has an apology to make.
"Our last San Antonio show was our worst," he said. "We opened for Megadeth at the Sunken Gardens on a cold, wet December night. It was miserable. So [afterwards] Robb, Phil, and I went to The Mix with some friends, and we ended up sitting in with whatever band was playing. We did some Sabbath tunes and had a fucking blast! But that band was pretty pissed at us [for taking over their set]."
That Megadeth show notwithstanding, Dave professes a fondness for his former home. "I still get chills when I see the skyline, because that's where I used to dream of doing what I do now. San Antonio was the Heavy Metal Capital. Without [legendary KISS-FM personality, now deceased] Joe Anthony, we would not have heard Thin Lizzy, Accept, and the new wave of British heavy metal stuff. He was the first guy to play Iron Maiden."
McClain then reflects on the news about Mark Reale, leader of the band Riot, who died of Crohn's disease January 25. "They were our Maiden and our Priest ... San Antonio was his second home."
Machine Head's SA stop falls on the fourth anniversary of the passing of McClain's mother.
"My mom came to all our shows, wearing the shirt of whatever band I was playing with that night," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, she'll be there that night. That pushes me to perform better than we did last time." •
Machine Head feat. Suicide Silence, Darkest Hour, Rise to Remain
> Email Gonzalo Pozo