Interviews

March is Metal Month: Machine Head’s Robb Flynn Discusses All Things Thrash with MetalSucks, and Shares His Personal Spotify Thrash Playlist!

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Machine Head

March is Metal Month! For the fifth year in a row, MetalSucks is teaming up with a variety of other outlets to offer great deals on metal albums, songs and merch throughout the entire month of March. Each week this month, MetalSucks interview a celebrity metal musician about the subgenre in which he specializes — AND we’ll be featuring a Spotify playlist put together by that musician, focusing on the subgenre in question!

You won’t have to pay a darned thing to listen to these playlists, but you will need to have a Spotify account. Spotify is available to all for free — but if you pay a measly $4.99 monthly fee, you won’t have to listen to any advertisements, and a $9.99 “premium” subscription also increases audio quality and allows mobile access, which is well worth it if you ask us. Sign up for Spotify now if for some reason you haven’t yet.

Below, check out our first celebrity interview and playlist: Robb Flynn from the mighty Machine Head on all things thrash!  Robb’s playlist, at the bottom of this post, has a whopping THIRTY-SIX kick-ass thrash songs on it. We just know you’re gonna love it. Enjoy!

You’ve obviously been involved with thrash for a long time now. How did you get into the genre in the first place?

I began playing in a thrash band back as a junior in high school in what would be considered the golden-era of thrash with my friend Jim Pittman. While we grew up in the Bay Area, we were really thirty to forty miles away from everything and too young to have a car, so we just heard about it, imagined it, and dreamed.  We went through awesome names like Inquisitor, War Witch and finally settled on Forbidden Evil, which we stole from the title of a song by Chicago band called War Cry on Metal Massacre 4. Forbidden Evil eventually became Forbidden, and they went on to release a few albums.

Their first album had three or four tunes I wrote including “Chalice Of Blood,” “Forbidden Evil”, and “As Good As Dead.”

It was an amazing time that no one knew was special at all, it was just what was happening in the clubs.  We began jamming in our parents garages in Fremont, CA, and shortly after we were emulating our then-unknown-local-heroes and playing backyard parties, kegger parties and community centers way out in the boondocks of Fremont. Here we were playing cover songs of our favorite bands. We’d play “A Lesson In Violence” (six months before it was released) from Exodus, “Black Magic” by Slayer, maybe “Whiplash,” and a couple of originals. The first “almost-song” I ever wrote was a blatant Slayer rip-off called “Thrash Til Death.” But my first “song-song” was a massive Mercyful Fate rip-off called “Egypt Has Fallen” (probably the best song title EVER!).

Eventually I left Forbidden Evil and joined another band called Vio-Lence (Phil Demmel would later claim he “stole me away,” but I quit on my own free will *ahem!*) So just like that Vio-Lence and Forbidden became instant rivals.  It may sound trivial now, but back then in many ways it spurred each band to write not only faster songs, but tobecome better players, too.  Vio-Lence lasted about five years, releasing two records that didn’t sell very much at the time, did five van tours, and were mercilessly slayed by the U.S. metal press… though they are now  recognized in the underground as having made groundbreaking albums, especially our debut, Eternal Nightmare.  But, we were also a part of the third wave of thrash, meaning the scene already had two monumental waves in which Bay Area bands had prospered before us. Eternal Nightmare came out in 1988 when top tier bands like Slayer and Metallica were already on …And Justice For All and South of Heaven, and while we were young and hungry, things were changing.

In 1992 I quit Vio-Lence and took Machine Head from a side-project to a full time band. I never considered Machine Head a thrash band. And while it absolutely had thrash elements, there was a lot more melody, groove and punk in it, so to me it was more influenced by thrash rather than merely a continuation of that sound.

What differentiates thrash from other genres of metal? Are there things that make it better than other genres? Worse?

The speed and aggression. There were plenty of shitty thrash bands though, just because bands were playing (or attempting to) play thrash doesn’t mean everyone respected them or that they were any good.  In the late 80s / early 1990s, major labels started gobbling up anything with a thrash beat, and like I said earlier, things were changing and at that point we all knew it was over.  When Metallica put out the classic black album and every other band (except Slayer) tried to go that way, it WAS over.

But when it was done right, when the bands did it from the heart and went full-on with it, not for labels, or money or glory, but for power, speed, and rage, it was the most exciting, invigorating, and terrifying music in the world. And it WAS terrifying!  It was lawless, it was dangerous. It was far more dangerous than anything you see today.  There was no security, no barriers, no “VIP” bullshit.  There were loosely-knit gangs circling the shows like STB. Paul Baloff, Exodus’ original singer was a FUCKING MADMAN back then and remained so ‘til the day he died.  He’d be wired-high-to-Jesus on crack, drunk, talking the talk and walking the walk about beating the shit out of “posers” — and he did! All the time!! Exodus shows were a staggering display of youthful violence set to music. Metallica and Slayer shows were also full-on drunken brawls.

But amidst that chaos was also some of the most original, talented and inspired music to come out in decades. It would change and influence the music world, production styles, guitar sounds, and even fashion (with anti-fashion) and the level of musicianship in a way the world has rarely seen.  In my humble opinion, when the music world (Grammys, Billboard, etc.) finally pulls it’s head out of its ass and looks back on thrash, it will be revered in the same way as the British Invasion.  It should command the respect the folk music of the 60’s as well as music from The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Dylan, etc. received because it had the same connection, the same convictions. thrash Metal made the same impact with an entire generation and influenced some of the industry’s most successful bands of today.

Where do you stand on the “American Thrash vs. Teutonic Thrash” issue? Is there really a difference?

Uh…?

From your perspective, how has thrash evolved over the years?

It seems like it went more primitive again, which is cool — now it has looser, old school production.

Besides Machine Head, who do you think are some of the best thrash bands of all time?

Again, I’ve never considered Machine Head a thrash band. Influenced by thrash? Absolutely.  But it would feel phony to me to call us true thrash.

But Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Among the Living-era Anthrax, The Ultra-Violence-era Death Angel, proto-death-metal-ers Possessed, and the two Testament albums are a really example of great thrash and melody.  Some of the bands that influenced thrash, like Mercyful Fate, Venom, Accept, and Exciter.  And the punk bands that influenced it, like D.R.I., Discharge, G.B.H., Suicidal Tendencies, Cro-Mags, even later crossover stuff like Attitude Adjustment and Crumbsuckers.  In the mid-90s, that first The Haunted record is insane.

Best thrash albums?

Exodus — Bonded by Blood
Metallica — Ride the Lightning
Megadeth — Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
Anthrax — Among the Living
Mercyful Fate — Melissa
Accept — Restless and Wild
Testament — The New Order
Vio-lence — Eternal Nightmare
Forbidden — Forbidden Evil
Possessed — Seven Churches
Death Angel — The Ultra-Violence
D.R.I. — Dealing with It!
Suicidal Tendencies — self-titled
Venom — Black Metal
The Haunted — self-titled
Celtic Frost — Morbid Tales

Are there any young thrash bands out there you think are doing a great job of carrying on the genre’s good name?

I think it’s different now, but Municipal Waste, Bonded by Blood, Warbringer, and Toxic Holocaust stand out for me as bands that “get it.”

Last question! You have a long and well-documented history with Slayer. Any thoughts on the current drama with Dave Lombardo?

Being in a band is hard. Much harder than anybody realizes, especially after all that time, it’s a lot more fragile than people want to believe.  This is the third time he’s quit, I’m sure he’ll be back at some point.  I wish both parties the best.  Dave is a great dude, amazing drummer, and Slayer are one of the greatest bands in history, thrash or otherwise.

ROBB FLYNN’S THRASH PLAYLIST:

Metal Sucks Greatest Hits