Machinehead's Robb Flynn Unto the Locust, and Why He Started Singing Lessons

Today sees the release of Unto The Locust, the seventh album from California-based metal band Machinehead.

The heavy follow-up to 2006's The Blackening, which beat out Slayer and Lamb of God for "Album of the Year" at the Golden God Awards, Unto The Locust displays the band's varied styles and prowess.

There's only one track on the record that is under six minutes long--just barely--and the the tracks veer wildly in different directions. On one track, you hear layers of children chanting "this is who we are"; on another, soft acoustic guitar or intertwining guitar riffs; and on yet another, Flynn's signature growls and screams.

Singer/ guitarist Robb Flynn talked with Up On The Sun about Machinehead karaoke, the new album, and why he just had his first singing lesson 19 years into his career.

Up On The Sun: Your last album, The Blackening, was compared by some music critics to Metallica's Master of Puppets. Did that put a lot of pressure on this new album, Unto The Locust?

Robb Flynn: Well, we didn't really set out to write another The Blackening. I mean, when we wrote that, the writing process started around 2005, August of 2005, and went until, I think, June of 2006. At that point it was the threshold of our abilities with that album. Then we toured for three years and that threshold of our abilities became the new normal. We got better as musicians and as a band, so when we started writing this record, you know, we didn't wanna write in the ability level of where we were at five years ago, whether it worked or not or was successful. We didn't want to have any kinda limitation on what we could write. We just tried to push ourselves and come up with crazier ideas as songwriters and musicians and lyricists.

Like how you took singing lessons by someone who has worked with Lady GaGa and Mick Jagger? Is that true?

[Laughs] I did, I took uh lessons from Melissa Cross who did a lot of great work with us. Yeah. It was really just trying to get better at my craft. I've never had vocal lessons and I've been singing for 19 years. 19 years into my singing career I took my first lesson [laughs] I never took singing lessons because I never wanted to learn someone's style; that's the same reason I never took guitar lessons. I never wanted to have [the influence pf] somebody else thing put on me, you know? I had buddies when I was younger who went to take lessons and they all come back and sound the same. I didn't want that...I wanted to go out and find my own thing, so I did that with vocals and the guitar. I actually did take classical lessons in high school as an elective. But I mostly just smoked weed and played Black Sabbath songs with my friends. I got a C minus-- but it worked out in the end.

Was there anything you took away from the lessons that you were surprised about?

Yeah, definitely. It helped me out with my upper register, um, it taught me basically that I can get the same effect for about half the effort, which was great to know I was wasting too much energy before! It was a very positive experience; I liked it a lot.

Tell me about the four listening events you guys have for the album. What inspired the band to put them on?

It's really great! We're doing it in L.A., New York, Chicago, Oakland, and, I just wanna stress, that we will be attending them but we will not be performing. They are basically drinking parties with our new record playing in the background. You know, we will have contests, and will all be different. Some will have Machinehead karaoke contests where fans can compete for prizes. It'll be really fun, especially to give a little something back to the U.S. fans. After the Mayhem tour it was such an incredible connection we decided it'd be a great thing to do.

What songs are you listening to on a regular basis besides your own?

I love that new Kanye West and Jay-Z record. I've been playing the hell out of it. It's really '90s rap, like that collage sound with lots of movie samples and random...it's just weird and really cool. The beats are really out there and different. I also really like the new All Shall Perish, album too.

I read about a year ago that your house was broken into and things like your son Xander's guitar and a gift from Dimebag were stolen. Did you ever recover any of that?

You know, I never did. The media really focused on the guitars but they got us for about three grand worth of stuff....wife's jewelry, cash, guitars...it was a tough time. But at the same time, some great music came out of it. Laughter. Some really angry pissed-off music came out of that era. The song "Who We Are" in particular was definitely about that --believing in yourself and standing up for what you believe in.

You guy shave been around as a favorite for a long time. For Machinehead in general, what's one of the most major things that have changed about the music industry since the first album in '94?

Oh man, I mean, a million things have changed. The Internet...the MySpace band...YouTube. Things I all think are great. I love my iPhone and surfing on YouTube to check out bands...you know, a lot of bands around back then aren't around anymore and a lot of bands from the beginning of the millennium that aren't around anymore. And we're still here; we feel very fortunate to be making music that is more relevant now than it was back then. All of these incredible opportunities...particularly with the last album. Getting "Album of the Decade" from Metal Hammer and all these incredible accolades; the respect from our peers and our idols. It's amazing since it's not the trajectory of a band that's on their 19th year. So, we're just really stoked and living in this moment and trying to share it with our fans and as many people as possible.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise