Q&A with Logan Mader
Sheila Rene': How good of you to call. You're in New York today. I hope you've got your favorite beverage, we're ready to talk.
Logan Mader: Yep, I'm in New York with a tall glass of water.
SR: Did you get to take any time off between Burn My Eyes and this great new album?
LM: No not really. We finished the touring cycle in December of '95, replaced our drummer and started writing in January '96.
SR: What happened to Chris Kontos?
LM: He's a great drummer but it's just that we had some personal conflicts that we were unable to reconcile. We tried and tried. People don't know that we had kicked him out a year prior to kicking him out the second time. We worked things out among ourselves and he was back in. Things went on and without boring you with all the details, he got sick but not that sick and cancelled out of some very important shows for us. He left us hanging in a bad situation and soon after that we got the Donnington gig.
SR: That had to have been a big highlight for you in '95.
LM: Very much so. It was a very prestigious show for us in the sense that we felt we might not get that opportunity offered to us again. Chris didn't want to do and backed out only three days before the show.
SR: Where did you find Dave McClain?
LM: We hadn't heard of him before. He had been playing in a band called Sacred Reich and he's originally from Texas. I was unfamiliar with them.
SR: I know Dave's work because I'm a big fan of Sacred Reich and just interviewed them on their last album.
LM: He was referred to us by Igor from Sepultura and a journalist friend of ours who's opinion we respected. We were excited about that. We had open auditions and let anyone who wanted to try out was welcome. We didn't find a replacement in that process and we knew it wasn't going to be easy. They were big shoes to fill because Chris is a good drummer. We couldn't settle for anything less than what we had before. Dave came around and the try out was so amazing. I was trying to keep from smiling once I heard him play. He was so cool to watch.
SR: You and Adam are friends now for around 18 years.
LM: Something like that. We grew up together.
SR: Back in those early days did you know you wanted to be a musician?
LM: Absolutely. Adam and I were maybe ten years old and we decided after listening to Black Sabbath and AC/DC that we wanted to play in a band.
SR: I bet that you and Adam can read each other's minds at this point.
LM: Yeah, we do. One of us will often be thinking the same thing the other person is verbalizing--even down to where we want to have dinner. We hang out a lot together. We like to go fishing on his boat when we can and we go snowboarding together. We're pretty close.
SR: Did you start out that early by getting a guitar?
LM: No, I didn't get a guitar until I was 15 years old.
SR: What did you buy?
LM: I don't remember exactly. It was an acoustic that my Mom picked out for me.
SR: The first tune on the album, "Ten Ton Hammer" hits me like a ten ton hammer. It's the first single/video in the classic Machine Head style. I think it'll take off as soon as radio gets it. Are you both playing that opening guitar? It reminds me of Adrian Belew who's known for his animal sounds.
LM: (laughing) That's both Robb and I. I don't know who he is. What animal does it sound like to you?
SR: To me it sounds like a mad rhino heading my way.
LM: All right. That'll work.
SR: Who did you work with on the video for "Ten Ton Hammer?
LM: The director is Bill Ward (no, not the Black Sabbath drummer)who works out of Chicago. He directed our video for "Old" and it came out really great.
SR: Do you like doing videos?
LM: Yeah, they're fun. It's not so easy to come up with the ideas and to be original all the time. The better the director, the better the video.
SR: This is a stronger album than the first because you've taken more liberty at being different in so many ways.
LM: Yeah, I'll agree with that. After touring so much our abilities and confidence went way up as a band and individually. We became better musicians just by playing so much. We applied all that to the record and we didn't feel the need to put parameters around ourselves. We weren't trying to fit into any genre but our own. We just wanted to make a strong record for ourselves. We worked really hard. We did some things here that we wouldn't have done on the last record musically and vocally. We pushed the limits a little bit.
SR: "Struck A Nerve" gives us some different phrasing and attitude. It gives off different moods.
LM: Yeah, it's different.
SR: You took the first six months to write right off the road. Did you have anything already finished?
LM: "The Frontlines" and "Struck A Nerve" were pretty much ready.
SR: Is that a sample opening up "Struck A Nerve?"
LM: No it's all guitars.
SR: How did you come up with that lead on that song?
LM: I put a lot of work into that song. Before Machine Head I had never played lead guitar. Robb just said you're lead, go ahead. On the first album I forced myself to play. I try to keep everything original sounding and put across as much emotion as I can. That's my way of expressing things.
SR: That solo comes across almost as a beacon, a signal to unite say on "The Frontlines." To do what's right, a call to arms.
LM: Cool. It was just a matter of pouring out my emotions for that song through the guitar. I'm glad you like it. It's just raw emotion.
SR: What was the first song you wrote for this album?
LM: It was "The Frontlines" It was written while we were on tour. We performed it live in our set during the end of the touring cycle and "Struck A Nerve" as well. Parts of "Violate" and "Blood Of The Zodiac" were written on tour. The rest of the album was finished in our writing sessions when we ended the tour.
SR: What's that opening sound on "Violate?" I know that the opening of "Blistering" is a drill of sorts.
LM: It's just a guitar on "Violate." That sound on "Blistering" it's a dentist drill. It's the worst sound in the world. Ahhhh. Everyone hates going to the dentist.
SR: In the bio it says that you guys worked on these songs changing riffs, throwing out riffs and restructuring until it was killer to you.
LM: We threw songs away that didn't fit. It didn't do anything for us. Every song has significance and had to be torn down and put back together. We worked on these songs until we knew it couldn't get any better.
SR: You're known for your down tuned riffing. What does that mean exactly?
LM: It just means that we take the guitar which is made to be tuned up to E 4-40 and we take that pitch and drop it down to B which is significantly lower. It makes for a heavier sound, more body and a lower end. It makes the guitar sound so much heavier. It's not conventional tuning.
SR: Which song did you work on the longest?
LM: "Blood Of The Zodiac" was fighting us the whole way. That song went through more decomposition and recomposition than any of the songs.
SR: Just in the writing style on that song there's a pre-chorus and a chorus. I don't know that I've ever seen that done before.
LM: Hmmm. It is incidental to the song. It just how it happened.
SR: Did you help with the lyrics or are they all Robb?
LM: They're all Robb except for a little bit on the last song we wrote, "Blistering." It was a compilation of all the lyrics here and there that he had jotted down on napkins or the back of a piece of paper. I wrote one line and Adam wrote one line.
SR: It's interesting that each one of you gets an opening on different songs. "Spine" opens up with the bass and Dave opens up a song.
LM: It just happened that way. It wasn't a planned thing.
SR: Was there ever a doubt that you'd use Colin Richardson as your producer again?
LM: No doubt. He was our first choice on the first album and on this one too. As far as the next one goes, it's just too far out to even think of it now.
SR: You bet, you guys will probably be out on the road for the next two years.
LM: Yeah, that's true. I'll be writing more on this tour than any others. It will relieve me of some of the pressures that were put on us when we stopped touring. Six months to finish another album. We had our whole lives to write the first record and now we have six months to write an even better one. That's pressure.
SR: Did you get to work and write in the San Francisco Bay Area?
LM: Yeah, we were at home.
SR: Did you have a pre-set schedule?
LM: It was a very, very strict regiment that we put ourselves on. We were working six to seven days a week and six to eight hours a day...writing and practicing. That got to be like a job after a while.
SR: Best job in the world, babe.
LM: Yeah, I wouldn't trade it for anything else.
SR: Did you put the same restrictions on yourselves in the recording phase?
LM: Absolutely. We'd show up at a set time every day and work until we felt we could stop--usually way into the night. I was doing guitar tracks with the sun coming up a lot of mornings.
SR: I know that Robb was not happy with Fantasy Studios on that first album. How did The Plant and Hyde Street work for you?
LM: The Plant is a great studio to work in and was good for the drums. We used Hyde Street for the guitar overdubs.
SR: Did you follow it all the way to Los Angeles and the mixing process at Larrabee?
LM: Yeah, we were very much involved in the mixing. We worked as a team. Everyone is important and had a say in the mixing of their work. Sometimes we'd compromise and hit the middle ground and go with it, but very involved all along the way.
SR: Any one takes?
LM: The drum tracks came first and Dave nailed a couple of songs in one take. I believe they were "Blistering" and "Take My Scars." McClain really came through for us. It was really great working with him in the studio. We could push him in a constructive way to bring the best out of him. He was willing to work with us while someone else might get defensive. We had great communications.
SR: There's no doubt in my mind that Flynn's voice is stronger and has a bigger sound just by all that performing.
LM: Touring and performing every night will do that for you.
SR: What guitars did you use on the album?
LM: A custom ESP and a Gibson Explorer for part of it. The Explorer that Robb has sounds really great. We just recently hooked up with the ESP folks and that was my first choice of guitars I'd wanted to get made. They do custom stuff and they have everything I want on them...in hardware and specifications. I'm happy to endorse them so I don't need to look for anything else.
SR: Are you someone who has to have a guitar in his hand at all times?
LM: It's important to walk away from it at times. I give myself space because that makes things evolve more naturally. If I obsess on something too much it becomes counterproductive. Maybe I'll run into a wall with something, I'll have to walk away and come back the next day fresh.
SR: What's the biggest improvement in your playing?
LM: I feel more confident all around. Burn My Eyes was the first album I recorded so a lot of that was brand new. Going into this record I have some experience to base my playing on and can put more into the performance. My improvisational skills are far better and I'm more comfortable doing that now. There's stuff like that on this record. Some stuff that was born in the studio, just little fills and licks.
SR: I love the quiet opening to "Down To None." That's a different mood for you guys. It stops abruptly and then back into your face with the chorus.
LM: Yeah, quite different.
SR: These songs are very emotional. You're talking about a lot of serious things. Are you able to walk away from the anger once you leave the stage?
LM: Writing a song about something that makes you angry doesn't make the anger go away. It's a healthy release performing it. I get everything out every night. I just sweat it out and try to break a hole in the stage flooring every night. It's a healthy thing to perform these songs.
SR: I think the Machine Head fans are really going to love it. Are you excited to get back on the road?
LM: Totally, I can't wait because we took into consideration when writing these songs what makes people move and what people like to hear in a live setting. We applied a lot of that stuff that we learned by touring to these new songs. I can envision people going absolutely nuts.
SR: I can't imagine your audience getting any crazier. I remember so vividly the show back in '94 that you did at The Terminator in San Francisco. It seemed as if half the audience was on stage with you that night. The building was sweating.
LM: (laughing) Those were some great days. I remember the power kept cutting out. It was technical hell, but no one seemed to notice but us.
SR: I've seen you since I moved to Austin. It was at the Back Room and you were the headliners.
LM: That was the worst show ever. It was the worst show of the tour right there. I'm sorry you saw that one. We ended up just goofing off due to all the problems. I hope we never play there again. I'm sure there has to be a better facility for us to play.
SR: I see that you're going to Europe to tour with Napalm Death in March and April. Then I heard from Rey in downset that you're both doing Ozzfest this year.
LM: We're doing the Napalm Death tour the end of April and the first leg of this new record. The first week of April we're looking at some warm up gigs around the S.F. Bay Area and in Los Angeles to knock out the cobwebs and rust. I'm very psyched up for that.
SR: Any other big festivals you're going to be playing on this album?
LM: Yeah, there's talk of several festivals mixed in with the tour we're already booking. The Dynamo is a possibility. Playing the Ozzfest will be great if it comes together.
SR: Are your fans wilder in Europe or is that a hard call?
LM: It depends from country to country and city to city. I wouldn't say anything bad about our American fans but maybe they seem to be more jaded at times. We played in Belfast, Ireland and prior to that gig there hadn't been any bands through there in nine months because of the IRA and the bombings. Our tour fit into the cease fire time and the kids were so appreciative. They just went nuts. It was our best show on the tour. They show their appreciation more than the States fans sometimes.
SR: Since you guys started your band, the Internet has exploded. I pulled up a lot of sites on you. Are any of you into the whole scene?
LM: Yeah, we're currently putting together a website for our fan club members. It'll be the official page. Right now you can go through Roadrunner Records and quite a few unofficial sites, I believe.
SR: Is there a talk forum? I can't seem to find one. I subscribe to the Pantera talk page and get a copy every week on what their fans are talking about.
LM: I believe there is a room you can visit on the Roadrunner site as well as an unofficial room as well. Call up Machine Head on Yahoo or one of those search engines and you'll find it sooner or later.
SR: Have a lot of fun with this new record. I'll look forward to catching a show as soon as I can. Thanks for the music. Give the boys my best.
LM: Cool. That's great to hear. I look forward to seeing you and thanks for the interview.