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December 10, 2013, posted by Crumbs

The General Journals: "Through the Ashes" Turns 10 - Part 7

Machine Head

On June 21st, 2004 Genevra and I welcomed Zander Robert Flynn into the world.

It was, without a doubt an amazing moment. Though it was a crazy birth for Genevra. It all started on the evening of the 20th at 11PM after being up all day, she went into crippling drop-to-the-floor-in-agony-back spasms. The only thing she could do to try and control these spasms was to soak in hot water. (We thought it might be something called "back labor", but never found out.) After soaking in a hot bath for 4 hours to no avail, we drove out to Kaiser Hospital in Walnut Creek where they gave her some heavy duty muscle relaxers but told us she hadn't gone into labor. When the meds didn't make the pain go away, they gave her even more muscle relaxers! When those didn't stop the spams they decided to induce labor with the medicine Pitocin.

So after 10 hours of agonizing back spasms she then went into 9 hours of labor. WHEW!

And we men think we've got it bad?!

Thankfully they gave her an epidural, but when that didn't take the pain away,
she was given another epidural, then a morphine drip. When the morphine kicked in she felt fine! Shit, she was flyin' high after that, throwing me the metal horns in between contractions! (No joke!). I was signing autographs with the staff, with me like, "uh dude... this isn't a really good time..." and man, thinking about it now? It was bizzaro. Being marginally-famous and having a baby.

Regardless, when Zander came into the world it was nothing short of incredible. Truly one of the best moments of my life was watching that little guy burst out. It's a life-changing experience, and one, no Man should miss out on. We filmed it!! And though Genevra didn't want to watch it for a year, on Z's first birthday we watched it and she tripped out!

And though he probably did a little, it felt like Zander didn't sleep for the whole month I was home.

We had the Road Rage '04 tour coming up with our friends Chimaira and a new band called Trivium in tow. Trivium had just gotten signed to Roadrunner and were a young band with a good buzz getting their road chops honed. They were young and hungry and at 19, had nothing to lose. The tour itself started out a little rough. The first show was in Cleveland and Chimaira had arranged a rehearsal day-before at The Odeon. Adam and I had been fighting bitterly over the last couple months, partially over band business and partially over just insanely trivial bullshit.

On the first day of rehearsals at the hotel we had a massive fight. It was eventually swept under the rug like all our arguments were and we went about our business and rehearsed. It was more important to spend the day hanging with our bro-dogs in Chimaira. They're a great bunch of dudes, killer band and I just remember they just tore it up on this run.

The tour itself was a complete 50/50, it felt as if every show was either killer or a bit of a stiff. Maybe it was because all the summer tours of the day (Ozzfest, Warped) were rolling thru, or because WE had just rolled thru 3 months prior? Regardless of the reason(s) most of the major cities did about 25% less than the previous tour, which was already 25% less than the Supercharger U.S. tour. So yeah, playing the normally psychotic-ly packed House Of Blues in Chicago to 600 people was a bit of a "whoa!"

However, the smaller cities actually were the best we'd ever done up until that point. Shows in Columbus, Ohio (at the Al Rosa Villa), San Antonio, Texas, and the pre-Disney-banning-House Of Blues in Orlando, Florida, might have been the craziest show of the tour!

Man, I miss our people in Orlando.

Something I'll never forget was Chimaira and us celebrating "Monday Night Mosh." “MNM” was where you basically just get wasted on a Monday night and go fucking crazy! More than a few times I remembered the Chimaira guys crowd-surfed me to the back of the bus to terrorize their bassist Jim! MAN, this tour was fun! Good times, good memories.

On Aug 8th we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of our first album "Burn My Eyes" at The Theater Of The Living Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We performed the album in it's entirety, and while the idea has never appealed to me, (playing records in their entirety) having all the fans there for that reason, knowing what they were getting, was a blast! We had a handful of friends fly out from the Bay Area and Chicago to celebrate with us.

For the gig itself we brought back the ”old-school-Machine Head stomp” intro (later-"Desire To Fire" intro) and opened with “Davidian.” We played some covers, we played "Block" for a closer and people were fucking losing it! We filmed it with the idea of releasing it soon after but the playing was just short of a mess. You know how I sometimes say, “The more you drink, the less we stink” at certain shows? Well there wasn’t enough alcohol in Philly to save this one!

The rest of the tour was fun, though it ended on a little bit of a downer. Shows in San Francisco, Ventura and Hollywood having surprisingly low turn outs. But the pre-Disney-banning-Machine-Head House Of Blues in Anaheim California was packed and fucking furious!! We got annihilated after our show and I changed into my alter-ego "Rufus" who hadn't made an appearance for quite some time. There's a clip in the "Elegies" DVD of Phil and Rufus singing our drum tech Mudbilly's revision of an REO Speedwagon song, "so take it to the dome, baby" (translation: blowjob). It's pretty fuckin' hilarious.

Who's Rufus?

Well, here's the thing. I'm not exactly sure why, but on the “Live 101” tour with Pantera, Dimebag would get me and everyone else hammered on Seagram's 7 and for completely inexplicable reasons, I adopted a character named "Rufus." I was Robb's cousin/ brother "Rufus" and I'd strip down to my underwear, throw on an Afro wig, Elvis shades, Billy Bob teeth, tape gaff tape "X's" over my nipples, scrawl "RUFUS" across my bare chest in giant black marker, and walk around absolutely obliterated out of my mind.

Acting like a complete idiot? Oh, you fucking bet!

Amazingly enough, the “stupider” I acted, the more people loved Rufus.

Soon stripping down to my underwear was replaced by stripping down to generic-Depends-adult-diapers and going pee in them all night. That lasted until a cheapo-generic adult diaper didn't hold my pee and I felt a warm trickling sensation run down my leg and right into my shoe.

Hammered as I was, there was no point whatsoever in changing my shoes, so I proceeded to walk around in my "squishy-pee-shoe" all night, absolutely determined to, "get some REAL fucking adult DIAPERS!"

Rufus became very popular at parties!

I'd pass out drunk in my diaper sometimes, only to wake up and find my butt breaking out in a rash and my penis shriveled down to a "stack o' dimes."

There was a lot of peeing going on in Anaheim on the last night of Road Rage.

Oy vey!

In late September we held a band meeting. It was stressful before the meeting even started. I was fried, partly because Zander hadn't let my wife or I sleep for the last 4 weeks and I / we were beginning to crack. The band had recently received news that there was a very good chance that even after the success of TTAOE in America, Roadrunner US might not release the next record.

Our sales had stalled in the US, and after 5 months we were still a good ways away from reaching our "sales plateau" that would guarantee them releasing the next record. After hearing this, I lost it. I wasn't going thru being unsigned again in the US. If we didn't reach the sales and they passed on our next record, I was going to do something else.

Or at least in my, I-haven't-slept-for-a-month-and-I'm-wiped-out-state that sounded like what I was going to do. I had a meltdown followed by a full on breakdown and the meeting ended chaotically.

As I drove home from the meeting at midnight, exhausted and frustrated, my cell phone rang. I answered it assuming it was my manager Joseph calling to try and calm me down, and on the other end I heard, "CAR JACKER!!"
Me: "What the fuck...?... Dimebag?"
Dime: "YOU KNOW IT! I got someone here who NEEDS to talk to you!"

He passes the phone to someone, and the voice on the other end goes "uh, Robb?... Is this Robb Flynn?"
Me: "Uh, yeah..."
Dude on the other end: "HOLY FUCKING SHIT DUDE!!!! OH MY GOD!!!"

You see; Dime had ran into a Machine Head fan at a Mexican restaurant he'd been drinking at and they got to talking about Machine Head. They got to talking about how good "Through The Ashes..." was and the fan said it was his dream to meet me, so Dime said, "LET'S CALL HIM UP!!" I rapped with the fan for about 15 minutes driving home, mostly about how much we both loved Pantera, and then he passed the phone back to Dime. I told him he was "a fucker," and that that was "awesome!" Dime had already told me at Download '04 that he loved "...Ashes," and in particular the song "Elegy,", "Album of the year" he kept saying, and he raved more about the record. Looking back, I think Ashes was the first MH record Dime really "got." We talked about the letter I'd faxed him at the Astoria, man, he was really blown away by that. It meant a lot to him.

It was a rad conversation on the drive home.

Sometimes you get something in your life, right when you need it the most.

We promised to rage with one another soon.

We said our goodbyes.

He said "I love you brother."

I said "I love you too, man."

It was the last time we ever spoke.

On October 1st we played our first date of our 'World Turns Blue To Gray Tour' in Brisbane Australia. Also known as the "Around the world in 80 days" tour it was a MAMMOTH Australian / European / UK tour. The term "around the world in 80 days" was exactly what this was down to the 80th day! It was our first Australia headline tour in 9 years and was the most extensive European tour we'd ever take on. It was a huge success! Australia was INSANITY, seriously mind-blowing. In Europe most dates sold-out and nearly all of the UK and French shows sold-out a month in advance. The Head Cases were maniacal! We were out for seemingly forever and it took it's toll on each of us at one time or another. But that being said it was also fucking amazing in every aspect. The absolute highlight being the DVD shoot at a rabid, Sold-Out Brixton Academy in London for the “Elegies” DVD with God Forbid and Caliban in tow.

If the “Elegies” shoot was the highlight, the lowlight happened just a few days later on Dec 9th in Belgrade, Serbia. I was awoken by our tour manager ripping open the curtain of my bunk screaming "Dude! Dimebag has been shot! Dimebag has been fuckin' shot! It's all over AOL, Dimebag's been SHOT!"

It didn't seem real. We had just played the Al Rosa Villa a few months before. The 3 of us had toured with Dime, twice. Dave had toured with him more than that, back in Sacred Reich before he was in Machine Head.

Was it true? It was a helpless feeling.

This was before the days of Wi-Fi, iPhones, Facebook. News traveled slow, especially if you were in Eastern Europe on tour. We were in an ice cold sports hall in Belgrade with sporadic internet service, no TV, no cell phone service.

Slowly throughout the day, we realized it wasn't a hoax. It was true. We traded Dimebag memories with the God Forbid and Caliban dudes in the freezing, un-heated dressing rooms.

That night it was freezing onstage. Despite it being an indoor show, the high-ceilinged, window-filled sports hall prevented any heat from congealing that bitter December evening. We dedicated "Descend The Shades Of Night" to Dime and I couldn't sing the 2nd verse, I lost it. We all cried onstage. Everyone in the crowd cried. Even in Eastern Europe people were crying for Dimebag Darrell. It was surreal. What the fuck was going on back home?

A few days later the "Around the world in 80 days tour" ended with two shows in Greece. As a band we had never been there. Athens was in-fucking-sane, mind-boggling, life-affirming especially in light of the recent events. The last show in Thessaloniki was just bizarre. It was weird and just a huge let down after the highs and lows we'd been through the last few weeks, with no one singing or moshing, all just standing and staring, as we played in some random, old discotecha.

We celebrated with the other bands but we were wiped out. The tour had officially taken it's toll on us. I had already lost my voice once in 80 days from a severe chest infection and the day before in Athens I had started getting the flu and a punishing sinus infection.

As we boarded the 4:30 AM plane to Zurich, Switzerland (the first of 3 flights), for our 30 hour trip, we were all so glad to be going home. I was proud we had finished strong, but happy to be done with it. As the flight took off and we gained altitude, my ear began to ache, then hurt, then kill. It felt as if someone was turning a screwdriver into my ears. It was agonizing and I became nauseous enough to lose my balance. As the plane descended into Zurich the pain was unbearable. I got off and immediately began looking for an airport pharmacy to buy as many decongestants as I could but it was 6am local time and none were open.

When I boarded the next flight I asked the stewardess if she could get me some decongestants, after a short conversation about why, she walked away. When she returned she said, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to exit the plane."
Me: "Huh?"
Her: "Sir you could really damage your ear by flying today, you are going to have to exit the plane."

Between the pain, the exhaustion, the fucking everything, in my most aggro whisper I spit, "I'm not going fucking anywhere, I've been on tour for 80 fucking days and I'm going fucking home." She left. They began calling for me up front to talk with the Captain. Then the Captain came back and said he needed to speak with me in private.

We went up front, and he explained to me that when flight personal get severe sinus infections and flu symptoms like I had, they can't fly, it's a common yet un-spoken rule. He assured me in no-un-certain-terms that if I took the flight, I would most certainly blow out my eardrum and very likely do permanent damage. He repeated, "permanent." If it didn't happen by the the time we got to London, it would for sure happen on the ultra-high-altitude flight from London to San Francisco. He ended with, "Do you want to lose your hearing?"

I stood there frozen. Speechless. This can't be happening. I want to see my wife, my little boy, my dog, sleep in my bed.

By then security was there.

They weren't letting me back on that plane.

I exploded. Security pinned me up against the wall.

Then, I begged.

Then, I accepted it.

I broke down.

I grabbed my stuff off the plane, my guys looking at me like "what the... ?" Everyone else looking at me like I was a terrorist or something. Phil offered to stay with me, which was super nice, but there was no point. I said "no, go home"

I left the plane.

For the next 5 days I would stay in quite possibly the most expensive city in the world Zurich, Switzerland! People, this is where fucking hamburgers are $23 bucks (cheese is extra!). Thankfully we were able to get a great rate at the Inter-Continental Hotel where they remembered me from earlier in the tour and treated me like royalty.

Over the next 5 days I sank into a depression.

I read Blabbermouth and PRP endlessly and caught up on the Dimebag story. This is the day that websites became more important than magazines. The speed which and wealth of info brought forth in the days following his murder was staggering. Amazingly, Dimebag's murder had brought out the best in Blabbermouth's notoriously vocal bunch. A letter from the mother of murdered-fan Nathan Bray had pretty much everyone on Blabbermouth in tears, and in a bizarre way, brought everyone together. It showed how un-important things, our petty differences, really were.

During this time an article was put up on Blabbermouth from the conservative website The Iconoclast by author William Grim. The article was called "Aesthetics Of Hate: Goodbye Dimebag Darrell, And Good Riddance.” I seethed with anger reading this article. I wrote a long tribute to Dimebag that night and in it I attacked William Grim. I ended it with "You WILL burn in hell."

A song began forming.

Monte Conner called me at my hotel. He was working on a project where he needed teams of musicians as well as “captains” to organize these teams. I had passed twice on being a “captain” on the project, what later became the Roadrunner United record. During that 5 day purgatory he finally convinced me, I accepted.

A few days later, I got permission from the doctors to fly home.

Don't ask me why, but I was convinced the plane was going to crash the whole flight home. I felt the same way after finishing the mix for "Ashes" flying back from Lincolnshire. That I was going to die, but now would never get to see my little boy again. I've never been so nervous on a flight in my life before or since.

'Til then I'd never kissed the ground getting off a plane. Thought it was stupid.

I kissed the shit out of the floor in the airport when I landed.

“Dad” was home for Christmas with his family.

“Robb Flynn” had one more US tour to determine if Machine Head would get to release another record in America.

2005 would prove interesting.

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