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December 11, 2013, posted by Crumbs

The General Journals: "Through the Ashes" Turns 10 - Part 8 (Final Chapter)

Machine Head

After being on the road for 86 days straight, I got home and celebrated Xmas with my family.

It felt like I blinked and next thing I knew it was Feb. 2005 and I was back at Sharkbite Studios with Mark Keaton working on the mix of the audio for the "Elegies" DVD.

In March of 2005 we played the 2nd annual Desert Rock festival in Dubai, United Emirates. Now if you remember, in 2005 the middle east was a scary fucking place place for everyone, let alone a bunch of long-haired Americans! In 2005 we were 2 years into the war and the American media had pounded relentlessly into our heads how the whole entire multi-country region was entirely made up of terrorists. It was a bit daunting, but the money was so good we said "fuck it."

So effective was the media manipulation that Genevra and I got into huge argument over doing the show! She was convinced, 1,000% that it was a "terrorist plot to kidnap an american heavy metal band for ransom!" I was like "dude, why would they kidnap a buncha nobodies like us!?"

I left for my 3 plane, 23 hour flight to the Middle East, half-wondering if she was right.

When we finally arrived we departed the plane and were greeted by our friendly promoter Jacki. Jacki escorts us and our manager Joseph off the tarmac to an inconspicuous bus. We board the bus, get comfortable and the next thing I knew the ride started feeling really long. Right there and then there my mind starts, maybe Genevra WAS right. Maybe they are kidnapping us! We drive for what seems like 10 more minutes and at this point I'm freaking the fuck out. It also sucks that I'm the only one on the bus who aware of this. It IS a terrorist plot, FUCK! We arrive at a completely nondescript warehouse and the whole time I'm thinking "ok, this is it... goodbye cruel world!"

We're walked off the bus and into a building and the first thing I see is a giant Rolex clock on the wall.

We're in the private passport control for Emirates royalty!

They take us to our private waiting area and deliver us a giant multi-level tray of delicious middle eastern deserts and pastries, dates, and nuts. They turn on the giant plasma screen TV and offer us tea or coffee while our passports get cleared.

BIG ROLLA'S!

As we get in our vehicles to leave I am expecting to see nothing but camels and mosques as far as the eye can see. I couldn’t be more wrong. We begin to drive and the first things I see are Starbucks and Round Table Pizza, then Cactus Jacks, Subway, McDonald's, Macy's, Nordstroms, I'm like "what the fuck?" Along this same route we passed an area where there's casinos and giant luxury hotels everywhere. All super impressive and from what we were told, all are all super modern. It's Blade Runner meets Las Vegas-on-the-beach.

The Desert Rock show itself is incredible! Just staring out into a sea middle eastern metal heads, all in leather jackets, Slayer shirts, Slipknot, Morbid Angel, Metallica, Megadeth shirts. These fans just didn't look the part, they knew all the words as they moshed and headbanged. They chanted "Machine fuckin' Head" just like anywhere else in the world. Music and for us Metal, is time and again the universal language.

Speaking of language... the venue had a couple of strict rules like no drinking alcohol onstage and no swearing, which of course I promptly disregarded! Our manager Joseph was left to explain my blatant disregard to the armed guards who had gathered and were quite unhappy with my “immoral” stage banter. Joseph Huston was a bit, uh... miffed.

After the show we spoke with kids from all the neighboring middle east, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, I was eager to talk with them about what their world was like, was it true? Was it just over-flowing with terrorists like the news was telling me?

They asked me the same thing to me, is America all gangs and Crips and Bloods killing everyone all the time? All they see on their news about America was cities like Compton over and over again. We both agreed that there was that element, but the vast majority of our countries weren't like that. That we were being duped.

It was an eye-opening experience. It changed my perception of the middle east and our media forever.

During the Dubai run we started noticing our tour manger acting really strange. We had a short break as we geared up for the "States Turn Blue To Gray" tour at the end of April. Upon arriving home from Dubai, I went straight into Sharkbite again, and began recording the tracks for the Roadrunner United album, and that's when I got the news that our TM had completely fallen off the deep end. He went on a crack cocaine binge and stole over $10,000 of our tour start up money then quickly disappeared off the face of the Earth. For months we were terrified he was dead (we genuinely cared about this dude) but eventually he re-surfaced. Though it took four years, we were eventually paid back...with interest.

The tour started off with us supporting Lamb Of God for 3 shows and all of those shows went amazing. They treated us great and honestly, it was the first time that a band had taken out as support in years. In fact the reason we did 3 headline tours in America on 'Through The Ashes...' is BECAUSE no one would take us out in the US. We couldn't get Ozzfest's, Warped's, we couldn't get support slots. So when I say no one, I mean NO ONE. The only option was to headline. Machine Head were stoked to be out with them.

With our friends Devildriver and the then-insanely-hot-band It Dies Today, we embarked on what would be hands-down the biggest and best U.S. headline run we would do up until that point. Attendances at most of the shows were sold out, and we sold out House Of Blues in Chicago which was awesome considering the last time we played. We hit a lot of smaller cities that normally don't get shows, the U.S. fans were INSANE on this run and everyone had a rip roaring blast.

But remember this is Machine Head so it wasn't without it's hiccups.

The metal media was colder than ever and we got zero coverage by any magazine with publications refusing to even review the concert. Health wise I came down with a brutal flu and viral throat infection that wiped my throat out for 5 shows. Not wanting to cancel in Toronto, Canada, we had members of Devildriver and fans from the audience come up and sing the tunes. We had fun, the audience had fun, but it was a mess and we decided to cancel a few shows.

We cancelled, then played, then cancelled 2 more, played again, then cancelled 2 more.

What was the deal? Well, the first doctor misdiagnosed me and gave me a short-term steroid injection, told me to take 12 Advil a day... when I lost my voice again a few shows later, the next doctor told me it "might be allergies." I was like, "Lady, I’ve cancelled four shows in 11 YEARS, and so far I’ve had to cancel four shows on this tour alone... it AIN'T fuckin’ 'allergies'!!!" So she gives me some short-term steroid pills and recommended I continue the 12 Advil a day.

Finally, after the 4th cancellation, I went to the best throat specialist in Atlanta, Dr. Jeffery Sherman. He stuck and camera-tube up my nose and down my throat and said "Dude, your vocal chords are severely bruised from singing thru this throat infection, the WORST thing you could do is take 12 Advil a day - Advil is a blood thinner and makes any existing bruising WORSE by filling up the bruised area with TWICE the blood it would normally have as a result." UGH.

That and the fact that I was drinking 6 or 7 blood-thinning shots of vodka on stage certainly didn't help matters. He gave me a long-term steroid injection, forbid me from Advil, told me not to speak to anyone, at all, and I played 6 in a row. 3 sets of steroids had me go into a couple of "roid rages," but other than that I made it thru, and in the end was totally killing it again.

Being sick on the road sucks. No matter what you do for a living having, to be away from home while sick just sucks! In the music world, I'm sorry, but if you’re a singer? There's nothing worse than that. I remember when I was just playing guitar in Vio-Lence and getting sick on tour, though at the time I thought it was horrible, looking back, it was a breeze.

But when you're a singer, a throat infection or a chest infection on the road, fuck man, it is such a helpless feeling. Your vocal chords get swollen from coughing, they won't close in and out anymore, and that "closing in and out" is what makes the sound of "singing," or in my case "barking in key." No amount of stretching, warming up, or as Dave likes to point out, "dude, just suck a cock and open it up"... well... even THAT won't help. (Though I haven't tried... maybe I should. Just gob down on a giant cock all "ooooowgh" and start singing, maybe I'll be like "dude, this sucking cock stuff REALLY DOES open up my vocal chords!!")

I beat myself up pretty good over the cancellations. It really bummed me out. I felt like I was letting the band down, letting the fans down, letting the promoters down, letting our tour mates down, and ultimately, letting myself down. I probably felt it harder than I should have and had to constantly remind myself that what I do is in no way whatsoever fucking "easy."

I try to make what I do look easy. My heroes made it look easy and that was why I looked up to them. But all modesty aside, this shit ain't easy. You think you can do what I do? You can't. I'm not trying to come across as anything but honest. But you need to understand I've been working at my craft for some 28 years now. I'm a master. The first 6 years as just a guitar player and 22 plus at singing, playing guitar, and owning the stage. If you work at something for 28 years you're probably going to be damn proficient at whatever it is you do. I've just never stopped.

And I'm not even saying I deliver 100% every night, just most nights. There's plenty of nights where I'm a bit hungover or out of it. There's plenty of nights I'm dealing with bad stuff back home, or just ultra haggard from 13-in-a-row and trying to make it through.

But you shake it off and you "keep on keepin' on. "

Like I said, it ain't easy, I just make it look that way.

The Italians have a name for it; "Sprezzatura."

It means: "the art of making the difficult, seem effortless."

In August I wrapped up the Roadrunner United mixing sessions, and Matt Heafy, Max Cavalera and I did some press at the Kerrang! Awards. In many ways, doing the Roadrunner United record was a strategic move on our part. Sure, I wanted to be a Captain and help Monte out but it also forced Roadrunner US to commit to Machine Head. As a result of this and because the tour generated a healthy spike in record sales, Roadrunner US agreed to release our next album.

WHEW!

In June, we were the main support on farewell shows to Böhse Onkelz. If you have no idea how huge this was band was, look em up. They were the biggest band in Germany since, well, fucking, ever! Machine Head ended our epic 22 month tour cycle in style. We played a frankly stunning headline show at Germany's infamous Wacken Festival. Few words can describe the sheer massiveness of headlining an event like that. It was fucking mind-melting. It was brutal and beautiful all at the same time and a near storybook ending to an epic World Tour on the highest of high notes.

In October that year we released the "Elegies" live concert from London's Brixton Academy on DVD. It charted at #12 in the US and marked the final piece to the “Ashes” puzzle. In a 30 minute "making of" documentary we openly and honestly discussed the challenges and obstacle we faced up until this point.

I know it's a fan favorite, but honestly it's hard for me to watch, there are some cringe-worthy moments.

Even writing this has been difficult at times.

Writing about your victories is easy. Writing about your short-comings, or failures.... mmmm, not so much.

Laying your faults, mistakes, mishaps, inter-personal dramas out for all to see... to judge... to cheer, or condemn...

I know in my heart of hearts that everyone has thoroughly enjoyed reading these, and that has made it all worth it. I've thoroughly enjoyed writing them, a lot more than I thought I would.

I'm NOT going to write a book.

STOP ASKING.

I'm happy to do these for free, and I believe you guys like that aspect too.

I love the stream-of-concious, deadline-free, weekly-ish nature of these. I don't HAVE to do these. I could stop anytime I want. The 3 to 5 hours, over 1 or 2 days it takes to write these, it's not work, I enjoy it, I get lost in them sometimes. I like that it continues and evolves. Sometimes you catch me on good days, and sometimes on really shitty days, a lot like life. Because it is.

Maybe when I'm dead these will all come out in a book and people can read em' all at once... or not. And me being dead probably isn't that far away, at 46, I'm well past the halfway mark, and considering the life I've led, I've most certainly shaved off quite a few years.

But I do know this.

I don't want to be an author. I don't want to be a reality TV star. I don't want to be a movie star. I don't want to be a DJ / VJ. I don't want to be a judge on a singing / talent anything. And I don't want to be a solo artist. I've had big money offers to all of these things.

I don't want that.

I want to be the best guitarist, and the best frontman, of the best metal band the world has ever known. Machine Fucking Head! Some people might think were there now, I'm gonna say we have to push harder to be just that. We must aspire to greatness, ALWAYS.

I'm grateful to have the bad-ass Team that I do. The guys in the band, my manager, my crew, man... a guy couldn't ask for better people around him. I hurt Phil and Dave's feelings in part 6 of these "Ashes" Journals. I want to publicly apologize for this. I'm their captain, their leader, their "General", and I shouldn't have said what I said. I've apologized to them in person, and I'm saying it again here.

Sorry guys.

Not to worry, we worked it out.

Hold on to the things you love.

With all your might.

I may be master at the stage, but I gotta a long way to go in life. It is my life's work to master myself. I'm not there yet.

During the writing of this, I now realize the biggest thing that transformed Machine Head was examining the mistakes we made on “The Burning Red” and “Supercharger,” and learning from them. Examining them in pain-staking detail, asking ourselves "what the fuck went right? And what the fuck went wrong?" As a band, shit, as human beings, we must to constantly do that or we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Somewhere at the end of the nineties, between the booze and the pills and the drugs and the little bit of fame we got, we lost the plot a little. Not musically, but spiritually. We did some things for the wrong reasons, and what can you do? I am still vehemently proud of the music, but yes, there was a higher degree of shittier songs and me dressed up as like an orange-juice-box in the "From This Day" video is definitely one of those "what-the-fuck-was-I-thinking" moments. It bothered me for a while. Now I just laugh at it.

Yes, this picture is comedy:

Take My Scars



It's hard to adapt to a changing musical landscape. The second you try, you lose your footing and everything that you knew is suddenly gone – just-like-that! The music business is fickle, it's cut-throat, people place their money where there's a hot band and then on-to-the-next when they're not.

"You are only as good as your last record."

Man, NEVER has a saying been so true.

People will leave you in droves on the slightest whim.

It's very similar to how things are now. We will see how many of today's bands can adjust to the transition, but I'm not putting my money on too many of them. Bands don’t stick around like they used to. Most current bands wont last long enough to have to adapt.

But we did adapt. A lot of times gracefully, often times embarrassingly... but we did it. We're still here and doing damn good when SO MANY of our compatriots aren't. There are probably thousands of bands that released their first album in 1994 that are either broken up or just inactive. We're talking about bands we toured with or ran parallel with through the years. Our brothers and sisters, great people who were in great bands that SHOULD be here, but aren't or can't anymore.

On "Ashes" we remembered what it's all about. On "Ashes" we remembered it's about connecting, it's about believing.

To date "Through The Ashes Of Empires" has sold just under 80,000 copies in the US. Hardly staggering numbers, but not too shabby considering most people had already grabbed it off a torrent site several months prior to it's US release.

In Europe “Ashes” faired better as it went silver in the UK (60,000 copies), and combined with Europe did over 200,000 copies throughout the continent.

We'd love for that number to be higher, I think it deserves to be higher, but that said, it could be way, WAY worse.

At the very end of the “Elegies” DVD, there's a scene in the documentary where Monte Conner says, "just think, Machine Head wrote "Through The Ashes" when their confidence was at a low, can you imagine what they'll do now that their confidence is back at an all time high?"

I know Phil has turned to this quote time and time again over the years, as have I, many times, writing “The Blackening“, and beyond.

Sometimes all it takes in life is someone believing in you.

Just someone who genuinely believes.

And sometimes, if you're lucky, you get that person.

Because we all need to be believed in.

Because we all need to believe.

And I believe in you, because you believe in me.

Thank you.

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