Machine Head Frontman: 'Music Business Has Sucked Life Out of Creativity'

Robb Flynn opens up about the state of music, this one's a must-read.

Machine Head Frontman: 'Music Business Has Sucked Life Out of Creativity'
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Machine Head mainman Robb Flynn decided to open up about the current state of music, sharing a pessimistic and rather nostalgic stance.

In his latest online diary entry, Robb called music unimportant, dubbing it "background of a game." He went on to reminisce about the old rock spirit, adding that modern standards basically "applaud mediocrity." We'll bring the the post in full, make sure to give it a read below.

"I'm in a s--tty mood.

Not for the story I'm about to tell, but because of my thoughts afterword.

I went out to San Francisco for my buddy Joe's birthday shenanigans. We went out for Moroccan food at a joint called El Mansour. The place had a great vibe, belly dancing, sword balancing, and amazing food! The lamb in particular was to-freakin’-die-for, slow roasted and covered in honey and cinnamon.

On the way out there Joe's buddy Tony picked me up from JingleTown, since I didn't want to drive as I knew I'd be drinking. On the hour long trip out (Saturday traffic to SF) he was telling me some pretty awesome stories about growing up in the 70's. You see Tony was a teenager in 1975, and used to go the famous San Francisco venue 'Winterland.' Winterland was before my time, but being part of the scene you heard the legend, the stories and the history.

Tony is a big Black Sabbath fan, saw them back in '75 on the 'Sabotage' tour and said it was a life changing experience. Him and his buddies used to go to Winterland, load up on LSD, cigarettes, and weed, and go watch pretty much the cream of the crop of Classic Rock bands. Ted Nugent, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Journey, Montrose, you name it he went and saw it. The shows would start and if people loved the opening band (essentially cheering non-stop) they'd get to do encores. He was telling me about a show Journey (the opener!), killed it, and they got 4 encores, the support band got 4 encores! Then the headliner, Montrose, got 5 encores! Montrose didn't stop playing until 2:30 in the morning, everyone stayed, no one would even dare consider leaving and people experienced some of the best music of their lives.

An opener getting encores, crazy...

And the venue allowed things like this to happen. The venue just kept the bands rolling.

Not only that, but all of the shows at Winterland were $4.50.

4 dollars and 50 cents ... 18 freakin' quarters!

Wow...?!?

All I could think of was 'what an amazing time for music.' People wonder why the 'Classic Rock' bands were so good. They were playing by their own rules, and they had a culture of venues and people around that were as crazy and fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants as the bands themselves. The promoters around that time did anything to make the bands happy and if it meant playing all goddamn night? Let 'em!

I tell you right now though, there isn't a band out there who would play 'til 2:30 AM nowadays, let alone find a major venue that would even ALLOW such a thing.

I remember when I first started going to /playing thrash shows, it was a very similar thing. It was no rules, no security, no safety, no curfews, and for the most part anything went!

Venues these days are mostly run with Union workers. In most major cities, you have to take breaks during the day, where a band can't even sound check for an hour because the union workers need a 'break.' Nowadays if you play 1 minute past 11PM at any of the large Union venues, it costs the band $1,000 dollars a minute. When we were out with Metallica playing arenas they regularly play 20 minutes past 11:00PM, and they regularly paid $20,000 to do so.

I went and saw Pearl Jam about a month ago, and they played one of the best, most truly rock 'n' roll shows I've seen in eons. It was f--king magical, Eddie Vedder drank 3 bottles of wine, and about 2 hours into the set, he started getting a little sloppy, forgetting lyrics, missing cues, it looked like it was about to fall off the rails.

The band then they took a quick break and he came back and played 'Black.'

Let me tell you, it was magic! I'm getting goose bumps writing this, just remembering it. It was such a turn-around; it totally took the night to an even higher level. At this point they were already 45 minutes past 11. They played several more songs and eventually the Oakland Arena (currently called the 'Oracle Arena,' until some different stupid corporate sponsor buys it and changes it to something ridiculous like Florida's '1-800-Ask Gary Amphitheater') turned on the house lights, signaling them to stop. Pearl Jam said 'f--k you!' and played 2 more songs with the house lights on! Eddie Vedder then brought the band back out onstage to do an extra-long goodbye to the crowd. I love their f--king attitude.

In the end they played 70 minutes over 'curfew' and I'd imagine left Oakland about $70,000 dollars lighter to do so. Of course Pearl Jam can afford it, and frankly it gave every single person there one of the best shows of their life. But this gesture to keep the 'room' in a good mood in conjunction with the Winterland conversation, it got me thinking.

S--t has changed.

On the one hand I love Pearl Jam's 'f--k you, were doing it our way' attitude, and on the other hand, it angered and depressed me.

Only the Metallica's and Pearl Jam's can pull things like this. Bands that have sold millions of records, and they can afford it.

If Machine Head tried playing an hour over curfew at say, the House Of Blues in Dallas, Texas, we'd be walking out of there with our entire guarantee eaten up. Even if the fans wanted it, some venue would do their best to shut it down, cut power, close curtain, whatever.

The music business has sucked the life out of creativity. No one is encouraged to take risks, no one is encouraged to push the envelope, because it's all about first week sales! It's about pointless radio play and how good your last tour went. How venues and promoters are squeezing the last drop of spontaneity out of your soul by not 'allowing' you to playing past curfew and not drawing outside the line.

When we play that game we essentially applaud mediocrity.

There's nothing dangerous about music these days, there's nothing surprising about it either. There can't be. Other than Pearl Jam the only 'band' that doesn't seem to really give a flying f--k and plays by their own rules isn’t really a band at all, are they? Axl and the [Guns N'] Roses are known for bending the rules and telling the powers that be to 'f--k off' but because their band is so confusing they come across as a joke. But people don’t see this. People don't see any of this!

And the reason you don't care is because it's too easy to get sucked into your phone, or your Facebook, or your Twitter, or your Tumblr, or your Instagram, or your games, or your TV shows.

Music isn't important anymore. Say it is all you want, but the fact is, the 2 biggest rock records of last year only sold 400,000 copies, neither even went gold.

Music is in the background of a game. Why go to a show when you can watch clips of it on YouTube and bitch about how it stinks live?

And you know what, I miss music being important! I miss live shows being important. I miss feeling a part of something that was so high on my list I'd crawl through broken glass to get it.

All this technology we have now that's supposed to make us 'connected?' It’s making me feel more f--king disconnected than ever. I mean watching all the things that other people are doing that I'm not invited to or even a apart of? And yet at the same time completely disgusted by faux-self-importance it has given everyone, (here's my dog or cat for the millionth time, here's a selfie for the millionth time, here's my kids for the millionth time, here' the food I'm eating for the millionth time, here's what I'm doing and you're not). Don't you wish you were eating what I'm eating?

F--k you!

I've thought of tweeting or Facebooking something so many time and just went, 'who cares,' why should anyone care about this, and you SHOULDN'T care.

You're all my 'friends,' you've all 'liked' me, but really, you're not my friends, because we don't know each other. You took a photo of me, or you interviewed me, or we talked after a show. And after you get past the initial coolness, of re-connecting with someone from high school on FB or Twitter, you realize you truly have drifted apart.

And f--kin' A, I'm glad we did.

I don't want to be 'friends' with everyone; I don't want to be 'liked' by everyone. I want to feel connected to something. And nothing I look at in the music business does that. I don't get radio bands; I don't get any of these f--king 'scene bands.' I don't get bands singing about how great being American is, as if the geographic location you were born, (and had zero control over in any way shape or form), somehow makes us better than any other geographical place of birth!?

I don't get why people don't want to see live music anymore, I don't get it. Did you see the clip of Hetfield talking about how America needs to start 'wanting' music again?

This is James 'F--king' Hetfield talking people! Didn’t those words do anything to anyone? Didn’t what he said make you feel a bit disgusted? I'm a Metallica fan and those words being spoken kind of stung a bit.

You can bitch all you want that Machine Head only does festival tours and only plays for 30 minutes, but all those bands (including us) that play festival tours, can't draw squat when were not on festival tours. And even the big metal festivals are having troubles. Maybe the days of bands touring is coming to an end? Bands didn't always tour you know, Mozart didn't hit the road for a year or 2 back in the day. Touring is really a phenomenon of the last 60 years or so. People didn't always buy records, or CDs, or files, or streams, that's also a phenomenon of the last 60 or 70 years.

I don't get the political f--king correctness of music anymore.

I don't get the narrow-mindedness of the world anymore.

I don't get people asking me every week to try and write 'more like 'Burn My Eyes' please.'

I don't get religious nutjobs who think that when they die they're going to 72 virgins when they get to heaven. ('You're guaranteed to get some pussy in the afterlife boys,' so obviously written by a man!)

I don't get religious f--king nutjobs who think that Jesus is coming back soon, wearing a white blood stained robe (stained with the blood of his enemies ... whoever those are) and will be carrying a sword, and by 'sword,' the bible meant an AR-15!

What did Napoleon say? 'Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.'

I don't get why we need to hear 'America the Beautiful' and 'thank a soldier' in a TV commercial, 22 and 14 times respectively during the Superbowl.

I don't f--king get it.

You don't care about music, and I don't care about music, and I sit here wondering if this feeling is a result of the business itself, or is the business a result of our own apathy towards music.

I feel lost.

I feel alone.

Something has to change.

Someone has to stir the pot.

Something needs to come along and wake us up out of the slumber."

111 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    KingKrisKhan
    Goddamn.
    jordo246
    I know right? He literally took my thoughts on the music world right now and put it into words, although in answer to a few things I think the reason people don't give a **** about music(or most people anyway) is because the industry is now geared towards making a quick buck out of someone and then forgetting they exist just to do the same over and over again, there's no focus on developing artists, just getting people like Rihanna to appear as much as possible doing the same shit over and over again. And I agree with him about the internet giving people this self importance thinking everything they do must be known by everybody, it's annoying as hell. Just my two cents.
    KingKrisKhan
    I get what you mean, music has turned into a product geared towards the masses to earn some money. But honestly, he's right about music just not being as important. Rarely do I just sit at home and put some music on anymore. Nothing really surprises me in a cool way like it did back when I was a teenager, everything just sounds like something that already exists, just a little different. And I'm not the only one either, I can't remember the last time one of my friends was really passionate about a band o an album. Really depressing stuff.
    jordo246
    I was born in 95' so I never really had the chance to experience peak of music but I agree with everything sounding the same, just turn on Kerrang and they play the 4 or 5 bands everyday and when they don't it's generic emo rock bands that all sound and look the same. And none of my friends take music all that seriously, ironically most of them go to a music college and I don't and I'm more interested in it than any of them.
    legioneloza
    in my home town i wan't to start a movement with local rock/metal artist's to make a scene..to make a live show every month..just so that people start to get used to live shows again..kids to start paying that buck to see a live band...to support your local bands/talents..it's hard; my country (Romania) is literaly copying everything that is hapening in the music scene in USA. When rhihanna poped on the music scene two month later every so caled singer my country morphed itself in a rhihanna wannabe..same with lady gaga. WTF is wrong with this world??
    crazyhorse174
    Fuck me - that actually seriously hit home. Good job Rob. Its a pity that no mainstream news site will pick up on this, because the guy speaks a lot of sense here. I'm off to delete my Facebook account and order a couple of CD's. Thanks for slapping me into reality Rob. (and incase anyone thinks I'm being sarcastic here, far from it)
    powachord
    well said... I honestly think radio has a HUGE part to play in the downfall of the music industry. There are so many good bands that get little to no airplay in favour of mainstream garbage. That being said, its up to us to spread the word, and facebook IS a great way to do that. If anything, this piece by Robb has inspired me to try and push the boundaries when it comes to making music, and not to play it safe. Great music is supposed to be dangerous and exciting, not sterile and bland.
    MEGADETHGOD
    Props! I deleted my facebook two weeks ago and just spend 100$ on cd's for the first time in two years.
    Countsluggo
    I try and buy cds as often as possible. If it wasnt for my band, i would've deleted my facebook a long time ago. When we're not playing shows, i try to go to as many shows, local or national that I can afford.
    powachord
    Damn... that was a great read. He is SO spot on its ridiculous. "Something needs to come along and wake us up out of the slumber."
    InfernalFender
    Unto The Locust may not have been my favourite Machine Head record, and admittedly I don't listen to them as much as I used to, but this right here is a prime example of why I continue to support the band whenever I can. I've seen them at two of their own live shows when they've toured Australia, bought their tour merch, and moshed like crazy at their Soundwave sets. I may not be as into them as I was 3 years ago, but I'll still buy their next album out of principle. I'll always admire Robb and the guys' passion and determination to music, their fans, and the wider rock & metal community. Think I'll give The Blackening a few spins tonight, as a toast to Robb!
    Spyan
    I feel exactly the same, and not just about music, about everything. Everything got morbidly and boringly superficial past 2000, and it's getting worse every year. More than ever, everything revolves around profit, the quality is fading and the prices keep getting higher. In food, culture, media, quality of life, everything. I've been very depressed for the last two years because I came to the conclusion that big business and corporations had won. They have quelled independent and critical thinking, and the worst part is no one is bitching about this and everybody's asking for more. I'm an 80's kid so I'm sorry for the cliché rebellious attitude, but the point is I don't see any hope left or any reasons to be excited about the future. We have been raised on ideas that don't exist anymore. I recently told my mother that I wish I was born in her times and how lucky she was to have lived her youth through the 70's, and I was expecting her to say "you have so much more opportunities right now" or something similar but she just said "I know what you're saying". That depressed me even more. I won't end this by saying "stand up and fight" or old tired BS slogans. I don't think there is anything we can do about this by now. So cheer up and keep your heads down.
    KingKrisKhan
    You gotta take that with a grain of salt, because nostalgia is a lying bag of dildos.
    Zan595
    ^It definitely can be a lying bag of dildos. I have many reminiscent friends that enjoy their version of the past more than the present, but when they speak of the past, I can't help but think "That's not really accurate, you're only remembering the good parts, and even those you touched up a little."
    Abacus11
    That was a long read but absolutely worth it. The music business started sucking the life out of rock n' roll in mid '60's and by the late '90's there was barely anything left. The idea of the "rock star" was sucked, processed and drained of any danger or excitement and vomited onto middle America to help sell phones, cars and cell phones. I'm a little younger than Robb Flynn but I can relate to what he's saying. Him remembering the state of music and live music in the 70's and 80's is like me remembering the 90's. When I think about shows then (only 15-20 years ago), it's staggering how different things are. It's not just music... it's art in general. Mainstream media doesn't care if anyone pushes envelopes or does anything interesting because that doesn't guarantee MONEY. *Be lazy, make money buy more sh*t so you can be lazier. Puke your opinions but don't contribute. Play it safe. Get money.* It sucks. The road less traveled is getting less and less traveled. Now is the best time to be creative, be dangerous and PUSH THE ENVELOPE! Don't do it for money... DO IT BECAUSE YOU LOVE MUSIC!
    adolfsawatzky
    I stopped going to the "big" shows 15 years ago. I think it's criminal that it costs $200.00 plus per ticket to see a show these days. I started going to small clubs, $10.00 cover charge and bands that have the passion and energy that my old heroes used to have. Metal and punk are alive and well in my part the world (Canada). I'm a huge fan of bandcamp. Lots of new artists and bands, and 85% of what you pay for an album goes to the band.
    Badmotorfingers
    This is great, I wish more people would wake up and realise the bullsh*t boring f*cking uselsss crap they do with their lives now and the absolute tripe that is spoon fed to them and eaten up like starving dogs. Or maybe it's just human nature and most people are just f*cking useless sheep trying to fit in regardless and this is just helping that. As for music it's f*cked up and pointless to even be a new band these days so why even bother if it's never going to be more than an expensive hobby, since nobody will give a crap about it unless they are spoonfed it through what's 'cool' and 'acceptable', well I guess maybe if you don't want to sell out and play sappy happy sounding predictable bullsh*t
    jaymz88
    This guy is really smart and I think a lot of people here understand what he feels. Great read
    GeriatricNinja
    Man I hope he can channel these emotions into the next record and produce something killer. Everytime I listen to Aesthetics of Hate I can feel his anger, as if he's about to climb out of the speaker and punch me in the face
    frisbeesurgeon
    Everything has become a very sanitized commodity nowadays. I'm a graphic designer by trade and I know nothing I do will ever be of value to someone. I chose this profession because I want to apply my creativity to something more tangible, apparently graphic design and music were no wise career choices in that regard. The internet is brilliant for a lot of things, it's the greatest library ever created and there's an inconceivable amount of bands, films and books that I would have never found out about without the net. However I feel like people truely valueing these things are becoming the minority. Everything is entertainment and has to be available at any time, anywhere, no matter if it's appopriate or not. Music and Art, some of the oldest forms of human expression are just jingles, a distraction from other jingles and some kind of boyscout badge that we patch together to form some resemblance of a unique personality to present to others.
    azz0110
    wow strong views but most of it is sadly true something deffinately needs to stir the pot.....
    paulyg
    Wow what a statement. For the most part i agree. I remember seeing my first concert, i was 13, Metallica in Newcastle AUS, April 2nd 1998. Blew my mind! Life changing event! In the 70's bands like Zeppelin were like Gods from another planet or something! Fans worshipped them like crazy! This was a time before facebook, cellphones etc. As much as i love the internet, it's also my worst enemy! The music industry will never be the same!
    Witt1975
    Metallica actually played in Newcastle? Wow, that's crazy! The Entertainment Centre is a pretty small venue, wish they'd come back and play here again... (been living in Australia for 7 years...)
    ivonahora
    They played a gig in Newcastle during the World Magnetic Tour as well
    Witt1975
    No they didn't, trust me this is something I would have known about and camped outside the arena for months in advance lol. I had to see them on that tour in Sydney. Then again at Soundwave last year in Sydney...
    paulyg
    Yeah, was on the ReLoad tour. Newcastle Ent Centre capacity aprox. 7,000. What makes me happy, especially when i think about it now, is at the time, it was all i thought about for months! I bought a tour t-shirt and wore the hell out of it! Kept the ticket stub. Framed the review that was in the paper the next day! Total concert experience!
    Witt1975
    It's all about the experience man! I was so stoked before seeing them in Sydney, my wife was driving and I was sitting in the back having a few warm up beverages lol, got a hat and a shirt and just had a blast. The fact that they had Baroness and Lamb Of God opening for them didn't hurt either...
    majesty
    Perfect statement. That was extremely depressing to read because it is so true. I was fortunate enough to see Pearl Jam a few years back in Toronto, the opening band never made it across the border so they decided to open for themselves, Eddie came out and played a bunch of acoustic tunes, and over the course of maybe 45 minutes they all would go off and on stage playing covers and whatnot. Probably played for about 3 and a half hours in total, past curfew as well. i think its about time i start listening to some Machine Head.
    dudester410
    I need to add on to all the other comments alike this one; that was an amazing read and I couldn't have said it better myself. Amen to Flynn
    hobo467
    Robb's right about it all - at least, to me. The abundance of "social opportunity" via social media is decreasing the value of human connection. What does one friend matter if you have 500 of them on Facebook? As for the state of music, he said it all - we really don't want it enough because we're spoiled by YouTube and the like. Music (at least the music Robb is talking about) may, unfortunately, need to go away for a while before we start to miss it. Maybe we'll appreciate it more when it returns.
    MikeBTE
    I left facebook a year ago for similar reasons and I've found myself much happier with life. Facebook made me hate people I typically liked in real life.
    ChucklesMginty
    I really want to, but it's become a huge part of networking. If I stop using it I fall out of the loop, those that don't like it are now chained to it. I really hate this whole 'wrong generation' crap, but I when it comes to facebook... I'd rather live in a time when it wasn't near essential for young people and especially musicians.
    v3rmilion
    I find that I'm usually the odd one out among these circles. I don't hate certain music just because it's mainstream, and I understand that the music business IS a business. I can also say that, for all the negatives you can list off about the internet, I can list just as many positives. I mean, ****, half of the bands I listen to now, I never would have been exposed to if it wasn't for the internet making that kind of thing so much easier.
    vikkyvik
    Don't worry, I'm pretty much with you. Music is HUGELY important to me. The internet is the internet. It is what it is. Hell, he even posted that on the internet, presumably to be read by many people he doesn't know and isn't friends with. People are people. They aren't that different from people years ago. Times change, and communication media change. The rise of the internet has given people an easily accessible public voice. It's not a good thing or a bad thing - it's just a thing. Music has always been a business. From Felix Pappalardi changing around "Strange Brew" to make it more pop, to Phil Spector adding orchestra to "The Long and Winding Road", etc., the artist's vision has not always been the be-all and end-all. To sum up my view on music today: not better, not worse, just different.
    Psycho Pigeon
    So glad he talked about the unions. I HATE unions. 200 years ago when people were living in squalor, sure, demand better pay. But today they're dinosaurs, tumours, that we have to live with.
    howyjr
    Then go back to living in squalor and working 16 hours a day in an unsafe work environment.
    paulyg
    I was in a band a couple years ago that toured Canada, the unions there are crazy! I couldn't understand some of their stupid rules!
    ProgFripp74
    This article really makes me wish I had the money to open a venue so bands could play until 2 or 3 in the morning with no consequence. I remember seeing Machine Head around 2 years ago on the Locust tour cycle in Glasgow, they had 3 support bands and Machine Head's set alone lasted over 2 hours, that's a gig, I don't know if they were even allowed that amount of time but I'll treasure that show and Robb Flynn has just made me realise how important bands like Machine Head are to fans.
    Aldherrian
    Err... I was thinking 'Damn another nostalgia rant' but it has a ****ing point... I didn't know of such costs for playing a bit more it's disgusting... They should have most expensive contracts that allow the bands to play the time they want and so paying the staff for the overtime...
    Phazon
    You all feel the same, and yet you continue to play post-hardcore music... Let the thumb downing begin!
    mattgardner19
    Too bad Flynn had to spoil a perfectly good rant with his anti-union crap. Workers need a "break", you say? Yes, asking for a break after working for hours on end is absolutely ludicrous. Why can't those spoiled union workers display more gumption and work ethic like the guys on Wall Street? :-P