Jul 182011

I’m pretty pumped up about Machine Head’s new album, Unto the Locust (due in September on Roadrunner). The first single, “Locust”, sounds good, and — well — it’s fuckin’ Machine Head. But in addition to being excited, now I’m also curious.

Thanks to Blabbermouth, I watched an interview that Machine Head vocalist/guitarist Rob Flynn gave to Nikki Blakk of the San Francisco, California radio station 107.7 “The Bone” at the second show of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival on July 10 in Mountain View, California. At one point, Blakk asks Flynn what song on the new album is his favorite. There’s a pause, and then he tells a story about the creation of a song called “The Darkness Within”.

He calls the song “pretty left-field for us” and says “it’s gonna be a song that just flips people on their heads.” Flynn continues: “it’s a very dark song, and it’s a really good song. I think it’s maybe one of the best songs we’ve ever written, and I’m really proud of it.” There’s also a hint that it may have some “mainstream” appeal.

Okay, so I was intrigued by that.  I got more intrigued when he explained how the song came to life. Each song has its own story, no doubt. Each songs comes from someplace in the mind and experiences of a musician and a lyricist. This song seems to have had part of its genesis in a Jeff Bridges performance in the movie Crazy Heart.  (more after the jump . . .)

I love that movie. The only time I’ve attempted a movie review for NCS, it was about that movie (and fuckit, I’m still pretty proud of that review, even if I’ve never done another one). So, hearing Rob Flynn talk about drawing some Machine Head inspiration from Jeff Bridges playing Bad Blake playing a song in the movie — that got me even more interested in “The Darkness Within”.

And that was just the start. I’ll put the relevant part of the interview transcript down below. If you’d rather watch and hear it, the video of the interview is after the transcript.

“Our drummer, Dave [McClain] had written this really cool, kind of PINK FLOYD-style acoustic riff, and I loved it, and I was just jamming on it one night.

“I had just watched that movie ‘Crazy Heart’ and they had this one song that was kind of like, the dude was singing in this [lowers his voice] croaky cigarette voice like this. And I was just jamming along, strumming just random words… I was thinking in my head, ‘If I ever record this song, I’m gonna drink a pint of vodka and smoke half a pack of cigarettes while I’m tracking it.’ [Laughs] I didn’t really have lyrics to it.

“And the next morning, it was in February, so we were having all those rains and it was freezing. I dropped my son, Wyatt, off at pre-school. And it was just the perfect miserable day — it was pouring rain and cold and gray. I live kind of in the hills and so there was all this fog pouring over the hills. And I just sat and I parked. And I was like, ‘Alright, let’s see what happens.’ It was like being in an H.P. Lovecraft poem or something.

“Where I live, in Virginia Hills, which is in Martinez, there’s this virus that’s going around that’s killing all of the oak trees, so all of the oak trees are dying or dead.

“At first I started writing all these lyrics — I just pulled out my iPhone and started typing in the notes — very Lovecraft-ian [words like], ‘feted branches and spider webs and whippoorwills’… And then it kind of took on this turn where it just kind of went into how much music has meant to me in my life, that it’s basically carried me through my darkest times and what it means to me.

“For about a half an hour I just sat there typing stream of consciousness and it [turned out to be] probably one of the most prolific writing sessions of my life. And I just basically wrote the whole song right there. And then I came home, had another melody for the chorus, and I dumped out the lyrics there and I put it together. And I called up Dave — we weren’t supposed to practice — and I was like, ‘Dude, I freaking wrote this amazing song. I wanna jam it with you.'”

And there you have it. I hope this song turns out to be as interesting as it sounds. Machine Head certainly have the capability to create dark, interesting metal, in addition to some pit-inducing thrashers. I know we’ve got some song-writers out there — if you feel like sharing where you get ideas for music or lyrics, by all means leave a comment.

I’m not sure which of the Crazy Heart songs Flynn is talking about. If it put him in mind of something dark, I suppose it could be “Brand New Angel”. Or possibly “The Weary Kind”, even though I don’t remember that song making its appearance until the end credits start to roll (and it’s Ryan Bingham singing the song then, instead of Bridges).

What the fuck, I’ll put both of those songs up here for listening purposes, right after the Flynn interview (except I found a clip of Bridges singing “The Weary Kind” on tv). Adios, motherfuckers.

  11 Responses to “WHERE DO SONGS COME FROM?”

  1. I love the stories behind where songs come from.

    My personal favorite is how James Hetfield wrote “Fade to Black” after someone stole his favorite amp. Yes, really.

    I’ve never musically written a song but I’ve been lyricist in two bands, and I’m a published poet. I tend to write about people in my life, but because I think my life is pretty insignificant, I try to take what I feel about them and wrap it up in something else, and that’s the core of my writing style–turning something into another. For example I was in a band that only wrote songs about classic literature, but the songs were more deeply about like… Feminism, philosophy, etc just packaged as interpretations of Shakespeare or Milton.

    • Well, those are two ends of a spectrum — interpretations of Shakespeare and Milton versus losing your amp. 🙂

      I suppose that sometimes (most of the time?) there’s some kind of journey between what may be the original inspiration for a song and what the song finally becomes. I have no first-hand experience, but i get the sense that sometimes it’s nothing more than a guitarist coming up with a cool riff while noodling around and then someone throws together some words to accompany it — and then sometimes the process is deeper, more introspective, more thoughtful. Sounds like maybe “The Darkness Within” falls into the latter category.

      • I’m a couple of shots in, so I hope this is still coherent.

        But I think any and all inspiration is equal.

        Jackass is just as artistic as Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Maybe more.

        (I’ve always been under the impression that Jackass is an accidentally brilliant video-essay on the absurdity of modernity. That I love dick jokes.)

        Also: Paradise Lost is the single greatest thing ever written in English.

        Shakespeare owns drama, and Douglas Adams owns the novel. And Milton took verse, bent it over his knee, spanked the whore like a wee babe, and make her a fresh faced virgin.

  2. Great post!

    Now I’m going to listen to country music and get drunk. Good for a Monday night.

  3. Lyric wise I just steal from books. Liberally and unashamedly.

    Ok, there’s probably more to it than that, but I love to read and re-interpret the things I get from books in my own “special” (and I do mean “special”) way.

    My only concern about MH is that I really don’t find Robb Flynn a convincing vocalist or lyricist with this kind of stuff. His half-sung/half-scream delivery seems to be a bit… flat, and the lyrics just come across as rather awkward and over-wordy… I think it’s far more effective to be clever with an interesting ARRANGEMENT of lyrics and imagery than to just use big, clever words which too often ruin the flow of things.

  4. I haven’t really written lyrics in a while, but the two songs that I did write go along with this story I’ve had going in my head, it’s an epic The Lord of the Rings-esque type thing, I’ve seriously kept a good bit of information about the characters in my head, and since I like characters a LOT I have a lot of flashy characters that I’m sure could appeal to people, But anyway the name of the band I’m going to make (well… plan on making sometime) also has to do with the story, although I think the name of the band came about before I got the idea to put it in the story. I’m not sure if I’ll put it in the main story or in a side-thing, actually I’m not sure if I’ll keep it in the story because it seems a little overboard, even for me.

    I tried to write the story down in Word, but it didn’t come out how I wanted it to, I started making things up as I went, and I didn’t like where it was going. I’d LOVE to make it into a movie or something but I really don’t see that happening, even if I did have the resources to do such a thing, because I’d have to supervise the creation of EVERY character major or minor (that’s a LOT of character) and then I’d have to pay extremely close attention to the actors (I’m not sure if it would be live action or CGI) and their mannerisms. Plus I’m also a lazy-ass, so there’s that…

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