Saturday 15 September 2012

20 Questions w/ The Machine

The Machine 2012

Well then Sludgelords, it is 20 Questions time again!  Amazingly we continue to be inundated with fantastic records and personally, Calmer Than We Are blew me away, with it's psychedelic infused desert rock tones.  The Machine have produced one of the best records this year in this genre or any other for that matter.  We reviewed this great record here.
What better way to follow up that amazing review, than to talk to the band themselves.  The Machine kindly agreed to talk to us here at The Sludgelord and give us their insight into the band, their views about comparisons to QOTSA and much much more.  So Enjoy and keep your eye peels for more 20 Questions over the coming weeks.  Here it is in full, 20 Questions with The Machine.
Hey Guys, How are you?  I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord.

A) [David / Guitar, Vocals] Hi Aaron, I’m fine thanks. You’re most welcome!
[Hans, Bass] No problemo!

[Davy, Drums] Hey dude, you're welcome.


Q) Where are you guys at the moment and what are you doing, in terms of the band at the present?  You preparing to tour? 


A) [David] At the moment we’re in the final phase of a small break actually, we’ll re-start our regular rehearsals by the end of this week. This period in summer is always like that, we all have full time jobs and/or other responsibilities to deal with, which often results in different moments of vacation. Within a couple of weeks we’ll go into the studio to record a couple of new songs. I can’t tell you all the details right now, but you don’t have to expect a new album. Yeah we´re sort of preparing to tour. We´ve got some nice gigs coming up for the last part of the year. We´re also in the middle of making plans with our booker for a European tour early next year. Hopefully we´ll finally be able to come over to the UK!

[Hans] Yes, it would be awesome if we could finally come to the UK for a show. I know there a lot of guys diggin' us there as well!


Q) I have been playing your record repeatedly the last few weeks and posting your videos on our FB page, however for those people who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell me little bit about the  history of the band and some of the bands you've played with? Where you’re from, when The Machine first formed? Current band members?


A) [David] We all met at our school about eight years ago, played our first gig together at a party there (which was my first gig ever, the other guys already played in bands before), Davy and I went on and formed a band with two other guys (Hans started his study and had no time, was his opinion back then haha), we fired the singer (I started to handle the vocal duties, never sung before), we fired the bass player and got Hans back. To me this was the real start of The Machine. This happened in September 2007 by the way. Since then the line-up did not change: Davy on drums, Hans on bass and me on guitar and vocals. We played with a lot bands over the years, also as a support band of some ‘bigger’ known names like e.g. Fu Manchu. The Roadburn Festival has a lot of big names on the bill every year, we had the honour to be a part of that a couple of times already. We all live within a 20 kilo meter range of the city Rotterdam by the way.

[Hans] After the one-time gig at our high-school, I always stayed in touch, filling in for the bass player occasionally. It was really cool when the opportunity came to be back in the band! Also, the singer was gone, who I never liked.


Q) Is The Machine a full time project, or do have other bands?


A) [David] We don’t have other bands, except for the occasional jam session here and there. Nothing serious though. But I have lots of ideas hahahaha, but no time actually. I’ll be moving into a new house within two weeks where I’m making a small studio; maybe I’ll record some experimental stuff one day. Oh yes, I almost forgot. Hans and myself are having some wild plans about releasing a punk record in the (near) future!! Beware!

[Hans] David and Davy have a daytime job and I'm still trying to get an MSc degree. Hopefully one day I will succeed!

[Davy] I have some other bands and friends I jam out with, though those aren't very serious projects or bands. Just havin' fun, drinking beer and jamin' out with some friends.


Q) Probably a stupid question, but are you or would you like to be full time musicians?


A) [David] Yes, I guess. As in I’d like to be, maybe. If this means we can still do whatever we want without having to listen to people telling me how to make my music that is. Also the fact that I would be financially dependent of my rock ‘n roll, should not take the fun away.

[Hans] No. Because I love engineering and would really like to work on new sustainable technologies.

[Davy] Don't really know the answer to that question. Even if you’re not told what to play and you can do whatever the hell you want. Music now is my 'escape' from normal life and I don't how much I'd still like it if it would become my normal life.


Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment?


A) [David] Yeah I am. My dad raised me on blues and the rock of the 60’s & 70’s, of which I’m still thankful. The first cassette tape I bought was A Real Live Dead One from Iron Maiden hahaha; I was about 7 years old. Other metal followed some years later. When I was about 16, I used to listen to a lot of metal (incl. black and death). Only the Bay Area thrash style stuff survived my metal years a bit to be honest. You know the drill; Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus etc. I listen to a lot of different music, metal is one of them. I can’t name one specific metal band I’m listening to at the moment. Yeah Mastodon, they’re quite metal right? Regarding rock… there a lot of bands rock haha. I guess Motorpsycho is a good one to mention for that one.

[Hans] Sure, but I must admit that the other two guys are more metal heads compared to me. I listen the regular metal stuff, but I don't dive deep into the scene and sub genres.

[Davy] I love almost all the thrash bands and more of the groove metal like Pantera, Helmet, stuff like that. Metallica was the first band I became a big fan of. Still dig 'em. The first Metallica record I heard was Load and, although most fans hate this album, I absolutely loved it and still do. It was my first encounter with heavy music after growing up on stuff like Led Zep, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan.


Q) When you started The Machine, What were your hopes for the band?


A) [David] I didn’t have any to be honest. We were just a couple of friends making fun. 

[Hans] Honestly I just hoped that I would learn a lot from it and improve my style. None of us were really thinking about the future.


Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your band, how would you describe your sound? Has it evolved?


A) [David] Heavy rock with a psychedelic twist on the rocks. I think it has evolved, which is a good thing. You can notice a progression with every record, at least I think so. In both song writing and our skills as musicians. Our sound also became more diverse through the years. With Calmer Than You Are, we also sort of abandoned the jam formula we used on the first 3 albums. We’ll never completely loose that out of sight though.

[Hans] Heavy Psychedelic Alternative Math Techno from Outer Space!


Q)  Why the name, The Machine, does it have any significance to you and what does it symbolise?


A) [David] When you’re a band, you need a name. We came up with this one at first, our thought back then was that it sounded more ‘tough’ then 1984 (which was the name of the band Davy and I were in before). Also it was a reference to Green Machine, Welcome to the Machine and Machine Gun. Three songs of three artists we considered to be an inspiration back then. We released our first album on our own while being called The Machine, it would have been weird to change the name afterwards hahaha.

[Hans] I wasn't in the band when they came up with the name, so this question for me is irrelevant (Vulcan style).


Q)  What is the scene like in your hometown of Rotterdam?


A) [David] Pretty dead actually. Only hipsters have success in Rotterdam! Also the government is cutting the funds for cultural stuff, which means that the couple of interesting live clubs had to be shut down. Those were the place where you could still go and watch an underground rock band.

[Hans] Oh, Rotterdam is horrible now. There is no more money for musical venues. And that is in a city that wants to be a 'going out' city. Three major clubs have been shut down in the last 3/4 years. The only thing that's still alive and pretty cool is the jazz-scene.


Q) What made you start the band?  Did you all know each other before you formed?


A) [David] Davy and I actually met at some jam sessions at school, in between lessons. We became friends along the way. We had and still have a fantastic weird chemistry like a bass player and drummer normally have. Maybe because he is a meant to be guitar player like I’m a meant to be a drummer hahaha. Hans and I were in the same courses and became friends quite quickly. Hans and Davy already knew each other. As said before, Davy and I started a band without Hans. So yeah, when he joined later on we knew him. To me, it was like a friend joining the band I had with another friend.

[Hans] Yep, we were all in high school together. I knew Davy from the third year and I met David in my last (6th) year.

[Davy] At first David thought I was a ff'in douche bag because of my bad language and bitter sense of humor. I had played in some other bands before we started the Machine, but when we started playing together I felt this musical connection with the dude I've never felt before with another musician. I knew Hans a little longer and he's just a really easy going loveable guy, it's hard not to like him. Our friendship has grown a lot because of being in this band. Of course we have our arguments and differences, but I've grown a lot of love and appreciation for David and Hans and right now I consider them to be two of my best and dearest friends.

Q)  What's it like being in an underground band in your hometown or even in the Netherlands? Is it a struggle and is their great camaraderie within the scene?


A) [David] I have the feeling that the Dutch people aren’t waiting for underground rock. You can count the shows we’ve played in Rotterdam on one hand. If I’m not mistaken, we only played here twice. Also booking shows in Holland is way more difficult compared to let’s say Germany. That country seems to be living off of rock ‘n roll. There’s a lot of camaraderie! We’re good friends with Sungrazer for instance. We get along both musically and personally which is great. We’re also on the same booking agency and record label, which is quite funny. I think that’s the best way: be friends, hang out and make fun together instead of being unnecessary competitive and cocky. You don’t understand rock ‘n roll if that’s the case.

[Hans] The heavy rock/stoner scene is more stationed in the southern part of Holland. So most of the guys we meet and become friends with live in the Brabant/Limburg area.


Q) Listening to your music, it appears that perhaps Kyuss or QOSTA influence your music, however what would you say are your influences musically and artistically?


A) [David] I can understand the comparison, of course the (guitar) sound bears a similar style and tuning. But besides those names there’s a lot more, especially stuff which is outside of the typical stoner world. Hendrix was the reason I started to mistreat my guitar in my bedroom and he still is an influence. But I think it’s good to broaden your (musical) horizon outside of your own sub genre, use those other impulses and translate it to your own sound. If all stoner bands (we seem to be one) listen to stoner bands, within 2 years everybody will sound exactly the same! That’s boring.

[Hans] In the end, every song is a remix of other songs. You take parts you like, you add new stuff and you mix it together. It’s not something you choose, it’s something that just happens automatically. I think you can hear a lot in our music when you listen to it with an open mind.


Q)  What are your views of blogs such as the Sludgelord reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines?  Has your music reached the mainstream mags, at home or around the world?


A) [David] I think some of the smaller mainstream mags noticed us, here in Holland. We’re still very underground. Today I received a promo request from quite a big one in the UK, which is nice. The blogs are good, some of them are. There are a loooooooooot of blogs actually, every music enthusiast can have a blog and do reviews. I don’t pay the same amount of attention to all of them to be honest. But hey, everybody that likes our music has his/her right to with that fact whatever they want!

[Hans] I think these new kinds of media have the future. It’s all part of a continuous shift from information presenting to information searching. Instead of a magazine which tells you what is new, you look for things that are new, but only in your specified area that you think is interesting. The same is happening with TV. In the future, TV channels become irrelevant; the individual will choose what he sees. Blogs fit in perfectly, because they come up at search enquiries.
[David] Well spoken, Spock.

Q) Calmer Than You Are is an exceptional record and appears to be getting universal praise, what is your thoughts about that?  Does it have an effect on the band in terms of record sales etc?  Are record sales important to the band?


A) [David] Thanks man! Yeah we experience quite good sales of CTYA. I mean, the first pressing of 500 vinyl records sold out immediately after the release. That’s still special to us. This was before the praise you mentioned. Our sales figures improved since the release of CTYA, but I don’t know if it’s the fact that the album gets pleasing reviews or the fact that we have become a more known name in the European scene that we’re selling what we’re selling. It comes in handy if we have good sales figures: this means money for new gear, repairs of broken gear, more money to invest in studio equipment (we build up our own studio for each album) etc. We don’t strive for a certain amount of copies to be sold though; we’re not financially dependent of the band which is also a big reason for that of course. We just love to play music, that’s the most important thing.

[Hans] Record sales are not important, but it is cool to gain a little money out of it to buy new musical stuff.


Q)  Calmer than You Are is your 4th release to date, how does this record compare to your previous records and is it your best work to date? 


A) [David] I’d like to think it’s the best, yes. It’s more focused, more punching and less boring. We have a couple of tunes on the previous records of which we now think that they’re boring. We all improved as musicians and I improved as a recording engineer and producer too. At all levels there’s still a lot left to improve though.

[Hans] In terms of sound quality I think it is the best. But musically it is hard to compare it with e.g. “Drie”, because it’s different. It’s also a matter of taste.


Q) Does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?


A) [David] It used to when we just started out with the first album, which was recorded as a sort of experiment. We were really surprised by the fact that people seemed to like the stuff we were doing and even more that they were willing to pay money for that stuff! Of course you get used to the fact that this happens, but that doesn’t make it any less magical though. What´s also still special to me, is that when I’m attending a show or festival as a visitor, I see people wearing our t-shirts.

[Hans] It keeps surprising me that people from all over the world are buying our stuff. I think it is already fantastic that there are torrents which contain our music and stay alive. That people from other continents are even buying our stuff is totally awesome.


Q) 4 albums released to date, what are some of your highlights so far? What are your aspirations for the future?


A) [David] Our first show across the border at Yellowstock Festival 2008. The fact that Drie was our first release at Elektrohasch, a record label that was on the top of our list when we started out. We played Burg Herzberg Festival in 2011, which was amazing and it was the biggest crowd we ever had (quite possibly around 2000 people). Our gigs at the fantastic Roadburn Festival in 2010 and 2011 are also really special to me; I hope to return there again. I highly respect Walter and the things he did and will do for us and (underground) rock ‘n roll.

[Hans] Yes, the aforementioned highlights and I’d like to add the Up In Smoke tour we did, which was super awesome and the Duna Jam sets, because it is paradise over there.


Q)  I read on your official page you played Roadburn, Stoned from the Underground and the DunaJam festival, could you tell me a little about that?  How was that experience?


A) [David] Yeah, they were all really amazing. As said in the previous answer, Roadburn is really something special. The vibe at the 013 during those days is not be described with words. It’s also the mother of festivals for our kind of music to me. We played SFTU in 2010; it was the hottest day of that summer. We played in a big tent at the hottest moment of the day with +35C degrees. It was a sweaty affair! But it’s also very inspiring to see a packed tent of people rocking out. DunaJam is another, very recent, highlight. It’s really amazing to have the opportunity to do a gig on a cliff above the ocean or with your feet in the sand, near the waves on a beach. We’re a bunch of lucky fuckers now I’m reading this all back hahaha.

[Hans] All those experiences were very special and I feel very lucky indeed. Our first time Roadburn will remain super special, since we got to play twice, due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.


Q) I noticed that your music is released through the German label Elektrohasch, how did that come about and did you consider a DIY approach of releasing your music yourselves?


A) [David] We did the DIY release the first time but we quickly abandoned that. You need quite an amount of money to be able to release your album on vinyl, and that’s something we really wanted to do, starting with the second album, Solar Corona (Nasoni Records). There are also the PR and distributional benefits of having a record label of course. There’s still a very strong DIY/punk approach within The Machine though. As said before, we build up our own studio and do the recordings on our terms and according to our schedule whenever we want to. I do the mixing, mastering and artwork too. We deliver a completely finished package to the label.


Q) You got any interesting stories from your tours, favourites places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with?


A) [David] Can’t think of any stories right now, sorry! I don’t have any favourite places that really stand out (besides Sardinia) to be honest. Berlin has its own special vibe which I really like, but all new places are fun.

[Hans] One time we played in Hamburg right on the Reeperbahn. Davy and I got drunk and decided to buy a dildo for our tour manager. Berlin is indeed awesome. One time, after a gig the venue was transformed into a techno-party. This was hilarious to see the stoner audience being mixed with the fancy ravers.


Q) How do you feel about being compared to bands such as Kyuss and QOTSA, is that fair and what would you say to people you perhaps pigeonhole you as mere copyist or sound-alike’s?  (For the record that is not my opinion, haha)


A) [David] I can understand the comparison, people always need to label bands by naming well-known bands. This makes it easier to discuss the band not everyone knows about. People that pigeonhole us as copycats should have their ears checked, seriously. There´s so much more to us than being a Kyuss rip-off.

[Hans] I’d tell them to read my answer to question 13!


Q) Did you have an agenda or a game plan in terms of what you wanted to write for Calmer Than You Are? Does everyone contribute song ideas?


A) [David] The only thing we planned up front was that it was going to be a single LP, not a 2LP as we did with the two previous albums. The songs themselves just happened to be a result of the evolution of the band. Yes everybody has his own input! It’s quite often me coming with a riff and/or a somewhat structured idea, but sometimes also Hans has a cool chord progression or groove which we use to work around. It also happens that Davy has a cool rhythm he came up with, which we use as a starting point and build a song around. It’s nice that we are able to inspire each other in that way.

[Hans] For CTYA, we wanted to make an album which was a lot different than the previous albums, but still was a proper The Machine album. That was the goal.


Q) How do you feel about the digital era of music and people downloading music for free? Would you or have you ever considered releasing your music for free or ‘pay what you like’ to raise the profile of the band?


A) [David] The digital era is great! The internet is a fantastic medium for underground bands to be able to spread their gospel! I personally don’t like to release our music for free in the first place. It’s like a restaurant giving away free dinners all the time to make itself a name. It just feels weird and is wrong. We also have expenses and it’s our, let’s call it, art that has its value. By the way, as with CTYA, the songs could be downloaded even before the release date of the record. So if it’s already out there for free, why should we give it away for free too? People apparently already have the urge to find it without paying for it. I’d rather concentrate on the ones willing to support the artist.

[Hans] It is better to ask a little for digital releases. People often want to support the music they like by buying the records. If people do not want to pay anything for it, they will pirate it anyway.


Q) What are your plans for the rest of the year and any chance you're coming over to the UK?


A) [David] Recordings in September and October, two weeks off and some nice shows. There’s a Euro tour in the make for February next year, hopefully we will come and bore the UK. I’m not sure yet if the British Isles are part of our booker’s master plan!


Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?


A) [David] You’re welcome. Keep it real!

[Hans] Why not Zoidberg?
Well thanks for your time guys, it is a cool interview and hope you guys (the readers) dig it too.  For more info about the band, check the links below.  Calmer Than You Are is a fantastic record and you can buy it here.