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With Machine Head topping the bill, Trivium, Shadows Fall, Arch Enemy and Dragonforce being easily one of the biggest European metal tours in recent years, "The Black Crusade" also stopped by in Cologne where STALKER had the chance to interview the triumvirate of modern thrash and hardcore metal personalities Corey Beaulieu of Trivium, Brian Fair (Shadows Fall) and the leader of the band who incited all this, Machine Head`s Robb Flynn.

On such a big tour with so many different individuals involved, how is the mutual understanding among the bands ? There is probably not always peace and harmony, is it ?

Robb: This tour has been pretty drama-free so far. In order to make this tour happen a lot of details had to be sorted out. This was a huge undertaking. And it`s not always the managements being in the way sort of, it`s the musicians sometimes and all those negotiations. In Machine Head`s case we had and have a large say about all aspects of our career. Trivium were co-headlining with us before and now we are headlining. It`s just cool that it has been so easy with these guys. We have had way smaller tours with way smaller bands where it was was more fuckin` drama (laughs). So this is awesome. As many large bands as are on this tour there really has been a surprising lack of drama.

Brian, you Shadows Fall guys especially have a pretty short live set. Does that bother you and where do you put your emphasis on ?

Brian: That`s no problem. We haven`t really toured in Germany that much and so our set is just about 25 minutes long. We put our emphasis on the heavier and more intense songs, of course, to get the audience going. We had to take out all our epics (laughs). Usually we have three different guitar tunings and now we had to work it down to two tunings for this short set. But it`s short and in-your-face. Germany is still like a new territory for us which we have to explore much more and we will, because in the past we put our focus more on the States where we are a big act already.

A bit of a tougher question : In every band there seems to be a musician who sticks out, someone who gets more exposure and attention than the other guys ( for example Matt Heafy in Trivium, Jason Bittner with his highly acclaimed drumming work in Shadows Fall and of course Robb fronting Machine Head). How do you or the others in the band deal with that ?

Corey: Usually in any band it`s the frontman, the singer guy who is in the spotlight. It`s just kinda how it goes. About Trivium I can truly say we are close friends and it is not one guy dictating what to do. We are all equal, but it`s usually the press who always picks the frontman to stand out. Matt doesn`t want us to be in the background, though, and we share everything equally.
Brian: Same thing here. We split everything equally anyway, even if it means that decisions take a bit longer so that everyone in the band will be happy (laughs). Jason is a great drummer, who is playing his ass off night after night. When he is getting rave reviews about his playing, it can only be beneficial for Shadows Fall also. Everyone in the band gets his moment to shine, then again it`s always the song which comes first.
Robb: To give you some examples, when you take Chris Cornell ( Soundgarden), Kerry King (Slayer) and James Hetfield (Metallica) being the in the center of attention, the bands accept that, I think. Everyone seems to have a specific role in his band. A lot of times a magazine would tell us that it`s gonna be all four band members on the cover and then it ends up only being me on there. But the others know they can put their faith in me and everyone of us represents Machine Head. To be in the center of attention means a lot of responsibility. It`s like a double-edged sword.

Being in an established band, do you still keep an eye on the metal underground and - apart from your band - what other bands are worth checking out ? Any German bands ?

Corey : I don`t really listen to a lot of newer bands to be honest with you. There are some of the older bands we are into. I think the new Lizzy Borden album is really cool and I actually played on it. I picked up the Sebastian Bach record and I am into W.A.S.P. , Paul for example likes Overkill a lot. We are more into the older bands, you know. There is a new band called Sanctity I like.They are good friends of ours. I have a couple of Destruction albums, so I am quite familiar with German thrash
Brian: History-wise every person should listen to Bad Brains. They are one of the most amazing punk hardcore bands of all time and they really changed aggressive music forever. A newer band you might wanna check out is Explosions In The Sky. We definitely keep an eye on what`s going on in the underground. I mean, that`s where we initially came from. German bands ? I remember the first time I heard Kreator. I asked myself : "What the hell is that ?" Very cool and inspiring.
Robb : I like Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn actually. Concerning the underground scene in general let me say I always have my ear on the street checking out bands that are cool. There is a new band called Skeleton Witch , it`s kinda like Bay Area thrash with some really fast Iron Maiden in there. It`s not that I am bored with the old bands. I really love some of that classic stuff, don`t get me wrong. But I love to discover new bands as well.

Speaking of World`s Aids Day now and groupies back in the day like the 80s, how do you look at it today and does it affect your touring and party life ?

Corey : There are not too many chicks at metal shows in the first place and then the chicks who are at our shows are really young. I`d rather have a few drinks and talk than doing anything with them. My main goal has never been to pick up some chicks after I am done playing. That would be a waste of time. I have my friends back home and so I would never make out with a chick that I don`t know. We as Trivium like to party, but first of all we wanna concentrate on our performance.
Brian: Those days have changed a lot. People have learned from their mistakes in the past and nowadays you got to be more careful. It used to be like "girls, girls, girls" at metal shows, but now it`s more like "dudes, dudes, dudes". (laughs)
Robb: I was never a part of that whole scene. Anyway, Machine Head and even my bands prior to that always drew 95% dudes at the shows. We`re talking thrash metal here and angry dudes, so there was never much of a groupie scene really. In the early beginnings of Machine Head we used to drink and hang out a lot, but it wasn`t like there was an army of chicks around (laughs). Because of the type of music we play the situation can`t be compared to bands like Kiss or Mötley Crüe.

So, what can you tell us about your plans after "The Black Crusade" tour and is there ever the danger of getting burned out a bit when playing many shows ?

Corey: This is our last tour. We are not really doing anything until February, so we will be home right after this and recharging our batteries so to speak, getting new energy. When we are on the road the band is our family, but then when we have nothing coming up with Trivium and we`re at home we are just regular guys. Soon we will start writing again. It`s cool to separate the musician`s life from your personal interests so when you come back together as a band there is a new energy and there are fresh ideas.
Brian : We`re taking a little break and then we will be playing two shows locally in Massachusetts. And after February we are going to Australia for a festival tour. That will be really cool because of the diverse mixture of bands, us, Killswitch Engage and Social Distortion among others. We will come back to the States and it will go on and on until the end of summer and then we`ll start writing again. Of course we will take care that we won`t get burned out.
Robb: There will be a much needed break after this tour. But then we will go to Japan and after that it`s going to be festival season for us. And probably we`ll end up coming back here at the end of 2008. "The Blackening" is far less than a year old, so to us it almost feels like we are just getting started (laughs). We are known for extensive tours and we still feel like we got a lot to accomplish. The thing we are most stoked about "The Blackening" is that we have proven to the world that an album can be made which goes beyond the usual metal bullshit in a 5-minute pop song format. We took a risk in making this record and coming up with long songs, but there seems to be a huge audience for it as we could see on this tour. Writing such an album is always like victory or failure with the label being concerned. It was worth the risk however. We are really proud of that.

Author: Marc Hoek, transl. K. Weber, photos: Roadrunner
Date: 2008-01-14

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