Having left MACHINE HEAD due to what is officially being called "creative differences", guitarist Ahrue Luster has spoken exclusively to BLABBERMOUTH.NET about the circumstances that led to his departure from the group his decision to pursue his own musical vision with his next project, the details of which are still being finalized. What follows is a transcript of the conversation that took place on Saturday, June 22nd:
Q: The official reason that was given for your departure was "creative" differences. Were there any other factors that led to your split from the group?
Ahrue: It was mainly creative differences. I [read what [MACHINE HEAD mainman] Robb [Flynn] wrote about it on the official MACHINE HEAD web site]—that I wanted to bring MACHINE HEAD into a "mellower" direction… That's not true. I wanted to be more melodic, I wanted to have more melody, but not [become] mellower. MACHINE HEAD is Robb Flynn, pretty much. I mean, he is the main songwriter, and it's kind of just a reflection of him. For someone else that has strong, creative ideas to try to be fulfilled in a band that someone else has most of the creative control [over], it's difficult.
Q: Are you saying that Robb wasn't receptive to your ideas?
Ahrue: He was [receptive]—I definitely did get a lot of ideas out—but the final word was his on everything.
Q: Did you want to have equal say as him, or more say than you did?
Ahrue: Yeah. I mean, I would have liked to have had equal say. [Robb] kind of wanted me to trust in his guidance on music—trust in his opinion of what was good and what wasn't—and that was OK for the other guys in the band, but I can't trust anybody else's opinion on music except my own.
Q: How did you expect an arrangement like that to work [with you and Robb having equal say]? Where would that leave the other guys in terms of having a say in the decision-making process?
Ahrue: Ideally, I would like everybody to have equal say. More than anything, I wasn't creatively fulfilled—basically, because I wanted to have more melody—so I suggested me doing a side project to get fulfillment, to get my ideas out, and then I wouldn't feel pent up and have all this stuff that I had to get out. But they [the rest of the band] didn't want me to do a side project, so I had to follow my heart and do what I thought was right. I mean, I didn't want to change MACHINE HEAD—to turn MACHINE HEAD into something else—I just wanted to get my ideas out.
Q: Was the situation in MACHINE HEAD ever misrepresented to you in terms of how it was going to be, or were you pretty much aware going into it as how the band worked in terms of the decision-making process?
Ahrue: I was pretty much aware of how everything was going to be.
Q: So why did you still decide to go through with it, if this was going to be such an issue for you later on?
Ahrue: I had to experience it. Not that it was a bad experience… I love the music that we made—The Burning Red is still, to this day, the thing that I am the most proud of in my life. We played great shows, the fans were great… It was hard a lot of times because the MACHINE HEAD fans are kind of divided between the fans that like Burn My Eyes and the fans that like The Burning Red the most, and the fans that like Burn My Eyes the most, I felt like I wasn't completely accepted by them. But all in all, it was a great experience, and I still consider the guys in the band friends of mine. I'm not sure if they consider me their friend, but I hope that someday we can all have a drink together.
Q: Did you part on bad terms? Were there harsh words exchanged, or was it pretty amicable?
Ahrue: It was pretty much amicable. If anyone had any hard feelings about the whole thing, it might have been Robb, but gets angry easily, and then the next day he's fine. I'm sure that there are hard feelings, but I just hope that it's something that down the road will be alright with everybody.
Q: How realistic do you think it was for you to expect to be able to carry on with a side project during this very crucial time in MACHINE HEAD's career where they're having to re-evaluate a lot of their business relationships and build new ones? Do you think it was unrealistic for you to even suggest that in the first place, or do you honestly believe that you would be able to pull it off?
Ahrue: Every other aspect of being in MACHINE HEAD I loved—I loved playing with those guys and everything—except for the creative part. Me and Robb were talking back and forth for about a month about this side project thing and about how I was feeling about things, and he confronted me with a question—"OK, what happens if the side project gets signed and they ask you to tour?" And I hadn't really even thought about it myself, so I had to think about it, and I told Robb I would think it over and call him back the next day. And I called him back the next day, and being completely honest with myself and being completely honest with him, I said, "Well, if I am being more creatively fulfilled doing something else and I have a chance to do something more with it, I'm gonna have to do that." So pretty much on that, that's when we realized that maybe the best thing was for me to leave the band.
Q: A lot of people would argue that a band like MACHINE HEAD is extremely melodic for an act in their genre, that they're one of the few bands that can effortlessly go from doing something ultra-aggressive like "Bulldozer" to a much more mellow track like "The Burning Red" or "Deafening Silence". So when you say that you wanted to get "more melodic", do you mean that you wanted to have a lot more melody all the time, or you just wanted the melodic sections in the band's music to be even more pronounced than they were?
Ahrue: I don't necessarily think that being melodic means that you have to be light, either. I think SYSTEM OF A DOWN is way more melodic than MACHINE HEAD, but I wouldn't call them mellow by any stretch. Like on Supercharger, there's no melody, really, until the chorus to "Crashing Around You" comes in.
Q: How much of a factor, if at all, in your decision to leave the band were the negative response to Supercharger and the relatively disappointing sales performance of the album?
Ahrue: That wasn't an issue at all. If I was happy with what I was doing, and I was happy with the people that I was playing with, no matter what was going on on the outside, if [what I was doing] was making me happy, I would continue to do it.
Q: Had you already put the wheels into motion on this side project when you made the decision to leave MACHINE HEAD, or what this just something that you had contemplated doing at some point down the line?
Ahrue: Well, I started just jamming with other people, like with friends and stuff, but not anything set in stone. And it was fun, but nothing was solid.
Q: So are you taking some time off right now before you begin putting together a new band, or are you already actively looking for the right musicians for the new project?
Ahrue: Well, I moved down here [to Los Angeles] to start a band. I've been living here officially for about two weeks right now. I've been searching for singers and drummers… I already have a bass player.
Q: Who is the bass player?
Ahrue: I can't tell you right now.
Q: Is it anyone I would know?
Q: Is he in another band right now?
Q: And he hasn't left the other band yet, I take it?
Q: So you're still looking for a singer and a drummer. Are you gonna be adding a second guitarist as well?
Ahrue: A lot of the reason for me not being creatively fulfilled in MACHINE HEAD was because there were two guitar players trying to fill the space, so we just plan on having one guitar player and being a four-piece.
Q: Is this new band going to be a situation where you will be the leader and you will be responsible for most of the songwriting, or will it be more of a democracy?
Ahrue: Every band that I'd been in before MACHINE HEAD and MANMADEGOD, I was the main songwriter. Every band that I was in besides MACHINE HEAD was a democracy—even MANMADEGOD. And I wouldn't want anyone else to feel the way that I felt in MACHINE HEAD, so I don't wanna be a leader to anybody. I don't wanna be the one that calls the shots or whatever.
Q: Do you have a singer in mind for the next project, or are you still actively looking for someone?
Ahrue: I've been talking to a couple of singers. I mean, I've already talked to probably close to 50 singers and about 50 drummers. I do have some potential drummers, but singers… We're gonna be super-picky, since the singer is what people can hear first and can relate to. So we're not even in a rush to find a singer, because we wanna find the right singer.
Q: Do you already have some music written or is it still in the very early stages at this point?
Ahrue: It's in the early stages. We definitely have some riffs and some pieces that fit together, but we also don't wanna write complete songs and then have the singer come in—we wanna write with the singer. I do wanna stress, however, that what I'm gonna be doing isn't gonna be mellow. I mean, it's gonna be more melodic, but it's definitely gonna be explosive. It's gonna be definitely guitar-driven and it's gonna have a lot of dynamics and build-ups and stuff like that.
Q: Do you have a name in mind for the band?
Ahrue: I've been thinking of some names, but that's another thing that we don't wanna do until we have a complete band and everybody could help come up with the name. 'Cause we don't have it like, "Oh, this is our band, and you're coming into our band"—we want everyone to feel that they were part of the beginning of the band.
Q: Why did you decide to relocate to Los Angeles before actively seeking musicians for this band? Did you feel that L.A. was best suited for what you were trying to do, musically speaking, or was this bass player living down there and it just made sense for you to move down?
Ahrue: I've actually been talking to some singers from the [San Francisco] Bay Area. If you wanna do something in music, L.A. is the best place in the country to be. If you have a band and there's somebody interested in seeing you, in L.A. they can just drive 15 minutes and if you're in any other part of the country, they'd have to fly. And my girlfriend lives down here, so it just seemed like the logical thing to do.
Singers and drummers interested in auditioning for Luster's as-yet-unnamed new project should send a brief bio, photo and a CD/tape to the following address:
1300 Cahuenga Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038