Maschine are a young prog rock band from England who are about to release their debut album Rubidium on the Inside Out Music label. Grayson Hale reviewed the album recently and he took the opportunity on board to ask Luke Machin, the creative force behind Maschine, a couple of questions to find out more about the band and their music.
(((o))): Firstly, please tell us a bit about the band - who are the members and how did you come to form Maschine?
Luke: I started the band when I first came down to Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM) in 2007-08. After a few different line-ups I eventually found a strong unified group of musicians that have motivation, drive and the musical ability to match. We all studied at BIMM including our current drummer James Stewart.
We recently changed drummer because Doug Hamer who plays on the album as he went to pursue Law, so we auditioned around 8 drummers and fell upon James, the only guy who could play the pieces note for note and have fun with them, putting his own stamp on the tracks. I met up with Dan Mash the bass player after we were auditioning for an end of term gig together and I immediately asked him if he wanted to join after I heard what he could do on the bass. Soon after, Dan and me were both in BIMM's house band and Georgia Lewis, our backing vocalist and keyboardist was the keys player in our house band too. After hearing what Georgia could do and hearing her voice too I soon asked her to join the group. Then finally Elliott Fuller was a good friend of ours anyway and he had seen us live a few times and I knew he was a serious guitar player, he basically has the same influences as myself so it was with ease to draft Elliott in to the final mix.
(((o))): You’re releasing your debut album, Rubidium, on Inside Out Music. What was the recording process like?
Luke: Great. Previously I had a lot experience at school since I was 12 on Logic's recording software and being in recording studios all the way through school and college. I also recorded all the guitar parts and co-produced The Tangents last release COMM so I knew that I could create a good sound in my home studio for guitar and vocals. I love to produce too, even as much as playing guitar. I find it fascinating the amount you can learn from a mix and limitless ways to record. I'm pretty good at achieving the sound I want to create on record after hearing it in my head. I could only do so much with COMM having co-produced it so now I could finally produce something full on and really get into the details of production.
When writing for the album I created decent sounding demos that included all instruments. I then sent the demos to the band and they would internalise what the basic structure of the song would be and what I would have in mind. Then I would work with each member of the band incorporating their ideas and getting prepped for recording. Firstly, we recorded the drums at Aubitt studios in Southampton where Rob Aubrey engineered and got an incredible drum sound. I received all the files back and then I produced them at my home studio in Brighton. In my studio we recorded everything else. It's a great little setup and perfect for recording guitars, vocals, bass etc. It was an amazing experience and a really fun process when all the songs start to take shape and eventually it starts to sound like an album, replacing all of the demo instruments with real ones and real musicians.
(((o))): How long have some of these songs been in the works? I’d imagine there would be at least a few you’re very happy to finally have on record?
Luke: Yeah, some of these songs have been with me for around 5 years, so it was a good day when hearing the finished product through my system. Having some songs around for that amount of time and composing others more recently, at both of those periods I have been into different styles and other genres of music. That’s one of the reasons why this album is so diverse, not that that’s a bad thing, I think it keeps it fresh and this happens a lot I guess for debut albums, unlike 2nd releases that have a lot shorter amount of time to compose and record.
(((o))): The album art is very evocative of the music: very mechanical and calculated but also very expansive and atmospheric. Who designed it? In what ways do you feel it reflects the album’s general sound and philosophy?
Luke: I came up with the concept of the city at night. I wanted something that is vibrant and has energy running through it and I sent it over to the artist who is Thomas Ewerhard who is Inside Out Music’s in house design guy and I gave him a very short brief and he sent that back after 30 minutes or something and I was floored with how well he understood my concept and we immediately said "That’s it". The CD booklet itself has a great vibe to it too. Neons pulsating through each page giving a kind of aura that it is electrically alive, so I was very impressed and extremely happy with the way that it all turned out it's an incredible looking album.
Yeah, the artwork does reflect the sound of the band. It is very thought out and systematic but at the same time it has this raw energy that runs through it that is quite unique. It's a very unique sounding album and I think the artwork reflects that.
(((o))): The progressive music scene is convoluted with similar-sounding bands. How do you set yourselves apart?
Luke: Each band has influence from some place and we take influence from some pretty far out places. Our foundation is rock music and prog rock, but progressive rock by its very nature is a sub genre of many different styles and has no borders or boundaries. Our sound has jazz, metal, indie, pop, classical, all different styles that hint at those genres and I use the genres to compose without using the typical traits you hear from these styles. For example in classical music there are recurring themes or melodies throughout a piece of music called “leitmotifs” and “ritornellos”. I use this as something that could run through our music to tie all our melodies and sections together. I love metal because of the sheer energy that you don't get with any other genre so I incorporate the dynamics involved with metal. Most of the band likes to improvise so I write sections hinting towards jazz that allow a bit of freedom and space in a composition and all these characteristics that make up the “Maschine” sound. Having said some of these tracks were written over a period of time and this album is fairly diverse, I can already hear our sound taking shape, which is really exciting, so the next few albums you'll start to hear our unique sound grow into a more solid form of music.
(((o))): How would you describe one of Maschine’s live performances? What do you hope to bring to the experience that you can’t replicate in studio?
Luke: A Maschine concert is very powerful and extremely energetic. I think that’s what we all love the most about being in this band. Every character in the band has something unique to offer so at times it's hard for the audience to know what to look at, so I've been told. We create a real experience for the crowd and take each individual member of the audience on a journey through light and dark passages. I like to come up with different sections or put a different spin on certain parts of songs so that the audience has a unique experience over a studio record.
(((o))): Who are some of the bands that inspire you and, given the opportunity, who would you most like to share the stage with?
Luke: My main inspiration for most of my life has been Francis Dunnery (It Bites). His music has been the soundtrack to a big part of my musical journey. Another big, more recent inspiration of my musical career is Pain of Salvation. Daniel Gildenlöw's music is hard to get into at first but when you delve in deep there's something about that band that no other band has. Both Francis and Daniel aren't scared to try out different styles in their music but they utilise them in such a way that they create their own unique sound and that’s the most important thing, to create your own sound from your inspirations and hopefully that’s what I've accomplished with our debut record. I've possibly been one of the luckiest people in the world to have already played with both of my main influences, Francis and Daniel, but I would love to have a gig where Maschine support Pain of Salvation and then Francis Dunnery's It Bites to headline which can never happen of course but one day hopefully we can get something as close to that, as it's not impossible.
(((o))): The female vocals by Georgia are an interesting addition to your sound. Did you specifically want a feminine voice for some of the parts?
Luke: Yes, to my knowledge there aren't many bands currently that pull off entwining melodic, harmonised vocals. I'm a huge fan of vocal melody, I listen to a lot of older pop songs that incorporate great melody such as 'Zoom' by Fat Larry's band. I love the simplicity of the line but the melody has so much impact and extremely memorable that you immediately sing along. I've been listening to a lot of early Genesis recently and Peter Gabriel's vocal melody is so strong that those melodies remain tattooed deep inside. Dunnery is a huge Genesis fan so I guess that’s why his vocal melody is so strong. In Dunnery's solo albums there has always been very strong male and female vocal harmony and I thought it would be great to get a female voice involved that adds another dynamic to the band and Georgia has a great voice and I think our vocals work great together and match up well.
(((o))): As a survivor in the post-apocalyptic world, your car’s CD player is jammed and you have to drive around listening to the same album for the rest of your life. What album would you want it to be and why?
Luke: Personally, it would have to be Once Around the World by It Bites. Firstly, because I have a lot of good memories with that album growing up and always transports me back to my youth. Again, that album has everything, it has great vocal melodies and a very diverse array of tracks and the title track and 'Old Man and the Angel' take you on the most incredible journey. It Bites don't ram technical ability down your ear they subtly extract it in their songs and execute it in an extremely mature way. For example, I bet most of you didn't know there was something called "metric modulation" happening in 'Calling all the Heroes'. For anyone who's interested, It's a different rhythm which occurs over the original tempo called a cross rhythm creating a new tempo. Now that sounds like a technical thing but it's so subtly put in that it's not about the technical ability, they use it as a tool to vary their music and that for me not showing off and never speaking about these things but knowing what they're doing is a very cool thing which I will never get bored of.
(((o))): Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and congratulations on releasing a truly great album.
Luke: Thank you, it was a pleasure!
Read Grayson's review of Rubidium here.