“He was jumping on my bass drums and yelling at me to play harder,” says Machine Head drummer Dave McClain about production wiz Ross Robinson, who produced the metal band’s 1999 album The Burning Red. “Our guitar player at the time was just standing there quietly during the sessions, so Ross smacked him in the head, the headphones went flying, and Ross yelled, ‘Come on!'”
The hard-ass approach paid off, as Robinson inspired the band to forge a mighty metal statement. But even with Robinson’s “cheerleading,” McClain kept things reasonably low-key. “I wanted to get rid of my drummer’s ego and not really show off.”
And while he pushed the envelope a little more on 2001’s Supercharger, McClain feels he wasn’t exactly a hyperactive monkey on that record either.
Eventually, however, something snapped, and snapped hard. On the band’s most recent disc, Through The Ashes Of Empires, McClain (who plays a six-piece Pearl Masters Custom kit and Zildjian cymbals) offers some of his most aggressive drumming to date. “I wanted to show off,” he admits. “We really got our blood boiling this time.”
Machine Head frontman/guitarist Robb Flynn handled production for Empires, and McClain’s pounding on “Imperium” was partly inspired by Flynn’s tough-guy production style. “It was one of those times when Robb was really pushing me,” McClain recalls. “There’s some pretty fast double bass work towards the end of the cut. I was really trying to work on my double bass speed, and he was like, ‘Come on, you can do it!’ And I was like, ‘Well, sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.’ He kept pushing me to the point where we’d fight. But that song came out killer. It’s the kind of drumming I want to do from now on.”