Maschine is the chosen moniker for the latest UK-based band to catch the attention of the progressive rock community. I didn’t hesitate when I was offered the opportunity to chat with band mastermind and founder Luke Machin.
It is not the greatest of starts to the interview if I’m being entirely honest. I’m playing Maschine’s debut album “Rubidium” so loudly that I don’t hear the phone ringing in the adjacent room. I like to refer to it as research, although on this occasion, the research almost proved to be my downfall. Fortunately for me though, Luke Machin is not one to give up immediately and so he rings again. This time I answer. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, I get down to business by asking the founding member, chief songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist why he chose a career in prog rock.
“Basically”, Luke offers in a quiet voice with a discernible northern twang, “I have been into progressive music for many years. My parents brought me up on bands like It Bites, Genesis, Yes and King Crimson, all those older progressive rock bands. That older prog style has always been in my life whilst I was growing up. I came down to the Brighton Institute of Modern Music and that’s how I met up with all the other guys. It took a lot of time to form the band that we have now and there were a few incarnations prior to Maschine.”
“I knew that I wanted a five-piece band where I could be the lead vocalist and lead guitarist”, Luke continues enthusiastically. “But when I write, I’m not just influenced by prog rock. Prog is a subgenre of many other genres and is influenced by many other types of music. I’m therefore influenced by what I hear and what I love to listen to. And from one day to the next, that could be jazz, rock, metal, Latin, all sorts. That’s why this album is so varied as I’m sure you’ve heard. We’re still trying to find our own sound which is quite interesting and is keeping it fresh for us. This particular album is made up of some tracks that have been with me for four or five years. Obviously I was in to other different genre back then when they were first written. So for that reason alone, the result is much more widespread and varied I think.”
“Rubidium” is indeed a very varied beast. Encompassing everything from pop to metal, jazz to Latin, it is a progressive rock album in the truest sense of the word. It is also an ambitious debut album, made all the more exciting by the fact that Maschine are clearly overflowing with ideas and are not afraid to experiment. Of course it helps if each member of the band is proficient with their chosen instrument. However, as Luke quickly explains, instrumental talent was not the only factor when recruiting band mates.
“I chose the other guys mainly because of their attitudes towards music and their professionalism”, he explains earnestly, referring to bassist Daniel Mash, keyboardist and vocalist Georgia Lewis, drummer James Stewart and guitarist Elliott Fuller. “I mean, their musicianship goes without saying and they’re all great musicians. I have been in bands previously and we’ve all had the drive but when it came down to crunch time and doing all the nitty-gritty stuff like promoting and arranging gigs, all they want to do is play. You can’t play if you haven’t done the leg work before. All the guys in Maschine know this and that’s one of the most important things. We all share the passion, drive and enthusiasm.”
When it comes to the song writing, Luke is firmly in charge. He wrote all the music for “Rubidium” but, as he is keen to point out, he’s not blinkered when it comes to taking ideas and inspiration from the others within Maschine.
“I compose all the stuff”, Luke states relatively matter-of-factly, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. “However I am massively inspired by the music that the other members are influenced by. For example, Dan the bass player, he likes funky soul grooves and he’s kind of a Motown bass player. He influences me by telling me to check things out and I incorporate some of this into the music. To fuse all this together is really cool because there might be a really neat groove going on via the bass with metal guitars alongside and some jazz phrases as well. But I want to keep it true to the Maschine sound. That’s one of the hardest things to do though, to be influenced by things but keep the finished music in line with the band’s sound and identity.”
“Songs start off in limitless ways to be honest”, Luke continues without any prompt from yours truly. “I get influenced by literally anything. Late at night I may be drifting off to sleep and I’ll hear a riff or a melody and I’ll jump up and record it as quickly as I can. I have had it before where I have heard the whole song in my head, but have woken up in the morning and forgotten everything. So I have to get things down immediately whenever possible. There are two main ways that I write. One way is that I get together a whole collection of riffs from different projects and eventually put them all together. An example of this is with “The Fallen” and you can hear that it changes direction quite a lot. The other way I write is to create a song from start to finish. The example for that is the song “Rubidium”.
“I always had it in my head of how I wanted the album to sound like”, Luke offers by way of a conclusion to this particular topic area. “And I’m really happy with the way that it has turned out. You hear people say that they could always make something better but I wouldn’t. If I tried to improve it, I think that it could lose the essence of what it is supposed to be. As an artist, an album is the documentation of a point in your life. We’ve now got that on record, so it would be a bit weird to change it.”
With every other prog album these days exploring some kind of epic lyrical concept, it is refreshing in a way to hear that, as far as Maschine are concerned, the lyrics do not try to overshadow the musical content. Luke explains.
“For me, the music always comes first if I’m honest. Lyrics are important though and I genuinely try to make them important. On this album, the lyrics are about some things that have happened to me in the past, whether that be relating to health issues or relationships with friends an leaving my friends up north to go to Brighton. But I take ideas from other people’s lives. One example is with the song “Invincible”. It is about a guy who went to the Falklands War. He was on the ship HMS Invincible but his best friend was on HMS Sheffield and he got shot down by a torpedo. I read the memoirs online and I found it very moving and emotional. When you write the music, you then get to think about the story that you want to talk about with it.”
Lyrics aside, as you might very well expect, the guitar arguably plays the most important role in the progressive rock of Maschine. In fact, some of the things that Luke does with just six strings will have your jaw hitting the floor. I try not to let my jealousy as a failed guitarist get the better of me as I enquire about Luke’s apparent love for the coolest of all the instruments.
“I am mostly self-taught”, Luke responds with a shy chuckle as I gradually turn greener and greener with envy. “I have been told that I have played the guitar since I was about three years old. There was always a guitar around the house and I would watch old VHS tapes of bands like It Bites and pick things up off them. I had a few grade lessons and passed my Grade 8 when I was 14 or something. Then obviously the music college has taught me some aspects of technical playing but it hasn’t been full-on solid teaching or anything. If you love what you’re doing and it is working, you start to enjoy it more and can begin to play around with different ideas. But I have always loved playing the guitar and I’d rather play the guitar than go out and do other things. I never get bored of it because there is infinite knowledge that you can learn from it.”
It would be a futile exercise to try to identify all the individual influences that crop up within “Rubidium”. That said, one influence is more evident than the rest, both in the rhythm guitar work and vocally. I’m relieved when Luke agrees without flinching or taking offence, not that this was my aim of course.
“Pain of Salvation have definitely been a massive influence on me, particularly in the latter stages of my musical journey. I strive for my own sound but although I have played the guitar most of my life, I have only been singing for a few years. The melodic phrasing of Francis Dunnery is an influence but I’ve been inspired for this album by Daniel Gildenlow’s aggressive vocals and even his lighter stuff. But I could never aspire to be as good as him because for me, he is one of the greatest guys out there vocally.”
After an in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of Pain Of Salvation and their particular music journey, we agree that an ever-changing and evolving sound is almost certainly the very definition of ‘progressive’. With this in mind, will Maschine be unrecognisable come album number two?
“I think”, Luke pauses thoughtfully, “that we will try different things from album to album. But with regard to the next album, it is nearly all written already. It is definitely starting to hone in on what our Maschine sound really is. “Rubiduim” is very diverse and there are several elements within the sound that we want to retain and strengthen. On the second album, we hope that many ideas from the debut will start to fit into place a lot more.”
Maschine must be doing something right because they have managed to get signed to Inside Out Music, the label that I personally consider to be the best when it comes to progressive rock and metal music. Luke agrees before explaining how Maschine and Inside Out joined forces.
“Inside Out is one of those labels that is really doing it for progressive rock at the moment. To be amongst the likes of The Flower Kings, Pain Of Salvation and those guys, you wonder how it all happened. It came about though because I was in The Tangent with Andy Tillison. Thomas (Waber) from Inside Out asked Andy a few years ago to go out and find a young English progressive rock band. I introduced Andy to my band at the time, called Concrete Lake. Andy put us in touch with Thomas and he really liked what he heard. He suggested that we’d need to lose that Pain Of Salvation connection and change the name. We did, changing it to Maschine. We used the German spelling and it’s also a play on mine and Dan’s name as well. We’ve been I contact with Thomas ever since, sending him demos and such. He’s a great guy and the whole team have been really supportive.”
In conclusion to a very interesting and enjoyable conversation, I enquire about live touring plans for Maschine in the coming months, suggesting cheekily that perhaps Maschine and Haken could organise a show in my home town of Ipswich. To his credit and my delight, Luke didn’t decline. Mind you, I think my offer of a guaranteed crowd of three men and a dog made all the difference!
“We’re going to do a few shows later in the year”, Luke replied with a laugh. “We’d like to go out on tour with some young bands and some of the older prog bands as well. But any good gigs that we can create or be a part of would be great. There are definitely going to be some live shows to put in your diary soon though.”
So there you have it. If you have yet to hear the teasers for “Rubidium, head to the band’s official website, www.maschineuk.com. If you like what you hear, the good news is that the album will be out on Inside Out Music on 29th July, so not much longer to wait.