For such a young musician, Luke Machin has already built up a ridiculously impressive CV, having spent time working with Francis Dunnery, Jeff Beck and Rober Plant, no less. However a period of time in the ever revolving cast-list of The Tangent is what really set Luke on the road to Progdom, even if his own band Maschine, then known as Concrete Lake were already making heavy waves of their own. Now with the impressive debut album Rubidium under their belt and with fellow ex-Tangent man Dan Mash also on board, Maschine are set to build on the momentum already confirmed through "Best New Band" awards from Prog Magazine and rave reviews for their debut album. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid talks to Luke to find out more...
Many people will have already had an introduction to both yourself and Dan from your time in The Tangent. How did you guys come to be involved with Andy Tillison and his band?
In 2009 I guested on the Francis Dunnery New Progressive's album 'There's A Whole New World Out There'. He asked me to join him live for a few shows around the UK and I turned up to the London show where he had a few more guests including Steve Rothery and Theo Travis. After meeting Theo, and Theo seeing me play, he introduced me to Andy and that's when he asked me if I wanted to work with The Tangent. Regarding Dan's involvement, shortly after Jonathan Barrett left the band I suggested Dan, who Andy already knew from watching and hearing our own band, as replacement and that's when he also became a member of The Tangent.
However that situation didn't last for a great length of time. How disappointed were you when that line-up of The Tangent, as they often seem to, fell apart?
Well of course we were disappointed but we all saw it coming and it couldn't have carried on like it was...
So, how long had Maschine, or Concrete Lake as the band had previously been known, been going before the link up with Andy?
I started the band when I came down to Brighton Institute of Modern Music, or BIMM, in 2007 and went through many great musicians to finally land upon the band we have today.
I take it that band name is a play on the surnames Machin and Mash?
That's a small part behind the name but mainly it's to do with our involvement with Inside Out. Just before we signed, we agreed to change our name to lose the Pain of Salvation - Concrete Lake - reference. So my dad came up with the name Machine but then we thought about changing it to the German spelling 'Maschine' which happens to also look like Machin and Mash and I-O are a German label, so it all worked out.
Your debut album 'Rubidium' has recently been released to great praise. I'm intrigued by the album title...
The title comes from the 37th atomic number called 'Rubidium' which is highly reactive when it comes into contact with water. Like our music I like to think however the world changes and whatever direction it takes, our music can also react and change with the now. I want our music to stand up for many years to come and not to just get stuck in one era. Rubidium has a half life of 49 billion years which is apparently more than three times longer than the estimated age of the universe. I would like our music to stand up for a long time but 49 billion years may be pushing it a tad!
'Rubidium' is an album with wide and varied styles, with everything from Prog Metal to Jazz on show, something which makes direct comparisons with other bands refreshingly difficult. What would you suggest are the main musical touching points for Maschine?
Well, as you say, it's hard to take direct comparison because there are so many influences. Being a debut album release this was not written within a year, this was composed within four to five, so during that time I was influenced by a lot of different stuff. The music I was listening to then is a lot different from what I am listening to now. When I compose I would take a certain feeling or atmosphere from a song or section, then I would try my best to replicate that but using my own formula, so it wouldn't ever have that direct comparison. I can name some artists who I have been influenced by when composing 'Rubidium'...such as It Bites, Chick Corea, Pain of Salvation, Genesis, Dream Theater, Planet X, Periphery, Steve Vai...
With the album being so varied, do you think you've unearthed the Maschine "sound" yet, or will album number two begin to focus in on one or two more definitive elements of what is on show on 'Rubidium'?
Because 'Rubidium' was written over such a lengthy period and with it having many different inspirations and influences, it does have a wide variation of styles. However, the new material I've currently been working on is certainly more cohesive. I think this is due to me working on it within a shorter time frame and there is an underlining theme running throughout to bring the music and words closer together. I still don't think we've found our "sound" yet but you can definitely hear elements running throughout 'Rubidium' and these elements will be more defined as the albums progress. That's one of the most exciting things about being a musician/composer; listening to your music develop and take shape.
So, can you tell is a bit about the other members of the band please?
Sure, there is Dan Mash our bassist who some of you will know, as we've discussed, from his time with The Tangent but for those of you who are unfamiliar, Dan is an incredible bass player and has a real funk approach. I would say, and I'm sure many would agree, that he's the funkiest bassist in Progressive music right now. Then there's Georgia Lewis on keys and vocals. Georgia and I have previously worked in BIMM's house band and that's where I got to see her multi-instrumental talents. As well as being a great keys player, Georgia has a great voice which you can hear all over our album and she has the Rock Chick image to match. Elliott Fuller on second guitar is an absolute charm to work with as he picks things up super fast and handles pretty much whatever I throw at him guitar-wise. Elliott's personality really comes out onstage with his foot on the monitor, pulling as many faces as myself and Dan with axe in hand - one of the many reasons why he is in Maschine. Finally James Stewart, who is the newest addition to the band, and who replaced Douglas Hamer earlier this year has a natural gift for the drums. And not being the biggest guy in the world like myself, he knows how to hit the drums. Every part is thoroughly worked out and mapped in his head to perfection but still has a raw passion which comes across in leaps and bounds. Just watching the guy live is something special and everyone together, well, you got to come see us live for that!
Now according to what I've read Luke, you been playing guitar since the tender age of 2 or 3(!). I take it you come from a musical family?
That's when I first picked up a guitar yes, or so I've been told. My parents are both music lovers, my dad is into everything from Pink Floyd, Go West, Jay & The Techniques to Steve Vai. My mum the same, she has a very wide taste in music, she has always been a huge early Genesis fan and grew up listening to them. My brother was really into bands like Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers, Faith No More which I love just as much as the Progressive stuff, so all this in one household growing up was pretty amazing. The band that they were all heavily into though and not just my immediate family, literally anyone who came into contact with us, would be infected by Francis Dunnery and his band It Bites. 'Once Around The World' will always be the soundtrack of my childhood along with the other two albums but that one I will always have fond memories of.
You wrote all of the songs on the debut album. Is there a reason the album isn't more collaborative and is this something that will change as the line-up continues to work together?
Well, that's just the way it's been working currently but the doors are open and always have been to any compositional ideas. Other members have brought forward ideas but they have never been a full unit of work, so with more time to focus on them they will be able to come forward and step up to the body of work we have so far.
Lyrically the album is equally diverse, with some songs having quite personal themes. How hard is it to be so personally revealing in this way?
Yeah it's quite a weird process how lyrical content comes to the forefront of the work but at the same time that's the most natural way for me to bring out emotion - my music. Because music is what I have been doing most of my life. It's good because nobody can argue against you and it's like a kind of freedom of speech being portrayed through music.
However other tracks take on a far wider world view. Where does a young band, for example, find the inspiration to write an excellent, insightful song like "Invincible"?
I am always intrigued by fascinating stories about people and their life journeys. I was browsing the internet and came across some memoirs by a man whose life was at a dead end and decided to set sail on the "Invincible Ship" to the Falklands. They way in which he spoke about his journey was very poetic and moving so I wanted to bring his words to life through music and tell his story.
With the band having been together in various guises for quite some time now, you've mentioned that there's a mix of old and new material on this album...
Yes, as I've mentioned some of the tracks are around five years old and some others are more recent replacing even older tracks. There were tracks I thought that would make it to the final playlist that didn't cut it this time around, I'm still working on some of those because they need more attention and I didn't want to just put them out and not do them justice, so you will hear them in full view one day.
So how long did it take the band to record, mix and master the album and how was the experience?
In total it took around five or six months, this is a long time but given I produced everything myself I wanted it done right. It was a great experience recording and editing all the parts together, although extremely time consuming. Ten hour days and working well into the night but I am really pleased with the end result. A lot of artists say "It could have been better", of course it could but those songs needed to be recorded then and the album is a representation of that specific time in our career, so it wouldn't have been right to carry on and for it to sound any different. That's what it sounds like and I am very proud of it. Regarding the production, I wanted it to stand up for a long time against other pieces of music in other eras past and present. I didn't want to spoil it with all the over produced techniques a lot of bands are going for currently. That's just not "our sound". 'Rubidium' is raw and emotional yet polished and packs a punch.
You've mentioned that you've been fortunate to team up with one of the real main players in the Prog market, with the album being released through InsideOut. Did the link the band have with The Tangent help that to come to fruition?
Yes, around five years ago or so, Thomas from I-O asked Andy to find him a young, English, Progressive Rock band. Around that time or just after, I joined The Tangent. I introduced Andy to my originals band, who in turn introduced us to Thomas and said "I've found them". Thomas liked what he'd heard about the band and the music and decided to sign us up to his label. Ever since I first started listening to this kind of music, most of the bands I have loved in this genre have been on, or are currently with Inside Out and to be amongst all this is one of the greatest things to date.
Maschine have been winners of Prog magazine's "Best New Band" category not once, but twice now. Considering your album has only just been released, how have you managed to keep the band at the forefront of the public's conscience during that time?
The album has received great praise from a number of sources and we're very fortunate to have such a loyal fan base who really get behind the band and support us around every corner. Inside Out also have a great promotions team who help reach new fans and encourage new ways to grow our fan base. We're always looking at different ways to expand and 'reach out' to a larger audience (pardon the pun) by making videos and album updates for the fans to keep in touch with the progress of the band.
However, how hard is it being a young band in a genre often seen as "old man's" music?
It's not been hard because some people may think it's "old man's" music, the hard thing is always keeping up the good work because there are so many great bands in this genre young and old. There are a lot of younger listeners getting involved with Progressive music and with our music having a heavier side to it, there's a definite bridge between Metal and Prog. 'Rubidium' has a lot of varied styles where we don't really fit into a certain category but that's because we are influenced by a lot of different music. We took a bit of a risk bringing 'Rubidium' out as our first album; thankfully it has been greatly received. Now it's time to hone in on all the main characteristics that will soon define us.
(Click here to read our reviews of Rubidium)