Machine Head’s Robb Flynn Explains Why He Liked Black Sabbath More Than Led Zeppelin, Recalls Hanging Out With Ian Gillan

The leader and frontman of Machine Head, Robb Flynn, looked back on some of his influences and how he felt about classic rock back in his formative days as a musician. Of course, growing up in the 1980s, “classic rock” was simply known as “rock” back then, as he explained in an interview with Kaza Gastão.

The talk about these influences came up when the interviewer brought up Machine Head’s band name. Although many would think it has something to do with Deep Purple’s legendary 1972 album “Machine Head,” which featured some of the band’s biggest songs, including “Smoke on the Water.”

ROBB FLYNN (MACHINE HEAD) em Kaza! ⭐️ Entrevistado por Gastão Moreira ⭐️ ATIVE a LEGENDA!

“I love classic rock, and it wasn’t called ‘classic rock’ back then,” said Robb with a laugh, adding that it was “just rock” at that time (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs).

However, he added that, for whatever reason, he was “very particular about the classic rock bands” that he was into.

“I was never crazy about Led Zeppelin,” he continued. “I didn’t really care about Led Zeppelin. It wasn’t until way later in my life that I truly appreciated Zeppelin.”

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But at the time, all the a**holes at school liked Led Zeppelin, so I was like, ‘F*ck Led Zeppelin, I like Black Sabbath,’ because they were way more evil.”

Of course, for a young fan of rock music back then, Black Sabbath would probably be more exciting, knowing how incredibly heavy their stuff was for the times.

But among the classic rock bands was also Deep Purple, which, according to Robb, wasn’t that big in California when he was growing up.

“Deep Purple in California wasn’t that popular in the ’80s,” he explained. “It was other stuff that was way more popular, so it was just — for lack of a better word — just off my radar.”

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Concerning his band’s name being the same as Deep Purple’s 1972 album, Robb added that it wasn’t actually inspired by that record. He was familiar with the music but wasn’t all that keen on it at the time. Flynn continued:

“Later on, obviously, I knew that ‘Machine Head’ came from Deep Purple, but I probably haven’t even listened to the record all the way through — like, I’ve heard the big songs ‘Space Truckin” and, obviously, ‘Smoke on the Water.'”

Going more into the matter, Robb then recalled getting the chance to meet Ian Gillan. This happened while Machine Head were mixing their second album, “The More Things Change…” in Liverpool, England. These were the late 1990s, so Gillan was doing his solo record “Dreamcatcher.”

Machine Head - (8x10) Baltimore,Md 7.14.97 (Complete Show)

“I tell you what, I met Ian Gillan,” Robb recalled. “We were in Liverpool mixing our second record, and he was in Liverpool recording a solo album, and we just happened to be at the same studio.”

“He came over into our studio one night, like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, my God.'”

So, what did Ian think of the band’s name?

“And I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that we weren’t named after his band, though I’m certain that he thought that we were. [Laughs]”

Machine Head - (Giants Stadium) East Rutherford,Nj 6.15.97

While they were hanging out, Gillan actually wanted to hear their music and was more than happy to have it blasting at full volume through studio speakers. Robb continued:

“But we just hung out, we went into the studio, and he was like, ‘Play me some of the new songs!’ And so we ended up playing a bunch of songs, and we played pretty, pretty loud. He was probably almost 60 at this point — in his fifties or sixties.”

“We started playing it, and he’s like, ‘Oh, I need that louder.’ And he just literally turned it up to full blast — I mean, the giant studio speakers. We were like, ‘Holy shit, all right, let’s go!'”

Machine Head - Ten Ton Hammer

Of course, they spent the rest of the day just hanging out, with Gillan being the perfect host:

“And he sat there, and he listened to the fucking whole record. And he’s like, ‘Hey, come over to my studio and listen to my solo album.'”

“He was kind of going through a folk phase or whatever, and he came over and ordered just fucking bottle after bottle of vodka, Jack Daniel’s, beer, just chain-smoking cigarettes, the whole… I mean, when we just had the fucking best time telling story after story after story.”

As far as Robb Flynn’s music goes, it’s always been very thrash and groove-metal-oriented. Despite these classic rock influences, he always went into faster, heavier, and more aggressive territories. And that whole world was a complete opposite to the classic rock in many ways, especially in the Bay Area.

VIO-LENCE | Interview 1990 | "Hard 'N Heavy" VHS | Rob Flynn Pre- Machine Head

In another interview from earlier this year, Flynn recalled playing with Vio-lence back in the day and how rough things could get during live shows.

“When I joined Vio-lence we went on a real van tour,” he recalled. “All of our luggage and gear tied to the top of the van with rope, driving across America. By the time I left, they’d gone from playing two sold-out nights at [Oakland rock club] Omni and The Stone to playing to maybe 100 people, and people were throwing silver dollars at us.”

“I was jumping off and fighting dudes. Like everything else, thrash was dying. I got into this fight, and this gang threatened to throw grenades onstage while I played. I laugh now, but it was real and fucking scary at the time.”

Vio-lence (ROB FLYNN) interview , live 1990 (Vostf)

Photos: Santiag A Sole (Robb Flynn 2014), Adam Bielawski (Tony-Iommi 2009-06-11 Chicago photoby Adam-Bielawski)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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