One Machine is metal band with classic and modern influences, featuring members carefully selected by Steve Smyth. After witnessing these guys live at the recent Belfast date of the 2016 KILLFEST tour of the UK and Ireland, where they landed themselves a support slot to legends VADER and OVERKILL, Rock ’N’ Load didn’t miss the opportunity to find out just who this awesome band where that shook the foundations of the Limelight in Belfast. I caught up with Steve Smyth – guitarist and founder of ONE MACHINE. We discussed the tour, new album – ‘The Final Cull’ how and why he put the band together and what’s next for them in 2016.
Hi Steve, Brenda here from Rock ’N’ Load, nice to meet you and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions.
B: You’re already quite the legend in your own right, having been guitarist for such major bands as TESTAMENT, FORBIDDEN, VICIOUS RUMOURS, NEVERMORE and DRAGON LORD, although your career spans 20 years or so, why so many changes from band to band?
S: There’s always a time to move on, when you’ve either served your purpose to a band, or maybe don’t think there’s much more you can do. And that situation arose in each band I was part of, and ultimately why I would end up moving on after some time. With Vicious Rumors, we had a few major member shifts, and were trying to rebuild when the offer arose to tour with Testament, filling in for an ailing James Murphy. What started as a 3 week tour, turned into a stay of nearly 5 years!
I think my leaving VR in some way might have enabled them to grab a few respected and up and coming musicians to replace departing members, and get them moving in the direction that they’re back to now, the classic sound of the band. We weren’t doing that when I was in the band, the direction was a departure from what fans expected, and it took time to re-grow the fanbase, and win back their oldschool fans.
For me, to tour with Testament and a prolonged and teased premise of an album I might be able to participate in was a bit of a dream come true! And it happened…sort of. A few bits and some songs I worked with Eric arranging turned out on the last two albums, and in the interim when Chuck was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, Eric formed Dragonlord, and I was there for that as well, helping with some riffs and arrangements, and a song or two of my own as well. That was a different experience, a new style of music to explore, and learn from as well.
The situation with Nevermore arose out of necessity as well; I loved the band, they were looking for a second guitarist, we knew each other for a good few years prior to that, so it worked out well. I toured 2 records with them, one of which I helped write (This Godless Endeavor), and we grew that band as far and wide as possible. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with kidney disease just before we were to embark on the second half of an 18 month tour, and I had to leave the tour. Ultimately I left the band for other reasons, but that was a hard one, and I did as much touring with the band as I physically could before I had to step away.
I finished an instrumental album with an old bandmate in that time, growing a different direction for a bit, then started forming what would eventually become One Machine.
Then the call to join another old favorite Bay Area thrash band came along, Forbidden! Ha ha I had played Thrash of the Titans with them back in 2001, so I think they knew I could play the music, and we have it a shot, it worked, for about 3 years or so, co-wrote the Omega Wave album and toured far and wide, until they decided to put the band on hold for a bit.
And One Machine finally came into focus full time. I haven’t looked back since.
B: Did you always just feel that you personally had a lot more to give? Or was the idea of putting your own band together always in the back of your mind causing a lack of self fulfillment?
S: I think the main thing when you join someone else’s band is, you’re joining an established sound, something that I always respected and revered in each of the bands I joined. My songwriting is different from each of the bands I’ve worked with, but in most every case where writing music for the band I was with was called for, I could do it, basically because they were either an inspiration to my own sound. So it worked. Vicious Rumors, Dragonlord, Nevermore, Forbidden, all 4 of those bands I have an album or 2 with, and I think my sound within the sound is there, but it’s obviously not purely coming from me.
The outlet had to come from somewhere, and that was where the idea to form my own band came from. This was on my mind for many years, but I don’t think it caused any feeling of lack of self-fulfilment with the other bands I was with, just the fact that I could paint my own lines, instead of being within someone else’s, was the motivation.
B: What finally convinced you to throw down the gauntlet and just do it, put that dream band together?
S: I think it was timing more than anything. I had already started to develop the songs and the band back as far as 2006, and obtaining members was the key to it all, people I felt would gel good, and could play as well. This took time, and we checked out a number of players who went on to do bigger things, even one who joined us for recording the first album, but ultimately it took finding the right chemistry of people to move it forward to the second album, and make it happen live as well. Which is where we are now.
B: I take it that you had your own material, how frustrating was it not to be able to work on your own stuff?
S: Not frustrating at all, but rather, it was enjoyable to create with those bands together, learn from those situations, and take them as far as they could go on the road, to the fans, and see what they made of it.
B: Where have your musical influences come from?
S: My main influences started with rock n roll bands, AC/DC and Aerosmith; Angus Young and Joe Perry, as well as Brad Whitford and Malcolm Young of course! Those sounds, those songs from the early catalogs and Back In Black, really got me going at a young age. From there, Randy Rhoads era Ozzy, DLR era Van Halen, Yngwie, Dio and both eras of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica (who were brand new when I was playing a few years), Akira Taksaki and Loudness, then the Shrapnel Records movement, and on into inspirations.
B: Who was your biggest influence to get off your ass and do what YOU wanted to do?
S:Judas Priest. My first concert was 1984 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Defenders Of The Faith Tour!
Me and my best friend went to this, and both came out of that show very inspired to start a band and jam like those guys! They played 2 1/2 hours, did 3 encores, and played every song we knew, and put on one hell of a great show! I knew from there this was what I wanted to do.
B: How did you eventually get the current line up together? (Because it’s basically a super group when you look at the past history of the other guys.)
S: I think people look at the first version of the band, read the pedigrees, and think that must be an awesome band! Well, it takes more than your past to make the present and future work, and we’ve learned this the hard way. There have been changes along the way, for the better ultimately, even though they were hard changes. We’ve had 3 people shift in and out of the vocal, drum and bass areas, and to me, Chris Hawkins and Stefano Selvatico and Matt Cherry are the best fit for the band, and it took a while to get there. We’ve lost the drummer who played on The Final Cull, the singer and bassist from the first album, and made some changes to the sound that I wanted to as well, and although we lost some really good guys in the earlier members between albums, we’ve gained in the “getting along” department considerably, and also gained some great new talent as well.
B: How hard was it to find like minded guys to make this new project work?
S: It did take some time, but all good things do, I’ve been told! I’m happy with where things are right now, and we intend to finish out the year together touring The Final Cull, taking it to as many areas as possible.
B: Do you have rigid work ethics?
S: Yes! Ha ha No, I’m about focusing on a sound or an idea once it’s together, and furthering it as much as possible until I have a complete song. Sometimes that sound or inspiration isn’t quite there, might take years to develop, but I won’t release anything that isn’t completed as far as it can go. That said, we wrote the new album largely in the studio!
B: Are you a tough boss? (LOL)
S: Depends on who you talk to! Ha ha Drummers usually have the most complaints about me! But that’s only because I push them the hardest for the absolute best we can get together for the song. Same with everyone else. I don’t settle for “good enough”.
B: Can we talk about the current album, ‘The Final Cull’ which is only about 6 months old now and is the follow up to your critically acclaimed debut, ‘The Distortion Of Lies And The Overdriven Truth’. This is a concept album?
S: In the respect that it is somewhat of a bit of reality and fiction tied together, telling the story of a coming digital age in which those in power slowly replace humankind with technology….that was the intention and the concept and ideas of to Chris and went to work on. The Final Cull is the end result of that.
B: Can you tell me why you chose this subject of humanity and where did the inspiration come from?
S: Because I see humankind as losing its identity in an ever changing modern world, where the basic concepts of respect for all humankind are being lost day on day. The inspiration came before Stephen Hawking made his statement last year that humankind could be overrun by artificial intelligence before the end of this century.
B: Does it scare you the state that the world is in; Our governments etc?
S: Absolutely, you’d have to have your head in the sand or elsewhere not to notice how fast technology is advancing, and the many areas it is beginning to take over human interaction, on a physical level, communication level, many things we are beginning to let technology do for us, as opposed to the ability and time to do it on our own. Government is only one form of the area of disarray, the way I see it. There is more than just a handful of people involved, determining how far or how fast we actually progress in this world, and though I embrace technology for the purpose of good, there are many facets and areas where it is and will be used for the advancement of greed, and oppressive purposes that serve only a small minority. That_ is what The Final Cull is about, essentially. Watching as mankind falsely embraces technology without question, without seriously questioning the true purposes with which this new thing or idea may have been presented. The music industry, for instance, was transformed overnight due to unquestioned advancement of technology….
B: Do you think this is part of the reason you are so driven to make a difference in your life through your music?
S: Well it didn’t start out that way, but it certainly has come along to that recently, awakening to what is happening around me, and not full understanding or agreeing with the reasons why it is there.
My entire purpose for making music is a calling- this is what I feel I’m meant to play, how I’m expressing it is not an act, and what I’m expressing is what’s on my mind right now. Hopefully we see a settling, but as I see things going right now, I think we’re in for a lot more change, and maybe more bad than good.
B: Can you describe for the readers of Rock’N’Load who may be new to One Machine, the sound you have created and why?
S: One Machine is a band I started as an outlet of expression for my songs and lyrical ideas, with a goal of getting some awesome musicians and people together to play with me, help further those songs and ideas, make albums, and tour. It’s metal all the way, and a mixture of various influences I have had in my life that inspire me to this day as well. Some say it’s progressive, some say it’s thrash, some say it’s power metal, others say there’s this and that in there. It’s Heavy Metal, and I’m proud to call it that!
B: You’re an International band, how do you guys get it together for recording, rehearsing etc?
S: We did start out that way, and the end result (debut album) took about 2 years longer than it should have to create, but we got there. Then, rehearsal was very sparse, and lot more communication via email and text, Skype and phone calls was done to help make it happen.
Since the departure of those members in other countries, we now have a UK based band. We’re all over the South of England, from Dover to Bristol, but we base the band in London. When we get together, we make sure to do at least 6-8 hour rehearsals, and for a few days, to ensure everything is tight and ready.
B: Are you currently based permanently in the UK?
S: Yes I have been over in London for the last 10 years.
B: You are currently opening for VADER and OVERKILL, on their latest KILLFEST Uk/Ireland Tour, how did that come about for you?
S: I’ve known the Overkill guys for some time, and when I heard they were touring, I got in touch to see if there were any slots available. There were, and we joined on for as much as we could!
B: Are you having a good time so far? And how has the UK crowd reaction been?
S: It’s been great to tour with two legendary bands that have helped shape two key genres in metal. They’re all good guys, and we’ve been able to work it all out with making sure the show runs on time night on night. We’ve also been able to sneak some headliners and a main support gig to Vader in between offdays as well, creating a 16 date tour across the EU UK and Ireland, so it’s been great!
B: What else does 2016 hold for ONE MACHINE? Any festivals, head liners etc?
S: We are planning more touring across Europe for this year, with dates scheduled to October at the moment, and potentially to the end of the year. We will be doing some headliners for sure, but festival appearances are a big aim for us, as well as support touring as much as we can this year. We would like to have this album heard by everyone, in as many places as we can get to this year. We will be appearing at Bloodstock on the Sophie Lancaster Stage on Saturday August 13th, as well as Mammothfest in October, and coming up May 1st, we’ll be back at Thrashersaurus Festival in Norwich. We have aims to reach European festivals next year, and are working towards that end now.
B: Are you currently working on any other projects? Or Still working with any of your previous bands?
S: I do have an instrumental duo called The EssenEss Project that has been at work on a new album on/off for a few years now. We might just get it out within this year or next, just in time for the 10 year anniversary of the release of our debut album! Ha ha But my main focus is One Machine right now, and it’s all I am planning on doing for the foreseeable future.
That said, I recently provided a guest solo on the forthcoming Vicious Rumors album, that will hit later in the year, and I still do session work for various people as well, largely providing solos for metal bands.
B: If you were to consider a collaboration with any other artist or band who would you most like to work with? And Why?
S: Wow, well most of my heroes are long passed on, so Randy Rhoads, Ronnie James Dio both are high on my list! Ha ha Simply because they had such an impact on me growing up, and as a musician, a huge impact on my vocabulary as well.
As for collaboration, just depends on who it is, and if they’re interested in working together, I’m sure we can make it work.
B: Do you have a message for new fans that you would like conveyed?
S: Thanks to our new fans in Belfast for your support, and to those who have waited since the first album for us to come your way on tour, we finally made it! Stay in touch with us here for tour dates and all informatiom One Machine:
We’ll work on getting back over to you as soon as we can Belfast, stay heavy!
Thank you Steve for an awesome and thorough interview, as always the pleasure is ours here at Rock ’N’ load especially when we are privileged enough to talk with a true gentleman and phenomenal artist. We wish ONE MACHINE the best for the future and look forward to hearing from these guys again very soon. Do yourself a favour and check out the links to the band above and see (and hear) what all the fuss is about, catch one of their shows, you won’t be disappointed! I promise!
Interview By Brenda at Rock ’N’ Load