interview by Michael McCarthy
The End machine – that’s how they stylize it – is a new band featuring some familiar players, namely George Lynch and Mick Brown of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, Jeff Pilson of Dokken, Dio and Foreigner fame and Robert Mason of Lynch Mob and Warrant fame. Some listeners will surely look at it like Dokken with Robert Mason fronting the band instead of Don Dokken. Others will look at it like Lynch Mob with Jeff Pilson on bass instead of Anthony Esposito. If you’re just talking specifically about the line-up, you’d be accurate on both counts. However, The End machine’s actual sound is an original one that blends the flavors of Dokken with those of Lynch Mob along with many other influences from all over the musical map. Influences the artists hadn’t necessarily worn on their sleeves before. (Blues, prog rock, grunge, ’70s rock – it’s all in there.) And while the project may have been partially informed by artists of yesterday, the fact of the matter is that the band sounds pretty darn modern, which is a good thing in my book. If the guys had simply made an album that sounded like it could have been recorded in 1991, I don’t think it would’ve been half as interesting as their raw and infectious self-titled debut is. I’m all for bands staying in touch with their roots, of course, but I also enjoy when they observe what’s going on in the current musical climate and let that creep into their sound as well. I think the guys have managed to do both of these things on their explosive debut, which drops on March 22nd. It’s also arguably the heaviest thing the guys have done, both musically and lyrically. All of these things are discussed at length in the following conversation I had with Mason recently. Don’t miss the band’s killer first two singles, “Burn The Truth” and “Alive Today,” as you read on.
MM: First of all, I’ve seen The End Machine stylized a few different ways. Sometimes The End is in all caps and sometimes there’s a colon before Machine and sometimes Machine is in all lowercase letters. So, what is the correct way to display the band’s name?
RM: Capital T, The, capital E, End, and then machine all in lowercase. And if you ask my why, I have no idea right now. That’s the problem when you get four people together and everybody’s got an opinion then you add a record company, and they have an opinion, and then we fight and arm wrestle over everything. In a fun way. We’ll see how it turns out that way. There was never a colon or semi-colon. That was somebody’s… It’s kind of funny, but that’s the way it should be spelled.
MM: OK, cool. Who suggested the name The End machine?
RM: Once again, I think I did, but it came with everybody throwing their two cents in. We had several different things. It’s the toughest thing in the world to name a band. All the cool names have been taken. And at the end of the day, does it really matter that much? I’d rather concentrate on the music anyway. And I didn’t want to have anything where you try to sound too cool or you try to sound too whatever. It was one of those things that were battered back and forth between all the parties involved several times.
MM: I heard a rumor that the band was originally going to be called Super Stroke. Is that true?
RM: I’m hoping this happens less and less, but you’re the first person to ask me that today out of eight or nine phoners in a row here. So, I will tell you this is the definitive answer. Because George Lynch is not a lyricist, when writing song ideas he’ll start with a guitar riff. But for each demo he is sending, just so it’s not song one, song two, song three, George likes to affix kind of joke, or parody, or funny, or what he thinks are interesting titles, to songs so you can identify which one it is. There was one called “Out in the Cold.” There was one called “Last in the Attic” or something like that. He had one called “Super Stroke,” which I thought was funny. And we were doing demos for the record and I hadn’t written all the lyrics yet. So, we’re putting songs together and Frontiers really wanted to name the band and put some press out there. I get it. They were tired of saying four separate names and having to cross reference all the other stuff, but even so someone – it might’ve been Mick – said Super Stroke, it’s right there, and somehow an e-mail got sent to the label. And I was never really for it, but it kind of got out that way. Once again, you’ve got four band members, and several people at the record label, and somebody said, well, if you absolutely have to name it, do this. And it was never really the name of the band. That was a joke title for a song that ended up being something else entirely once I put lyrics and melodies to their musical idea. So, that’s the end of the story. It’s funny, and yes it got out to the press, and now I’ve had to do up-teen damage control conversations.
MM: Ah. Well, thank you for telling me.
RM: No, man, I’m more than happy to.
MM: When The End Machine came together, who suggested the project and how did each of you come to be involved in it?
RM: Jeff Pilson and I had worked together recording the Warrant Louder, Harder Faster record and got along really well. We were always friendly, but never really close. When you’re making a record with a guy, he’s your producer and you spend long hours in confined spaces together and you get along or you don’t. We got along so well that Jeff called me one day – it was not long after they had gotten the original Dokken line-up together and went to Japan and came home. He said, “Well, I don’t know if we’re ever going to do original Dokken stuff like that with the original line up. We’re all pretty busy, but I wonder if you would you ever be into you and I doing something together?” I said, “Sure, let’s see what happens down the road.” He asked George about it because he was doing something with George. George kind of had half a deal in place with Frontiers to do some sort of record. Jeff pitched it to George. Jeff and George called me. I said, “Sure, what have you been writing?” When they started sending me demo ideas I said let’s get Mick and they were thinking the same thing. So, I understand the leap of getting fans to expect it to be like B-sides from Dokken with me stapled on it, but it’s definitely not that. I told them right away, I don’t want to be involved if it’s just gonna be that. Because that would feel like a short cut and I had no interest in doing that. But if it’s got its own legs and its own entity then we’ll see how it goes. And when they started sending me ideas I thought I could do something with them to the degree that it would be a unique animal. The DNA is there. George plays and you know it’s George Lynch. I can’t change my voice so much – I don’t want to. Why would I? But everybody’s got other influences. Jeff Pilson has got a real progressive rock kind of thing and I dig that stuff. I’m a lot more bluesy. George has got his thing. Mick Brown is great at laying down the four on the floor stuff, but he’s got a lot of other chops. And we really tried to make it different. And I think we did. Hopefully, fans embrace it. As I said, I don’t want to reiterate too much, but they will hear the elements of it, but to us it absolutely doesn’t sound like a Dokken record.
MM: No, I don’t think so either.
RM: Or a Warrant record, for that matter. It’s its own thing. I got to stretch my muscles a few times in writing those two Warrant records, the Louder Harder record and Rockaholic, [but] for me, I wanted to stay as far away from that as possible because you don’t want to repeat yourself. And you don’t want people to say there’s that guy doing his thing and it sounds just like this.
MM: I’ve caught Warrant in the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun a few times and I was surprised when I went to see Lynch Mob about a year ago and you were singing for them that night, which I was very happy about. How did that come about?
RM: George and I have spoken a lot throughout the years and he just hit me up Christmas two years ago. I was having a little holiday break and he said would you entertain doing the Monsters of Rock cruise in February. Well, it turned out Warrant was playing a show in Florida the night before then after I was gonna fly home and have a week off. So, it was just the perfect situation that just worked out. [Editor’s note: the Monsters of Rock Cruise was departing from Florida.] I had fun doing that. And the guys that he’s got in Lynch Mob now, we all got along. So, it turned into a few more shows throughout 2018 that just worked out when I had breaks in the Warrant schedule. But as it happens with working musicians, you don’t get too many breaks. So, it worked out for that. I don’t know that I’d be doing any more Lynch Mob shows, mostly because of The End machine thing being different and Warrant being so busy. George has got a good band and he’ll do more Lynch Mob shows. It’s cool. It’s part of my heritage, my first big barbecue was with that band when I was 25, 26 years old. It was cool to do and it gave me a little bit of fun nostalgia – and almost like closure – to sing those songs. And I’m not sure what lead to this, but we do this and, wow, it’s something different. That was another reason why The End machine thing is so cool.
MM: I think it’s a great album. Speaking of which, how many albums did Frontiers sign you guys for?
RM: We’re probably gonna end up doing another one. Past that, I’m not sure. But we’d love it if it could be something that we could do. It’s just about time management for us. If you think about it, this record was recorded on what would’ve been days off. So, all of us got less days off last year than we thought we were going to.
MM: In a way, that’s a good thing, right? People want to see your bands.
RM: I’m thankful for it. I have the greatest job and if people will let me do it more times, that’s cool.
MM: Sure. So, how was the writing for The End machine album handled?
RM: Well, I kind of left George and Jeff alone to come up with as much music as they possibly could. They would send me rough demos and then [with] the fact that we all have different schedules, we would be in different countries on different days at different times. They’d send me two or three in a row every few weeks or couple of months. “Here’s a couple more. What do you think of this one?” Whenever Jeff and George could get together and do some basic tracks. I think a lot of them started off without live drums before Mick was even involved. A drum machine or however you create in Pro-Tools. Sometimes I had working knowledge. Sometimes I’d show up at Jeff’s house to track a couple of songs and I would hear a song for the first time. But I’m always writing lyrics. I’ve always got a full house of words that I thought went well together. So, I’d look through all of my stuff and get an idea for the melody and then I’d say, “Here’s what I’m thinking lyrically for this.” And Jeff and I would work on it that day. So, we pretty much put one song together every day, every time I flew out to his place. Eleven of those later… And we’d start with nothing but a pot of coffee and an instrumental version of a song. And I’d listen to them and say, “OK, I’ve been listening to this one. This is what I think of this one melody-wise and you think this is the chorus, but really this is the chorus.” And then Jeff and I, thankfully, nowadays with Pro-Tools or any sort of computer based recording, it all gets kind of dumped into the digital realm whereby you can cut and paste infinitely. So, we rearranged a bunch of these songs. Almost all of them, we had to do a little arrangement work. Most of George’s stuff, rhythm-wise, kind of came together. I don’t think he had to replay too many parts. I might’ve said to him, “Hey, man, I’m thinking a different thing, can you play this differently?” So, George came in and then did solos. Some of the songs had obvious places where the guitar solos should be. Others did not. He had to wait for me to put melody and lyrics together and then he’d figure it out. Because when George hears what I’m doing he’s sort of re-inspired to re-do some of the guitar work. So, some of that happened as well. And, obviously, you bring Mick in once you’ve got a little bit of an arrangement and it just sounds like Mick. He’s got that brand, you know?
MM: Speaking of Mick, is he still in Don’s version of Dokken?
RM: Yes. Yes, he is. That is why when we do a few End machine live shows this year Mick can’t do the first three so my buddy Will Hunt is. I kind of borrowed Will from Evanescence. And Will plays overseas with an Italian artist who’s an amazing superstar in Italy. Will’s an amazing drummer. And not only that, but he can also sing the background parts that Mick Brown sings. So, it just worked out.
MM: It’s funny, though, that Mick’s working with you guys and he’s also working with Don. I guess he’s good at compartmentalizing or something.
RM: Well, you know, he’s good at what he does.
MM: Did you write most or all of the album’s lyrics?
RM: Lyrics and melodies were left to me, yes.
MM: I really like the lyrics on this album.
RM: I appreciate it.
MM: It’s a different side of you. With Warrant, it’s more like an upbeat, you know, there’s a certain party rock element to it, you know what I mean? Whereas this is a lot deeper.
RM: That’s exactly what I wanted to do and not tread on the Warrant kind of stamp and signature at all. And I’m glad you [noticed] and I hope fans do, too. I’m not trying to be too moody or serious, but that’s what that music brought out in me and I’ve got a bunch of lyrics that don’t really fit for Warrant songs and vice versa. It made me feel really good to do something creatively that allowed other things to get out. Because I’ve done two Warrant records now. And I’m proud of them. I’m just saying that’s one side [of me]. That’s a different job.
MM: Will we have to wait another six years for another Warrant record?
RM: [Laughs] I don’t know, man. To birth another Warrant baby record? It takes a lot of work. I’m not sure, to be honest. That’s a valid question. I’m hoping it doesn’t take that long, but we’ll see. These days you’re not under that record company pressure or constraint to, you know, to do a record, tour, record, tour… The band’s 30 years old now, and it’s the 30th anniversary of Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, so in the Warrant live set we do the first seven songs in succession in the same running order right off Dirty Rotten. That’s fun to do and the fans dig it.
MM: Getting back to The End machine, there’s a lyric in “Leap of Faith,” that goes, “all the lies / all for truth,” which I really like. But what do you mean by that?
RM: [Laughs] It’s funny between that and a song called “Burn the Truth,” I’ve been asked a lot of questions about lyrics lately. I love leaving things open for people. I love dichotomy and I love darkness and light, and night and day, and lies and truth. I love when people can draw their own conclusions from lyrics and I often times don’t like to say, “This means this. And this means this.” It’s less of a journey for people. And I love symbolism and allegory and being able to have more than one direct meaning. You’ve got the obvious one but then you’ve got a few you can draw from it.
RM: “Leap of Faith” is the only relationship song. I really didn’t want to write too much of that kind of thing. But that one just came up. “Leap of Faith,” to me, when I had it as an idea, I didn’t even think it was gonna make it. Because I thought it was a little too cliché and I don’t like using overdone clichés. I wanted to stay away from that. But Jeff Pilson absolutely loved the first version of the lyrics that I wrote for it. So, it just works. Yes, it’s an overused cliché, but it’s an overused cliché because it works. For me, the way a word sings, or the way a phrase comes out with a melody means a lot as well. [It’s] forever kind of hamstrung. It’s not just poetry. I’ve got to be able to sing this shit. You really, actually have to. That’s a component of it.
MM: Can I just ask you, though, on “Hold Me Down,” it seems to tell a story and my interpretation is that it’s about someone successful who became so caught up in their own ego that they eventually crashed. And now they’re becoming great at what they do again and they’re afraid they’ll get caught up in their ego again. Is that far off?
RM: That’s really cool because, once again, that one is semi-autobiographical. It’s not about any real, cataclysmic event. And lyrics can be about how you’re feeling about a certain thing on a certain afternoon, or at a certain age, or on a certain day, or in between. And that one I tried to do a little bit more of offering up real personal feelings. Getting caught up in your own b.s. And I’m making fun of myself. There’s a line that says, “a whore for more of the spotlight / with nothing to bitch about.” I realize I have the greatest job in the world. I worked really hard and I still do. To try to do my best and be hopefully good at what I do. At the same time, you’ve got people around you [saying], “I said this brand of mineral water. This is not even the right temperature.” And you look at people – and I’m not ever gonna name drop or point people out – but everybody knows when there’s ego and money and art and commerce all pushed together in the same thing, you get the temperamental, egotistical, whatever you want to call them, rock stars. I look at it like this, David Bowie was a rock star. I play in a band. I don’t walk around on rose petals and ask people to kiss my ass and yes and no sir and that. I couldn’t care less about that. Yes, I’ve got a guy who brings my guitar on stage. He’s my guitar tech. If I didn’t have to stand there and talk to the band, I’d probably go get it myself. The thing is, the crew works super hard helping us do what we do. I’m just a mouthpiece. Sometimes you get that, my airplane is delayed and stressful this and stressful that, and then you look back and you’re like I play music in a rock band for a living. I get paid for this. And I have days off. And I live in a beautiful area of the world. And I get to have fun. And a pretty damn good life. So, that song, it starts out, “my pocket’s filled with rocks / to keep me on the ground.” Once again, your inflated head or ego – it’s me recognizing those things. Keeping myself in check in real time. And not trying to be one thing or the other too much. Trying to be as real as possible.
MM: Sure. That makes sense. I won’t ask you about specific lyrics anymore –
RM: – [Laughs] No, you may. You certainly may. And I don’t mean to be off-putting.
MM: No, no, you’re not.
RM: We’re good. Cool.
MM: I just wanted to say, in contrast to the dark lyrics on the album, I actually find “Bulletproof” and “Ain’t No Game” to be inspiring lyrics.
RM: Those are meant to be somewhat empowering. You know, granted, it’s a little pompous. As I said earlier, it’s feeling a certain way on a certain day. Sometimes you feel bulletproof. And it’s like, you’re not comparing yourself to anybody else, but you feel great. I’m glad you took it that way because certain times you get a fan who says, “He thinks he’s pretty cocky. He thinks he’s all that.” It’s like, no, c’mon, everybody’s had a day where you have great things happen. “This is awesome.” And you feel pretty glad. And it might not be about me. I don’t write from first person all the time.
MM: I get that. So, do you think The End machine will at least play the Wolf Den at Mohegan?
RM: [Laughs] You think anybody would show up unless we said who the band members are? It’s kind of funny. I love playing the Wolf Den, actually. Out of my ten years with Warrant, I think I’ve played there nine times. I had a cousin show up out of nowhere one time. He didn’t even tell me he was gonna be there. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years because he’s on the East coast. So, I get a note downstairs and I realize my cousin’s upstairs and say, “Dude, come down. Come down and have a beer with the band.” You never know. Our schedules are so complicated that it’s an exercise in calendar time management to put live shows for this band together. You know, there’s three on that weekend in April, April 4, 5 and 7th at the Whisky in Hollywood, Vamp’d in Vegas and then a new club in Tucson called Encore. But, you know, in the middle of that I have to leave first thing Saturday morning from Vegas that day on the 6th and fly to Green Bay and do a Warrant show. And then fly back for the third End Machine show in Arizona.
RM: It’s tough to do.
MM: You must get a lot of frequent flier miles.
RM: [Laughs] Yeah, I do. A lot of those.
MM: At the end of our interviews we always ask a few random questions. Is that cool?
RM: Sure. What’s the capital of Wyoming? [Both laugh] Oh, you mean you’re gonna ask me? [Laughs]
MM: Yeah. [Laughs.] Are you currently binge-watching anything or have you otherwise recently enjoyed a series?
RM: Let’s see. I listen to a lot of talk radio and old records and things like that. But Barry. Do you know Barry? Barry is a contract killer who takes a gig – it’s Bill Hader. Do you know Bill Hader?
MM: Yeah, I know who he is.
RM: It’s funny. I was in Manhattan and I walked right past him. We crossed paths and almost knocked into each other one day when he was first on Saturday Night Live. And only later I saw a Saturday Night Live episode and I was like, dude, that’s the guy I almost ran headlong into on 48th street, Broadway, when we were both on our phones. So, Barry is a contract killer who’s ex-military and has depression and all sorts of problems, not knowing where he fits in. He gets hired by somebody. He’s a contract killer. And he goes into L.A. to do a job and he ends up taking a random acting class. It’s convoluted and he ends up liking acting so he thinks he’s gonna be an actor. Comedy and drama ensues and it’s very cool. I love comedy stuff so there’s a series called Schitt’s Creek that I think is just fucking hysterical. Eugene Levy and his son Dan are the writers.
MM: Cool. I’ll have to check these out.
RM: They’re pretty damn fun. Obviously, I’m a little bit of a Walking Dead fan. I watched that from the very beginning. And not much of anything else, honestly. I’m addicted to whatever HBO or Showtime show is out there. I thought Ballers was pretty cool with Dwayne Johnson. I watched a season or two of that. I have friends who play pro sports so I kind of understand that world, too.
MM: What do you do to work past writer’s block?
RM: Oh, shit. Sometimes I just let it happen. And just ignore it for a little while. If I ignore it, it’ll go away. You figure out after a little while what things inspire you and what things allow that part of the brain [to work]. For me, it’s like the stressful parts of life melt away if I’m on a motorcycle, or I come up with ideas in the shower, or I take trips up to Nashville to write with country writers and get like a different perspective. That reignites the muse and inspiration. I wake up every morning with a cup of coffee – I mean, I wake up every morning so far, which is great –
RM: But, you know, I’ll wake up in the morning, make a pot of coffee and sit down with a guitar or my piano and just try to write and do that as many days as possible. And then on airplanes I’m sitting there bored and I’ll write lyrics, you know? For me, if I keep at it, something eventually comes out that I’m happy with. And if it doesn’t, I go maybe not today or maybe later, maybe tomorrow.
MM: Have you had any hits with your writing with country artists yet?
RM: No, there are a bunch of songs. Some are gonna get cut. One or two have been, but it was mostly with friends who do that for a living as writers out there and then the cool thing about Nashville and that whole scene is if you have a good experience writing with one of them then they kind of say, oh, you’ve gotta meet this guy. It’s not closed at all. They’re really into finding more inspiration. And you kind of realize the people you get along with and the ones you might not get along with so great pretty quickly. Everybody is a pro and they’re really friendly and they’re really into the craft. They’re really into the songwriting craft. So, it’s been all over the map. I mean, I guess I do it more as an exercise to learn and make myself creative. To keep myself creative. And they’re such great musicians out there, too. A lot of the session players are just amazing. And it’s that as well. When you’re around people that play [like that] you feel like you’re the least talented guy in the room. Because you know you’re among people who are badass and awesome and it makes you rise to what you’re capable of. So, that’s more why I do it than anything. I’m not out there going, I’ve gotta write a hit that I need x and x artist to cover. That isn’t the mindset.
MM: How long do you have to be out on the road before you start getting homesick?
RM: [Laughs] The second the plane takes off out of Phoenix sometimes. It’s not that I don’t love what I do. But I live in a place where the weather’s beautiful and I get back and have fun. I’m around friends and I’ve got motorcycles and hot rods and stuff. I miss that stuff. You know, the thing is that I like what I do and I know these days I’m coming back in a few days so it doesn’t really set in. I remember being away though, on the first couple of long bus tours you do, you’re like, oh my God, I’m still out here. But I never really got depressed about it at all because every day you’re in another city and I’ve got a pretty enviable position for me. Not for everybody, but I love what I do. The cool thing about touring and being away is that there’s always something interesting around the corner. You just have to go find it. And I’m a fan of going out on the day before a show, or a day off in a certain city, and experiencing things. Not just sitting in hotel rooms.
MM: What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?
RM: Wow. OK, let’s see… I’ve got all the SAG Awards screener copies. I have for years. So, I’m guilty of watching movies at home or on planes or whatever. I did go see Bohemian Rhapsody because I wanted to see it in the theatre. I had the screener’s copy of that. I got that in January for the SAG Awards, but I was around, and I grew up a huge Queen fan, and before I even watched the screener’s copy I had a day off and I went to a matinee.
MM: I really liked it.
RM: You know, they have to take certain liberties to Hollywood-ize movies and I understand and they’ve got agendas, and there’s a lot of back and forth about that, but, honestly, I was a fan of the music first and the story second. So, whatever liberties they took with the real story chronologically or whatever… I see those as they happen. I go, OK, that’s not really how that happened and blah, blah, blah. But you can’t just criticize on that level too much.
MM: Are you looking forward to that Motley Crue biopic The Dirt?
RM: Yeah, I am, actually. It’s funny, we were shooting The End machine video. Those videos, two days in a row. And the wardrobe girl had just come from working on that. It’s a Netflix thing, right?
RM: The wardrobe girl brought a bunch of [the clothes]. I show up for the video and I see a pair of black leather pants sitting there on a rack and I look and she goes, yeah, those were made for one of the actors in a movie I just did but they were too small. And she just had all of her clothes; wardrobe people carrying around racks and racks and racks of clothes. And I said, cool, well, let me try those on. She says, “Well, they’re really tight.” And I go, I think I can work this. And I ended up stealing those and I wore them in The End machine video. I think those were on “Alive Today,” the first single.
MM: Are there any other videos coming out?
RM: We did a video that came out last week for a song called “Burn the Truth.” It was a lyric video. I love that song so much and that was really personal to me so that was kind of my consolation prize. Frontiers wanted to use “Leap of Faith” and “Alive Today” as the two video singles and I thankfully coerced them into making a lyric video for “Burn the Truth.” And then coinciding with the release I imagine they’ll release the video for “Leap of Faith.”
MM: One last question, which I ask everybody. If you could resurrect any one musician from the dead and they’d be happy to be back, who would you bring back and why?
RM: And they’d be happy to be back? Wow. Hmm. That’s a really tough one for me. There are all the obvious ones, but we lost Janis Joplin too soon. She was headed down a really bad path. And I loved her so much. Even as a little kid. I mean, God, honestly – shoot, this is really difficult. Steve Marriott died too soon. Just because those are some of my heroes. Dude, I don’t know. That’s a tough one.
1. Leap Of Faith
2. Hold Me Down
3. No Game
5. Ride It
6. Burn the Truth
7. Hard Road
8. Alive Today
10. Sleeping Voices
11. Life Is Love Is Music
Catch THE END machine on tour on the U.S. West Coast this April.
+04/04/19: Los Angeles, CA @ Whisky A Go Go https://bit.ly/2M1pElN
+04/05/19: Las Vegas, NV @ Vamp’d https://bit.ly/2sh5yKW
+04/06/19: Tucson, AZ @ Club XS https://bit.ly/2CczjRN
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I’ve always thought Robert Mason was the best Lynch Mob singer. I’m not crazy about him in Warrant because they’re too much of a party band for someone who can write much deeper material like on The End Machine’s album which I bought Friday and must have played 10 times already. Frontiers puts out a lot of bands that only make albums and don’t tour or anything and they’re usually mediocre. Not the case with The End Machine at all thankfully.