A band ousts a troublesome member and cites the all-too-familiar “creative differences” for making the change.
For Machines of Loving Grace, that expression was all-too-accurate.
“We had a creative split with our old guitarist (Stuart Kupers),” lead singer Scott Benzel said recently, “and soon after that the old drummer (Brad Kemp) decided that he wanted to move out of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, settle down so to speak. He didn’t want to tour anymore.
“So we went ahead and recruited a couple of new guys (guitarist Tom Coffeen and drummer David Suycott). It was an intense transition period for us.”
Kupers’ departure came as the Tucson, Ariz.-based buzzing-guitar rock group was preparing to cut its next Mammoth/Atlantic album, “Gilt.” The Machines felt the retooling was necessary for their sanity’s sake.
“We had personal differences that accompanied the creative differences,” Benzel said, “but it was a situation where one person wanted to go in one direction and the rest of the band really wanted to go in another direction. That was pretty much the culmination. We’re happy to say he’s got another project going.”
Keyboardist Mike Fisher said things are running like a well-oiled Machine should.
“This is a new band only in the sense that we do a lot less arguing,” he said, laughing.
“Gilt,” produced by Sylvia Massy (the former Prince, Tool, Babes In Toyland) and released Sept. 19, is a reflection of the group’s new cohesion. Among other things, Benzel said, they set a few goals for themselves.
“One of the major ones was to translate the live show or things that we like about our live show more directly to the record,” he said. “In the past, we’ve sort of gone off directly from writing on the computer to the studio.
“This time we really made a conscious effort to play the songs live and to find those peaks and valleys you experience with the live show and include those in the songs.”
For Fisher, the mood of the record was “Let’s see where we can take this thing.”
“One of the problems we had traditionally in the band was that everybody’s opinion was so divergent with specific musical directions that there was this constant pull and push,” he said. “Although it created an interesting creative tension, a lot of the times the songs ended up being schizophrenic.”
“Gilt” is a dark and sinister contrast to MLG’s 1993 breakthrough LP, “Concentration.” Benzel said the “Gilt” tracks were written during a somber period.
“A lot of the lyrics were, for me, about the end of a relationship,” he said. “A lot of the songs about relationships are pretty pessimistic.”
What about the source of that pessimism, Benzel’s former girlfriend?
“She occasionally leaves me these cryptic messages on my answering machines,” he said, laughing. “The other day she called and said, ‘I just saw that you guys are playing. I wanted you to know that I care.’ (He laughs loudly again.) I thought that was great. And she drops me postcards every now and then.”