A sit down with SYSTEM MACHINE: an interview with frontman Rab Meharg!
[Blaster] Hi Rab, thanks for your time! How did the band come together?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: We formed in 2016 originally as a small side line project but as the years have past it has become the main musical focus for us. We put all our time and effort into System Machine and 2020 has seen us move things up a notch. This year and next year are going to be a very busy for us. We’ve just released a new single which is part of our debut EP that we’re releasing later this year and as soon as we finish promoting that we’re going back into the studio to record an album so it’s all hands on deck at the moment.
[Blaster] Describe the band or the band’s music in one sentence?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: Probably the best way to describe us and our music is to say that we are a socially conscious dark electronic/industrial metal band.
[Blaster] As a band, is there one person who is the leader (so to speak) or do you work and write together tossing ideas around? How do you stay focused as a band and to avoid common band disagreements in all facets, including writing, recording and making the decisions?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: It really depends as we each have different elements we’re good at. We each bring something different to the table. We avoid band disagreements by each being assigned tasks based on who is best suited for that task and each member accepts that. It makes the process of writing and recording so much easier. Also for us it’s extremely important to have people working with us that we know we can trust to give their all to the band and we’re so lucky to have a team who’s view of our band is just like our own. We have a really great team around us and it is because of them that we are able to dedicate so much time and have so much space to focus on the music.
[Blaster] Do you collectively have a favorite album?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: We don’t really have favourites in regards to our own songs and we haven’t recorded an album yet but I’m pretty sure that when we do have a few albums under our belt we won’t be able to pick a favourite. For us each album/song is a documentation of where a band/artist was at that time in their musical journey which would make it really hard for us to pick one of our own when the time comes. As for a favourite album by other bands/artists there are far to many great albums out their to pick one over the others. We’ve been inspired by so many great albums and artists from multiple genres. That’s the beauty of great music. It can defy genres and styles which means you can find yourself listening to albums by artists in genres you normally wouldn’t be a fan off.
[Blaster] Is there any hidden meaning in your music?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: I wouldn’t say there is any hidden meaning in our music. Given the fact that we are a socially conscious band we’re pretty upfront with what we mean in our music. Our lyrics tend to be to the point and in our videos we try to let the visuals help reiterate the subject matter of the song. We work with a really talented visual director who creates all our artwork, photography, the artistic vision of our music videos as well as the look and style of the band. I think that this visual aspect combined with the lyrical content of our songs shows the meaning of our music and our band in a kind of ‘pull no punches’ manner. It’s important to us that the message of the music is there for all to see and hear.
[Blaster] For upcoming bands, can you tell us what the secret is of keeping a band together for so long?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: My advice to any band member would be leave your ego at the door and always remain a servant of the song. If you’re a servant of the song then you’ll always do what’s best for whatever it is you’re working on within the band. The whole is more important than the sum of its parts. That’s not to say each part/member is not important, they are but each member is a cog in the machinery that makes a band. Also to remember that every other member’s point of view is just as valid as your own and sometimes from listening to that point of view your band and your music can go in a really cool direction it might not have done if you’d ignored the opinions of the other members of your band. Most of all though I’d say having love and respect for your fellow bandmates is the most important part of keeping a band together, Just like in any type of relationship because that’s what being in a band is. It’s a type of creative relationship and it should be treated as such.
[Blaster] Where do you find your artistic inspiration?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: From the world around us. We watch what’s going on in our society and try to view it through a truthful lens. We know that some people may disagree with what we write about and that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but we also believe it is important for us to present our views in our songs in the most genuine and honest way we possibly can. There’s a lot of division in society at the moment over a multitude of different things and there seems to be absolutely no will to find some common ground. It’s our view that it’s only through meaningful dialogue with a view to finding the middle ground as a method of solving problems that we can really tackle the really important issues facing the world today. We know that this type of dialogue works. It worked here in Northern Ireland. That’s how our peace process came about. People with diametrically opposing views had to sit down, converse with each other and hash out an agreement which they did much to the surprise of many. The fact that it worked here gives us hope that it can work in many other places and in many other instances which is a constant source of inspiration for us to play whatever small part we can in trying to make that happen.
[Blaster] Any plans for new music? When can we expect a new album or EP?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: We have a new single out right now. It’s called ‘In Dust We Trust’ and we released it on the 26th of September of this year. It is the first single from our debut EP ‘Confirm Humanity’ which is being released later this year. We’ve also written about 70% of our debut album which we will be starting to record as soon as we’re finish the majority of the promotion we’ve to do for the EP release. As I said earlier it’s going to be an extremely busy next few years for us which is really cool.
[Blaster] Where can people see you perform next? Do you have a 2020 tour scheduled yet?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: Due to the Covid 19 pandemic all our gigs and tours have been postponed until further notice. We’re hoping to be back on the road again in 2021 but just like every other band out there we have to wait and see what happens with Covid 19 before we can commit to anything which really sucks as we love playing live and really miss it.
[Blaster] Tell us about your latest song. Was it specifically inspired by anything or anyone? Where was it recorded??
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: Our latest single is called “In Dust We Trust” and it is in some parts a reaction to the global health crisis as well as all of the discontent that’s been felt around the world but mostly it a song that asks whether the way we’re living is sustainable and wonders if whether the choices we have and have not made as a global society have lead to widespread human negligence. It also asks whether we’ve got what it takes to adapt to crises and can human beings make sacrifices for the common good? We ourselves don’t have the answers to these questions but we believe that society needs to find the answers and soon.
[Blaster] What is one musical goal that you have had for this year?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: To get our EP out, finish writing and recording our debut album and to hopefully be able to plan some shows for next year. 2020 has been an extremely difficult year so far for bands and artists. With all the venues closed due to Covid the gigging side of our industry has completely ground to a halt which is affecting some bands and artists greatly. It’s our hope that something can be done to help bands and artists that are struggle during this time and that the time comes sooner rather than later when we can all return to putting on shows safely. If we could do that we’d be more than happy.
[Blaster] Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: The name happened pretty easily. It just popped into my head one day and that was that. Band named! I think we probably knew right from the start that we could be in this group together. We all share a love for similar styles of music, we’re all socially conscious and we all share a similar outlook on life and the world around us which makes being in this band a seriously enjoyable experience. We’re very lucky that way.
[Blaster] Do you all hang out socially apart from the music? When you aren’t working on music, do you guys hang out for fun?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: Yeah we hang out together all the time. We’re a real team. If we’re not making music we’re talking about or listening to music. We’re all music obsessed. If one of us finds a new song or band that we’re really into the first thing we do is send it to the others. We really do share in each others love of music and art. It really is a great thing to have that as a band because not every band is like that. Some bands only get together when it’s time to write, record or perform. We’re not like that. We’re friends as well as bandmates. I understand that our way doesn’t work for every band but for us it makes perfect sense to hang out together plus I think we’d probably bore other people as all we do is talk about music.
[Blaster] Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: I’d say we’re probably 50/50 on that one. We love being in the studio writing and recording. Getting creative in the studio is a major part of what we do. We also love performing. There isn’t anything quite like the buzz of playing live although with all gigs postponed indefinitely due to the Covid 19 pandemic we’ve been spending a lot more time writing and recording but we do miss playing live.
[Blaster] What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs??
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: We hope the message of our music is to not view the world around us through rose tinted glasses and not to disguise the truth. We hope our music helps shine a light on the truths within our society that we all know are there but don’t really like to talk about. There are conversations that need to be had on a global level that aren’t and we hope to play our part in trying to start those conversations or at least highlighting them in some small way. There is an element of burying our head in the sand within our society. We’re all guilty of it to some degree and we need to take our heads out of the sand so that we can take a good look around us. Once we do that then we should be able to have all these difficult conversations.
[Blaster] Are there any funny stories that happened to you while traveling together, that you want to share with our readers?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: We were once verbally attacked outside a venue by a drunken shopping centre Santa! It was a daytime gig and we were hanging around outside just after soundcheck when this very drunk guy in a Santa costume came stumbling towards us. When he noticed us he started shouting and screaming at us. Maybe he didn’t like the way we looked or something. We weren’t quite sure what he was shouting about as he was very drunk and not making much sense. Unfortunately a lady with two small children came walking by as this was happening which horrified the children so much it prompted one of them to ask her mother why was Santa shouting at those weird looking people! It was like a scene out of an 80’s comedy and a moment we’ll never forget. Thankfully he got bored shouting at us and walked on. Hopefully those young kids got over witnessing that incident.
[Blaster] Would you like to give any message to your fans?
Rab Meharg/SYSTEM MACHINE: Thank you so much for supporting us. It means a lot to us. It’s through people going to our shows, listen to and buying our music that we’re able to make a living doing what we love. We never forget that and are so lucky and grateful to have the support we have. Also we are so glad there are people out there that are enjoying our music. We have a lot more to come!