MX MACHINE – Manic Panic on the road to the Devil’s Highway

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Though Hollywood is considered to be an ‘entertainment city’ where glam rock made a name for itself, Los Angeles can be said to be known as a ‘metal city’ where born from the dark belly of the L.A. streets came metal bands like Metallica, Armored Saint, Slayer, Megadeth and MX Machine.  MX Machine has shared the stage with rock n’ roll heavyweights such as Saxon, Accept, Helmet, Y&T, Agent Steel and Mushroomhead to name a few.  There are literally hundreds of other metal bands out there today, but to have bragging rights to say you were a part of history, which helped lay the groundwork for what was to become one of the most successful eras of that genre, must feel pretty special to the members of MX Machine.  Vocalist and bassist, Diego Negrete, guitarist Dan Sindel, rhythm guitarist Teri Spiker and drummer extraordinaire John Ayala, couldn’t agree more while having dinner on a warm September night at Bric’s Ramp, in Burbank, CA.

“MX Machine was a concept that I used to toy around with when I was in high school,” explains Negrete, “with one of our original drummers, Danny Anaya.  I say one of our original drummers, because John Ayala sitting right here, was also one of our original drummers; he did the first demos for us.  High school started ending for me and my friends and I started putting this concept together; you know, ‘lets put a band together’.  We were originally called MX.  So, I started going around to my friends and people we had already been jamming with– I had already been playing with Mitch Rellas and Danny Anaya for years but we just never got our shit together.  Then, Danny Anaya said, ‘forget this’ and went over to Abattoir, which meant we needed a drummer so we came to Johnny.  We did our original demos with Bill Metoyer and that was very cool because Johnny was a part of that.  So I say let’s put this thing together, and we did.  We did rather quickly!  Armored Saint were friends of ours growing up in high school and junior high.  Hell, Johnny’s known them even longer!”

“I lived across the street from Gonzo and Phil,” says Ayala, “and they were the ones that pretty much; when you grew up in El Sereno, you were one of three people; you were either an athlete, an academic, or you were a Cholo.  So if you were an athlete; after you became old enough, then you were a musician; most of the athletes became musicians.  It was kind of crazy but that’s what happened you dropped the ‘athlete’ label and went to ‘music’—I would love to get the guys together for a softball game but we might break a leg or two!”

“During the late 80s, I was part of the scene but in a different band,” says Sindel, “I was with Stone Soldier.  We had done plenty of gigs with MX Machine. We were all pals; we partied together and celebrated all our birthdays etc.  So about 2 years ago Diego called me up and asked if I wanted to help out and play lead guitar and help keep the band going.  It seemed like fun so I agreed. I am holding the torch for the old-school, so to speak, as all the original MX boys were all good pals of mine.”

“We started playing shows in Hollywood; our first gig was at the Whisky A Go-Go and it was just incredible; it was off the hook,” enthused Negrete, “because we were doing pre-sale shows and we knew we had to do pre-sale shows.  It’s the nature of rock n’ roll; since the beginning of rock n’ roll.  But it paid off because instead of selling our tickets in the normal way we would throw ‘kegger’ parties in the afternoon and all the kids would come to the kegger parties and they’d just get completely wrecked.  They’d buy tickets from us and they’d flood the show and we would destroy these clubs together with our friends from South Pasadena, El Sereno, and Alhambra.  We had a really cool circle going with all the bands.  We were there; we got signed right away to Restless/Enigma.”

After signing with Restless/Enigma, MX Machine released Manic Panic, in 1988.  The band continued to gain recognition and became infamous for their alcohol fueled shows leaving some clubs apprehensive about letting the band into their venues yet despite being banned from clubs here and there, MX Machine continued to tour in support of their debut release packing every club they played.  Just around a year after ‘inking’ their deal, the members of MX Machine walked into the offices of Restless/Enigma and asked to speak with the president of the company as Negrete explains.

“We were very arrogant and very cocky because we were bad-ass!  We were very young and naive and I say that because here’s the lesson that I need to tell kids today.  We were so arrogant that we thought we deserved better; we deserved more, so right when Restless was ready to do our second album, which would have put us into the history books, we went to the president of the label, sat down in the office and said, ‘We don’t want to be on Restless anymore.  Thank you.’  And we walked away.  He thought we were gonna talk about the next record!  He fell back behind the desk–the president of Restless/Enigma.  He was just thrown back and we walked out of that building like we thought we were the shit;  ‘Oh everybody’s gonna love us it’s going to be a bidding war.  We’re going to sign to Elektra.’  Fuck no, ya know they released us and it was like cutting a rope and letting the raft of MX Machine go off into the ocean.  And it led to our demise.  We pretended to be fine for a couple of years; we did everything we could.  We did Screamer ads and doing what we had to do to get signed but are you kidding me?  By then our reputation was gone and record labels…the heavy metal world was dying.  Kurt Cobain was stepping in with some of the most incredible music ever written.  And the rest is history and kids need to know that…don’t fuckin’ count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

Negrete didn’t put his band back together until 2007, when he was urged by fans and friends. They started asking when the band would play again.  Negrete became very aware that MX Machine still had history yet to be written but the only way to make it work again, would be with people he knew from back in the day; from his circle.  His decision has paid off as everyone seems to be of the same mindset; a much older and wiser mindset.  His association with Teri Spiker goes back many years as well as his friendships with Sindel and Ayala.  “This is Diego’s vision,” says Spiker, “I’m chasing like these other dreams and doing this other stuff living my life and living it large, right; having a good time.  Diego hits me up and says ‘I’ve got this project are you still playing?’  And I’m like…’Once in a while’ so he explained the project to me and it sounded like fun and I’m down for a good time so yeah, I’d love to play again.  So that’s why I’m in it and Diego sold it to me.”

The time seems right for MX Machine to make their second coming apparent; Manic Panic was just re-released through Rhino Entertainment/Warner Music.  When Negrete found out in 2007, that Warner had acquired the entire Enigma catalog, he started negotiating to have the CD released again and his diligent work paid off.  In 2011, the band went into the studio with prominent Los Angeles record producer Bill Metoyer, (W.A.S.P, Slayer, Fates Warning, Flotsam and Jetsam, Corrosion of Conformity) and their efforts produced a four song EP entitled, Devil’s Highway, which is available for purchase on their websites, iTunes and Amazon.  Just this past month, the band announced their addition to the 2013 Headbanger’s Open Air Festival in Germany and MX Machine is currently working on new music as the New Year draws closer.  “We are in the process of writing new material and I am happy to be part of the process and lend my ideas to the mix,” quips Sindel, “my guitar style brings a different sound and style to the band but once we lock in on the riffs and all our personalities shine through, it sounds pretty devastating.”

The members of MX Machine have a pretty good idea of how they want to handle the adventure this time around.  Negrete has no illusions about who MX Machine is today and what he’d like to accomplish.  He doesn’t care about selling a million records but he’d like for a million kids to know who MX Machine is.  “I want kids to want to hear us and have the opportunity to download our music,” states Negrete with excitement and determination, “it’s time for MX Machine to give our brand of rock n’ roll to history in a very minimal and limited way because we’re not Metallica, we’re not Led Zeppelin…we never will be but hey, we are who we are and we’re going to have a good time doing just that.  I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to have this again.  I’m blessed that the name MX Machine will come out again; it’s pretty neat and it’s an honor to talk with Screamer Magazine again after all these years and cheers!  It’s big… it’s big time so we’re stoked.”

With dinner packed in ‘to-go’ boxes, we walked to our cars contemplating one last thought Negrete left us to ponder.  “Metallica went to the bay area; thrash developed in the bay area–you know, bands like Exodus, Metallica, Death Angel and Violence.  Those bands were just taking over up there but down here we had the Sunset Strip.  Because who ever wants to talk about it; those were fuckin’ incredible nights up there on the Strip and as glam as they might have been or as over the top as they might have been–it was awesome!  The Rainbow, The Whisky and of course, Gazzarri’s and I am so honored that I did not miss that party.”  And with a smile, the only thought that comes to mind; me too.
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One thought on “MX MACHINE – Manic Panic on the road to the Devil’s Highway

  1. Ayala is a founding member of the metal group Lace, out of the 80s and also currently recording a new CD for 2013 release. Currently two singles on iTunes; 88 and Black Eye, available under the name, Lace LA. Check it out. We also sold out headlining shows on the Sunset Strip during the glam era. Never signed; always independent. Peace Out Cheetah – Lace LA

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