Bands get booked, travel all over, and play to fans across the globe. There are countless people involved in the process, from agents and managers, to legal and label reps, to publicists and the crew that makes a show happen. One thing people forget about is the venue. The venue is important, as the show simply cannot go on without a stage. If you are from anywhere near Flint, MI, the first words out of anyone's mouth when you mention a concert are The Machine Shop. As The Shop prepares to celebrate its 13th Anniversary, we pinned down owner and music lover Kevin Zink to talk about The Shop, the bands, the legacy, and Coldplay...
Kevin: What's up, Todd?
Toddstar: What's going on man?
Kevin: I'm good.
Toddstar: Well, thank you so much for taking time out. We appreciate it.
Kevin: Thanks for wanting to talk to me.
Toddstar: For anybody who doesn't know, I've talking to Kevin Zink, proprietor of the world famous Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan. A gentleman I am also very proud to call a friend.
Kevin: Thank you very much, man.
Toddstar: Let's talk about The Machine Shop before we get into you. This place is going on its 13th year and looking back, what makes you still want to do this thirteen years later?
Kevin: I still love the music. I love live music. I feel like I'm, kind of, even more obsessed with it now than when I started. To see and to be a part of live bands in a smaller, intimate environment has always been something that's got me excited and it still does. I look forward to shows, I look forward to new bands, and that part of it just never gets old for me.
Toddstar: When you're going out and booking bands and things like that... The Machine Shop used to have a reputation as a rock club, but now you're so diverse in your shows and crowds. What made you want to expand and get away from the rock stuff?
Kevin: Well, when we started it was more rock and that's what I was always into. Back in the 80's, I was into L.A. Guns, and Faster Pussycat, and Bang Tango, and that's the bands I would go see at the clubs. And the rock thing was just what I was always into, and I feel like my tastes have even changed. I book still to this day the stuff I like. A lot of people don't realize in the beginning there was where we were bringing in country bands, but people weren't as aware of it. Because back in the early days, even Blake Shelton played here. A lot of people don't know that. David Allan Coe's been playing here since we opened. Uncle Kracker's been a part of this pretty much the whole time we've been here. So, there's a lot of those in there, but it seems like in the past eight years or so it seems like it's become more and more. As you start getting the Eric Church and Luke Bryan, a lot of those bands as they go up, come through here, but I always thought we were doing those. We just weren't doing those as much, and now we're doing a lot more of the country and a little bit more of the lighter end of the rock, and still doing the heavy stuff. But it's all stuff that I enjoy. I love doing stuff from the 80's, I love Jackyl. I still love Clutch more than you can hardly believe. That's still, to this day, one of my absolute favorite bands. So, I kind of am still booking what I like and what people like. I'm not going to say every band that comes in here is one of my favorites, but I appreciate what they do. I certainly do. I can look at any band that's come in here and I can say, "I appreciate that and I dig what they're doing. Might not be mything, but I get it. I get what they're doing."
Toddstar: That's good insight. That being said, are there bands out there that you started booking, you dug their music, but now you're buddies. Forget the fact that they're artists and you run a club. Are there people that, when they come into town, or they're calling around trying to get shows booked, you're like "I got to get you here just because you're my friend."?
Kevin: Yeah, there's a lot of bands that I feel like, and hopefully they feel the same way... that they've become lifelong friends of mine, that even if I was to not do this tomorrow or they were to not be a band anymore, I would still consider them friends. And that list is... I know if I begin to say different bands, I won't even begin to tap on how many friends I have out there. But, bands like Fuel and Royal Bliss and Mushroomhead, and there's so many bands that I've had stay at my house. Blackberry Smoke... no matter what, those guys will be my friends forever. And those guys have obviously outgrown the venue, but they're still my buddies. I talked to Brett, the drummer, today and there's so many of them, over the years, that have become my closer friends, you know? It's kind of cool. We all have similar interests and it's easy because we're all in this for the same reason, because we enjoy it. And I'm just not talented to where I can do what they do. So I have to do this end of it. I'd love to be in a band and be up there on stage and have everybody like what I'm doing, but at least I'm able to be involved this way.
Toddstar: Sure. There's so many bands that come through there... and there's bands that, almost annually, you can count on them coming through once, maybe even twice. I just saw a posting for a new show... I'm not sure if it's official yet, so I'm not going to throw it out there...
Kevin: Oh, that's okay.
Toddstar: I saw Mushroomhead's coming back again.
Kevin: Yeah, it's official. That's a band that was one of the very first bands when we opened. I saw the video for "Solitaire Unraveling" and it was right when we opened and it was like "Oh man, these guys are awesome!” It was them, Monster Magnet, Twelve Stones, Primer 55 was one of the first ones. But Mushroomhead was right off the bat. Before they even played here they had a night off in Flint and I'd never met any of the guys, but they were stuck at their hotel and I was like, "Hey, you guys want to go do something?" So, we ended up picking them up and I think we all went bowling. And they'd never even played here yet, and all of them pretty much went with us. And we became friends from that point and they've played here more than any other band. Them and Nonpoint. Those guys go back and forth. Hinder. That's another one that has played here for years and years, and you can always count on them for coming back through. We never tire of each other, and they certainly never tire of the Flint crowds that come to see them. That's what keeps them coming back. It's not me sitting here, high-fiving them. It's the vibe of the Flint, Michigan fans that keep the bands coming back here. As long as people keep coming and supporting them, why wouldn't they, you know? They want to be a part of that.
Toddstar: Yeah, but let's not detract from what you do because you read the interviews. How many of these guys, when I ask them about the Machine Shop, it's "Kevin and his crew. Kevin, Kevin, Kevin." I feel like Jan in the old Brady Bunch episodes. "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia", but they all talk about, "Kevin creates a cool deal and a cool vibe that's a family feel". What is that like to you that bands say that it's a family feel?
Kevin: It gives me goose bumps. I show my arms a lot to people when something really nice like that happens, and I'll have goose bumps. It makes me feel incredible that people feel that way about us, but it is that way with the crew that's been here for so long. When they come in, their crew and our crew all know each other and it feels like they'll walk in and be like, "We're home!" And they'll be from wherever ... From Cleveland or from Florida, but to them it's a comfortable place that they know what to expect. They know it's going to be a nice day. Everybody knows each other and I think because it's still a family business here, they feel that when they come in. Even if it's their first time, they can feel that everybody here, for the most part, gets along and we all know each other and we're going to have a good day together. It makes me feel great that they always say nice things, but it's definitely a group effort and it is a family effort.
Toddstar: I'd agree with that. I've been coming to shows there for a long time now. And it takes a long time to get into that inner sanctum, but once you're there, you're there for good.
Kevin: Yeah, I think that's a good way to put it. We're very welcoming and we want everybody to be welcome here. Sometimes we just have to... Maybe it does take a time or two for everybody to realize we're all buddies. We're all in it together.
Toddstar: Anybody lucky enough, they've been in the back to watch you sip some Apple Pie Moonshine, or some Jesse James Whiskey.
Kevin: I don't know what you're talking about. [laughter] I've never seen any of that.
Toddstar: Let's talk about when this whole thing started. Again, it's been thirteen years now. What was the first band you booked that made you high five yourself?
Kevin: Clutch, because I was such a fan of that band that that was one of those ones that I was like, "That just happened?" You have to almost pinch yourself. I've stood back at sound check and I've seen Clutch on stage and I'm just like, "That's Clutch up there. Clutch is in my club. They're warming up, getting their sound check done in my club." And I have to sit there and go, "This is awesome." I've done that countless times over the years where I just look up and go, "Oh man, this is cool. I can't believe that I'm a part of this." Because, first and foremost, with a lot of it I am a fan. Especially stuff from when I was younger, growing up. Now that I'm 22... [laughter] now that I'm 44, these bands that were a soundtrack to my teens and my twenties, and my thirties. I can hear songs from these bands and I think back to a time in my life and it's a lot of good memories. And to see those bands in here and to be good friends with them... to have them come to my house on days off, and to be able to grill out with them, it's quite a... I've got a really good life. I can't think of anything else I would rather do. I was telling my girl, Johanna, the other day... we don't really play the lottery, but there was that really huge jackpot and I said, "We've got to play!" So, we went and did $20 on it, and I'm like, "You do realize that if I win, all I'm going to do is build a cooler place with a really cool backstage for everybody, right? I'm not quitting, by the way." There's nothing that I would rather do than what I'm doing. And it's very, very stressful, but at the end of the day when you enjoy the majority of it, it makes it so nice. It's not like some people who drive to work... and I've had that job like that, where when I go to work I'm like, "Ugh, I just want to get through the day." Here, it's a long day. I'll do 16 hour days a lot, and at the end of it I go home and I'm like, "That was awesome!" You feel great about it. It only takes one or two people to come up to me that night, even if it's a night when I'm losing money... It's rough because you're trying to keep the place open and it's not easy to do. A lot of people think that it is, but it's just not. But it takes a couple people to come into a show to tell me just the quickest little thing of "We come here a lot." "We enjoy this," "This was an awesome experience tonight," "My favorite band was here," and my night goes straight through the roof. I go home and feel so good, and I tell people, "You don't know how much you've made my night." And I don't even think they realize it, but to see the fans come in here and enjoy it like I do is awesome. I know what they feel, I've done it, I've went to shows my whole life. I know that feeling of walking out of a show and being on cloud nine.
Toddstar: I can attest to that because I've seen you at shows that aren't at your venue. I know you're still a fan, and you go to shows.
Kevin: I always love it. Nothing quite like a live show.
Toddstar: That's true. As you saw the other night when I was at the club, I joined an elite club. I am someone who sports Machine Shop swag. What's it like for you when you see pictures of bands, or you see videos, or live feed on TV, of bands wearing your stuff on stage in a different venue or a different country?
Kevin: I think they're awfully good dressers. I think they know style. It's the same feeling. It's hard for me to understand because I'm so close to it, but I understand there's something cool about being the last of the rock clubs. You always look at clubs like CBGB's and the Whiskey and they have this certain mystique to them. And it's like we're becoming that here in Flint, Michigan, of all places. So, I see them wearing the gear on stage, and wearing it proudly. It lets me know that they're as proud of being a part of it as I'm as proud of them being a part of it. It's a mutual thing of excitement of something different going on. Does that make any sense? Did I make any sense today?
Toddstar: You always make sense, man. I asked around, and I wanted to try to learn some things about the Machine Shop that maybe everybody wouldn't know. The one thing I got was, "Ask Kevin about Coldplay".
Kevin: Oh, yeah! You heard about that. When we first opened, we were getting our feet wet, learning more on how to book stuff. We still do just as much metal, national acts, but because we trickle in the other stuff somehow it doesn't seem like we do as much metal, but we do. But in the beginning, I was a little nervous about how some of the lighter rock would go over here. We got hit up about a band that was starting to come up and wondering about maybe bringing Coldplay through here. And I was like, "Boy, that just seems too light for the room right now." And I said if it was the band Cold, I'd do that. But not Coldplay, because I didn't... then they end up becoming one of the biggest bands in the world and I passed on it. I just didn't know enough at the time. What people would be wanting to come out and see, and I learned that you got to go with it and try to bring in new stuff that maybe you're not overly familiar with, but it's cool. It was cool music and shame on me because that would've been phenomenal to have brought them through here.
Toddstar: Yeah, it would've, but you had your finger on the pulse. Like you said, especially on the country side, you've got Blake Shelton in there. You've had Eric Church in there. You've had Luke Bryan in there. You just recently had Colt Ford, who's huge in the "Hick Hop" world. So, you've always had your finger on it.
Kevin: I'm trying.
Toddstar: Tell us about the world famous hallway.
Kevin: That just turned out of a fluke thing because the hallway is right before they walk on stage so, we put stickers up, we've got the bathroom back here, and the office. When people think about backstage, they think it's going to be this huge area. There's nothing back here, obviously, but this hallway... Minty, who does all the photography, just started... I think it was Skindred or one of them... he started taking some pictures because the hallway actually has a very rock n' roll vibe about it. And after he did a couple of them, it started to take off because the bands would use them for their passes or all of a sudden it started coming up in albums, or people would use them on their MySpace at the time and their Facebook as their background. And it started to evolve where more chunks started going on the wall. I always had little silly things on the wall. It's basically a place for me to put all my collectible stuff. Now it's turned into one of the most famous places for you to get your picture, in the hallway right before you walk on stage. It's like a rite of passage now. To get your picture in the hallway is a pretty big deal and I think it's awesome. I love it when fans want to get their picture in it. I see it all over different sites, but I feel like that's kind of the brain child of Minty because he's the one who started doing it and he's the one that actually started pushing it further and further. And then, I think it was Buttcrack, our lighting guy, that suggested with the crew that we should start doing their pictures in the bathroom because that's really funny. And so now, the backstage bathroom is all crew pictures. So we squeeze the crew into one stall because that's all we got, and they all get their picture in there. It's kind of turned into a thing, though, and I'd have never thought as it started to happen... but now I'm pretty conscious that this is pretty cool. It's just one more cool thing to have. Everybody gets their picture in there. There's so many bands out there, and even the country guys that come walking in, a lot of people will be like, "We're getting our picture in the hallway, right?" And I'm like, "Heck yeah we are!" Minty's always there waiting, he always gets it hooked up, and each time everybody wants to update it. Everybody gets a new picture every time. It's pretty cool. If Minty's here, the picture's a "go".
Toddstar: Very cool. Again, part of the Machine Shop legacy. Part of that whole teamwork and family you're talking about.
Kevin: Yeah, it wasn't like we sat there and thought about all these things. They just kind of happened, and that's what cool things are. You're not looking to... a lot of times, it just is what it is. It's either cool or it's not and that just turned into one of those things that you can't buy cool. It just happened. The hallway turned into a cool thing on its own and it wasn't thought out, but I'm happy with it.
Toddstar: It's very cool to see. Who's on your "Still need to get in there" list?
Kevin: Aerosmith, ACDC, Rolling Stones. That's a tough question. There's so many bands, that just because of the size of the band, you can't. I don't know. Any of the bigger bands. I'd love to do more really big bands in a small club. Three Days Grace has done it, Papa Roach still comes in here to play, and those are big, big bands. I'd love to see Volbeat come back. I would love to see them come back. They've been here a couple times and I've talked with Michael and he said that they will make it happen someday. I know they have the best of intentions, but it's kind of tough when you're playing arenas to be able to do it. But I feel like we've hit a lot of them that I've wanted to have come through. Anybody that wants to, just hit us up. Any of the big bands that are going to read this article, come on out.
Toddstar: A couple more because I know you're trying to set up for a show tonight. So, I got a couple more for you, Kevin. If you had to name one or two, what were the last couple bands to come through that you didn't really know a lot about, but they kind of blew you away?
Kevin: I could tell you one right off the top of my head that absolutely blew all of us away, and we only knew the one song that they had. That was Foxy Shazam, and all of us ... I went and bought the album. That was one of those ones where you're just like, "Holy cow!" Once you see that live show, you definitely get what they are. Then you end up listening to their albums. Their albums are awesome. Nothing More was another one. I didn't know a ton about them because they were a new band. They were phenomenal live. In the beginning, Fair to Midland. Didn't know much about them, they came through, and I was instantly blown away by them. And that happens a lot where bands come in here, they'll be on a tour, you'll know a little bit about them, and then you're like, "Whoa!" Monster Truck, that's another one that's a great band that I didn't know much about. You're just blown away by what they are and you see so much talent come through here. Talent that you can't understand why more people don't get it sometimes.
Toddstar: Well, you've got your legacy and I've got mine. You read the interviews and you know how I end them all, Kevin. With everything going on in your life and with everything you've got swinging in your favor ... For you right now, Kevin Zink, what is the meaning of life?
Kevin: The meaning of life for me is my family, my pets, and all that. But as far as on the level with this, I just want to keep it going... the meaning of life is having a job. Which it is, when it all boils down, this is still a business and it's a job. But to have a job that makes you enjoy your life more because truly this is what makes me enjoy life more, doing this. So, for me, that's it.
Toddstar: I couldn't have said it any better myself. Again, my friend, thank you so much for taking time. I cannot wait to get this out there for all the fans of the Machine Shop to read, as well as all the big bands that are going to start knocking on your door plate. I'm looking forward to the next time I'm up there and we say hello.
Kevin: I can't wait to see you again, Todd. Thanks for taking the time to do this, man. That means a lot to me.
Toddstar: No, man. I appreciate everything you do. You know that.
Kevin: Thanks, man.
Toddstar: All right, we'll talk to you, Kev.
Kevin: All right, we'll see you.
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