A Decade of Van Stories with Jeff Hill, Vocalist of Machinist!

Joe McRedmond asked Jeff Hill, vocalist of Machinist!, a metal band from Valdosta, Ga., some questions about the vans they’ve used over the last decade. Here’s what Jeff had to say…

Machinist! Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me! I’ve kinda shotgun blast answered a lot of the questions together, so it’s all kinda mixed in together. So here it is.

When the band formed back in 2011, we knew we wanted to get out of town ASAP. We rented a van from a local band for our first couple of tours, and then ended up buying it from them.

We were touring all over the states in a mid nineties Dodge Ram passenger van we named “GG Vanlin“. It was a great starter for the band, and took us on a ton of adventures. We lost that van to a transmission lock up while traveling down to Tampa to record the Birthright EP. We loaded the van full of gear, and then it wouldn’t shift. We ended up riding  down in the bass player’s (Jesse) mini van.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill

We followed that van with a beater ass Ford conversion van we named “Luther Vandross”. It was a total lemon. Top speed was 55 mph.

We took it on two tours. We blew six tires, and the final straw was in Gainesville, Florida. We were on our way to a gig, and were at a red light.

These two college bro’s pulled up on a scooter, and one said in total frat Chad voice “hey brah, your wheel’s on fire.”

Our guitar player at the time, thinking they were being dicks, gave em the surfer no worries hand sign and said “your wheels are on fire too man!” The they were like “No, for real, it’s on fire.”

We pulled over and sure enough our front brakes were stuck, and red hot. We piled out, and some unloaded the van, while the rest of us poured our cooler, water bottles, beers, and whatever else we could find onto the tire and brakes.

We got home and sold that shit quick to a guy named Adolf. (Named after the Mexican painter, not the Nazi.) The last time I saw it around town, it had been spray painted black, and had an actual window unit air conditioner in the back window. 

Machinst! with “Luther Vandross”. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill.

At this point, we swore off conversion vans. They’re built for old people to take their grand-kids on vacation, not to haul punkers, and full stacks around the country.

Next we bought another Dodge Ram passenger van. This one was a 2002, and it was burgundy. We named it “Charlie Vanson”, and it took us to California and back several times.

One of those times we took our longest drive to date. Long Beach, California to El Paso Texas. I don’t recommend it. It’s supposedly 12 hours, but it took us 17. 

     

We began modifying this van with personalized charging stations under every seat, and a CD player that actually had an auxiliary out. Normally the driver had control of the music, so if I was driving, it was a lot of RuPaul and Dredg.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill

The ceiling liner was falling, and my partner Kristi made a patch work new one. At this point we were touring almost non stop, and we spent most of our time on the road, and we slept in “Charlie” a lot.

By this point, only one of us smoked, so the van became a no smoking vehicle. We didn’t have a lot of rules aside from that.

We also didn’t allow friends or significant others on tour unless they were working. Tour is stressful even when it’s going well. Extra bodies multiply that stress.

 

So this van had some massive issues throughout its tenure. Once leaving us, and a band called False Tongues, stuck in Kentucky in January for 4 days, while a mechanic replaced the computer control system. Later the same van stranded us in Saint Augustine, Florida when the transmission gave out. “Charlie” went to the scrap yard, and we were on to the next one. 

Machinst! Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill.

The next one was a 1986 Ford Econoline that we bought from a church for 700 bucks. It was the absolute worst. It still had all the church decals on it, and we of course left them.

The deacon of the church that sold us the van told us it was a good van that could haul a heavy load, because it had “hauled a lot of big women.” No fucking lie that’s what he said to me.

This van sucked from start to finish. The roof leaked, the radio only played AM gospel, and the wheels were a ridiculous size that had only been used in 1986. So getting new tires was a nightmare.

Church van Machinst! bought for $700. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill.

Once while coming off the interstate in Houston, Texas, I hit the brakes, and they went to the floor with no hint of slowing. We found out that the back drum brakes were leaking fluid like a fucking sieve.

We ended up putting a pair of vice grips on the line between the front and rear brakes, which basically cut them off, and allowed the front ones to have enough pressure to work. We made it through that tour, and hundreds of miles back home, with vice grips on the brake line.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill.

One time our bass player, Matt Zagorski, had to deliver for Pizza Hut in this van.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hill

We ended up abandoning that van in Florida. It began making crazy noises, and we pulled into a gas station. We realized gas was pouring out of the engine, and while laying under the van, we decided that we were done with it.

We pushed it into the corner of the parking lot, and proceeded to break everything we could on it. We gave the keys to a dude that pulled up with a trailer, and said “Merry Christmas”. We rented a Uhaul, and came home.

I love my van very much

I don’t own a van anymore, and I’m so fucking glad. We rent now, and I’m never going back. I’ve spent enough time under a beater van on the side of the road to last several lifetimes.

I wouldn’t trade those times for the world, but I’m glad they’re behind me. 

Machinist! “The Infant”
Machinist! – Blood Colored Glasses
Machinist! – “Without Rest”, “Ignorant Masterpiece”, and more Live at the Atlantic

As far as new releases, we have a split coming out later this year. The official announcement hasn’t dropped yet, but be on the lookout for the pre-orders for that. There’s gonna be some tight vinyl bundles, and some exclusive merch dropping with the release. Thanks again for taking the time to ask me questions. Your site is an absolute gem! 

You can find Machinist! on social media platforms:

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

You can stream our releases on bandcamp, Spotify, and anywhere else you stream.

You can buy merch at bandcamp Merch

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