Guitarist Phil Demmel of San Francisco Bay Area metallers MACHINE HEAD was interviewed on the October 5-7 edition of Full Metal Jackie‘s nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
To see a full list of stations carrying the program and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.
Full Metal Jackie: First and foremost, I saw Phil randomly in Las Vegas recently and as it turns out we should congratulate Phil who is now married. So, congratulations! [Note: Demmel recently married BLEEDING THROUGH‘s Marta Peterson.]
Demmel: Thank you very much. Yeah, we bumped into each other in the lobby and you were there for the convention and I was there I actually jammed out with STEEL PANTHER that weekend. Yeah, we got it done. Kind of impromptu, but yeah, I married the love of my life.
Full Metal Jackie: That’s the way to do it too, there’s no planning and craziness. Anybody who I’ve known who’s gotten married and gone throw all that it seems like exhausting all the picking things and who to put at what table. You guys did it right. Congratualtions.
Demmel: Yeah, we had both been married previously and we just wanted it to be us, so we were selfish and that’s what we did. [laughs]
Full Metal Jackie: MACHINE HEAD is part of the North American tour with DETHKLOK that was announced recently, also ALL THAT REMAINS and THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER. It’s starting at the end of October. What a great lineup. Are you excited about being on tour with DETHKLOK? Had you seen DETHKLOK before?
Demmel: You know, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the cartoon and not really all too familiar with it, but I know that it’s a whole different demographic that’s coming to a MACHINE HEAD show and touring with bands like ALL THAT REMAINS and BLACK DAHLIA, it’s such a diverse group and such a cool, eclectic bill. I’m looking forward to touring with all of the bands, I think it’ll be great.
Full Metal Jackie: Phil, now that you’ve got the distance of a whole year since it was released, what’s changed about what you like about your last record, “Unto The Locust”?
Demmel: The record is my favorite MACHINE HEAD record. I’ll revisit every once in a while and I’ll get stuck on a tune that really grabs me, but the constant has been “Darkness Within”. We’re kind of working on doing a radio push for the song and we did a video for it — kind of a real fucked up video. It’s only available on YouTube. Yeah, it’s been a year — kind of crazy, but MACHINE HEAD records have that steady lock. We’re not in a rush; we milk them out as long as we can.
Full Metal Jackie: You’ve played with [MACHINE HEAD frontman] Robb Flynn for something like 30 years, going back to VIO-LENCE in the ’80s. What aspects of those earlier years together still come into play as the foundation of MACHINE HEAD in 2012 and beyond?
Demmel: I think in the previous band we played together, there was a different dynamic in the fact that that was my band — I was the main songwriter for that band and he kind of came in as this new part of that. So that dynamic has been 180 [to] where my role’s in MACHINE HEAD now, but still kind of geeking out on guitarists and learning stuff and playing stuff together. We still have that real symmetry when we get together and our harmonies — we know when each other’s going to go somewhere and we just have that really weird connection, so that’s been the constant through our playing together. We’re men now; we have children. [laughs] It’s been 25 years, but that’s been the one constant.
Full Metal Jackie: What are your preparations for such a rigorous tour schedule, having been diagnosed with cardiogenic syncope.
Demmel: It’s been a while since my last episode on the road. I was dealing with the death of my father in 2007 and went on the [Rockstar Energy Drink] Mayhem tour and then a tour with HELLYEAH directly after that, so hanging out with Vinnie Paul [laughs] wasn’t the most sobering of tours, for sure. It’s really easy to do being a touring musician, especially in a metal band, it’s around you every night, it’s easy to fall into that — just getting drunk every night and self-medicating and just numbing down feelings that you should be processing at some point. We were on the Mayhem tour and I had an episode and I decided to stop drinking and that’s when all these feelings I had been numbing down, all these emotions came to me, and it coincides with the condition that I hav,e and it really affected me. I was having these passouts, sometimes half a dozen in a day. I wouldn’t tell the band about them. It happened on stage a couple times and we had to pull off the SLIPKNOT European tour at the very end. It was just time for me to clear my had with a lot of these issues and going through depression, it was just a process I had to go through. It’s been gone through — I think in ’09 was the last episode I had onstage. It helps being with the girl that I am who keeps me really grounded and helps me. [laughs]
Full Metal Jackie: The last time I saw DETHKLOK, you guys played that day, too; DETHKLOK played that first Mayhem date in San Bernadino, not this past Mayhem but the Mayhem before. I think it’s going to be an awesome crowd between fans of the two bands and even the openers as well. I think it’s going to be a diverse group of metal fans that are all going to be coming together. Are you looking forward to bringing in a different crowd?
Demmel: Absolutely. It’s the main reason MACHINE HEAD is doing this tour — all the different bands that are on here to reach the people that wouldn’t normally come to a MACHINE HEAD show. I didn’t get a chance to see them at that Mayhem date, I had my son and my now-wife with me and had to drive them back home after we played. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys who are crazy-good musicians and the ALL THAT REMAINS guys are awesome guitar players and BLACK DAHLIA, too. The musicianship on this tour is going to be crazy good.
Full Metal Jackie: Phil, the last three albums from MACHINE HEAD have been separated by four years time. Does that mean that there won’t be a new MACHINE HEAD album until 2015 or are new ideas already being developed?
Demmel: I think that Robb is putting some stuff together, I have a couple ideas and maybe [drummer Dave] McClain has been working on some stuff, too. The reason for the last one taking so long was that we got offered all these crazy tours. We thought we were about to wind it down and then SLIPKNOT said, “Hey, come on, let’s tour the world.” And then METALLICA comes around and says, “Hey, let’s go tour all over the place.” You can’t say no to the biggest metal bands in the world. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We didn’t plan it that way. We’re not planning to have that big of a space between these, but if the big bands come around again and want us to go, we’re definitely going to go.
Full Metal Jackie: You guys take your time. I think that sometimes bands make a mistake of sticking to some sort of timeline and some promise of dates or whatever, and I guess you can’t really control creativity or when it’s going to come or how long it’s going to take. Props to your guys for doing it on your own terms, for when you felt ready.
Demmel: Yeah, that’s exactly how we operate, too. It amazes me how these bands go, “Oh yeah, we’ve got like 25, 30 songs that we’ve written in six months,” and it’s like, “Oh, geez.” Granted, a MACHINE HEAD tune is sometimes between 8 to 10 minutes long, but that’s just how we operate. We’re comfortable in just letting the song simmer and letting the album just kind of cook and when it’s ready, then it’s time to go. It’s nice having that opportunity and luxury to do. If we didn’t have that, we might be putting out less quality records in a shorter amount of time.