MACHINE HEAD Guitarist Talks About ‘Unto The Locust’ Songwriting, Recording Process recently conducted an interview with guitarist Phil Demmel of San Francisco Bay Area metallers MACHINE HEAD. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. Some of the lyrics [on the new MACHINE HEAD album “Unto The Locust”] are co-credited to you and Robb [Flynn, vocals/guitar]. Do you sit down and go back and forth, line by line, or do you exchange ideas by email — how do you work?

Demmel: Well, on the song “I Am Hell”, I had the concept of a pyromaniac, an arsonist, who’s writing in his journal about discovering the sickness that’s taking him, and Robb had the music and the title for a song called “I Am Hell”, so I emailed him a couple of verses and kinda what I was going for, and he said that it would work. So from there we’d kinda sit down — before he would go in and sing, I’d come to the studio and we’d sit down on the couch and throw ideas back and forth to each other, just phrases and words that sound cool and stuff like that. We’d bounce off each other that way and as songs came up — as we worked on “Locust” and worked on “Be Still And Know” — it just worked. We had a good vibe. We have different writing styles; I’m really descriptive in my writing, but Robb likes to write in the first person, I, you, me, and I’m more about describing situations without using those pronouns. So it’s a good mix. He also produced the CD. What does that entail, since he’s also a member of the band? Does he order you guys around?

Demmel: Well, if anybody knows what MACHINE HEAD should sound like, it’s Robb. So I love having him in the producer’s chair. He’s got the best vision of what this band should sound like or will, he’s got a great ear for notes and tones, and I think we’d all prefer to have him there instead of some outsider that comes in and says, “Well, what about this?” Robb gets good ideas from outside sources, but he eats, sweats, shits and breathes this band 24 hours a day. He does tell us what to do, but he mostly suggests it. “Hey, how about we try this?” And if we have ideas, he’s open to trying them. Ultimately, at the end of the day, if he wants something done, it’s probably gonna get done that way, and we’ve learned to kind of trust him on that, kinda lean on him in that regard. The song “This Is The End” kind of sounds like a metalcore song. Do you listen to younger bands much, and are you inspired by what you hear, or are you disappointed by what’s out there, as a fan?

Demmel: There’s not a lot of new bands that I really listen to consistently. UNEARTH‘s a band that I’ll listen to, TRIVIUM‘s a band I’ll listen to, KILLSWITCH and the new TIMES OF GRACE record’s really good. But yeah, we’re influenced by stuff like that. Those guys are all great musicians, so we kinda take something away from that. We’re a band that’s always evolving. We’re always trying new things and listening to current stuff. That’s something that’s necessary. But I think that you’ll hear just as much JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, early METALLICA and some SLAYER on this record as well. We draw from our influences all across the board.

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