Joe Daly of The Nervous Breakdown 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.
The Nervous Breakdown: Now, you guys just released a live CD. Why now?
Demmel: We were under contract with Roadrunner [Records] — actually had it fulfilled with “Unto the Locust” — and this was something that we had recorded when we did “The Eighth Plague Tour” over in Europe. We took a Pro Tools rig out and we recorded the Wembley Arena show that we did and some of the bigger arena shows that we did. There were great crowd responses and we wanted to capture that. We’re a band that doesn’t write forty songs in a couple months, like some bands are able to do. It takes us awhile to write, so we also wanted to fill in the space between releases. We’re on the KISS schedule of three records, then a live record, you know? [laughs]
The Nervous Breakdown: A year ago, “Unto The Locust” was topping a lot of the 2011 year-end lists. How does that material feel now, having taken it across the globe and letting audiences fully digest it?
Demmel: It’s fulfilling and vindicating. Any artist who creates something, well, 99.9% of artists want it to be appreciated and to be liked and to be accepted. To see people liking what we did after “The Blackening”, because we set the bar pretty high in people’s minds — they said, “There’s no way you’re going to top that record” — and to hear, “Well hey, you fucking topped that record,” felt really good. It was good to just be ourselves, escape the pressure of “The Blackening”, and to just write another record. People like what we did last time and we’re better musicians, better songwriters, and we found kind of a groove to write in.
The Nervous Breakdown: Have you started thinking about the next record?
Demmel: After this tour, we want to get in and start writing. We’ve got a couple of things for next year, but for the most part we want to get in and hopefully start recording before the end of the year next year. Have we thought about directions or any of that? It hasn’t really been agreed upon yet. I think we’re just going to write like we have been. Our formula has been to just come up with something and see what happens. Nothing contrived, you know? That’s how “Darkness Within” happened, and that’s how a lot of the stuff on the last album happened, so we’ll just see how we progress. Robb [Flynn, vocals/guitar] took classical lessons before the last record, so I think it’s just going to be an amalgamation of everything we’ve learned so far. We keep evolving, and it’s not going to be “Blackening II” and it’s not going to be “Unto The Locust II”. I think it’s going to be our strongest record.
The Nervous Breakdown: Expectations for the next album will be quite a bit different. They might have been somewhat low for “Unto The Locust” simply because, as you say, no one thought you’d top “The Blackening”. Yet popular opinion now holds that you did. Therefore, the next record will necessarily bring the highest expectations yet. Can you write with the same authenticity amid such attention?
Demmel: I think so. For myself, yeah, absolutely. It’s the same thing. Being able to create and play and have people enjoy what we do is the best thing in the world. We’re so blessed to be able to be out here and doing this, and for me to sit down and have something come out and be able to record it is amazing. I have a little recorder and I mouth riffs into it. Sitting around watching football and just noodling and recording little harmonies come up, and having them come together with these guys is an amazing process. When you write from the heart, it’s pure and it’s genuine and that’s how we’re going to do it. I won’t be in the band if that’s not going to be the case.
Read the entire interview from The Nervous Breakdown.