MACHINE HEAD’s PHIL DEMMEL Talks ‘Unto The Locust’ In New Interview

Elliot Levin of NY Hard Rock Music Examiner 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.

NY Hard Rock Music Examiner: I know you’ve had some medical issues in recent years. Obviously you feel confident enough to be [taking part in the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival], but are there any precautions you have to take, especially with the heat in the summer?

Phil: You know, in the past, it wasn’t really the heat. In a couple of incidents, it might have been, but it’s more depression and stress-related, and this vasovagal syndrome, which causes me to pass out sometimes, hasn’t happened in a couple of years, and so it’s more related to that. My father passed away about four years ago, and it was during that time when everything kind of escalated. I had a lot of other stuff going on, so a lot of contributing factors that have since been taken away, so it’s been a lifestyle change. I’ve met the love of my life [keyboardist Marta Peterson of Orange County, California’s BLEEDING THROUGH], and things are going well with my son, and so my headspace is just a thousand times better than it was, so that helps.

NY Hard Rock Music Examiner: That’s great to hear. Are you still able to party on tour, or do you have to be careful on the road?

Phil: Well, too much of anything is not good, so I’ve been trying to eat better, trying not to drink as much as I was back then, just more responsible now, and when I was drinking more before, it really affected how I was playing too, so I’m concentrating on playing better on stage and things to that effect.

NY Hard Rock Music Examiner: So everyone’s excited to hear the new record [“Unto The Locust”]. You released this new song, “Locust”, which you’re also playing live on this tour… In interviews over the past year, you guys have been quoted as saying that you’re not trying to make “The Blackening Part 2”, but I listened to it online, I got to hear it live on Sunday in Hartford, [and] I think this does sound like it could be on that album, in a good way, of course. Are other songs being written in another style?

Phil: Oh yeah, for sure. There are seven songs on this record, and every song is different from the rest. “The Blackening”? Hmm, I don’t know if “Locust” could’ve fit on there. Maybe. But we’re not trying to match the same overall fire of that record. There’s more of a classical vibe on this record, more of a melodic flavor to it. When you hear a couple of the other songs, you’ll see what I mean, but I guess if you just have “Locust”, it’s kind of still in that vein. Definitely, we didn’t have any of the booty-shaking grooves that the “Locust” verses have on “The Blackening”, so it’s a little bit different.

NY Hard Rock Music Examiner: Is there any power ballad like “Halo” on the record?

Phil: I don’t really see “Halo” as a power ballad…

NY Hard Rock Music Examiner: I was about to say, I don’t think that’s the right term, but I meant something with a super-melodic and catchy hook or chorus.

Phil: Well, I think “Locust” falls into that, actually. I think that “Locust” has that hook, but there’s a song called “Darkness Within”, which is kind of acoustic, and kind of dark, folksy. There’s a four-string quartet of strings in it, too. It’s a departure from MACHINE HEAD, it’s something that we haven’t done yet, but it’s something that I’m proud of and pretty exciting to have out there.

NY Hard Rock Music Examiner: Whose idea was it to use such a different production technique on the song?

Phil: Well, I had this riff lying around for awhile, and then Robb [Flynn, guitar/vocals] kind of took that, and played it acoustically and wrote this really dark, kind of brooding ode to his family while he’s away, and it’s really personal and really emotional, and man, it was his idea. He’s our leader in that department. I come up with riffs and structures and stuff, but at the end of the day, he’s got the better ear for things, and we all lean on him for that. Dave‘s [McClain, drums] contributed a few things to this record, and I’ve helped him lyrically on four out of seven songs. So yeah, it’s Robb‘s direction.

Read the entire interview from NY Hard Rock Music Examiner.