Guitarist PHIL DEMMEL On Being Invited To Play With SLAYER: 'I Think It Saved My Musical Career'

February 22, 2020

Former MACHINE HEAD and current VIO-LENCE guitarist Phil Demmel recently spoke with Everblack Media. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On reuniting with VIO-LENCE:

Phil: "I quit MACHINE HEAD and did a brief thing in SLAYER. [Sean Killian, VIO-LENCE vocalist] texted me, 'I want to do a show.' I'm like, 'What are you talking about — like, VIO-LENCE?' I was free of all the restraints that I had in MACHINE HEAD. I just wanted to make sure that he was healthy enough and that he'd thought it through before we started doing that. We reached out to all the dudes who were in that last incantation [sic] of that band. We booked a show; it sold out in an hour; we booked another show; it sold out in minutes. We figured we had lightning in a bottle, so we need to catch it. He had about three months to get ready and get his strength up, and he did."

On VIO-LENCE's increasing level of activity:

Phil: "We've been getting some offers and kind of taking it easy. We're trying to play, like, once a month, and just do a weekend here [and there]... The roller coaster is kind of getting some steam here. We're trying to be realistic in what we do and trying to keep it as in-house as we can, and try to not get too carried away, but most importantly, try not to get too full of ourselves like we did the first time around [and] enjoy it and enjoy each other."

On filling in for Gary Holt in SLAYER:

Phil: "I had quit MACHINE HEAD on a Saturday night... Finally, you're home. You're out of that band; you're going to be home for a bit. I get a text from Kerry King, and I kind of dropped the phone. The next day — 'Hey, do you think you can learn 19 songs and be out here in two days?' Pretty crazy, but they're the reason why I play heavy music. I've always loved the band. It was unfortunate circumstances because of Gary's father. I went through the same thing back in 2007 where I left the tour after my father had passed... It was kind of a full-circle thing coming around. One of the grandfathers of thrash, Gary Holt, playing in the original thrash band, and me getting the call. I've said it a bunch, but I'll say it again — I think that it saved my musical career, or saved at least maybe my confidence or my belief in myself that I still had some worth in this industry after quite possibly thinking that I could be done, or I wasn't worth being in a band. I thank all those dudes for doing that. When you go through a divorce, you think, 'Hey, I must be a piece of shit.' [Laughs] Along comes the right combination to make you feel like you're not, so it was a very gratifying moment."

On his former MACHINE HEAD bandmate Dave McClain, who has since rejoined SACRED REICH:

Phil: "We've kept in pretty close touch, and he's played in my cover band... We've talked about doing some original music at some point... We've always wanted to just kind of jam covers or just jam whatever with no drama and no weird agenda attached to it — just two '80s kids who want to play fuckin' music."

On studying Marty Friedman:

Phil: "I'm doing something later on this year, and I've got to learn that lead — that 'Tornado Of Souls' lead — and it's so hard. Marty's so good... It's not formally been announced yet, and I want to wait until we get more of a go-ahead. It's pretty much confirmed, but I want to wait for the formal release on that."

On his future plans outside of VIO-LENCE:

Phil: "I've got so much going on. I've never been busier in terms of volume of different things. MACHINE HEAD kept me pretty busy doing the same stuff, but this is all just kind of, 'Pop in over here and do this.' I just did this super-cool thing with Mike Portnoy and Bobby Blitz and Mark Menghi, who are in the METAL ALLEGIANCE camp... I've got some Jackson clinics coming up in the UK; I've got this other thing [the 'Tornado Of Souls' project] going on that we just talked about... I want to record some original stuff at some point. It's just fun to be busy. It's nice to be liked and wanted."

VIO-LENCE released three studio albums between 1988 and 1993. The group reunited soon after Demmel left MACHINE HEAD in late 2018.

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