PHIL DEMMEL Defends KERRY KING Over Some Fans' Claim That JEFF HANNEMAN Wrote All The Good SLAYER Songs

May 3, 2024

On a recent episode of the "The Metal Forge" podcast, Phil Demmel spoke about the upcoming debut album from Kerry King's solo project. "From Hell I Rise" will be released on May 17 via Reigning Phoenix Music. All material for the LP was written by the 59-year-old SLAYER guitarist, who was accompanied during the recording sessions by guitarist Demmel, drummer Paul Bostaph (SLAYER),bassist Kyle Sanders (HELLYEAH) and vocalist Mark Osegueda (DEATH ANGEL). Helming the sessions at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles last year was producer Josh Wilbur, who has previously worked with KORN, LAMB OF GOD, AVENGED SEVENFOLD and BAD RELIGION, among others.

Regarding "From Hell I Rise" and King's future plans, Demmel said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I get kind of spoonfed information as it comes down, and that's understandable. This thing has been kind of hush for four-plus years now. And I'm given information on a need-to-know basis, and I'm totally fine with that; that's what I signed up for. This is Kerry's venture. This is Kerry's band. And I play lead guitar for Kerry.

"So the record comes out in May," he continued. "Almost all the songs are pretty new. I think that there was a holdover track — one or two — from the [SLAYER] 'Repentless' session that he had. But the songs are strong. I think people will be — not shocked, but kind of like… Everybody's on this whole, 'Jeff [Hanneman, late SLAYER guitarist] wrote all the good [SLAYER] songs. Kerry's songs suck,' kind of…"

Asked how those kinds of comments affect him, Demmel said: "Well, it doesn't affect me at all. I mean, I didn't write any of the material. I, of course, want it to be accepted well. I like it, and Kerry's my friend. I want his creation to be met with agreeing terms or people that like it and people that will give it a chance instead of, like I said, 'Jeff wrote all the good [SLAYER] songs.' Well, if you take away the songs [for SLAYER] that Kerry wrote too, and you have half a record or whatever. And they're not all filler songs that he wrote either. So Kerry's more than capable of writing iconic riffs. If I played you some of the [SLAYER] riffs he wrote you, you'd go, 'Oh, yeah.' So I think that this record is gonna wake people up to that fact that Kerry, he's been the guy that's been making [SLAYER] happen for the past — shit, I don't know — 20 years or however long. And I equate it to — not really on the same level, but there was a point when Gene Simmons was getting away from KISS and acting and doing all this other shit. And meanwhile, Paul [Stanley] is still back there waving the flag, doing all the work. And Kerry did a lot of work for [SLAYER]. He played all the bass on the records, and towards the end, I think he wrote most of the lyrics. On the demos that I heard, he's singing, and it sounds like SLAYER. I mean, Kerry was SLAYER towards the end there."

On the topic of "From Hell I Rise"'s musical direction, Demmel said: "I don't wanna give too much away about the record, but it's a thrash record, but it's not just blazing fast. There's slow parts and grinding parts and crunchy parts. And Mark sings his ass off on this thing, man; Mark sounds so fucking good. And Josh Wilbur doing the record, Paul's parts, you're hearing everything that he does, and he does these incredible fills and double-bass parts. And the riffs are awesome. And I told Kerry this afterwards. These are my favorite leads of his. He spent some time on his solos, and they're really good. I said, 'What happened?' And he's all, 'I had time to work on 'em. I'm usually in the studio writing lyrics and the solos are the last thing that I do when I get in the studio.' And he had my solos for a bit too. There were some that he did first, and then there were some that I did first. And I think that I bring a different melodic sense to the solos than Jeff or Gary [Holt, SLAYER guitarist], for that matter, to his music, and I think that it might've opened him up in this direction maybe a little bit. Maybe not — he's pretty set in what he does — but I think that the two of us together play off well. There's a couple of times when we go back to back, and it's pretty cool. I think people are gonna dig it."

Nearly three months ago, Demmel shared an Instagram Live video in which he spoke about how he ended up being approached to join Kerry's new band. He said: "The way that this came about on my end was SLAYER was on its way through the [San Francisco] Bay Area [during the band's farewell tour] and they played San Jose. I think it was with maybe — NAPALM DEATH opened that one and LAMB OF GOD, and maybe even TESTAMENT played. I think it was maybe the last day of [that leg of] the tour. And this was maybe the summer of [20]18. And I knew that I was on my way out of MACHINE HEAD, and I had approached Kerry kind of, like, 'Hey, what are you doing after SLAYER ends? What do you got going?' And he was kind of, like, 'Ah, I'm sure I'm gonna keep playing with Paul. I'm probably gonna ask [then-SLAYER guitarist] Gary [Holt to play with me in my new band as well].' And that was about it. And so fast forward to my announcing that I was quitting MACHINE HEAD [in September 2018], and the same day Kerry shoots me a text, like, 'That's why you were asking me what I was doing next.' So it was no secret to Kerry that that's what I was interested in doing after. And when the call came to fill in for Gary [at several SLAYER shows in Europe in December 2018] and the way that I came through in that spot really showed those guys a lot. So, Kerry [and me], I remember we at a Raiders game against Denver, which was probably 2019, that he had said, 'Hey, this is what I'm thinking,' and where he committed to me being in the band. So it was pretty fucking awesome."

Phil continued: "So I've been waiting since August of 2019 to be able to announce [that I was in Kerry's new band]. A couple of people knew. [Kerry] wanted it to be a secret, so we didn't kind of share. So that was four and a half years of holding on to the secret. Some would say that it was the best worst-kept secret or the worst best-kept secret. But we're all pretty stoked to get this started."

Regarding how "From Hell I Rise" came together and his contributions to the album, Phil said: "Kerry wrote all the music. He wrote all the lyrics. They had pretty much all of it done for a while. Him and Paul worked on everything. He sent me parts. It was the slowest of the slowest rolls that I've ever been involved with, just due to the quarantine and the singer search. So it took a bit, and it's taken a bit for all of the reasons. I mean, there was a reason for all of it. So it got to a point to where all of us, the guys in the band, were, like, 'Have you heard anything?' 'No, I haven't heard anything.' It was almost like the swimming instructor when you're learning how to swim, and then the instructor keeps backing up. 'Come on, you can make it.' And you're swimming and you're swimming and you're swimming, and they keep backing up. And [it was] all worth it. They recorded the record. I was structuring solos at home. I have a home studio, and I was constructing my leads. And I had 'em done for a bit. And he'd give me a couple of more: 'Hey, why don't you see if you can come up with something over here?' And I wrote a couple of little harmony bits that you don't hear a lot in SLAYER. So I think that that's what sets this band apart, other than Mark's vocals, of course, is the melody in some of my solos. I wrote a few things and I sent 'em to him, and the solo you hear in 'Idle Hands' is the first one that I wrote. And so I had to ask him, I said, 'Are you gonna be okay with my style?' It's kind of different than from what [late SLAYER guitarist] Jeff [Hanneman] and Gary had done, and he was digging it. So I was glad that that was [the case], 'cause it's kind of what I am and what I can bring."

In a February 2024 interview with Rolling Stone, Kerry stated about how Phil came to his new project: "Demmel came out with SLAYER at the end of 2018 to fill in for Gary for four shows. What he did for us, I don't think I could do for any band on the planet. He had basically two days to watch [SLAYER] play so he could know where the pyro was and the tempo of our set. I couldn't do that for JUDAS PRIEST, and I'm a giant PRIEST guy. With this, Bostaph said, 'Hey, what about Demmel [for the new band]?' I texted him. He's like, 'Yeah, I just got done with MACHINE HEAD the day before yesterday.' I went, 'Well, that's kind of perfect.'"

Asked how he and Phil play off each other, Kerry said: "He's more technical than I thought he was. He comes from California thrash like I do. He'd be, like, 'Do you think this solo is too melodic?' I'm, like, 'It's your lead. Unless it's offensively lame, I'm not going to squash it.' I like what he brought to the record, even though it wasn't much, since I didn't let him play rhythm guitar."

KERRY KING will be special guest on the upcoming LAMB OF GOD/MASTODON North American "Ashes Of Leviathan" co-headline tour. The six-week run will launch on July 19 in Grand Prairie, Texas and will wrap on August 31 in Omaha, Nebraska. KERRY KING will make the band's 2024 concert debut in early May.

Photo credit: Jim Louvau

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