Phil Demmel, who left MACHINE HEAD more than four years ago, has admitted that he bought a ticket to see his former bandmates perform last month at their concert in Sacramento, California.
The December 23 show at Ace Of Spades was part of MACHINE HEAD's "Electric Happy Hour (Live)" fall 2022 tour which saw HAVOK's Reece Alan Scruggs playing second guitar in the place of MACHINE HEAD's Polish guitarist Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka, who was unable to make the trek due to his touring commitments with his longtime band DECAPITATED.
Demmel discussed his decision to attend the gig during an Instagram Live video on Friday (January 20). Saying that he first met Reece when his band VIO-LENCE played with HAVOK and adding that they'd "kept in touch," the 55-year-old guitarist called Scruggs "a ripping guitar player" who is "so fucking good." He said: "So when I found out he was playing [with MACHINE HEAD], I went to the show. I didn't tell anybody I was going. I went to Ace Of Spades. I bought a ticket. And I put my hood up. And I'm not hiding for the sake of, like, I'm ashamed to be seen there watching the band — I was a MACHINE HEAD fan long before I joined the band — but I didn't want there to be any attention towards me. I didn't want it to be about me at all. I just wanted to go and enjoy a band that I had loved. So I put my hood on and sat kind of in the back right before they got on and watched the show. And I'll tell you what: it was so much fun watching the band with just blinders on and just enjoying a band that I had loved for so long, and watching Reece play with them. And it was really fucking cool, man. I was headbanging and air-guitaring. There was a couple of people in the back that recognized me, and we were hanging out. And I had a great fucking time. … I just wanted mainly to watch Reece play my parts. And it was great. He played really good. The band sounded awesome. The place was packed. People were just feeling it. It was fucking great. I had a great time. … Especially hearing the riffs and the songs that I wrote being played, that's always a good feeling for me."
Phil explained that he wanted to address the fact that he went to the gig after an article was posted on BLABBERMOUTH.NET earlier this week where one of the commenters called him out for allegedly attending the show with a "Groucho Marx disguise" and "wearing a paper bag over his head with 'unknown guitarist' written on it. Everyone there knew the paper bag was him."
Demmel said: "Something came out on Blabbermouth yesterday about me hiding and wearing a Groucho Marx [disguise] and all that, but that just wasn't the case. I had my hood on, just because I didn't want it to be about me. I wanted to be able to go and enjoy the band that I had loved for so long. And that's the God's honest truth. And I did. And it was fun. So, there you go."
Phil was also full of praise for Vogg, saying: "Right when Vogg joined MACHINE HEAD, or was playing with MACHINE HEAD or whatever, [a friend of mine] said, 'Dude, they got the Dime[bag] of death metal,' or whatever. And they were off my radar. I had heard of the band, and I think I met him one time at a show in Poland. [My friend] told me about 'em, so I dialed some of them up. And the songs were great; they're super groovy and not at all what I expected. So I need to hear more DECAPITATED. They sound really fucking cool. So, like I said, not at all what I was expecting. I loved what I heard; I thought it was awesome. And the dude's a phenomenal guitar player — ridiculous."
During an appearance on a recent episode of "The Jasta Show", Demmel was asked if he has been in contact with MACHINE HEAD frontman, fellow San Francisco Bay Area resident Robb Flynn, since he left the group. He responded: "I've seen him twice. And one of the days [was] at [last year's] Bloodstock [Open Air festival in the U.K. where MACHINE HEAD played a surprise set and Demmel performed with both VIO-LENCE and LAMB OF GOD]. He was by our dressing room, talking to the dudes. I just kind of walked by. The first time I saw him, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and KORN played some West Coast shows, and I went to that show, popped my head in to say 'hey' to Shavo [Odadjian, SYSTEM OF A DOWN bassist] and 'Thanks for the tickets.' And I stick my head in, and Robb's kids are there, his wife's there. I went, 'Oh, no.' I saw Shavo and I just went, 'Hey. Have a good show.' And I went to front of house to watch. Juan Gonzalez, he works with DEFTONES forever, he was the front of the house. And so I'm hanging with him. And then I get a tap on my shoulder, and I went, 'Oh, shit.' And it's Dean Dell, the bass player from VIO-LENCE, who I haven't seen since he was let go from the band. So it's, like, 'Oh, hey, Dean.' I chatted with him for a minute, and as I'm talking to him, Robb came up and he was, 'Hello, Mr. Demmel,' and he stuck his hand out. And we bumped knucks. And that's been the extent of our contact in the past… it's been four years now."
Demmel went on to say that he has had a "civil-ish" relationship with Flynn since his exit from MACHINE HEAD. "There's no words exchanged," he explained. "I don't think that there's any need to have any words exchanged. In that sense, there's separate worlds, and they can thrive on their own, and they have been. They're killing it. I'm doing my thing. Everybody's okay with that happening. I don't think that they need to — the worlds don't need to collide at all. I would prefer if they didn't. I prefer things this way. I have friends in that camp. And I'm not too sure how welcome they are or welcome they feel to be able to say hello to me, which is weird. But him and I got a divorce, in a sense, and not everybody else, so there's no beef."
Demmel left MACHINE HEAD at the end of the band's fall 2018 North American tour. He was in MACHINE HEAD for nearly 16 years, during which time he played on five of the group's studio albums: "Through The Ashes Of Empires" (2003),"The Blackening" (2007),"Unto The Locust" (2011),"Bloodstone & Diamonds" (2014) and "Catharsis" (2018).
In 2019, Demmel told the "In The Pitts Of Metal And Motor Chaos" podcast that MACHINE HEAD ended up becoming a Flynn solo project toward the end of his time with the group. "We weren't a band," he said. "That was Robb's trip, and we were basically just being told what was gonna happen… Everything had changed over time. Shit, we were together for 16 years and stuff changes after that. It's been the band that he started. So things shift, and as they weren't what we agreed to or what we wanted to be a part of, [drummer Dave McClain and I] just left. So we do our own thing, and [Robb] does his thing." Demmel also said that the musical side of MACHINE HEAD took a sharp turn for the worse during the writing stage for "Catharsis", an album he said he hated.
Demmel told SiriusXM's Liquid Metal that there were "a lot of things" that he couldn't do while he was a member of MACHINE HEAD, including speak to the press. "There was a point where we were taking liberties and still doing [interviews]," Phil said. "It got to be where the talks that came along with it, it was unbearable. It was just like, 'Man, I'm punching the clock here. I'm gonna show up. What songs do you wanna play? Okay. Cool. We're gonna play the songs. When are the dates? Okay. Cool.' For the last cycle, it was the paycheck. That was my living. I didn't like my job anymore."
Phil also revealed that he decided to quit MACHINE HEAD after spending "many stressed-out nights" talking with his wife and occasionally "losing sleep" over everything that was going on with the band. "And it just got to the point to where I [couldn't] do this anymore," he explained. "It's unhealthy for me physically, it's totally unhealthy for me mentally, and it's taking its toll on my family now, and there's where I've gotta draw the line," he said. "This isn't fun, and I've gotta quit my job. And there was a straw that broke the camel's back."
Demmel announced his exit from MACHINE HEAD in October 2018, explaining at the time that he wanted "to step away and do something else musically." Phil, who first played with Robb in VIO-LENCE in the late 1980s and early 1990s, went on to complete MACHINE HEAD's "Freaks & Zeroes Tour" before officially leaving the band.
Demmel spent most of the last three years playing sporadic shows with the reunited VIO-LENCE, which released a new EP, "Let The World Burn", last year via Metal Blade Records.
Although Flynn was part of VIO-LENCE's classic incarnation and played on the band's debut album, "Eternal Nightmare", he wasn't approached about taking part in any of VIO-LENCE's comeback shows.