PHIL DEMMEL On Why He Quit VIO-LENCE: 'It Just Became Something Not Familiar Anymore'

June 12, 2024

In a new interview with Nikki Blakk of the San Francisco Bay Area radio station 107.7 The Bone, guitarist Phil Demmel discussed his decision to leave VIO-LENCE, the band that he formed nearly four decades ago. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The VIO-LENCE thing just became… [Drummer] Perry [Strickland] left, or Perry's no longer in the band, and it just became — and I love Christian [Olde Wolbers, former FEAR FACTORY and current VIO-LENCE bassist] — it just became something not familiar anymore. And it hit me when we played the Whisky [A Go Go in February 2023 in West Hollywood, California] and it was Adrian [Aguilar], the drummer's first show. And we were having this kid Miles Dimitri Baker, who plays in ICE NINE KILLS right now, come down, and he was gonna be my fill-in [for some dates]. And so he was gonna play on a song or two. And I show up to the show and I walk backstage and, man, there was 50 people backstage and I knew maybe [the guys in] the band and a couple of other people. It was just, like, 'Man, this isn't my home anymore. This doesn't feel like home.' And no slight against the dudes, 'cause I loved playing with Adrian, I loved playing with Christian, and Ira [Black, now-former VIO-LENCE guitarist] really worked hard for the band and was a big — he was a big fighter for the band. He worked hard. He cared a lot. Ira was a very productive member of VIO-LENCE. But with everything that was happening, it was just time for me to go… The Kerry [King] thing was firing up, the CATEGORY 7 thing was firing up, and [I] just [did] not [want to] let that be a distraction from [the other stuff I was doing]."

Demmel added: "I loved the [2022] VIO-LENCE EP ['Let The World Burn'] that I wrote, and me and Sean [Killian, VIO-LENCE singer] wrote and we recorded with the dudes. And I'm super proud of those songs and the way that the recording came out. [Producer/engineer] Juan [Urteaga] did a tremendous job."

Circling back to the high turnover of members in VIO-LENCE, Demmel said: "[Former OVERKILL guitarist] Bobby [Gustafson was in the band for a couple of years] and Miles and this kid Jesse's playing now. Ira, Adrian, [drummer] Nick Souza has played, [former CANNIBAL CORPSE and current EXHORDER guitarist] Pat O'Brien's been in. And this is all within the past couple years. So it just wasn't the thing that I started in high school, and the songs meaning the same."

Phil added that "it was cool traveling and doing the stuff that we did. And Sean wants to continue and travel and do the fun stuff. I'm still a partner with him in the business."

As for the possibility of VIO-LENCE making new music without Demmel being an official member of the band, Phil said: "That's all something that remains to be [seen]."

Demmel's final concert with VIO-LENCE took place on February 11 at Carioca Club in São Paulo, Brazil. The gig also marked the last show of VIO-LENCE's Latin American tour with EXHORDER.

When Demmel announced his exit from VIO-LENCE a few days before the São Paulo concert, he said in a video message he shared to his social media: "It's been, I guess, in the works for a bit. My status has been undefined for a while. I'm kind of doing things that I felt comfortable or fell into my schedule or whatever. But given just the latest state of the band and where I feel I belong with it or feel tied to it, I just think that my time is at an end."

Demmel continued: "I'll always identify with the band. Me and [drummer] Perry started this band in high school. It's cool to be going to places that we haven't been.

"I'm feeling that Sean is… We've gone far on different pages. I guess we've always been on different pages. But I don't feel like I fit in with what the objective of this is anymore. And in light of some current events [laughs], I felt compelled to make the break."

Phil went on to say that he "thought about maybe doing a home show" with VIO-LENCE as a way of "saying goodbye," but ultimately concluded that "I don't feel like I need that. I feel like playing those [comeback shows in Oakland in April 2019] with Perry and Deen [Dell, bass] and Ray [Vegas, guitar] and having those two magical days and doing some other stuff that we've done, writing the five songs, doing the EP, I feel fulfilled," he said. "And anything further kind of feels forced. Actually, before this [Latin American] tour [kicked off], I honestly didn't wanna come. [But] I was committed to it. I wasn't gonna back out. I'm committed to the dudes. But I think I'm done. I think that I've done what I wanted to do with this band."

Demmel added: "June 1st, 1985 to February, what will be 11th, 2024. 39, almost 40 years. So, never say never again. Try not to say that. Sometimes you do. It's been life defining, it's been a pleasure, it's been an honor being Phil from VIO-LENCE."

VIO-LENCE played the São Paulo concert as a four-piece after an alleged altercation between Black and Olde Wolbers resulted in Ira being sent home from the tour a few days early.

VIO-LENCE's current touring lineup features only Killian from the lineup that played its first comeback gig in April 2019 at the Oakland Metro in Oakland, California.

In February 2023, Demmel addressed VIO-LENCE's future in an Instagram Live video, saying it was "kind of weird playing these shows" with "a bunch of fill-ins and me and Sean." He added that while Adrian is "awesome" and the Whisky gig "was packed", he is "just kind of really torn right now in the sense of what VIO-LENCE is and what it's gonna be and what my role is gonna be in that and how I feel about that." Demmel went on to say that he told Killian he "wanted to shut [VIO-LENCE] down," but then he realized "that to ask that of those dudes to not do it anymore is selfish on my part."

Released in March 2022, "Let The World Burn" was VIO-LENCE's first original release since 1993's "Nothing To Gain".

Formed in 1985, VIO-LENCE helped define and refine what came to be known as the Bay Area sound, dropping three seminal albums before splitting in 1993. Leaving behind a heady legacy, they reformed briefly a couple of times in the intervening years before becoming a full-time going concern once more in 2019. After playing a string of successful shows, the quintet started to think about new music and delivered "Let The World Burn", showcasing their first new material in 29 years.

VIO-LENCE's recording lineup on "Let The World Burn" consisted of Demmel, Killian and Strickland along with Olde Wolbers and Gustafson.

VIO-LENCE reunited soon after Demmel left MACHINE HEAD in late 2018.

Demmel 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).

Although MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn was part of VIO-LENCE's classic incarnation and played on "Eternal Nightmare", he wasn't approached about taking part in the band's reunion.

Photo credit: Jim Louvau

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