PHIL DEMMEL Reflects On His Audition To Become SEPULTURA's Singer: 'It Was A Good Experience'

April 25, 2023

During an appearance on "Put Up Your Dukes", the podcast hosted by ex-EXODUS singer Rob Dukes, former MACHINE HEAD and current VIO-LENCE guitarist Phil Demmel reflected on his audition for the lead-singer position in SEPULTURA when Max Cavalera quit the latter band in 1996. Speaking about how his audition came about, Demmel said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I had kind of quit music [at that point]. I was married with my first wife, just being young and dumb. I had a great job, I was in the union and was snowboarding and golfing and playing basketball three times a week. I was just doing that and kind of stepped out of music. So that came up. And it was, like, 'Yeah.' 'Cause I had done [a band called] TORQUE and I had been singing and playing and was used to that. I think that they [SEPULTURA] already had [found] Derrick [Green] and it was already a done deal [that he was going to be in the band]. But it was a good experience to get in and write lyrics over one of their original songs and make up my own phrasing and go in and sing it. So it was a good experience nonetheless… James Murphy [former TESTAMENT and DEATH guitarist] recorded me [at his studio]. I think it's on YouTube somewhere. It's not that good, man. It's so mid-'90s. I think the tune changed a little bit, too. It was a song called 'Choke' that was on that first record [1998's 'Against'] with Derrick."

Regarding the style of vocals he used for his SEPULTURA audition, Demmel previously told Rock Talks: "It was kind of raspy, kind of Chuck Billy [TESTAMENT] a little bit. If you listen to the TORQUE record — if you just pull up the TORQUE record on Spotify or iTunes or whatever — you'll have an idea. I did a whole record with me singing. [It's] the same voice."

In a March 2022 interview with Rocking With Jam Man, TESTAMENT's Chuck Billy, who also auditioned for SEPULTURA, was asked if he was disappointed when he didn't get the gig. Chuck replied: "No, 'cause TESTAMENT wouldn't be TESTAMENT. We wouldn't be able to write the records that we did — 'The Gathering' and all the great records of music. And the reunion of our original band wouldn't have happened.

"When I did the audition, I was too late; they already selected Derrick as the singer," he explained. "So that was a good thing. 'Cause if I would have got that gig, things would have been different for TESTAMENT."

Asked if he wishes that he had gotten the SEPULTURA job or if he likes how things turned out, Chuck said: "I like how it turned out, but at the time I wanted it to happen because music was up in the air; [TESTAMENT] was broken up; everything was changing; the music climate was changing. So I thought back when I auditioned that I wanted something secure — I wanted a security. And to me, finding a band that had something established is what I thought I wanted. Luckily, I didn't get it. Things would have been much different for me if I would have still been in SEPULTURA."

Pressed about whether he would have liked to have joined SEPULTURA if TESTAMENT had ended completely, Chuck said: "In a sense, but looking back now, I don't know. I mean, every band has their hardships and up and downs, so I don't know if I would have got into the band and then we would have hit a stone wall and had hardships there. I probably wouldn't have been in the band. I probably would have left the band. And who knows what I would have done."

Billy previously discussed his SEPULTURA audition in a 2016 interview with Eonmusic. At the time, he said: "Yeah, around that time was right before [TESTAMENT made] the 'Demonic' record, so we had finished our Atlantic [Records] contract, and we were shopping for a new deal. We didn't really have a deal yet, and at the last minute, I just said, 'You know what? Maybe I should try to find a band that's solid, that's going to keep touring and continue on,' and at that point, SEPULTURA was taking auditions, and I think it was at the end [of the audition process] that I decided, 'Screw it, I'm going to do it.' I think I did three songs; I did 'Refuse/Resist', I did 'Territory', and I wrote my version of 'Choke', and gave it to them. But by the time I had delivered, they had already made their decision for [the appointment of new singer] Derrick [Green], which in the end, was probably the way it all should have worked out."

Asked if it would have been a strange feeling to be performing with a new bunch of guys after playing with the same band for most of his career, Chuck said: "It would have been, yeah. I don't know if I was really prepared, and if they would have said, 'Okay, you're in,' I would have said, 'Well, let me think about that!' I don't know what I would have done. I just did it on the spur of the moment, like, 'Fuck it! What have I got to lose?!'"

SEPULTURA guitarist Andreas Kisser spoke about Billy's audition for the band during a 2015 appearance on "The Jasta Show". He said: "Chuck [laid down his vocals over] the [demo version of a then-new SEPULTURA song called] 'Choke' … Because we sent the instrumental [version] of a new song [to prospective singers to record their vocals over]. We didn't want anyone to sing 'Roots [Bloody Roots]' or 'Refuse/Resist', because we didn't want a clone. We wanted somebody to bring new ideas, to bring SEPULTURA to a different path, to a different level. And Chuck Billy, he did… He used more of the guttural [vocal style on his audition tape]. And it works. Because, recently, we did a 'Metal Allegiance' jam at NAMM in Los Angeles, and we played some SEPULTURA stuff with Chuck Billy singing, and it was great, man — it was great. So he did a great job. But, you know, he's Chuck Billy; he's TESTAMENT. We wanted somebody new."

A two-minute snippet of Chuck Billy's SEPULTURA audition tape can be streamed in the YouTube clip below.

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