PHIL DEMMEL Says His Reasons For Leaving MACHINE HEAD Were '99 Percent Personal'

June 10, 2024

In a new interview with Nikki Blakk of the San Francisco Bay Area radio station 107.7. The Bone, Phil Demmel, who left MACHINE HEAD more than five years ago, reflected on his time with the band. He said in part (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I've seen a lot with that band and its members. It was a good ride. It was an awesome ride. It was an awesome experience, seeing success on a bunch of different levels with them. And a great learning experience and a great musical experience.

"I wanna keep it positive and remember all the good stuff and all the stuff that we achieved and the music that we wrote and the shows that we played — headlining some festivals and playing these amazing shows and meeting… I met my wife through the band," he continued

"I think that I was pretty instrumental in maintaining that band's success. I think that me and Dave [McClain, former MACHINE HEAD drummer] and Adam [Duce, former MACHINE HEAD bassist], we played a huge part in not just writing and creating, but I think even in the networking sense. Meeting people while I'm out with the band and introducing these athletes and other entertainers that maybe heard of the band, but having them come out to the shows and branching and bringing awareness in that sense. So I feel like I really contributed to that band. I'm proud of what I've done. And I'm proud of the way that it ended and the way that I exited and I transitioned. Yeah, I'm proud of that time. I think that we definitely made a mark during that time."

Asked if he felt that he was going to have a career change after his departure from MACHINE HEAD or if he was just done with everything that was going on with the band and he needed something new regardless of what it ended up being, Demmel said: "The whole 'Catharsis' cycle, there was just a shift in the dynamic in the band. Me and Dave felt it extremely. He was more on the fence than I was — on the ledge, I'll say; Dave was more on the ledge than I was… I didn't really like the record. I liked some of the stuff that I contributed to. I liked some of the songs that were on there. It's not a horrible record. It's not. But it was just a weird record in the sense that you could just feel this dynamic shift with everything… But I felt that once [my wife and I bought a bar in Dublin, California and] we had the business that I wasn't so reliant on the [MACHINE HEAD] paycheck and I felt that I could be done with the band. I didn't wanna be done with music. We had the Pro Tools in the studio set up in the house and I was learning how to program some drums and I was learning and I was writing different stuff. So, I had one foot on a banana peel and the other one out the door. And I slipped on that banana peel and I was out the door. It was time for me to go. I didn't know what was gonna happen and I didn't care."

Elaborating on his reasons for leaving MACHINE HEAD, Demmel said: "It was the music, but it wasn't the music. It was 99 percent personal that I couldn't be there anymore. It was affecting my sleep. It was a toxic entity in my head, in my heart that I had to purge, and I tried to — I wouldn't say 'play ball,' but I tried to go along as long as I could, until I couldn't. And then it was just — one thing happened to where it was just, like, 'Oh, I'm fucking done. I can't be in a band like this anymore,' and delivered my [resignation]… I didn't know what was gonna happen [after I left], but I knew that I was instantly relieved and I was smiling and happy and a hundred percent sure that it was the right decision."

Regarding why he ended up doing one last tour with MACHINE HEAD even after announcing his exit from the band, Phil said: "I quit with a tour on the books, and they were supposed to do a video that that weekend. And I said, 'I'm not doing any of it. I'm done.' And I called Dave on the way to Robb's [Flynn, MACHINE HEAD leader], and [Dave] is, like, 'Oh, you beat me to it. I'm quitting tomorrow.' And so I called Robb the next day and said, 'Hey, it's a dick move to bail on tour.' And it was. I said, 'If you can't find anybody to replace me, then I'll honor the tour and we can…' whatever."

Demmel clarified that Flynn didn't attempt to convince him to stay in MACHINE HEAD. "He was just as done with me as I was with him, so I don't think that it was 'it's not you, it's me'-type breakup," he said. "I think that we were just done with each other."

He added: "[Dave and I] honored the tour. It was an awkward situation, going on a honeymoon with somebody you just asked for a divorce for. And so the whole tour was pretty awkward."

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 an April 2023 interview with The New York Hardcore Chronicles LIVE!, Demmel discussed his decision to buy a ticket to see his former bandmates in MACHINE HEAD perform in late 2022 at their concert in Sacramento, California. The 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 then-guitarist, Polish musician Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka, who was unable to make the trek due to his touring commitments with his longtime band DECAPITATED.

"What's really cool is I went and saw them in Sacramento [when] they came by, and this kid that they had playing guitar for 'em was Reece. He's from a band called HAVOK," Demmel said. "VIO-LENCE played with HAVOK one time, and I really admire the dude's playing and him as a person. And so I wanted to see him play [with MACHINE HEAD]. So I bought a ticket and went with my hood up and I found myself a little spot. And I had the best time, man — listening to songs and air guitaring. I was able to just put on those musical blinders of all the personal shit and everything else and just rock out to the tunes. And I had a great time. And watching Reece play was awesome."

During a January 2023 appearance on "The Jasta Show", Demmel said 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."

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, [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 is currently a member of SLAYER guitarist Kerry King's solo band, which released its debut album, "From Hell I Rise", last month.

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