PHIL DEMMEL Says KERRY KING Is 'Kind Of Misunderstood': 'He's Not In Any Way Some Super-Controlling Dude'

July 10, 2024

During an appearance on the latest episode of the That Metal Interview podcast, Phil Demmel spoke about his working relationship with Kerry King in the SLAYER guitarist's recently unveiled solo project. Asked if Kerry is "this evil guy sitting on a throne on a mountain or is he a down-to-earth guy", the 57-year-old San Francisco Bay Area-based musician, who has previously played with MACHINE HEAD and VIO-LENCE, said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "No, I don't see Kerry as an evil guy at all. I see Kerry as maybe misunderstood. I mean, everybody's got their thing. He's not a perfect dude, but I think that he's kind of misunderstood. I think he's a caring person to his band. He's looking out for us. Like, 'Is this cool?' He's open to any ideas. He's got a vision and he knows his songs and he knows how he wants his product to be represented, but he's not in any way some super-controlling dude."

Referencing the rest of King's solo band, which includes drummer Paul Bostaph (SLAYER),bassist Kyle Sanders (HELLYEAH) and vocalist Mark Osegueda (DEATH ANGEL),Phil continued: "It's been awesome [playing] with all four dudes. We spent a month [on tour in Europe] together, and it was fucking great. And every day we get better as a group, and [I'm] playing with some talented dudes and enjoying it."

King's debut solo album, "From Hell I Rise", was released on May 17 via Reigning Phoenix Music. All material for the LP was written by the 60-year-old SLAYER guitarist. 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.

Demmel previously talked about his working relationship with King during an April 2024 appearance on the "Talk Louder" podcast. At the time, he said: "If there's one thing that I know with [Kerry] is exactly where he stands and exactly what he's feeling. He has his agenda, of course, but there's no meandering around with the point he's gonna try to get to, and there's no steps being set up to…"

He continued: "[Kerry] gets this stigma of being a fucking asshole or a fucking dick. And he's not. He's a nice dude. And he's an empathetic dude. He's a caring guy about stuff. It's not like he's this hardened dick and blah, blah, blah. There's just not a filter there where [he just says], 'No, I don't like that, or 'I can't do this because' blah, blah, blah. And it's just straight-forward, man. And I wish people would kind of understand that about other people. It's not him being a fucking… well, maybe it could be considered a dick, but that's not his intent. He's just, like, 'I'm not fucking around. I'm not gonna bullshit you.'"

Nearly six 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.

Photo credit: Jim Louvau

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