Matt Hensch caught up with Phil Demmel from Machine Head recently to talk about their new CD The Blackening, their writing process, epic metal, touring with legendary Dio fronted Black Sabbath and more.
Matt Hensch for 2&2: So you're Phil from Machine Head.
Phil Demmel: I am Phil from Machine Head.
2&2: Alright. So what can you tell me about your new record, The Blackening?
Phil: Eight songs- over an hour of epic metal music.
2&2: Since they're eight songs and it's over an hour, is it safe to assume some songs are over ten minutes?
Phil: We have two songs over ten minutes, two songs over nine minutes, and nothing under five.
2&2: You guys really haven't made songs that long before, so what kind of influence controls that song-writing style?
Phil: I think it was the lack of influences that made us do that. I just think it was the point of, you know, we kinda followed the same formula from the last record and writing for ourselves. Did we want these to be long? I think we influenced ourselves. We thought: Why can't we have a massive breakdown of Rob and Adam harmonizing together over a bass line or a nine minute solo or something like that. We wanted them there, so let's keep 'em there.
2&2: So how was the writing process for The Blackening?
Phil: Pretty long. We spent over a year writing it, and it kinda went in two phases: We had four songs off pretty quick, and then we hit a bit of a dry spell, and we were playing these four songs and nothing new was coming up. I had stayed over with Rob one session and showed him some little things I had for this one song and he called me on the way home going: "I gotta chorus for it. It goes like this," and he was humming the part to me and ended up becoming annihilating now, which is one of the quicker songs we had written and it seemed like once we got that song together, then the other stuff started a whole inspiration to finish the record.
2&2: So do you think it turned out to be a good record?
Phil: Yea. We wanted a classic sounding record and wanted something that would be timeless and something to play in ten years and still have it as valid as it when we released it. I think we achieved that.
2&2: So how has the tour been going with Lamb Of God, Trivium and Gojira?
Phil: Touring has been amazing. Every show's been sold out and Rob will ask each night: "How many of you have seen us before," and ninety percent of the kids haven’t, but were winning them over at the end of each set. Awesome pre-release tour; couldn't ask for better.
2&2: Are you guys playing material from your new album during this tour?
Phil: Well, we get forty minutes and we only play thirty five; that extra five minutes is drinking water or talking to the crowd. We're playing five songs, but two are new ones.
2&2: It was announced awhile ago that Machine Head will be supporting Heaven and Hell; so how does feel knowing you're going to open for the most legendary metal band of all time?
Phil: It feels amazing that we were given this opportunity, you know. We're all fans of the Sabbath era with Dio stuff. I love the Ozzy Sabbath stuff, but what do I listen to more? I listen to the Dio stuff more, and just for us to have that opportunity to play in front of them, and Megadeth too. Another legendary band we're proud to play with
2&2: You were a major guitarist in Vio-lence, which was a big thrash band back in the 80's and 90's, and awhile ago you guys reunited for The Thrash Of The Titans and for other benefits and stuff. You guys announced soon after that Vio-lence wouldn't be doing anything else beyond that. My question for you is how do you think your time in Vio-lence influenced you as a guitarist?
Phil: Those were my formative years, and I joined right out of high school; I was a senior in high school when I joined that band, and it kind of sculpted hanging out with the people that I did over that time period hanging out with Zet from Exodus and the Testament guys, and it was some of our peers at the time that corrupted me in a way. I was a small kid from California; I had no reason to be upset over anything, you know. I had a great upbringing and these guys showed me the darker side of metal that kind of corrupted me in that way and I think they formed into what I am now.
2&2: What are some new metal bands that you've enjoyed?
Phil: Before we toured with Chimaira in 2004, and I hadn't listened to them that much until I got to meet them and actually listen and become a fan of their music. Chimaira is one of the metal bands I enjoy now. I really like Children of Bodom and their musician ship because they're just a cool metal band, you know? They got the keyboards in it so it gives it that cool feeling, but you know, I love the riffs, I love the solos, and I just love the attitude. I think there won't be another Dime, but Alexi is just one of those guys who gets plastered every night, and he's just metal; he lives it and breaths it. So those couple bands.
2&2: Is Machine Head going to be your main band from now on?
Phil: Yea. This will probably be the last band I ever play in. The gray hairs come in and that doesn't mean I'm getting any younger, and this is the band I always want to play with, you know? These are the guys I wanted to always be in band with and were making the music I love playing. Yea, this is it.
2&2: Well, that's all the questions I got. It's been an honor meeting you and I'll see at the show!
Phil: Thanks man.