Machine Head: In-depth Interview With Phil Demmel
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal, July 6th, Los Angeles CA: I caught up with Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel a couple of days before the band hit the road for this year's Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and I talked to him about being part of the tour, the band's new album "Unto The Locust" which releases September 27th on Roadrunner Records, among other things. Read our conversation below, and make sure you order your copy of "Unto The Locust" when it becomes available.
Andrew: It's good to talk to you again, Phil. How was the show last night?
Phil: The show was good, and the crowd was awesome. We're working in a bunch of new gear, so it was like a dress rehearsal for us for the big tour coming up.
Andrew: You guys have been busy recording the new album. How has the process been this time?
Phil: Yeah, we're actually done with the recording. We're mixing right now. I think we have another week and a half before it's done. I'm excited, the songs are great. We want it done, and we want it out.
Andrew: That's awesome. So will you be playing any of these new songs on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival?
Phil: Yeah I think we're going to play one song. We've released an advance mix of the song "Locust", just to give a taste to everybody out there first. We tried it out last night, and we'll probably play that throughout the Mayhem tour.
Andrew: How does it feel to be on this year's Mayhem Festival? It's going to be a month-long tour with a bunch of bands, most of whom you already know.
Phil: Yeah, we're going to be out with friends of ours, and we'll make new friends as well. We've toured with Disturbed, Megadeth and Suicide Silence in the past, but one band I'm really looking forward to seeing is All Shall Perish.
Andrew: The new album is titled "Unto The Locust". What can you tell me about the idea behind the title and the overall lyrical theme for the album?
Phil: Well .. (laughs) .. the word Locust kind of came up because I had a couple of people in my life that had ulterior motives under the guise of purity. They had ulterior intentions, and I'm sure everybody has discovered in their lives when a friend or a business associate or lover, or anything like that, come up to you only to get what they can from you. Like a locust they soak up everything until they see that it's eradicating, and move on to the next resource. This title is about that type of person.
Andrew: That's very interesting. Musically, where do you think it stands in comparison to the previous Machine Head albums?
Phil: I think this is a big departure, not a huge departure but there are elements that we're kind of branching out in. So I think you'll get to hear some of the old elements that have kind of drawn the people that have been part of our fan base, but it's a snapshot of where we are in time right now. That what the past records have been too, just kind of where we are personally, emotionally and creatively.
Andrew: What plans do you guys have for the rest of the year? I believe the "Eighth Plague" tour has been announced and you'll be hitting Europe first.
Phil: Yeah, we are doing this [Mayhem Festival] until August. In September we'll be in Australia, October in South America and in November-December we're doing UK and Europe. We plan to get back to the States in the first quarter of next year, and we'll also do Japan and some of the South-East Asian countries.
Andrew: It's been a while since you've done your own tour in the US, so it will be good to have you guys doing that again.
Phil: Yeah, we haven't headlined the US since September of 2007. We've been blessed to have had all these opportunities to open for the great bands we've toured with. We wanted to do a headline run at the end of the touring cycle for The Blackening in the beginning of 2010, but it just didn't work out because we had to shut down in order to write this new record.
Andrew: How has this album compared to previous ones in terms of the time you've taken to write it? Have you taken longer with this one?
Phil: Well, I think the fact that the Mayhem tour was coming up kind of pushed us into the studio before we would have liked. But timing-wise, I would have liked to be able to write a little bit more, because we were on such a roll. Sometimes you don't get to choose those things, but we still took 15 months off, and I think we've got a great and solid record. Besides, we don't write like most other bands do. I mean, I was talking to some of my buddies in these bands (laughs), and they go, "Yeah, we've got 30 songs written and we're going to pick and choose!" And I was like, man, we wrote just eight songs for the previous album and for one of them it was just like we threw a bunch of stuff together and it turned out to be pretty cool. We write the songs one at a time, and they tell a story. So if the story is incomplete, we can't put them on there.
Andrew: I was in San Francisco earlier this year to see a Death Angel show, and I ran into Robb [Flynn] over there. When was the last time you toured with Death Angel? That would be such a killer tour, Death Angel and Machine Head.
Phil: (Laughs) I don't think Machine Head has ever toured with Death Angel. Machine Head did a show with them when I wasn't in the band, but yeah I love the Death Angel guys. They're good dudes and a great band. If this tour could happen in the future or not, you never know.
Andrew: We need all the Bay Area bands touring together.
Phil: Yeah, us, Death Angel, Testament, Exodus. I think you're on to something there.
Andrew: Phil, it was great talking to you man. Thanks for your time and have a blast on the Mayhem Festival.
Phil: Thanks a lot man, see you soon!