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Machine Head

Phil Demmel Interview

Machine Head’s guitarist Phil Demmel sat down with RIFF Magazine just before going on stage to their concert in Lisbon, Portugal. Here’s the exclusive interview brought to you by RIFF Magazine where Demmel tackles such themes as the current tour, the new record “Unto the Locust”, lyrical concepts, the recording of Judas Priest and Rush covers and also his view on “LULU”.



So, you’re beginning a new tour with Devildriver and Bring Me the Horizon,how’s it going so far?
The tour is going excellent! We’re taking eleven shows deep into this. Things are going great, all the shows have been awesome, we´re looking forward to one of the better shows tonight, we love Portugal and the fans are crazy, so… things are awesome!

Let’s talk about “Unto the Locust”, your new record. How was the recording process?

It was good. Robb (Flynn) was producing, kind of family of the band and we tried a lot of different stuff, you know? Robb was a busy guy, wore a bunch of different hats. It was a good process. We recorded in JingleTown studios, where Green Day owns a studio in Oakland, it was kind of close, we felt like we’re at home and it was really comfortable, really good vibe. We were able to try different things, do a lot of different stuffs… we were excited with it.

How do you compare it to other previous works, especially your last album, “The Blackening” which was also a monumental hit?

I think it’s most comparable to The Blackening because they were written in the closest proximity, but I think it’s the next step from The Blackening. I can’t compare to any other records, ‘cause all records sound different, we’re a different band now. In the sense they all sound different, it’s my favorite record, I think it’s the most complete Machine Head record.

With 7 tracks only, do you have other material already recorded for release? Can we expect another album really soon?

We had a couple of other songs; we’re working it on the studio, besides the seven and the covers, that didn’t work out for this record. We felt that they weren’t right, I think one of them might make it on a future Machine Head record, the other one just didn’t kind of pan out. We haven’t start writing for the next record, we take a long time in between records and we write when we’re at home. Maybe a riff, one or two riffs will come up here and there, but for the most part we write when we’re at home, so…

Sometimes we had a riff or two, that survives our little jam sessions or our little sound check sessions on the road, but for the most part everything is kind of taking care at the writing jam pad.

So tell us, what are the concepts you’ve approached lyrically in this album, what are its overall themes, is there any concept?

I came up with a couple of concepts for this record, one being Locust. I had a couple experiences with some people in my life, where these people came into your life and they become your friends, your band mate, your lover, your co-worker or something, and they just rob you of your humanity, of your… not only material things, like money, but they lie to you, they grab everything that they can from you, and when they’re discovered they just take off and go to the next person, you know?! I see the locust, I like them to a locust because they just sweep in and devour everything that they can, and then they go on to the next person, and they just do the same thing to. It could apply to a leech or something like that as well, but a locust had all this more cool imaginary. Another one was Pearls before Swine, Robb had some lyrics didn´t really apply to anything, and I came up with this idea to talk about, you know, addictions, speak from the addictions stand point, talk to the addict, you know, it’s not a song of hope, it’s like “you’re fucked!”.

You’re trying out some different elements on this new record, like multi-tracked choir sections and the song writing itself is diverse. Were these conscious decisions, or something you guys felt you had to do?

I think that everything we come up with wasn’t a preconceived idea, like this is what we’re going to do in this record, it was more like these feelings come up, they get transferred to the music and then let’s take them in this direction, it wasn´t like let’s try go this direction, it was let’s take these ideas and see where they go, try all these different ideas… just going for the ride!

You’ve recorded 2 covers for this album, a Judas Priest song “The Sentinel”, and a Rush song called “Witch Hunt”. What was the inspiration to cover these songs?

The Judas Priest song…I think both cover songs were initiated by Dave, our drummer. Robb was in The Sentinel idea and we’d going to try Witch Hunt a while ago. Witch Hunt you may not like it but, we love that song, it’s one of my favorite tracks of that record, so… We’re all classic metal guys, we’re into Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Rush, and those were two songs we felt we could give them a touch of Machine Head on.

What are Machine Head’s plans for 2012?

We’ll start a tour of the United States in January/February, then we go right to Australia in March, we’re gonna probably pick up back in April / May, try to make some more stages in the States, some markets that we miss, maybe!…This is all tenuous right now, then we’re going to some festivals in June and July in Europe. Maybe a year from now, do another round or something, we’re gonna cover the globe again, you know?!

Do you prefer playing in Festivals, or smaller venues, like this one?

Definitely both! There’s definitely a taste for both. Once we get in to doing the headlining clubs is really cool, but there’s always love being around the festivals, the all environment, the bands playing, see bigger crowds, bigger bands, so… festivals are awesome!

You guys are known to be Metallica fans, so what are your views on the Metallica & Lou Reed collaboration?

You know, I love Metallica, I like the last record. I don’t see this like a Metallica record; I think is collaboration with somebody that I’m not really familiar with, I don’t understand… there’s a band called The Mentors, kind of rape rock, and the way he talks it kind of reminds me of El Duce, the singer from The Mentors, not really on time and weird… I just don’t get it I’m a Metallica fan; I listen to Metallica, not Metallica with Lou Reed.

Tell us about your new Jackson signature guitar model.

The Jackson Demmelition King V, yes! Jackson I had it out for three or four years, sounds really good, have some more colors coming out. I’m a big fan of Randy Rhoads, so I’ve got the Randy Rhoads Polka Dot Edition coming out too. I’ve got a brand new Baritone I’ll be playing tonight… I have it in the room, do you want me to go get it?!

Could you go to a store to pick up one of those and take it to the stage to play right away with it?

Yah, they play pretty much the same. Mine are custom, so they’re a little bit different from the ones available in the shop, but same idea. This is the new one, it’s a Baritone (27’’ inch), fretboard …These are the signature cutouts, it’s a regular King V but I came up with this cutouts and that’s what makes it a Phil Demmel model, so there you go!

Label: RoadRunner

Machine Head Facebook

Concert Promoter: EveryThingIsNew

We would like to thank Ana, Cátia and Paulo (Warner/RoadRunner), Nuno (Every Thing Is New) and of course Phil (Machine Head) for their kindness and support.



Interview, Cameras, Photos and Video-Editing: Francisco Monteiro

Interview: Alexandre Amaro