Michelle LaRose talks with Phil Demmel for Garage Radio Magazine
Photographs by Michelle LaRose
Machine Head hit the road for the first time in two years on tour with Gojira, Trivium and Lamb Of God to promote their newly released album The Blackening.
We sat with guitarist Phil Demmel to find out more about the new album, their internet fans and touring Europe.
Phil: Yeah. The Blackening, eight songs over an hour long of just epic metal. We’ve gone back to trying to make a statement with the record and we think that we’ve done so. We try and make really big sounding songs and kinda’ timeless sounding songs that you’d hear twenty years from now. It’s been a week and we’re still listening to them. Let’s hope for another twenty years and we’ll be good!
GR: Are you nervous or apprehensive while waiting for a new album to be released?
Phil: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been in this band now for the past five years so I’ve seen two very highly anticipated records come out. We’re always excited to see what it’s going to do and we got amazing reviews with this thing and we think it’s going to sell really well.
GR: Robb recently blogged, “Been really hitting our stride as a band lately.” Do you think it takes this amount of time to reach a stride?
Phil: I think he was saying that based on touring and based on our live show. We haven’t toured in two years; we played a week’s worth of shows on the Sounds Of The Underground last year but for the most part it’s been two years since we toured. So it took us a couple of weeks to get back and get the fire going and grease all the joints and get everything moving and I think that’s what he was talking about.
GR: You were almost kicked off Ozzfest for a grass throwing fight in Detroit. Do tell!
Phil: That was before I was in the band actually so I don’t have the story. I’m sure there were plenty of other reasons they could have been booted off of Ozzfest! I think the reason they don’t let the bands use the golf carts anymore is because of Machine Head!
Phil: On Clenching The Fists Of Dissent they were singing ‘fight.’ So we needed a lot of big gang vocals for this part and we’re really close and have a really good relationship with our fans so we got on our message board and said “Hey anybody in the area come on down!” and we had about fifteen friends and fans from the board and fed them all a bunch of booze and threw them in the room and got a lot of shouts out of them. It ended up being really, really good.
GR: We heard that you will be shooting a video for Aesthetics of Hate right away. Has that commenced yet?
Phil: Actually we did! We shot that in Virginia about three or four days ago. We spent a couple of days when we were in Virginia and got all kinds of dilapidated houses and under the freeway scenes and so we filmed the video. So probably in the next month or so we’ll have that ready.
GR: Your first choice for a video from this album was Clenching The Fists Of Dissent but you opted for Aesthetics of Hate. Why?
Phil: Well, actually we filmed the video for Now I Lay Thee Down and it’s kinda’ more of a mellower tune more of a hit type song and we didn’t want the first taste people got from the record to be that more marketable tune. We wanted to come out swinging with Aesthetics of Hate, which is a more aggressive song and more indicative of the record as a whole.
GR: Will you shoot a video for Clenching The Fists Of Dissent?
Phil: Well that’s a ten and a half minute song. Yeah, if we do we might just do it for an internet type only deal. So that’s maybe down the road a little bit further. We’d like to do that but we want to see how things roll, so we’ll get to that.
GR: Speaking of internet only, you did three cover tunes for your online message board members only. Will we ever see those songs on an album?
Phil: I seriously doubt it. One of the songs that’s on there, we rerecorded it. Originally we asked our fans on the message boards, “What three songs would you love to hear Machine Head do?” It was kind of a down time in between Through the Ashes and Supercharger. They said Battery from Metallica, Jizzlober from Faith No More and Toxic Waltz from Exodus. So Toxic Waltz and Jizzlober we’re probably never ever going to record for a record but Battery did come out as an added song over in Europe. So it’s out over there.
GR: You’ll be on the Heaven And Hell tour in April and May. Can you tell us about it?
Phil: Yeah, we’re super stoked to be playing with the Dio era Sabbath and we were amazed that we even got this gig, doing an arena tour with Heaven and Hell and Megadeath as well, a huge amazing band that we’ve all liked over the years. It’s going to be good for us to be able to spread the word to that many people.
GR: Then you’re off to Europe?
Phil: Yep. Then we do festivals in Europe in June and half of July. Playing all kinds of festivals with Maiden and Heaven and Hell again and Slayer, Marilyn Manson, and Linkin Park and doing a bunch of crazy stuff. Lamb Of God, Killswitch, we get to play with a lot of our friends on a lot of the off dates.
Phil: The best part about Europe is we’re so much bigger over there. The shows are always three times the size of the shows we do in the states. So it’s just the crowds and the reaction we get.
GR: That’s what I hear from every single band I talk to, why do you think that is?
Phil: You know I think they’re more intelligent music fans as a whole. They’re more accepting of all music genres instead of, “Oh you can’t like Slayer and Blind Guardian.” You get kids over there in corpse paint going to the death metal show but then are going to go to the lighter… maybe The Darkness show. They just love all types of music out there, they appreciate it. So I think over here you get too clicky with Hot Topic and MTV telling you what’s cool and what’s not cool.
GR: What do you like least about going to Europe?
Phil: You’re in Europe! [Both laughing] I mean I love the conveniences of America, I really do. I love being able to stop at a truck stop at two in the morning and be able to get my favorite microwave bean burrito or a Slurpee or something. Over there you can’t, it’s probably a good thing, but it doesn’t mean I like it.
GR: You were going to re-release the Burn My Eyes album then canned the thought. Why were you going to re-release it then why did you can it?
Phil: Roadrunner was rereleasing all their classic records. Type O Negative, Fear Factory, stuff like that and Burn My Eyes was the best selling debut album ever so it always seemed to coincide with… oh we’ve got the DVD coming out, we might want to do it then. No we don’t want to mess with The Blackening coming out. So the band is just like, ‘if it’s not going to happen now let’s just not do it.’
GR: Thank you for speaking with Garage Radio Magazine today Phil.
Phil: Hell yeah! Thanks for coming and checking us out and we look forward to having you check us out tonight.