Phil Demmel Opens up About Machine Head Split: Says Band “Became a Robb Flynn Solo Project” and He Wasn’t a Fan of Catharsis
In a new interview with the Talk Toomey podcast, now-former Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel went into some detail about his decision to leave that band (along with drummer Dave McClain) following a final tour last year.
“I think [Robb] strayed from the path of being a band. He stayed on his path. Instead of us being on the same path or asking to be on the same path, it just became, ‘This is what we’re doing.’”
Demmel went on to say that, like a lot of Machine Head fans, he was not particularly keen on the band’s divisive 2018 release, Catharsis:
“I hate the last record. There’s moments of what I wrote that I like. I wrote most of the music to ‘California Bleeding‘, but then [Robb] wrote the lyrics on top of it that I just wish that… Me and Dave talk about it, like, ‘Fuck! I wish I could take my riffs back.’ [Laughs] ‘No, that isn’t what we want them used for.’
“So, I think, in that sense, it just became a Robb Flynn solo project, and that isn’t what I signed up for. And the last few years were basically collecting a paycheck. And I just couldn’t do that. The stress and all the talks and all the ‘can’t do this,’ ‘don’t do that,’ ‘don’t do this,’ ‘don’t stand there,’ ‘don’t say this,’ ‘don’t sing the words to the audience,’ don’t point.’”
None of Demmel’s assertions are particularly surprising — in fact, Flynn said as much when he first announced the split with Demmel and McClain, admitting that he and the other members of the band “have grown” both personally and creatively, and that “I have held on too tight to the reins of this band and I have suffocated those guys.” But despite the fact that all parties seem to be on the same page regarding the cause of their partnership’s dissolution, Demmel says, the final tour was “totally awkward:”
“…I wasn’t gonna do the [last] tour. I was hoping that they’d get somebody to replace me. And then Dave said, ‘Well, I’m not gonna do the tour unless you do the tour.’ So, if Dave left, then the tour [would have been] canceled. So we just kind of agreed to, ‘We’ll honor the tour [and] be done.’ The last tour, [it was] totally awkward. Me and Robb [weren’t] talking. It [wasn’t] mean, but there [was] no talking. Onstage, it [was] kind of forced.
“I’m sitting here now just kind of processing everything that has happened, and I think that there is still some… I don’t wanna say ‘bitterness,’ but just… I don’t know if I’ve been able to really process the way everything has ended and gone.”
Demmel went on to hypothesize that whomever replaces him and McClain in the band will be hired guns, rather than substantial contributors:
“…I think that the guitar position for that band would just be a plug-and-play situation. I contributed heavily to the material. But in the end, Robb wants to do what he’s gonna do, so I don’t know how much that would be a factor. The records that I contributed to—five records; well, actually four—I’m not gonna count the last one. ‘The Blackening‘, ‘Locust‘… Those records would look entirely different without my contributions.”
Since finishing his tenure with Machine Head in November, Demmel has been a fill-in guitarist for Slayer, and recently announced a one-off reunion show of his and Flynn’s old band, Vio-lence… albeit without Flynn. McClain, meanwhile, has re-joined his old band, Sacred Reich, who have a tour with Iron Reagan scheduled to begin in May.
You can listen to the entire interview below.