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Two Years Later, Phil Demmel Reflects on His Time in Machine Head

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Guitarist Phil Demmel and drummer Dave McClain quit Machine Head two years ago this week, coming as quite a shock to the metal world after 16 and 23 years in the band, respectively. Demmel in particular had some not-so-nice things to say about his relationship with frontman/mainman Robb Flynn in the press fallout that followed, but it seems time has softened his stance a bit and allowed him to reflect more on the positive than the negative.

Speaking to Bad Wolves / ex-God Forbid guitarist Doc Coyle on The Ex-Man Podcast, Demmel explained that letting out his frustration in the immediate aftermath of the split has allowed him to move on and view his time with Machine Head mostly for all the good it did for him:

“I spent a good year letting out a lot. I think that I kept my lips pretty tight, actually. There were some things that needed to be shared, a lot that doesn’t need to be talked about. And I spent a year talking. And then I looked back and said, ‘A year is good enough.’ It’s coming up on two years that I quit now.

“There was so much good and there was so much fun and so much learning and so many good experiences that I don’t want the 98 percent of good — I don’t want the two percent to ruin that 98 percent, or that to be the headline or be the focus of what my experience in that band was.

“That band gave me a second life. From not being in music and pretty much quitting on music to concentrate on a failing marriage, it brought me into what has been my calling — it’s what I’m meant to do. So I’m grateful for having that chance in Machine Head to play and make that music and have those experiences. I made some awesome memories with those dudes, and that’s what I wanna kind of focus on now.”

That’s a very different tack than Demmel took a few months after quitting, saying at the time:

“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.’”

He also said in 2019 of Machine Head’s most recent record, 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.’”

We’re glad that time has patched up that animosity: 16 years is a friggin’ long time to be in a band, and Demmel and Flynn wrote some incredible, genre-defining material together.

Demmel and McClain did end up doing one final tour with Machine Head after announcing their departure. Demmel would go on to fill in for Gary Holt in Slayer and reunite with Vio-Lence will McClain re-joined Sacred Reich.

You can listen to the full chat between Coyle and Demmel below.

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