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Machine Head

Interviewed by Kat and Mike Heitzman
Interview with Phil Demmel of Machine Head from 2011

I know you guys are coming out with a new album here and so I am just curious, how would you describe in your own words how your sound has evolved over the years?

Um, well from 2003 we started …Ashes and it was kind of funny, I mean the band finding its center, finding its true center and working on finding an identity, you know. They experimented with different things; I think it went back to its core meaning just being, not caring about radio, not caring about anything. If we want to write a ten-minute song, we write a ten-minute song. So in the past seven years or so we just kind of came out with The Blackening, which was more thrash because we were in that mode. I think that Unto the Locusts, which will be our next record is the next step from that. I think we’re incorporating some classical elements. We have incorporated some strings into some songs and we’ve got…this album contains like the most mellow moments in Machine Head history, but it also contains the most brutal moments as well.
MSJ: You going to be playing some of those new songs tonight?
We’ll be playing a new song tonight, yeah.
MSJ: Do you ever struggle with writing new songs?
Yeah, we struggle for sure. You reach a point where you get writer’s block just like anybody else does. Where the riffs just don’t come so you just try to move on, just try to find some sort of inspiration.
MSJ: So, do you guys play “Davidian” at every show?
You know this is the first tour that we haven’t played “Davidian.” I mean, we played it when we had a longer set, but we had six songs to choose from, now seven and up until the beginning of this tour “Davidian” had been played at every show. And it hasn’t been… It hasn’t been missed too much, you know as much as I thought it would be. They close it with “Halo” and “Halo” is a current song that everybody digs.
MSJ: Are you guys all set to release your new album?
We are. We’re mixing it right now, so September 27th it’s coming out on Roadrunner Records. It’s being mixed right now, almost done. We are doing the setup, got all the packaging done.
MSJ: After touring are you still going to be practicing seven hours a day?
Still gonna be? I don’t practice that much. I don’t practice half as much as I should, anyway.  I tend to play more when I am home. During the day when we wake up we do press and do a signing and then it’s after the show. So, I play more when I’m home, especially when we’re writing because it gives me time to focus on that.
MSJ: Where do you call home nowadays?
I live in Bella, California. I’ve lived there all but about seven years of my life. I spent some time out in Hayward, but still on the east bay. San Francisco Bay area, east bay.
MSJ: How important do you think it is to keep elaborate guitar solos in metal songs?
I think a solo belongs if a song needs a solo. I don’t think they should be forced into tunes where they aren’t there. There are a couple of Machine Head songs where there are no solos, but there are some melody lines, we try to place a solo where it’s needed.
MSJ: So I hear you’re touring with Sepultura this October down in South America-so how do you compare the fans down there to the ones up here on this side of the equator?
I haven’t been there. I think Machine Head’s played one show there back in ’95 but we are trying to break some new ground down there. All I hear from all our friends is that they’re just crazy, just amazing. So, we can’t wait to get down there.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended for your own enjoyment?
I went to…who did I go see? I went to see Rammstein.
MSJ: Oh really? How long ago was that?
A couple months ago. It was amazing…one of the best shows I‘ve ever seen.
MSJ: What was the last CD you purchased?
The last CD I bought was…it might have been the new Sevendust that came out last year.
MSJ: Our final question: Do you have any Spinal Tap moments you wish to share?
There was a Lamb of God tour when they had a bunch of subs set up and they’re kind of  diamond shaped so on the back there are gaps in between them. I usually walk out on the wings and, you know, rock out a little and I walked out and my foot got stuck when I stepped in one of the gaps and my leg fell all the way through - right in front of people. Everyone was laughing at me. (Chuckles) Yeah, that was kind of funny.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at
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