Phil Demmel says that MACHINE HEAD wasn't a band anymore prior to his departure from the San Francisco Bay Area group.
The guitarist announced his exit from MACHINE HEAD in October, explaining at the time that he wanted "to step away and do something else musically." Phil, who first played with MACHINE HEAD frontman Robb Flynn in VIO-LENCE in the late 1980s and early 1990s, went on to complete the Flynn-fronted act's "Freaks & Zeroes Tour" last fall before officially leaving the band.
During a brand new interview with the "In The Pitts Of Metal And Motor Chaos" podcast, Phil was asked what it was like to go on the road with MACHINE HEAD one last time knowing that he was going to be leaving the band after a 15-year run.
"The tour was a little awkward," Phil admitted (hear audio below). "You don't usually ask for a divorce and then go on a honeymoon. [Laughs] But that's what ended up happening. It was a weird vibe — pretty awkward. But it was good for the fans to get the last shot at seeing this lineup. I couldn't bail. I quit a week before the tour and I was hoping that they'd get somebody to replace me. But Dave [McClain, drums] didn't wanna do the tour if I wasn't gonna do it, and he was pretty much done too. So we decided to honor the tour. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened, and we couldn't do that — we couldn't have the band bail on a tour."
Demmel went on to say that MACHINE HEAD ended up becoming a Flynn solo project toward the end of his time with the group.
"We weren't a band," Demmel said. "That was Robb's trip, and we were basically just being told what was gonna happen… Everything had changed over time. Shit, we were together for 16 years and stuff changes after that. It's been the band that he started. So things shift, and as they weren't what we agreed to or what we wanted to be a part of, we just left. So we do our own thing, and he does his thing."
Demmel previously told SiriusXM's Liquid Metal that there were "a lot of things" that he couldn't do while he was a member of MACHINE HEAD, including speak to the press. "There was a point where we were taking liberties and still doing [interviews]," Phil said. "It got to be where the talks that came along with it, it was unbearable. It was just like, 'Man, I'm punching the clock here. I'm gonna show up. What songs do you wanna play? Okay. Cool. We're gonna play the songs. When are the dates? Okay. Cool.' For the last cycle, it was the paycheck. That was my living. I didn't like my job anymore."
Demmel also said that the musical side of MACHINE HEAD took a sharp turn for the worse during the writing stage for 2018's "Catharsis", an album that he said he hated.
Phil revealed that he decided to quit MACHINE HEAD after spending "many stressed-out nights" talking with his wife and occasionally "losing sleep" over everything that was going on with the band. "And it just got to the point to where I [couldn't] do this anymore," he explained. "It's unhealthy for me physically, it's totally unhealthy for me mentally, and it's taking its toll on my family now, and there's where I've gotta draw the line," he said. "This isn't fun, and I've gotta quit my job. And there was a straw that broke the camel's back."
Flynn is the sole remaining original member of MACHINE HEAD, which was formed in the early 1990s in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This fall, MACHINE HEAD will embark on the "Burn My Eyes" 25th-anniversary tour. The shows will see MACHINE HEAD's original drummer Chris Kontos and guitarist Logan Mader join the band onstage again to play the group's classic 1994 debut album in full.
Robb has yet to announce permanent replacements for Demmel and McClain, who also quit MACHINE HEAD in November.
Last month, VIO-LENCE reunited for two concerts at the Oakland Metro in Oakland, California. The band's lineup for the shows consisted of Demmel, vocalist Sean Killian, bassist Deen Dell, drummer Perry Strickland and guitarist Ray Vegas.