Phil Demmel says that a world of opportunites opened up for him once he decided to leave MACHINE HEAD at the end of the band's fall 2018 North American tour.
"It was frowned upon, but I was allowed to do other stuff [while I was in MACHINE HEAD]," the guitarist told Australia's Riff Crew in a new interview. "I was doing METAL ALLEGIANCE while I was in MH. And I was doing some of the things. But towards the end… Fuck, I don't know how much I wanna talk about that.
"Here we are, going on almost two years since I did that last tour, and I felt like I've really talked about the bad stuff with that band enough. I felt like I kind of purged myself, and I wanna get to a place to where it's just like…
"The day after I quit MACHINE HEAD, the day I was a single guy, I got the call from SLAYER [to fill in for Gary Holt], and since then, it's just been this whole whirlwind of doing stuff [with other musicians].
"I spent close to 16 years being that guitar player in MACHINE HEAD, and it was such an amazing ride and it was such a cool experience, and I couldn't change any of it. From the negative I learned from, and the relationships that I learned from and going forward. So I'm not gonna frown on my time there — it was a relationship that just soured, and then we just separated ways."
According to Demmel, it took him a while to come to terms with the fact that he needed to quit the job that had occupied most of his life for a decade and a half.
"I don't wanna say I was doing it just for a paycheck," he said. "It was hard to walk away from such a high-profile… I mean, playing guitar for MACHINE HEAD is fucking rad; it's awesome. It was a hard thing to walk away from, even if I wasn't agreeing with the direction or the music or the tunes or any internal bullshit. That's still a tough gig [to give up]. 'I'm not gonna play all these rad shows and get to travel all these places and get to play music for a living.'"
Last year, Demmel told the "In The Pitts Of Metal And Motor Chaos" podcast that MACHINE HEAD ended up becoming a Robb Flynn solo project toward the end of his time with the group. "We weren't a band," he 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, [drummer Dave McClain and I] just left. So we do our own thing, and [Robb] does his thing." 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 he said he hated.
Demmel 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."
Phil also 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."
Demmel has spent much of the past year and a half playing sporadic shows with the reunited VIO-LENCE, which recently inked a deal with Metal Blade Records. The band's new EP is tentatively due to be released in early 2021.