Machine Head    "Blue Skies Turn to Black"

By Colonel Angus

The story between Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn started quite a while ago. Both of them came to prominence with Vio-lence back in the ‘80s. After releasing a few albums, Robb left in 1992 to form Machine Head. Normally, the story would end there but like all things in this crazy world, things came full circle. Phil and Robb reunited and in 2003, Machine Head released a metal goliath called Through The Ashes Of Empires. This was a return to form and not only did it become a fan favorite, critics were soon jumping on the bandwagon also.

Well, fast forward to 2007 and catch the new Machine Head. Phil may not have had a hand in each of the tracks on the last disk but here, he (along with the whole band) was able to make their mark. On the eve of the release of The Blackening, I was able to catch up with Phil right before a blinding set on the Lamb of God tour in Milwaukee , WI .

Colonel Angus: When you wrote the album, it was written more together as a band. Was there a new dynamic that occurred by writing together?

Phil Demmel: This is the first time that the four of us wrote the record from the beginning. I joined on the last three songs of Ashes [Through The Ashes Of Empires] so there wasn’t that dynamic. I was also able to bring in my ideas that I was kind hesitant [to bring in] before. Dave contributed a lot musically too. We were all excited and fired up on this one.

Colonel Angus: On the new album you have two long compositions and the last album had some longer tunes also. Is this a trend that will continue on the next record?

Phil Demmel: I don’t know if it was meant to be that way; it ended up that way. We wanted the songs to be natural and as dynamic as they can. They just ended up that long. The shorter songs are shorter because they needed to be shorter. The longer songs are longer because they have that epic feel to them. It depends on what direction we take on the next one. We’ll see what the next couple of years of touring bring and what we feel like doing.

Colonel Angus: When you write a song, what is the indicator to you that it’s done? Does the producer have the say of “we’re going to cut this down”? Who has ultimate say?

Phil Demmel: We do. The band does and Robb is our producer. He’s the main song writer. He pretty much has the vision for what we’re doing. That second to the last song called “Wolves” is riff after riff but it’s all within the context of the song. We tried to take certain parts out but we got to where “this part needs to be there”. So we were kind of at odds with ourselves thinking if it’s going to go or not. “Can people grasp a 9 ½ minute thrash song that’s heavy like this”? Not a lot of dynamics. It speeds up and down but as far as dynamics goes, it’s pretty much grabbing your throat.

Colonel Angus: You’re not a political band but a couple of the tracks on the new CD are very political. Was the current political climate in the US the inspiration for those tunes?

Phil Demmel: Yeah, definitely. The world is kind of a fucked up place. There’s a lot of things going on right now. I think we wanted to get away from… Robb was writing a lot of personal topics on the last couple of records. He wanted to bring it back to the first couple of records that had more social issues so we’re talking about the Christian right wing coalition that’s going on. It’s hard for the four of us to agree on a certain subject, be it politics, religion, sports, whatever. There are a couple of things that we do agree on and that is we are all against this war. So that is where a couple of the songs came from.

Colonel Angus: What generally inspires you to write?

Phil Demmel: You can be driving down the freeway and get inspired by something. Robb will leave himself a voice mail and hum the melody. I usually have a guitar around me so I’ll pick up and play everyday.

Colonel Angus: The Blackening has made it onto the internet before its release. What are your thoughts on music downloading?

Phil Demmel: Well, I look at it like this. There are going to be those kids and people that are not going to buy CDs anyway. They are doing us a service by going “Hey, this album is great”. They are able to test drive it and give us a good review. You gotta have a good record for it to sell anyways. This is actually serving as a vehicle for us. There’s a huge buzz off of this leakage of the record. Those kids aren’t going to buy it anyway but hopefully they will come to the show or they’ll buy a T-shirt.

Colonel Angus: You will be opening up for the Heaven and Hell tour. How did that come about?

Phil Demmel: We were up for supporting Megadeth. Megadeth was going to go out and do a headlining states run. We were up for that and we were going to support them. Then the Heaven and Hell thing came up and they were going to take Megadeth with them. So we were [like] “there goes our post release states run”. Then we got submitted for it. I was like the pessimist “we’re not going to get it; they are not going to take us out”. Dave, in particular, was going “yes they are, we’re gonna get it”. Sure enough, we landed it. We are all so stoked because we’re such big fans of that Dio era. It’s amazing. We’re super stoked.

Colonel Angus: What was the last CD you purchased?

Phil Demmel: I’ll go down to Rasputin’s which is a west coast used thing and I’ll buy 20 at a time. I think it was the first Aerosmith record. I love the hell out of that record but I didn’t have it on CD. I have a list. I’ll go through my Itunes and go “I need Sabbath Paranoid or Judas Priest”. I’ll fill in my stuff.

Colonel Angus: What was the last concert you attended as a fan?

Phil Demmel: I had a kid like 8 months ago so ever since then… I think we went to Slim’s to see Soil play.

Colonel Angus: What is your favorite Spinal Tap moment from your career?

Phil Demmel: You mean, my absolute worst, like my most horrific moment? Well, I’ll give you a Spinal Tap moment. I’ve got a scar on my shin; you can barely see it now. It was when I was in Vio-lence. We were playing Pittsburgh . I was jumping off the monitors, so I ran across the stage and leapt off the wedge and it gave in. I fell backwards and plowed the whole drum set. The songs stopped and the next day, we wore peg pants back in the day, so the peg pants were all tight like this [Phil grabs his pant leg and pulls it tight around his shin], and you could see this huge lump that came across like this [made a motion that it went from almost his knee to his ankle]. Yeah, it hurt but I’ll never forget it.

Machine Head's Official Website