Ex-Machine Head Guitarist Says Band Became ‘Robb Flynn Solo Project’
Guitarist Phil Demmel recently opened up about his departure from Machine Head saying the last few years he and frontman Robb Flynn "just didn't work as people anymore." He adds that the band "became a Robb Flynn solo project."
Demmel cleared the air with an interview on the Talk Toomey podcast. He explained why he decided to leave the band after a 15-year stint. "I'm not gonna badmouth the breakup or [Robb]," Demmel says. "I think he's an amazing musician, and the times I had in Machine Head were awesome. The last few years just weren't. We just didn't work as people anymore."
The guitarist continues, "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.'"
Demmel says that he was not completely involved in the creative process of the group's 2018 album Catharsis, an album that he claims to hate. "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 [McClain] 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. 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.'"
The guitarists adds, "I think it was, like, 'Maybe we can go to therapy,' but it was kind of things that are just being said just to, like, 'Hey, we both know this is over.' I think I kind of did him a favor by not having him have to fire me. I think that he believed what he said. He knows what's happening, but it's just the way that he's running things now, and so, it just didn't work anymore."
While Demmel and Dave McClain are no longer involved with Machine Head, the guitarist believes that Flynn will continue the band with new members. "I think that the guitar position for that band would just be a plug-and-play situation. I contributed heavily to the material. But in the end, Robb wants to do what he's gonna do, so I don't know how much that would be a factor. The records that I contributed to — five records; well, actually four — I'm not gonna count the last one. The Blackening, [Unto the] Locust… Those records would look entirely different without my contributions."
It's not all bad however, as Demmel looks back at his time with the band positively and claims he is "proud of everything we've done." He says, "I helped take this band from its lowest point to its highest point. We wrote some amazing records, played some amazing shows. So I'm trying to reflect on all the positive stuff. And just being free now of… So much was held back towards the end — in the past couple of years, three or four years — and just being stress-free is what I'm kind of focusing on now. Just focus on all the positive stuff that we've done and move forward with all the fun stuff that's happening now."
Following wrapping his final tour with Machine Head, Phil Demmel switched gears learning 19 songs in two days to join Slayer in the midst of their final outing. Demmel temporarily filled in for Gary Holt, who left the tour to be with his ailing father.
Meanwhile, Robb Flynn has yet to announce replacements for Demmel and McClain. To hear the entire podcast click here.
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