“It was the music, but it wasn’t the music” – Phil Demmel shares the reasons for leaving Machine Head

Author Benedetta Baldin - 12.6.2024

Phil Demmel, who left Machine Head more than five years ago, talked about his experience with the band in a recent interview with Nikki Blakk of the San Francisco Bay Area radio station 107.7. The Bone. 

I’ve seen a lot with that band and its members. It was a good ride. It was an awesome ride. It was an awesome experience, seeing success on a bunch of different levels with them. And a great learning experience and a great musical experience. I wanna keep it positive and remember all the good stuff and all the stuff that we achieved and the music that we wrote and the shows that we played — headlining some festivals and playing these amazing shows and meeting… I met my wife through the band. I think that I was pretty instrumental in maintaining that band’s success. I think that me and Dave [McClain] and Adam [Duce], we played a huge part in not just writing and creating, but I think even in the networking sense. Meeting people while I’m out with the band and introducing these athletes and other entertainers that maybe heard of the band, but having them come out to the shows and branching and bringing awareness in that sense. So I feel like I really contributed to that band. I’m proud of what I’ve done. And I’m proud of the way that it ended and the way that I exited and I transitioned. Yeah, I’m proud of that time. I think that we definitely made a mark during that time.

He was also asked if he was thinking of a change in his career after his time in Machine Head.

The whole ‘Catharsis’ cycle, there was just a shift in the dynamic in the band. Me and Dave felt it extremely. He was more on the fence than I was — on the ledge, I’ll say; Dave was more on the ledge than I was… I didn’t really like the record. I liked some of the stuff that I contributed to. I liked some of the songs that were on there. It’s not a horrible record. It’s not. But it was just a weird record in the sense that you could just feel this dynamic shift with everything… But I felt that once [my wife and I bought a bar in Dublin, California and] we had the business that I wasn’t so reliant on the paycheck and I felt that I could be done with the band. I didn’t wanna be done with music. We had the Pro Tools in the studio set up in the house and I was learning how to program some drums and I was learning and I was writing different stuff. So, I had one foot on a banana peel and the other one out the door. And I slipped on that banana peel and I was out the door. It was time for me to go. I didn’t know what was gonna happen and I didn’t care.

Demmel then delves into the reasons of leaving the group.

It was the music, but it wasn’t the music. It was 99 percent personal that I couldn’t be there anymore. It was affecting my sleep. It was a toxic entity in my head, in my heart that I had to purge, and I tried to — I wouldn’t say ‘play ball,’ but I tried to go along as long as I could, until I couldn’t. And then it was just — one thing happened to where it was just, like, ‘Oh, I’m fucking done. I can’t be in a band like this anymore,’ and delivered my [resignation]… I didn’t know what was gonna happen [after I left], but I knew that I was instantly relieved and I was smiling and happy and a hundred percent sure that it was the right decision. I quit with a tour on the books, and they were supposed to do a video that that weekend. And I said, ‘I’m not doing any of it. I’m done.’ And I called Dave on the way to Robb’s [Flynn], and [Dave] is, like, ‘Oh, you beat me to it. I’m quitting tomorrow.’ And so I called Robb the next day and said, ‘Hey, it’s a dick move to bail on tour.’ And it was. I said, ‘If you can’t find anybody to replace me, then I’ll honor the tour and we can…’ whatever.

Robb Flynn did not try to convince him to stay.

He was just as done with me as I was with him, so I don’t think that it was ‘it’s not you, it’s me’-type breakup. I think that we were just done with each other. [Dave and I] honored the tour. It was an awkward situation, going on a honeymoon with somebody you just asked for a divorce for. And so the whole tour was pretty awkward.