Phil Demmel Is Writing New Music With His Wife Marta From Bleeding Through
Ex-Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. Since leaving Machine Head, he's remained incredibly busy, juggling a number of different projects.
Echoes of Reckoning are the newest group led by Demmel, who is also playing in the reactivated Vio-Lence, his first professional band that released three albums before disbanding in 1993. There's new material on the way from both bands, as well as a covers collection from the BPMD supergroup (more details below) in addition to fresh tracks coming from Demmel and his wife Marta Peterson, who plays keyboard in Bleeding Through.
Read the full chat below.
"The Permanent Decay" is something that you wrote several years ago. What made that song something that you couldn't leave unfinished?
I was about to embark on this clinic tour —Dave McClain and I recorded some stuff and I wrote a 10-minute medley of a bunch of a Machine Head riffs that I had written and I blended them into one song to kind of jam over in these clinics.
So it was one long song and then Dave reminded me, "Hey, what about that one tune?" He brought it up and we went in and recorded it with Juan Arteaga and I played it at the clinics and it was fun — people were digging it. They're like, "Wow, it's a slamming tune."
So I got home and thought about putting some vocals over it and Marta, my wife, plays in a band called Bleeding Through and her singer, Brandon Schieppati, fit exactly what I was looking for. It has a big chorus that I wanted to hook in, but it's also a brutal kind of a thrashy tune. I wanted to have some brutal verses going on too. He fit the bill and he wrote all the lyrics and did all the phrasing and killed it and I loved what he did.
Dave Ellefson from Megadeth and I had spoken a year ago at NAMM after a Metal Allegiance gig about doing a side project. Me, him and [Sepultura guitarist] Andreas [Kisser] really clicked when we did a couple of Sepultura covers, and I'm like, "This is something that we'd like to continue doing." So, I reached out to [Ellefson] and he was excited to throw some bass down on it. There we go — we had a tune and decided to release it.
Echoes of Reckoning, "The Permanent Decay"
Echoes of Reckoning is a unified way for you to release individual songs without being confined to a specific genre or style. As a musician, at this point in your life, why is having that creative freedom so important to you?
At this stage, as I'm transitioning from things and I've got so much going on, I wanted to have this outlet. It's this luxury that I have that I'm able to do this and have the studio at the house and have so many friends that are willing to jam and lend their stuff.
I've been calling it this umbrella that is going to cover all of my music endeavors no matter what they are — they could be acoustic, rock, thrash... there's not going to be any country, but there's going to be some pretty cool stuff in there.
Having that outlet now, especially with the way technology is with all the streaming services and the digital age, it's pretty easy to do. The "Permanent Decay" lineup, even though that is an Echoes of Reckoning song — we're talking about writing a record together and maybe adding a guitar player.
I've got so many things going on. We just signed a deal for this covers record I did with [Overkill singer] Bobby Blitz and [drum legend] Mike Portnoy.
Let's talk about this record. You, Bobby Blitz, Mike Portnoy, and [Metal Allegiance's] Mark Menghi are releasing an album that covers '70s bands.
All '70s, all American, so it's called American Made. Me, Portnoy, Bobby Blitz and Mark Menghi got together at Portnoy's house on the East Coast. I flew out there for the day and each of us had picked two songs that we wanted to do and then we had a wild card song that we did. We had a couple of weeks to learn them.
We went and just had a couple of beers and played some covers at Portnoy's house. He got his tracks done, then I came home and tracked rhythms in a day and solos in a day and sent them over to Blitz and Mark with their parts down. It came out really cool.
I wouldn't say that we thrashed them out, but we definitely beefed them up and injected them with some metal. There's 10 songs total, covering Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Skynyrd, Blue Oyster Cult, James Gang, Mountain, Cactus and Van Halen. So, all these classic tunes with these souped-up, modern-day technology sounds.
Sean Killian approached you about starting up Vio-Lence again. What's most fulfilling about being able to revisit that music with the same people you played it with as a teenager?
The most fulfilling thing is that it's still important to a lot of people to hear these songs and to see us playing these songs. There are songs that I wrote in the mid-'80s in high school that are screamed for and still getting messed up by certain members after 30-35 years — whatever. [laughs]
It's still so important to some people that were there back in the day and, now, with the Internet, people are getting this widespread access to the band. Nobody outside of the Bay Area really cared about us back in the '80s.
Vio-Lence, Live in Oakland — April 13, 2019
You spent many years playing with Robb Flynn both in Machine Head and Vio-Lence. What stands out the most to you about the music that you made together?
He was in Vio-Lence for about four years and I spent 16 years in Machine Head, so quite a disparity in that sense. I think that most of our writing together was on fire in the middle era of Machine Head (The Blackening, Locust) and we were really accepting of each other in a sense of material and writing-wise. We really knew what the other person was [going to do] — what harmony they were going to hit... there was just a real jelling in that sense. There's so many different things that we came up that I'm super proud of and that's about all I want to say about that.
Where should fans go to find out about what's coming up and how to find out about everything that you've been talking about?
There's an Echoes of Reckoning Facebook page and the band is on Spotify and Apple Music. My Instagram is @phildemmel. Most of the updates will probably come through the Facebook page for Echoes of Reckoning. I've got a YouTube channel too.
So, there's a lot of exciting news. The covers record is happening, Vio-Lence are going to record a five-song EP and hopefully have it out this year. We're doing lots of festivals and doing lots of shows across America with Vio-Lence.
My wife and I are going to write some tunes and I've got some other tunes that I've sent out to some pretty popular vocalists that they're going to sing on top of too. So, there's going to be trickling of music coming out.
I'm on no label schedule here — I'll just get the songs done and I'm just going to throw it up. I go on my Instagram live quite a bit too, even when I'm just writing it, just like, "Okay, let's put a click [track] down and just start writing riffs."
Thanks to Phil Demmel for the interview. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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