Machine Head ex Phil Demmel: Slayer saved my career

Phil Demmel (Image credit: Cooper Neill - Getty)

Former Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel has spoken about receiving a “mind-blowing” text from Slayer’s Kerry King, asking him to join Slayer on tour.

Slayer needed help for the remaining shows on the 2018 European tour after Gary Holt returned home to look after his ill father (opens in new tab).

Demmel received the text from Slayer less than 24 hours after he walked away from Machine Head following the conclusion of their Freaks & Zeroes tour (opens in new tab) – and it’s a move that he’s looked back on in a new interview with Music Radar (opens in new tab).

Demmel says: “I think Slayer saved my musical career in some way. In under 24 hours, I went from the last day of a tour wondering whether I was even good enough to be in bands any more, to this mind-blowing text from Kerry King asking if I could play in Slayer.

“I guess the reason I’m in this position now is because of the people I had met, almost from a networking standpoint. 

I’ve done a few guest solos here and there as well as music for video game companies

Phil Demmel

“I knew the guys in Slayer before I got that text. If being a session player is the route you want to go down, I would say avoid getting too centrally focused on one style. Watch that Netflix movie Hired Gun – everyone they talk to explains how session players are there to do whatever the artist wants. You have to play what you are expected to.”

Since his departure from Machine Head, Demmel has resurrected his Vio-lence project – and has been involved with a few other projects.

The guitarist adds: “I want to be honest to who I am as a player. I was already 36 when I joined Machine Head. Then there was 16 years of that and now I feel like I’m just getting started again. 

“Things are popping up. I’ve done a few guest solos here and there as well as music for video game companies.

“Mainly, I’m just enjoying being at home and running the business – me and my wife Marta bought a bar where we live and it’s doing well. There will be a solo record at one point I’m sure, so let’s see what happens. I’m flying by the seat of my pants right here!”

Demmel’s Machine Head bandmate drummer Dave McClain, who also quit the band on the same day as the guitarist, has now rejoined Sacred Reich.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent more than 30 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. After initially joining our news desk in the summer of 2014, he moved to the e-commerce team full-time in 2020. He maintains Louder’s buyer’s guides, scouts out the best deals for music fans and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and has previous written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky. Scott grew up listening to rock and prog, cutting his teeth on bands such as Marillion and Magnum before his focus shifted to alternative and post-punk in the late 80s. His favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Drab Majesty, but he also still has a deep love of Rush.