INTERVJU: Phil Demmel

Phil Demmel huserar numera i Kerry Kings band. Vi språkade med Phil på SRF om bl a just det, men även om karaoke, hans bar, livetricks, Eddie Van Halen, vad han lyssnar på hemma och första mötena med hjältar:

Coming form the Bay Area and growing up in the thrash scene, we knew the Exodus guys, but meeting James (Hetfield) and Cliff (Burton) and those guys. James would go to shows, talked to Lars… the singer from Vio-lence (Sean Killian) roadied for Cliff right before or towards the end of “Master of puppets”, so Cliff hung out at the same parties. Being around those guys was another level. As I got older, maybe meeting Steve Harris (Iron Maiden). Maiden was my band. Once I heard “Killers” I had to go back to get the first record, but once I heard “Killers” , Steve Harris was a fucking hero!

I´ll start with the same question I asked Paul (Bostaph) a few minutes ago. What is it you love about music?

The thing I love about music is that somehow it can always reach within. It breaks through all the layers and it reaches inside. Whatever the emotion is, it is one of the truest form of… I don´t know if conjuring is the right word… realising the feelings. You know when you hear something and you get goosebumps and there are songs that just makes you cry.

When you´re at home on a Saturday night, what kind of music do you put on?

My house is very musical. My wife plays in Bleeding Through and she plays keyboards. My son plays the drums and we have a drum set and we have a home studio, we have keyboards and pianos all over the place. The Bluetooth speakers are set up all the time and she´s always playing music. My three year old kid dances, so there´s always music. My wife listens to a lot of classical music. I still have my iPod. Metallica gave us the Bose stations back in 2009 on the tour, so I still have my iPod and I keep it in the studio bathroom and I´ll put on Joss Stone or anything like that. Just good music. I´m a fan of anything, but heavy music not so often. It´s work for us, but it´s also that we have three kids and we´re usually busy so we´ll listen to it in the car or whatever. When we´re at home it´s more Muse and Nick Cave and she likes a lot of goth stuff and she´s really opened up my eyes to a lot of stuff. I´m a classic rock guy. Journey´s fucking great, Aerosmith, April Wine… I love Gamma with Ronnie Montrose. It´s all over the place. I´ve got a cover band at home with all my high school buddies and it´s Journey, it´s Bon Jovi, it´s Aldo Nova, we´ve done The Clash… we just do all the hits people know. We´ll do Pantera and Black Sabbath and it´s the most fun because everybody knows the songs and it´s mostly my high school buddies, so the talent isn´t really there, but that´s the thing. It´s live karaoke.

I saw a picture of you recently where you did that classic Eddie Van Halen jump?

Hahaha! Oh yeah, that was Rock Am Ring.

Was he in any way an influence or did he mean something to you?

I love the first records, but guitar playing? When I was first starting out he was just too far… but I clambered on to Randy Rhoads in the early 80´s. My high school girlfriend really had a crush on Eddie Van Halen, so I was like “Fuck that dude!”, so it took me a while to come back to Eddie, but of course his stage presence and the running around and of course his playing. He was the best. Such an innovator and he tore guitars apart and he was a part of the instrument. His DNA was all over the instrument.

Did you ever do that when you started out, taking different guitar parts and putting them together and experimenting with guitars?

Nah, not too much. Changing strings and swap up a pick up, little stuff. I never really got into the gear. There were things that sounded great and things that I used, but I didn´t tinker too much. The less that I had to, the more I concentrated on playing.

What´s it like playing w this band and putting it all together?

It´s been a long process. I´ve known about it since 2019 and figuring out who the singer was going to be and then you can´t talk about it. Me and Paul don´t see each other that often, but then we´re talking and we know Kyle´s (Sanders) in it, but can´t talk about it and then Mark doesn´t know he is in the band yet, so we can´t talk about it. We´re not doing anything, we´re not getting together so it was just him (Kerry) and Paul writing and he would spoon feed me some songs and go “Tell me what the leads are!” and so I started writing my leads so I was pretty well rehearsed when it was time to record. I had already been in my studio, recording them and playing them hundreds of times. By the time we finally get together we were taking pictures first, so it was like “Here we are! We´re a band!” We were together for a day and then we fly back and then a couple of weeks later we´re shooting some videos, so it´s like “We have instruments, faking like we´re playing, so we can act like we´re going to be on stage.” That was another little “dipping our toes, we´ve got our foot in the shallow end” Then we came back and started rehearsals and that was really cool. The first time I pick up the guitar for the day, I do my little warm up, but once I start noodling, that´s when, for whatever reason, I get keeper riffs, so there´s always a phone by and sure enough when we got into the first rehearsal, Paul comes in and we sit down and instantly I´m playing something and he hops in  and he´s like “What was that?” and I´m like “I don´t know. I was us!” hahaha! So we got that saved and that felt good, because I didn´t know when we are in a room with these guys, what´s it´s going to be like. Then Kyle comes in and I haven´t had a bass player on my side in a long time. In Machine Head I was over there by myself. I´m having this beast of a man playing through this incredible rig and I´m having this bass just rip my head off and it´s good. He´s so good and it´s so crisp and clean and we´re locking in together for the first practice and I hadn´t really done that with a bass because I can´t really hear the bass. We had that and then Kerry and everything coming in and Mark (Osegueda) comes in the next day so all of a sudden we get these rehearsals done and we go into our first show and we have a rehearsal before then. I think we´ve only played together a dozen times even with rehearsals. It´s pretty incredible that each time we play, it´s getting better. Now that we´re on tour, we´re finding all the nuances. I can´t say what it sounds like up front, but I know that stage right it´s really fun to play with Kyle and me and Paul are honing in on little things. We don´t play with a click, there´s a lot of natural feel there, so it feels like humans playing and that´s pretty important.

That is interesting these days, the human part of playing. Bands are using all kinds of tricks when they´re playing live. How do you look at that, is that a necessity, something that´s going to be a common and normal thing?

It is common. I think it´s more uncommon for bands to not. There´s a lot of rock bands that might not because there´s a lot of jamming stuff going on. I´ve done both. I´ve been in a band that´s had full on ears, clicks going on, vocals, strings… everything layers, layers, layers and that´s cool to me too. As far as my performance, I´m still playing my instrument and I´m still doing my vocals. I´m not opposed to that. The musicality is there and it is a performance. Would I want to see like Aerosmith or Foo Fighters doing that? No, I want to feel the fuck ups. I want to feel the human element to it. In these days of recording, everything´s to the grid and all these vacuum type endings… It´s cool, but I would rather hear the human side of it.

Was there more honesty to it when you started out, in a way?

I think you were forced to be honest. It was raw because that´s the way it had to be. I think there are still overdubs happening, there´s still cutting tape and splicing it together and doing all the shit. I want to say the musicality was better, but the musicianship these days is just unreal. You want to say from one stand point that the art of recording and these bands like Steely Dan and all these incredible musicians like Toto and Steve Lukather and the Porcaros and all this, but then when you look at the level of guitar playing and the drumming and some of the musicianship, it´s just like unprecedented and ridiculous. It´s just evolving and music is just different.

Today you see these unbelievable young guitar players on YouTube and it´s just insane.

Yes! You se them all the time now and it´s like “Do I wish that I was born with that technology or do I…” I think I´m playing the best guitar I´ve ever played due to the fact that in the past five years I´ve had all these different experiences from Devin Townsend to Lamb of God, Overkill, Testament and Slayer, all these different things that I´ve done and learning all these different languages made me speak all these different languages with the guitar. It made me bear down and practise more but it also put the instrument in my hands longer and I´ve written better songs and my relationship with the guitar has gotten so much closer.

What else is going on in Phil´s life? Anything else in the pipeline?

Hahaha! Are you kidding me? Oh my god! There´s a record coming out in July and the band´s called Category 7 with John Bush and Michael Orlando and Jason Bittner and Jack Gibson from Exodus and it´s on Metal Blade Records. We have a bar at home. Kerry´s got me pretty busy and Catgory 7´s going to put the record out and we´re going to tour. That´s what´s happening for sure. The wife´s in Bleeding Through so she´s got some time where she´s touring too and we have three kids at home, so… that sounds like a lot, right? Hahaha!

What´s it like having a bar? Don´t people always say you shouldn´t get into the restaurant business?

We don´t sell food, so the bar business is awesome. It´s about a hundred person capacity, we´ve got a couple of pool tables, darts, we have a shuffle board and we´ve got a bunch of screens which show sports and it´s got a rock flair to it and it´s also a sports bar so I´ve got a bunch of stuff that´s been given to me by professional athletes. It´s great. It´s really eclectic clientele that come sin. We´ve got the older guys, we´ve got the hip hopers, we´ve got the Western guys. We´ve got the construction guys, we´ve got the sports guys, we´ve got the rockers. We do karaoke on Thursdays which is super fun. The kids come in. I think they feel it´s a safe place for everybody to come to.

Latest song you sang on karaoke?

I did, not at the bar, but at Welcome to Rockville they´ve got this rock and roll church or something and they said “Hey, do you want to come over and do a song?”, so I did “Saturday´s alright for fighting” (Elton John), hahaha! But at the bar it might´ve been “I´ll be there for you” by Bon Jovi (sings).

Do you remember the first rock star you were a fan of that you met?

You know, coming form the Bay Area and growing up in the thrash scene, we knew the Exodus guys, but meeting James (Hetfield) and Cliff (Burton) and those guys. James would go to shows, talked to Lars… the singer from Vio-lence (Sean Killian) roadied for Cliff right before or towards the end of “Master of puppets”, so Cliff hung out at the same parties. Being around those guys was another level. As I got older, maybe meeting Steve Harris (Iron Maiden). Maiden was my band. Once I heard “Killers” I had to go back to get the first record, but once I heard “Killers” , Steve Harris was a fucking hero!

I remember talking to Joe Duplantier (Gojira) and I think he called James the best rhythm guitar player.

Yeah yeah! He uses two fingers to pick and he´s ridiculous now. He´s a great, amazing guitar player, but, and this got nothing to do with them and their bad split, but fucking Dave Mustaine is a ridiculously great guitar player and James can play great things too, but Dave Mustaine is fucking clean and plays fucking great. I can´t tell if James´got a stronger down pick, but Mustaine ain´t no slouch!

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Björn Olsson, Therés Stephansdotter Björk, (hoppande Phil okänd, Category 7 pressbild)