When guitarist Phil Demmel left Machine Head in September 2018 — after 16 years with the band — he had no solid plans for his future.
"It's simply time for me to step away and do something else musically," Demmel commented at the time. But behind the scenes the guitarist wasn't feeling all that confident about his prospects. That is, until he got a surprise text from Slayer's Kerry King asking if Demmel could fill in for guitarist Gary Holt while he visited his dying father mid-tour.
Demmel accepted and performed with the quartet for a four-night run in early December 2018. But more than just another gig he credits his stint with the Big Four idols as the savior for his future in the business. "I think Slayer saved my musical career in some way," Demmel admitted in a recent interview with Music Radar. "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'm in this position now ... because of the people I had met," he says, "almost from a networking standpoint. I knew the guys in Slayer before I got that text."
In the interview, Demmel goes on to mention how session players must be more versatile than those hyper-focused on one genre and advocates learning a variety of styles and watching the Netflix documentary Hired Gun to get a feel of what's expected for those looking to break into that style of performing and recording.
"I want to be honest to who I am as a player ... I was already 36 when I joined Machine Head," he concludes. "Then there was 16 years of that and now I feel like I'm just getting started again." Demmel notes he's been asked to guest by others and even has video game music companies seeking him out. He's taking the opportunities as they come and "flying by the seat of [his] pants."