Talk about so-called "golden opportunities!!" Having a
chance to meet and talk to no one other than one of the ´metal icons´
in Thrash Metal, Phil Demmel of the legendary Bay Area thrashers
Vio-lence, could well be considered (at least in my opinion), a rather
exceptional and somewhat unique opportunity. No matter what someone else
may think of this.
When we, Metal-Rules.com´s relentless Finnish Thrash freaks - Arto
and me (Luxi) - suggested the idea to Phil about trying to come back to
some of the best times he has experienced in with legendary Bay Area
Thrashers and to reflect on some of these experiences up to this
day on some sort of a nostalgic level, he seemed to be more than willing
to do the job.
We politely asked several questions about the whole Vio-lence thing.
We mostly covered the past of the band and a bit of the present as well.
The man kindly answered like a true gentleman and the result is here.
Those Thrash fans who are trying to hunt down your earlier albums
nowadays either as vinyl - or CD - formats, will notice that it´s
extremely tough yet expensive get them ´coz all the formats have been
sold out for so long; especially trying to get "Eternal
Nightmare" and "Torture Tactics" on CD, is really hard
work unless you are one of those lucky bastards and got them from
some 2nd hand store by accident at a very cheap price. Just out of my
own curiosity, have you ever thought of making them available as
re-mastered versions again in order to make them available for everyone
who has been after them possibly for some years already?
are in the midst of re-releasing "Eternal Nightmare". The five
original members, with Rob and Perry and Dean, Sean and I all pooled our
money and bought the rights off of Mayhem Records. We now own the rights
to "Eternal Nightmare" and we are in the midst of getting
initial offers to see which way we want to go, as far as releasing it.
"Eternal Nightmare" will be back in the stores by the end of
the year so you can find it yourself. Megaforce is going to re-release
"Torture Tactics". "Nothing To Gain"…we are
looking into re-mixing it because that album sounds horrible. We are
re-mixing that thing and trying to get it out there as well.
"Eternal Nightmare will be coming out on Vio-lence's own label…probably…that
is what we are looking at now. As for "Oppressing The Masses",
Atlantic wants waaay too much money to license it so chances are that
one will never get re-released.
In your past, it used to be that you always wrote music and your
vocalist, Sean Killian wrote all the lyrics, which was only logical as
he was your singer. Wasn't it kind of tough work for you all in all for
being pretty much the only one behind VIO-LENCE´s music even if I´m
pretty sure the rest of the VIO-LENCE´s killing team did contribute the
bands song writing process whenever you needed some help with the music
in the form of different ideas - being it single riffs, solos, drum
parts, whatever really; correct?!
the beginning, before Sean got in the band, I wrote all the music and
all the lyrics. I kinda of enjoyed it because I enjoyed playing a lot.
My lyrics were really, really bad! (laughs) I'm old 80's guy, I am into
Savatage, Trouble and a lot of the old stuff (laughs again) pretty,
pretty bad lyrics…so Sean re-wrote them and I was fine with that. I
wrote most of the first album, all the songs except for one
"Calling in the Corner" that Rob wrote, but it was basically
right before we recorded "Eternal", "Torture
Tactics", was basically a Forbidden song, (Forbidden Evil at the
time) that Rob had wrote, it was called "Court Jester". The
beginning g part…even when he was with the band, Paul and Russ and the
guys said "Hey, that sounds like a Vio-lence tune" so he
brought that with us, and when Rob first joined we actually played
"Chalice of Blood. Since it was Rob's song. People were so petty
when they are younger, so we said, "Hey he wrote the music so we
are going to take the song and change the lyrics and we played it a
couple of times and it was called "Calling in the coroner"…kinda
silly…we scratched it. Good thing too.
Listening to the classic "Eternal Nightmare" album, you
immediately pay attention to those strong and extremely catchy riffs the
album has. How pleased are you with that particular album; I mean,
song-wise? Is there a riff or two you might have done otherwise if you
had a chance for re-making some parts all over again - or are you
pleased with the whole content of it the way it is on that album?
welcomed Rob's writing, as a writing partner, a real guitar-head, always
playing his guitar, really, really good player. I learned a lot from
playing with him. So, us writing together was a welcome change as far as
I was concerned, it was so much better and we complimented each other
with our playing too. Actually as we went on, Sean welcomed us writing
lyrics, and that just got to "Nothing to Gain" which is kind
of a crap album as far as I'm concerned, so I won't speak much on that
Listening To Eternal Nightmare I'm very pleased with the way it was.
It catches us at that point in time, I turned 21 when we were recording
it so it just makes me think back to where I was at that time. Sure you
listen to stuff and as times change your tastes change and the songs are
pretty long and they are not structured as songs but that was the music
for that time. Just riff after riff after riff. I'm really pleased with
the way it came out and I'm really proud of it as an album. Like I said,
some of the songs are a little long but that's what they demanded. There
were a couple of songs within a song you know, and it takes you through
different mood swings. The slow crunchy parts, into the real fast
galloping quick parts so it kinda throws you through a couple of moods.
How hard was it for you to start writing for "Oppressing the
Masses" in the first place after an immense success of your debut?
Did you feel that the pressure was always there right from the beginning
set out by both general opinions about it and as well what the medias
wrote about it?
I think that there was a lot of pressure on the band, to do well on
the second one. I don't think the first album can be deemed a success. I
think that people liked it but I don't think it sold a lot. We started
writing on the Voi-vod tour. We wrote "I, Profit" and actually
played it on the Voi-vod tour, where the writing …we were excited to
write it. We were playing the other stuff for a couple of years and we
just excited to write new stuff.
The media didn't really like the first album, nor did they like Sean
vocals. They loved us as a live band but we wanted to show them that we
were ready. I mean, we were ready we were always following in
Testament's shadow, so we were kind of using them as a template, as we
were seeing them as successful, so we were kinda watching what they were
doing and the moves they were making, so we were trying to shadow them a
little bit. Of course with your egos on fire we wanted to surpass them
so we saw every step that they we taking and we wanted to match that and
exceed it. It was a good thing for us, watching the bands around here
grow up. Exodus was of course was of course in front of them for a
I remember reading that right after you signed a deal with
MECHANIC sometime in 1987-88, the staff of that label did a pretty
unusual promotion campaign for you; namely whoever wanted to get your
4-song demo FOR FREE, you just had to drop a letter to them and they
would send it over to you - and what was the best, FOR FREE!! Was that
idea originally theirs or did you have your own fingers in the game as
Yeah, that was entirely their idea. They put us in the studio to
record. It was kinda a pre-production type deal as well. We were able to
work with John Cuniberti (Ed's note: producer for Possessed, Satriani
and others) and pre-produce some of the stuff, and have him get a feel
for what we were doing. I mean, it was amazing for them to send it out
like that. It got a big buzz on the band. It was entirely their idea and
something and it was something we agreed whole-hearted too. It was an
overwhelming response. It turned a lot of people onto
"Paraplegic" as well.
Was the name of VIO-LENCE created basically to describe the
aggressiveness and relentlessness of your music - or did it originally
have some sort of a deeper meaning in itself? And do you personally
think it´s overall only wise and reasonable to come up with such
suitable band names for music that somehow describes your own style of
music your band is churning out?
Yeah, the name Vio-lence came to us kinda…we were Death Penalty,
which was a little cliché. Vio-lence was cliché as well but it is a
little more, straight in your face. I think that is does describe the
band to a "T". It was topical because violence is everywhere,
it's on the news, it's in the movies, it's in your video games, it is
everywhere. We were a pretty socially aware band and not afraid to speak
our mind at all. Violence is abrasive, as we were as band, so was the
music, so I think it was a great description of what we were.
In the late ´80s/beginning of the ´90s you were touring pretty
heavily for both the "Eternal Nightmare" and "Oppressing
the Masses" albums. Since I never got an opportunity to see any of
your live shows myself, I was just wondering how those shows were,
seeing it from your point of view? Lots of headbanging, stage diving,
everybody going crazy in the moshpit by VIO-LENCE´s utterly brilliant
performance and overall enjoying your gigs thoroughly…?
Actually we didn't tour that much, we had two tours for "Eternal
Nightmare" just in the States and the "Oppressing The
Masses" we did one half of the States tour and a couple of fills,
so we really didn't tour that much. It was great playing live, I
thoroughly enjoyed it. It is my favorite thing as far as music is
concerned. We have had some unreal crowds and our crowds seem to be in
the Slayer vein, it was like…you don't go around saying "Slayer
sucks" to anyone who likes slayer because they will kill you. Same
with Vio-lence, a diehard local following and the people who were into
us just LOVED us. So that would have to be it for me, watching people
singing the words back to you. One of our last shows with Sean, it was
like the last Vio-lence show actually, we played with Forbidden, and
their manager got upset with us because we played too long but it was
our last show. They pulled the power on us and we were playing
"World on World", no PA and the crowd was singing the words
above the music. It was amazing! It was definitely a highlight,
something I will never forget.
VIO-LENCE headed out for the first US tour along with the Bay Area
fellows namely TESTAMENT. It surely was a great tour from every aspect,
but could you tell some crazy stories about the tour?
Ha! Ha! Ha! The Testament tour. A lot of crazy stories…It was very
fun for us, it was our first tour. Kids out on the road, getting a
couple cases of beer every night and drinkin'…all of us squashed into
a little van with the drums on top…it was almost like a cartoon. It
was unreal. It was a whole lot of fun… a LOT of fun. Can't really
spill any stories in an interview but it was just plain great shows, it
was Testament's New Order tour and they were headlining for the first
time and they were doing really well. They had a great, very good
headlining and it was great to open up the tour.
But then the tour with the Canadian techno thrashers VOIVOD has
been said to be one hell of a disastrous tour, what went actually wrong
with the tour after all?
The Voi-vod tour wasn't really a disastrous tour. It didn't draw as
well but it was a good tour and they were good guys to tour with. The
numbers of people coming to the shows every night wasn't as much but
some nights were really good and some night we were not playing in front
of hardly anybody. It was good practice for us and we had a chance to
write and keep the name out there. So, I mean the our wasn't as…we
thought that maybe we had developed a bit of a draw coming back through,
but the Testament following was a lot bigger than the Voi-vod following
that's for sure.
All your albums has been put out by different labels;
"Eternal Nightmare" was released on MECHANIC in 1988,
"Oppressing the Masses" on ATLANTIC/MEGAFORCE in 1990,
"Torture Tactics" EP on CAROLINE in 1991 and your last album
by thus far, "Nothing to Gain" came out on BLEEDING HEART
RECORDS in 1993. As I assume, you were quite unlucky considering all the
label changes at that time…? What kind of reasons did actually force
you to jump from one label to another?
All the labels changes…well, "Eternal Nightmare"…we had
big heads. (Laughs) We felt that Steve Sinclair at Mechanic wasn't
really behind the band, he was offering ideas and I kinda felt it was a
mistake looking back. We should have just gutted it out. I mean, he did
put a lot of promotion into the band and was offering ideas but we felt
we could do better.
Getting off Megaforce was basically them losing their deal. We wanted
to record "Nothing to Gain". We went in and when they asked us
not to, they wanted to hear some more songs. They felt the songs weren't
ready, we said we were going to anyway and recorded it. They shelved us.
As far as "Torture Tactics" that came out because Atlantic
did not want to put it out and that was Megaforce actually going to bat
for us and putting it out.
"Nothing to Gain", we basically gave it away to Bleeding
Hearts in '93. That was just to try to get over to Europe. Most of the
changing was just not a cohesive relationship with a label. We got tired
of just waiting around, Megaforce didn't want us, should have let us go
earlier…we should have stayed with Mechanic.
How much did you receive tour support from your previous labels
when you were touring a lot; or did you have to finance some of these
tours partly from your own pockets?
Yeah, Mechanic put us out a couple of times. Megaforce, that's were I
was disappointed. We headlined our only tour for them and, I mean it was
our second album, we shouldn't be headlining. We should be going out
with a Megadeth or Overkill or somebody like that and you don't win over
new fans headlining. That was just…they didn't really back us
touring-wise. We never had to finance them ourselves but that's why we
sat at home.
As for your most memorable shows, can you still remember where
were the best places for you to play at and for what reasons indeed?
Definitely the bay area, playing The Omni, playing The Stone; always
sold out, always did well, always had the crazy fans here. We just did a
reunion show here in December, December 14ht. We sold out a club called
Slim's here. They were just packed into this club here in San Francisco
and it was great to see everyone still singing the songs and still just
loving it. We did the Thrash of The Titans thing for Chuck Billy too and
that was cool. This was our night, this was our crowd. New York always
treated us well. Down in Florida they loved us. Arizona. Texas. Pretty
much everywhere. Everyone was very, very supportive.
The Bay Area thing will always be a strong part of VIO-LENCE´s
history and it goes without saying - and it really has had a huge impact
on everything that how the current metal music has been proceeding its
influences from there in many ways and forms. Just out of my own
curiosity, what does this "Bay Area" -thing mean to you
nowadays? Have your views and opinions about it been changing some way
over the years and did your life chance drastically when VIO-LENCE got
buried under the ice for an unknown period of time?
I think the reason why Vio-lence got buried is because we did not
have anything fresh. I mean, we kept losing…we lost Rob…we sustained
with Ray Vegas, we were drawing well and had some good shows. Perry quit
to play with Billy Milano and Bobby Gustafson and we replaced him with
Mark but we were still beating a dead horse. We were trying to get the
album out and nothing was really happening. People got tired of hearing
the old songs, everything was turning into grunge and slowing down, a
little heavier…Pantera…the groove thing was coming around. It was
hard. It just wasn't a time for that music anymore. I don't blame the
Bay-area or anything, it's just that people's interest just tends to go
away, and we were not putting on the same show so it was time to move
Iis there actually some nostalgia involved now when you have been
doing some gigs with VIO-LENCE again? I mean, when you walk on a stage
with a guitar in your hand and start to kick off those vintage VIO-LENCE
songs in the air, does that situation bring some of those successful,
past years back in your mind again?
When I go on and play the intro to "Liquid Courage" and see
every body just getting ready to go off. Everybody's losing their hair a
little bit, a little bit gray, a little older, a little chubbier but.
(laughs) that goes for the band too, we are all up there…a little
older, a little balder, a little chubbier...but still…we hear those
songs man, and…I'm old and out of shape but I can still go for an hour
and a half playing all those tunes. Something about "Bodies on
Bodies" or singing "World in a World" and…it is just
some of the lyrics and some of the breakdowns...the end of T.D.S….just
the whole breakdown from there… (quotes lyrics) "Cold
displeasured face...the look of waste" It's just …I'm getting
chills now even just talkin' about it man! If there is a crowd for it, I
WILL play in this band. Everyone's head is on straight, we are playing
in L.A. again. I'm just excited talking about it. I can't tell you guys
how much I appreciate the interest that you guys have and the fever for
the music. It's like I said in my little preface to this whole
interview, you guys, the crowd, are in equal part in what the music is
all about. Your wanting and your desire to go off on the music is what
drives everyone to do it. So I thank everybody who does that!
What kind of people come to see your concerts nowadays? I bet it
has changed quite drastically since the days of "Eternal…"
and "Oppressing…" due to a natural evolution of the Heavy
Metal genre in general even if you have still been able to see and meet
some of those ol´ fans in your concerts who have been there since the
beginning of VIO-LENCE´s existence and been following you pretty
loyally during all these past years? How does it feel like to meet and
talk to these old fans anyway? I guess it has to be pretty damn special
for you ´coz these guys can actually tell you that VIO-LENCE has meant
something special for them - correct?
It is truly special to see people come up who we used to see at the
front of the shows back in the day. You know, they are there again. But
what is also special to me is seeing the kids running around with
Vio-lence's shirts on…it is weird, you know…15 years later, 12 years
later, whatever it is just like the second wave coming through. They are
truly enjoying what we do. You know that people are saying that the band
was special to them is as equally special to me. It makes it all worth
you seriously had any serious talk ´bout VIO-LENCE´s, -eh?! let´s
say, possible "2nd coming" - even without Rob Flynn´s
contribution as I don´t believe he would ever quit MACHINE HEAD because
of VIO-LENCE? I personally would like to see a new VIO-LENCE album to be
recorded anyway, so gimme one soon, goddamnit!!!
(Laughs) So you want a new album goddamnit huh? Well…I don't know
about that. My present project, Technocracy is taking up all my time. It
is my baby and it is something I truly believe in. Viol-lence will
always be very special to me but at this time I have five guys in
Technocracy that I'm devoting my time to. They have given up their time
to make this thing work and I have to stay dedicated to them. They are
understanding about the Vio-lence thing, the band. They are really
patient and they are really cool about me doing this stuff. They are
really cool about it. They help me with gear, they are really cool about
Yeah…I don't know about another album, man…(laughs) as of now
that is not gonna happen. We are just gonna settle for the re-release of
'Eternal Nightmare'. How does that sound?
much do you have unreleased material out of the sessions of your
previous recordings, by the way? Any intentions to re-record and put all
that stuff out sometimes?
No unreleased material, no old sessions. Just the "Torture
Tactics" that… we recorded it twice. It was going to be on
Eternal nightmare, so we have it from that session and we have it from
the "Oppressing The Masses" session as well. So that is it as
far as unrecorded stuff.
After the split up of VIO-LENCE Flynn started carrying on MACHINE
HEAD whereas other guys somehow disappeared from the map, but you went
to form a band called TORQUE. But as far as I know that combo in
question never managed to gain any huge cult status, although at least
one album however, saw the light of day on Mascot. How do you personally
view on TORQUE's music and reasons why the band got ignored totally?
We did OK. We had marginal success in the area. I don't feel like we
got a lot of respect out of the area here. We did out the album out and
like I said, just marginal success. I don't think we were doing anything
to new. I thought that we had some great music, it was to sing, but I
don't think we were doing anything too different to set us apart at the
time though. So that's probably why we didn't enjoy any major success.
Could it been said TORQUE was a pre-step to your current band
TECHNOCRACY as you and Mark Hernandez were already involved in TORQUE?
How did TORQUE get started in the first place?
Actually, Torque was the remaining Vio-lence members after Sean quit.
It was basically Ray Vegas, Mark Hernandez and Dean that were left after
Sean quit Vio-lence. I had three songs that I had recorded that we had
recorded with Sean's vocals for…it was going to be the new Vio-lence
stuff. We just re-recorded it with my vocals and that became Torque and
we went on from there. We did another demo and Mascot picked us up and
we went and played Dynamo in …'95??…96?? 96! We played with Venom
and Slayer and Skrew… Sacred Reich. After that we came home and Mascot
did not pick up the option for the second album. We did another demo,
which was probably our best stuff as Torque, four songs…which was
pretty original. I had just grown tired of going to practice every night
I needed a break, so I quit that band and took a couple of years off. I
started doing some recordings with…my cousin introduced me to a guy
doing programming and re-mixes of old "Eternal Nightmare" ,
The New Order" some old Carcass and stuff. I just laid some guitar
tracks down and started sampling them. That was Steve Machada (SP?) my
singer in Technocracy. We brought Mark in to play. It's a whole new ball
game. Real heavy, real melodic vocals, samples and some keyboards but
they are solid songs and heavy as hell.
TECHNOCRACY recently unleashed the first self-titled album via
MIGHTY SPEC, I for one haven't heard the album yet due to the limited
distribution of the label. But it has been described and compared to
sound like FEAR FACTORY. How much do you basically agree with all these
FF comparisons and how would you describe the music of TECHNOCRACY to
all those people who have no idea what´s it all about musically?
I would say it is reminiscent of Fear Factory just because it is
kinda heavy with the programming. That's it. Steve doesn't growl like
Burton. I love Fear Factory, and it is great to be mentioned in the same
sentence BUT…I feel like we are a totally different band in terms of
the sampling and programming goes. I will send you a Technocracy disc so
you can tell me what you think about it yourself.
And some gigs have been done by now under a moniker of TECHNOCRACY…?
Yeah, we have been playing under Technocracy. We have played with
Testament and Exodus, played with Machine Head, under Ten Ton Hammer. We
are playing with Strapping Young Lad and we are actually, I'm bringing
Vio-lence down to L.A. and Technocracy is gonna open. So, we are doing
some shows and getting a great response.
The legendary "Thrash Of The Titans" event was arranged
to help out Chuck Billy as well as Chuck Schuldiner to get funds to
finance their battle against cancer. The whole event was without any
doubts one big megalomaniac gig for every old school thrash freak. To be
honest IF that gig hadn't been arranged VIO-LENCE would have never have
gathered together to do old immortal tunes?
Yeah...I think that…I had been talking to the guys about doing
another album. Yes, I had, just talking about doing another album, at
that time maybe not gigging, just writing the songs and recording
another album for Mighty Spec. So, I don't know if we had gotten
together on another show or not that is hard to say, but it probably
would have happened.
I have witnessed some live clips from the TOTT event and read a
lot of articles about it and that it was VIO-LENCE that caused the most
intensive and ballistic reactions in the audience. How much were you
surprised at getting such huge yet insane reactions from the audience
who still remembered and recognized the band?
Amazing night! A very long day. We went on late at night like 12:30
or so and everybody stayed to watch us. It was just amazing. We had a
crazy response and as tired as everybody was they just WENT OFF! It was
just amazing! It was one of the best hours of my life for sure.
As far as I know you are working on the DVD of your newer gigs. Is
that correct? But have you been considering adding the older live
material from the late 80's to the DVD release, too?
We recorded the whole Slim show with a bunch of camera's and what we
are going to do is record some stuff…do some interviews, go back to
some of the older places we played and talk about some of the songs we
did and just stuff like that. It is going to be the quintessential
collection for a Vio-lence fan…include the videos and just give…if
you haven't heard about the band you would know everything about it by
the time you were done watching it. Still working on some footage it
will probably be done by the end of the year.
Before quitting this long in-depth interview, we are all keen on
finding out if you will continue VIO-LENCE and will the band be seen on
stages of the European metal festivals like in Wacken this year, for
I don't know about Wacken, I don't know about Dynamo, I don't know
what happened, it was kind of a last minute type of deal. Wacken hasn't
contacted me. We talked maybe about a Thrash of The Titans tour.
Everything is up in the air right now and all I know what we are doing
for sure is this L.A. show, June 15th.
We both thank you for having this great opportunity to ask a few
questions about your bands and we wish you all the best in the future as
well. May the last words be yours…
I have to thank you guys again for your interest in the band. It's
really heartwarming to know that the effort that you put in and
something you create it did have a mark on their lives or it is
something that they will go, "Yeah",…a point in their life
that they will remember when they listen.
Luxi and Arto, thank you very much for the interview and I'm so sorry
for the delay. Metal-Rules.com, you guys are a godsend. All the best to
you guys, and all fans of the metal. Just keep supporting the music. You
guys make the difference. Without the fans, there is no music. Thank
Official Site: www.vio-lence.com