At last month’s Bloodstock Open Air festival, former MACHINE HEAD and current VIO-LENCE guitarist Phil Demmel was asked by TotalRock if Willie Adler‘s COVID-19 vaccination status is the reason Phil has been filling in for the LAMB OF GOD guitarist at some of the Virginia metal band’s recent non-U.S. concerts. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I think Willie‘s just in a spot right now, and it’s not really my spot to say, but I get the vibe that he’s… I don’t even think I should talk about it. I don’t think it’s my spot to say anything about Will. But he’s making his decisions, and I am the contingent. So here I am.”
Demmel went on to praise his involvement with LAMB OF GOD, saying: “They’re one of the biggest metal bands in the world. And it feels good to be, like, ‘Hey, we’d like for you to step into Willie‘s shoes,’ which Willie writes those riffs and he’s an awesome guitar player. And to be, like, ‘Hey, we want you to be the guy,’ or whatever… I get along well with the dudes. In a ‘me’ way, it feels good to be wanted… It’s pretty cool. They’re all fucking amazing dudes and a great band and a totally pro camp. I love the way they run things. So it’s good to be part of that.”
Demmel most recently filled in for Adler on nearly a dozen European LAMB OF GOD shows in August. Prior to that, Demmel stepped in for Adler during LOG‘s January appearance on the ShipRocked cruise and in May for the Canadian portion of LAMB OF GOD‘s “The Metal Tour Of The Year” with MEGADETH.
When Adler‘s absence from LAMB OF GOD‘s summer 2022 European tour was first announced, he released a statement saying that he wasn’t able to make the trip” because he had “some things that I need to be home for”. He also thanked his bandmates for “supporting my decision.”
Although LAMB OF GOD has not officially commented on Adler‘s absence from the shows, VIO-LENCE singer Sean Killian revealed in an interview in April that Willie is “not down with doing the vaxx,” referring to the COVID-19 vaccine, and is being replaced by Demmel for dates in those countries that still require proof of vaccination from U.S. travelers.
In April, Demmel also filled in for LAMB OF GOD‘s John Campbell when the bassist had to miss a couple of shows on “The Metal Tour Of The Year” in order to “take care a family matter back home.”
Demmel‘s appearance with LAMB OF GOD marked his third high-profile fill-in gig in four years. Demmel stepped in for SLAYER guitarist Gary Holt for four European shows in the fall of 2018 after Gary returned home to be with his dying father. Demmel also subbed for Dave Linsk at OVERKILL‘s November 13, 2021 concert at The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey and on the band’s spring 2022 U.S. tour.
In a February 2022 interview with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, Demmel discussed how he became such an in-demand hired gun. “The SLAYER thing happened within 24 hours of me quitting MACHINE HEAD,” he said. “I think [SLAYER drummer] Paul Bostaph‘s girlfriend knew that MACHINE HEAD was done and knew that I was home, so they reached out for that. As the urban legend goes [laughs], I had three hours to learn 19 songs. It was pretty successful; a fill-in trip, one of the higher-profile things you can imagine — SLAYER on their final world tour. I filled in for my buddies in NONPOINT, too. The OVERKILL gig was more about me and Bobby [Ellsworth, vocals] doing the BPMD record together [2020’s ‘American Made’]. We’re familiar and I got the rep of being able to learn songs pretty quick. The METAL ALLEGIANCE, guys, too. I’ll play 25 songs with them in a night. It’s one of those quirky things where I can learn songs pretty quickly and I can pick them up pretty quick.”
Demmel was then asked whether his nerves for the LAMB OF GOD and OVERKILL gigs were on the same level as playing with SLAYER. “I was pretty confident with the OVERKILL songs,” he said. “We had three good rehearsals. I didn’t rehearse with SLAYER at all. I played two songs at a soundcheck. [Laughs] ‘Okay, we’re good!’ It’s like, ‘Fuck!’ OVERKILL, we had a couple of days of rehearsal. I had two and a half, three weeks to prepare for that. I felt pretty strong with that.
“The LAMB OF GOD gig, that was a big deal. They had approached me before their MEGADETH States tour last summer and wanted me to learn both parts, Mark [Morton] and Willie‘s, just in case one got sick, they didn’t want to cancel their tour. That’s where I am: I’m their bullpen guy when one of them can’t make the shows, I’m ready to go. It’s such a high-profile band. I didn’t want to go out there and blow it. I wanted the band to sound good. I wanted to keep that pride in what they are and not have a drop-off. Willie and I play differently. There’s different vibrato in our left hand and pinkies. I didn’t want there to be a drop-off. I wanted people to be not bummed that he wasn’t there. And that’s not a slag on Willie. If I went to see one of my favorite bands, let’s say QUEENSRŸCHE. I want to see [Chris] DeGarmo, I want to see Michael Wilton. No slight against the other dudes, but they better fucking bring it if they’re not going to be out there.”
LAMB OF GOD singer Randy Blythe discussed Demmel‘s involvement with the band during an interview with Bloodstock TV‘s Oran O’Beirne. After O’Beirne noted how talented Demmel is to be able to step in on a moment’s notice, Blythe said: “We make him put in work, though, to be fair. The guitar parts aren’t easy. We are playing a song tonight, ‘The Faded Line’, and that’s a song that hasn’t been in our set for a while because some guys are, like, ‘Oh, this is hard.’ And it’s, like, ‘No. We need to do this.’ And even he was just, like, ‘Oh. We’ve gotta learn that. That’s a fucked up riff.’ But we saw Phil fill in for SLAYER on, like, two days’ notice in Europe at the end of the SLAYER tour, ’cause Gary Holt‘s dad was passing away. R.I.P. And Phil came over and killed it. We’ve known him for many years. There’s never really been any question of whether he can do it. He’s a phenomenally talented guy.”