Watch: PHIL DEMMEL plays first concert with TESTAMENT at Germany's ROCK HARD FESTIVAL
Former MACHINE HEAD and current VIO-LENCE guitarist Phil Demmel played his first show with TESTAMENT last weekend (Saturday, May 27) at the Rock Hard Festival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Demmel is filling in for TESTAMENT‘s regular lead guitarist Alex Skolnick, who is sitting out some of the band’s spring/summer 2023 European tour dates in order to tend to a family emergency. Because Demmel had a gig scheduled with VIO-LENCE at the Milwaukee Metal Fest on Friday (May 26), TESTAMENT performed as a four-piece at the kick-off concert of its European tour that same night in Wiesbaden, Germany.
This past Wednesday (May 24), Skolnick released the following statement via social media: “Dear Friends, a few days ago, I sent a late night ‘family emergency’ email to the band. The hour was 3am. I was at my mother’s hospital bedside, in a tiny chair, still in stage clothes, a soft guitar case crammed in the corner (I’d come straight from my gig downtown). Thankfully, things have improved somewhat, knock on wood, and my mom’s out of the Emergency Room, in more comfortable surroundings at the hospital, with release in the (hopefully) not too distant future. It’s a good thing I happened to be home during such a turbulent week.
“At the same time, it’s become very clear how many urgent matters need hands-on attention by yours truly, in light of all this. All of which to is to say that, unfortunately, there is no way to avoid TESTAMENT‘s upcoming European tour being affected.
“At least there is protocol for these situations. At this point, TESTAMENT had done an untold number of tours with bands in which one or more band members have had to be filled in for, most often for family issues (which become more frequent for everyone as life goes on). And having assessed this situation, it seems to make the most sense – assuming things continue in a present positive direction – for me to sit out part of this current tour and rejoin approximately mid-way. While I hate to miss/cancel shows (and never have, as far as I can remember),family first, as they say.
“Please know that the entire TESTAMENT band/crew/mgmt has been above and beyond in terms of understanding, empathizing and allowing me all the time I need. There’s been no pressure and this is a plan I’m entirely on board with. There is plenty of gratitude on my end.
“I’m also grateful to my sub for these dates, Phil Demmel (ex-MACHINE HEAD). If bands are families, he is our ‘Cousin Phil.’ We have shared stages at NAMM and the with METAL ALLEGIANCE and he and Chuck (Billy, TESTAMENT singer) go back to their early youth. In recent years, Phil has become like Winston Wolf (from ‘Pulp Fiction’),the guy you call in a pinch, whether you’re SLAYER, LAMB OF GOD (for guitar or bass),OVERKILL and even vocals in JOURNEY – ok that’s not true (but there is a funny meme about that). Eric Peterson will also be stepping in for some of my sections as well. Having played with both, I just know these guys will sound fantastic together, like a thrash MAIDEN. Will it sound like me? No and it shouldn’t.
“One of my biggest honors was being a fill-in (one of four) for the late, great Allan Holdsworth, with his own band shortly after his passing, at a show he‘d been slated to play. All of us agreed – don’t try to be him (no one can!),just be YOU. And that’s how this is going to be. Think of these shows as unique, one-of-kind and worth going out of the way for. I’m looking forward to watching clips online
“Enjoy this temporary version of the band (which will be great) and don’t worry – you’ll have me to put up with again soon enough.
“Thanks for understanding, and see you all shortly.”
Demmel‘s appearance with TESTAMENT will mark his fourth high-profile fill-in gig in five 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. More recently, Phil stepped in for Willie Adler on a number of international LAMB OF GOD shows. He 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.”
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.”
TESTAMENT‘s “Klash Of The Titans” tour of Latin America with KREATOR is scheduled to kick off on April 19 in Lima, Peru and run through May 9 in San Salvador, El Salvador.
In a new interview with Chile’s iRock.CL, TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy was asked what it was like to play with Lombardo again last year. Chuck said: “Well, it was like old friends meeting together again, when we got to get back on the road together. It was really like old times. It felt like a normal family, I guess. It was great having him back. He came at a right time when Gene [Hoglan, longtime TESTAMENT drummer] wasn’t available due to scheduling problems, and Dave had a lot of open time. So the timing worked. I know Dave‘s a busy man, so he has other projects too, and it’s not TESTAMENT. So I imagine that’ll… We can’t really control all that. But it was very fun, those tours we did. He added his Lombardo-isms to the old TESTAMENT songs. So it was good.”
In March 2022, Billy told the WSOU 89.5 FM radio station that he didn’t expect Lombardo to focus only on TESTAMENT in the ensuing months. “I’m not holding my breath that Dave just is in TESTAMENT only but we’re gonna have to kind of maneuver around what happens,” he said. “But then again, this is the beginning of the relationship. We might be busy enough and he might just be happy enough just working with us and it works out. So we’re just kind of taking it one day at a time, one tour at a time. We know he’s gonna be with us for the next three tours — we know that for sure — so we’ll see what happens after that.”