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Phil Anselmo Interview

By

Philip H. Anselmo

Phil Anselmo

Housecore Records
Updated July 14, 2013
It’s a busy time for Philip H. Anselmo. The legendary frontman, who is a past or present member of numerous bands including Pantera, Superjoint Ritual, Down and Arson Anthem, is releasing his first solo album Walk Through Exits Only. He’s also putting on a horror and music festival later this year and working on his autobiography. And of course, he runs his own record label as well. He has an intimidating onstage presence, but Anselmo is a joy to interview. He’s interesting, entertaining, and not afraid to say exactly what’s on his mind.

Chad Bowar: Do you enjoy doing press or is it just a necessary part of being a musician?
Philip H. Anselmo: It’s a little bit of both. But I love meeting new people, talking to new people, especially about music because you always learn something. I’m all cool with it.

When you started writing the songs that became Walk Through Exits Only, was it for a solo album specifically?
Yes. I was inspired to do a solo record. I sat down with the intent of creating something I figured would be different for extreme music overall. So yes, it was very intentional.

When did The Illegals enter the picture?
The guitarist Marzi Montazeri (ex-Superjoint Ritual) I’ve known for a very long time. For both of us this record was a long time coming. I knew, in my mind, that he would be the guitar player. My main focus was to let him be him and let him put his fingerprints all over this thing. He’s an amazing guitar player. He’s a shredder, but also a great atmospheric player. I knew he would be part of the band.

At the time I was struggling to find an under the radar drummer. I wanted to avoid the “supergroup” moniker. The singer for Warbeast, which is Housecore Records band, and I have known each other since the ‘80s. So Bruce Corbitt said I should ask Blue, their drummer. Although he’s very young, he’s a very gifted drummer, very talented for his age. When I first started working with him he was 19 years old. It was a challenge at first to break him out of the regular 4/4 mold of thrash metal and death metal and whatever he had grown up on.

But once he got a hold of the task at hand, he brought his own flavor to the music, and I love that. So I let him be him as well once he got things very solid. As far as bass on this record, we worked with a guy named Bennett Bartley. He’s a New Orleans guy and plays in a bunch of different bands and works a regular job as well. So on the tour we have a guy named Steve Taylor, who is very tight with Marzi. Those are The Illegals.

I call them The Illegals on this one record because it’s my way of messing with them. They get to pick on me all day long. I’m going to change the name on each record.

It’s a very aggressive, intense and sometimes angry album. Do you have an existing reservoir of those emotions to draw on, or was there something specific that inspired that on this record?
I think the reservoir is there. I consider myself a music fan first and foremost. I’ve been a collector of music since I can’t even recall. I wanted to create a record that could sit right alongside of the harshest and extreme underground heavy metal, but also stick out like a sore thumb. I didn’t want to copy these bands, I wanted to create something different, that is unique. Whether I did that or not, time will tell.

Once you’ve put the album out into the world, do you pay attention to what critics say about it?
Sure, to a certain extent, but it doesn’t affect me one way or the other. The more positive obviously is better, but you’re going to get negative feedback. You can’t please everybody. People will always have their opinions. If I let that bother me, I’d be a nervous wreck, and I’m not a nervous wreck.

You’re kicking off your solo tour this month. In addition to songs from the new album, will you also be playing material from your other bands past and present?
Well......there could be. (laughs) I don’t want to give away too many surprises. For me, each show has to be a unique experience. I want every night to have its own personality. When it comes to playing those “specialty” songs that are from the past, it’s liable to happen, but I’m not giving away any surprises today.

You play everywhere from small clubs to giant outdoor festivals. Does the type and size of the venue change your approach as a frontman?
It does not at all. The stage is the stage. No matter how big the crowd is, you have to give full effort to get your point across. I love it all, whether it’s gigantic festival crowds or back in the day with Pantera when we were selling out arenas and big outdoor facilities. At the time when I was in Pantera and we were playing these gigantic places, that was the reason I started Superjoint Ritual in the first place, to get back into the more intimate clubs. I love it all. I’d play McDonalds. It doesn’t matter. A gig is a gig and I love it. That’s the most comfortable I am, in a live situation.

You also love horror, and are putting on the Housecore Horror Film and Music Festival later this year in Austin. How did that come about? It sounds like it requires a ton of planning and work.
And it’s still a lot of work and planning. Sometimes I ask myself how I got so deep into this. (laughs) It all started when Corey Mitchell, the guy I’m writing my autobiography with, came to my house for the first time and was looking around and seeing all these framed horror posters and all this horror regalia and of course he saw my 8 ton library of VHS tapes and DVDs.

Offhandedly, he said I should do a horror fest. Next thing I know, it’s a reality. He asked me what I thought of bands playing, too. I said sure, we could have Housecore Records bands, Dallas-Fort Worth bands, New Orleans band. I said we could get that covered, no problem. Then when word got out, that’s when things really went haywire, with all the fantastic special guests and directors that are coming and great bands that are part of this thing.

My biggest thing is that I want the consumer, the person who buys the tickets, to have a blast. Secondly, I want the people inside the machinery, the bands and directors and special guests, to have a blast as well. It’s a lot of work, a lot of preparation, and it is my first time. I’m very wary of using the word annual right now. (laughs) Let’s get this first one under our belts and see how it goes. It should be a blast.

What came first, your love for music or your love for horror?
Looking back, it started with sitting in front of the television set as a young man watching horror films. I grew up with stuff like the Twilight Zone, but also Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Television horror was a gigantic thing. I grew up in New Orleans where they had creature features during the afternoon. The special one was the Sunday morning movie. They would show anything from Fiend Without A Face to How Awful About Allan. That’s a blitzkrieg on a young mind

I also grew up in house full of music with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix playing 24/7. So it’s a close race between the two.

These days are there any particular styles or sub-genres of horror that you are particularly drawn to?
I love classics, man. Right now I’m into the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Honestly, I’m into ‘70s made for television horror along the lines of the original Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and stuff like that. That’s just a mood I’m in. I love all forms of horror, but today’s modern horror I’m not a big fan of most of it. I’m not a fan of remakes at all. I don’t see a use for them, I don’t see creativity, and I don’t see many of them, or any of them, outdoing the originals. It’s a cop out to a certain degree. People might disagree with that assessment, but too bad. That’s how I feel.

This is coming from a guy who has no aspirations to be a director or an actor in a horror film. I just like watching them. What’s very inspiring are the submissions we’ve received for the horror fest. As of now we’ve received submissions from up-and-coming or lesser known directors that are very creative and very interesting. There are some horror directors out there that really care about making a difference in the genre. Not only is it exciting to me as a watcher, but it’s exciting to turn a new audience on to these films. It’s like turning a group of friends onto a band or album you’re into. For people to see these newer films, it’s a blast. I can’t wait.

You mentioned that you’re working on your autobiography. How far along are you?
It’s a slow process. I think Corey and I, with the horror fest, have been consumed by it. By the end of this year, we’re really going to put our heads down. There’s definitely been some prep work done, but I don’t feel I’m close at all. We’re just going have to wait and see.

What was your take on your former Pantera and Down bandmate Rex Brown’s book Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera?
First of all, it’s his opinion, and you can’t argue with someone’s opinion, but once again it’s the bass player talking. However he sees things, that’s his view. Personally, I don’t mind at all how I’m depicted in the book. It doesn’t bother me. There is, in my opinion, a great deal of mythology in there. I’ll just leave it at that.

Let’s turn to your label, Housecore Records. You just released the Warbeast album, and of course your record. Do you have anything else in the pipeline?
I have been very prudent about bands I have signed and intend to sign. Lately I haven’t done a damn thing about it, because I think music is in a transitional period. There’s a lot of bands that are sussing themselves out and figuring that following any genre is mere imitation. I’m looking for bands that are searching out the hidden notes and the hidden time signatures that lie within. As a musician I like to believe that not all the notes have been hit yet, not all of the tools have been utilized yet. I do have my eye on four or five bands that I think are very interesting and very capable. It’s a wait and see type situation.

And with the state of the music industry in 2013 running a label must be financially challenging as well.
You learn a lesson with every release that you put out. What do I want: success in this business or for it to be a continual money pit? Of course you want success. I think there are prudent ways of releasing records and having them wear the Housecore shield without overdoing it and without losing money. We’re being careful, and justifiably so.

It seems that metal fans are more likely to want physical product like vinyl and special editions more so than other genres, which is a positive for a label like yours.
Absolutely. When I first started collecting records, I came from a house where it was always vinyl. I was always the type of guy that bought vinyl. When I first moved to Texas there were all these awesome record stores compared to New Orleans where there was a limited number of record stores that sold underground music, especially underground heavy metal. I used to go with a buddy of mine and he would always buy cassettes and I would always buy vinyl. I always asked him why he bought cassettes. It was such a ripoff.

With vinyl you got this fantastic package, you could read the lyrics, you get to see the artwork. There was always that argument. I’m still a firm believer in vinyl. I still say vinyl sounds the best. If you have a turntable and you crank up a slab of vinyl, it just explodes off the needle. I'm a lover of the old vinyl.

I agree. Back then you could always buy some blank tapes and dub the vinyl onto them for your car.
You just explained my teenage years to a T, and my early 20s, too. When you go on tour you can’t bring your records with you, so that’s exactly what I would do. I would sit there and make as many mix tapes to take on tour as possible. Even those days are over now with digital.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Come out to the shows, you crazy people of heavy metal! This is a unique time in my career and a unique time in extreme music’s career. I think that it’s imperative to make it out to this first tour with myself and The Illegals. I think there are going to be some very unique nights, depending on the crowd. I’ll feel it when I get there, when I’m on the stage. I’ll feel that moment when the unexpected could happen.

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