Phil Anselmo Actually Doesn't Know How to Wind Down

Brandon Marshall, Westword
Nowadays, Phil Anselmo is mostly an open book. On one hand, he's creating a "brand," even though much of his time is dedicated to representing everything that doesn't want to be branded. On the other, it's an underground brand of being fucking hostile, and he finds a way to somehow stay under the radar while being the biggest advocate of all that is underground.

During this interview, we talked about his Housecore Horror Film Festival EP, one of the most extreme projects he's been involved with, and how the new Down album sounds like old, obscure Black Sabbath. He also details his feelings about playing Metal Masters 5, the three albums he would take to a deserted island, how he gave up on good tattoos a long time ago. Anselmo even got a little choked up talking about how emotional the holidays can be when recalling memories of Pantera, and what it will be like to play those songs with the very guys who influenced him in his youth.

And when asked what personality trait he could change about himself, his reply was a little surprising. "I'm going to go with laziness, man."


Anselmo has contributed vocals to more than three-dozen bands and projects over nearly as many years. He's best known for fronting sludge-metal outfit Down and the stoner-metal act Superjoint Ritual -- oh, yeah, and for shaping one of the most prolific, influential metal bands of all time, Pantera. His several-thousand-strong collection of horror movies sparked him to launch Housecore Horror Film Festival in October 2013, which reps the Housecore Records brand that he established more than 10 years ago.

In 2013 he also released his first solo record, Walk Through Exits Only, with his band Philip Anslemo & The Illegals, and is on the cusp of releasing a new Down record in early 2014. This week, he's playing Metal Masters 5, a jam session with other heavyweights like Slayer's Kerry King, Anthrax's Scott Ian, Megadeth's Chris Broderick, Kill Devil Hill's (and former Pantera) Rex Brown, and many more.

From my vantage point, it looks like Anselmo isn't suffering from being lazy. More like he doesn't know how to wind down and relax. Not that I'm complaining; anyone who reads Metal Mondays already knows that Pantera is my favorite band--in fact, I think I may have scared more than one guy off by having the song "Floods" on my sexcapades playlist. There's just something about that "Die! Die! Die!" chant at the end of the song that makes them a little uncomfortable, I guess.

Up on the Sun talked to Anselmo about new music from Down, touring as a solo act, how he's going to spend 2014.

So tell me how everything went with the Housecore Horror Film Festival.
In my opinion it was a blast, man. It was surprisingly well set-up, all the bands were great... I had a blast. It was... moving at times, even. You know, EyeHateGod were incredible, the Melvins were incredible, and of course, Goblin was off the charts, man, they just... their individual set was amazing.

You had said before that it would all come down to the execution, and I know with all the little technical details it can be stressful.
Yeah, you know, I was really stressed out--until I got there. And then I saw it was really well organized and that everyone was happy. It seemed like everyone who attended was there for the long haul, and I saw them all throughout the entire weekend. It was the same familiar faces that people bought the tickets to be there, for the long haul. And the whole vibe was so laid back, man.

Do you think it's too soon to mention the word "annual"?
I think right now it being... it being [a week before Christmas] I think everyone's gathering their wits about them, but I think it went positively enough to where we are definitely... I would guess by January we will start talking about the next year. I'd say it's very probable, so to speak.

I just saw the video for "Ugly Mug." Tell me a bit about the two songs that you released as the festival EP.
They are, in my opinion, another expression of extremities within heavy metal music. Very different than any of the material on Walk Through Exits Only. "Ugly Mug" is very straight to the point, whereas the other song...what is it...I've been doing the new Down record so much! [Laughs]

"Pigs Kissing Pigs."
Yes. That song is one of the more epic songs I've ever been a part of, so I'm really pleased with it. I love it.

It was also the day before your release of Walk Through Exits Only when we last talked. It seems like it's been really well received. After all the performing you've been doing, playing the songs over and over on tour--is there any realizations you've had about the album that you would have done differently?
I don't know if I would've done anything differently but you know it's uh, still... I guess kind of a trip for people? So they are very studious, so to speak. They watch us.

Towards the end of the tour people started knowing the words a little bit better, and we're pretty interactive, so to speak. Still, I--it's a different experience. Shit man, I have no regrets. It's music and I'm going to keep trudging on, man. And it's going to find its audience one way or another. No complaints.

You like to do music "in mood." Do you think back to what you were feeling while writing those songs during your performances? Or does that fire come from different places now?
Well you know, when I get the microphone in my hand and there's a stage, and an audience, there's definitely a different type of vibe than when I'm trying to get a point across or singing about something that's a concrete or absolute. Either way, a lot of the songs on the record are definitely taking the piss out of myself, so I don't mind rehashing that part, because it's kind of funny and comical.

Either way, I guess when you perform it live there's more of a knack for performing it as aggressively as possible, from a vocal and overall sound standpoint. Attitude is probably the most key thing here. As long as I keep that edge and that chip on my shoulder it feels right.

So you just finished tracking vocals for a new Down album, correct?
I think I'm about 95 to 98% finished with the vocal part of the record, but then of course I will be a big part of the mix as well. We will be ready to release this next Down within the first quarter of 2014. That was something I was pretty dead set on. It's turning out pretty well so far.

Even though The Purple EP was just released in 2012, it seems like so much has happened since with Down and also your own musical ventures. How will this album compare to the last Down record?
Well Down is Down, and the music we make isn't rocket science. You put us in the same room together, man; with Pepper and Jimmy, especially, you're going to get Down. But what I have caught on this record--it's kind of ridiculous to say--but the vibe I catch is a heavy heavy dose of Black Sabbath, almost like Technical Ecstasy [Sabbath's seventh album]. Or something like that. A little more obscure Black Sabbath.

And also Witchfinder General. It's a little ridiculous, because we did start the band because of our Black Sabbath-worship, and same with Witchfinder General. It influenced the hell out of us. But that's what I take away from this record. It's going really back to our roots.

I wanted to ask about Witchfinder General, and also about the new blood in the band, Bobby [Landgraf], and how the transition from Kirk to Bobby has been inspirational for you.
Bobby's great. He came right in and contributed right away. He knows the drill; he's been with us... whether it was guitar teching or stage managing for like 18 years, he knows. He's very well-versed and his style of music coincides with us to a certain degree, playing the blues. And he's an incredible guitar player.

And when you talk about infusing new stuff, heck man, even Pat [Bruders, the bass player] wrote a lot of killer stuff on this new record. I can't say enough about how we pushed it--especially me for sure, vocally--but we pushed it toward that Witchfinder General feel. A lot of people would pick Witchfinder's first record, Requiem....oh no, Jesus Christ I'm still talking about the second album. God, I'm stupid. Fucking... the Friends From Hell [1983] record for me really grabbed, because when I was a kid it felt like a Black Sabbath record that Sabbath never did, in my young mind.

It felt like it was Black Sabbath's little brother. It has a special spot in my heart. I really took those influences and applied them, which is something I've done in the past but not so drastically.

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