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Phil Anselmo has been a pioneering metal vocalist ever since joining Pantera in 1987. Since then, he's contributed vocals to more than three dozen acts — most notably as the frontman of Down and Superjoint Ritual — and has been involved in twice as many other projects, including voicing Satan in 2003's The Manson Family film and founding Housecore Records, which reps several underground bands and hosted the first Housecore Horror Film Festival last year. In 2013, he released the brutal and raw Walk Through Exits Only, his first solo album with his band Philip Anselmo and The Illegals, and 2014 holds endless touring kicked off by an appearance at Metal Masters 5, a jam session with industry heavyweights.
It's a productive career by any reasonable measure. But the one thing Anselmo says he can't stand about himself is his laziness. "I get annoyed by my laziness, and it's definitely well documented on Walk Through Exits Only, especially the 'Bedridden' video. It's a very realistic peek in to my life."
Anselmo's entire creative process seems to be the opposite of lazy: Ever since stage-diving head first into his career at 14, he's been all about rebuilding and regenerating. For example, he helped Pantera rebuild after vocalist Terry Glaze left by defeating the myth of the club band and earning the trust of a new audience.
"I had my idea of what heavy should be, and they [Pantera members] had their idea of what heavy was," Anselmo says. "Eventually, we did rebuild that fanbase through heavier music and many different chapters of earning and learning the respect of super-underground heavy metal music."
Since the mid-'90s, he's had to rebuild his own physical strength, following intensive back surgery necessary from constant touring injuries. After founding his label Housecore Records, he's been hell-bent on regenerating the underground hardcore and metal scene, bringing artists to light that no one's given a chance. Housecore does the same thing with the horror movie industry by throwing the Housecore Horror Film Festival, where he combines the best of both the underground horror and heavy music worlds. Case in point: the recently released Housecore Horror Film Festival EP. One of the tracks, "Pigs Kissing Pigs," is "one of the more epic songs I've ever been a part of," he says.
If you were to say Anselmo was creating a brand, you wouldn't be wrong, but it's not the kind a social media expert would recognize. It's an underground brand devoted to hostility, to somehow staying under the radar while being the biggest advocate of all that is underground.
His current tour is dedicated to promoting Walk Through Exits Only, one of the most unrestrained and abrasive records of his career. Songs like "Bedridden" and "Bedroom Destroyer" display his penchant for punishing percussion, brutal guitars, and delicious heavy metal ferocity. They are the tracks Anselmo uses to vent about his own laziness and procrastination. What's next on his list — ideas about his own laziness aside — is reconstituting the structure and sound of his soul/sludge metal outfit Down, his main recording and touring band since 2006.
The band released Down IV: The Purple EP Pt. 1 in 2012, right before guitarist Kirk Windstein quit. But Anselmo insists that a new album is coming out early this year and will feature a strong influence from the band's original roots.
"The vibe is a heavy dose of obscure Black Sabbath, almost like Technical Ecstasy [Sabbath's seventh album] and Witchfinder General," Anselmo says.
The vibe of intimate underground shows is also alive and well with the musician, which is why Philip Anselmo and The Illegals will be moshing it up at Pub Rock in Scottsdale. "I love the more smaller clubs," he says. "But I guess that comes down to where my heart is. I always tend to dig within the underground to find the stuff I really really like."