Phil Anselmo on Superjoint: "We've Been Through the Lowest of Times, and Now It's Fun Again"
Many truly influential musicians only get better with age — no surprise there. But the key word here is “influence.” It's not necessarily their own evolving music that makes waves; on the contrary it’s a drive to change what the industry produces, to open ears to new ideas and innovative visions and textures.
Phil Anselmo is not to be swept aside from this people who not only impacted music as a frontman and songwriter, but often as a man behind the scenes.
Yes, as a part of Pantera, Anselmo (alongside Darrell Abbott, Vinnie Paul and Rex Brown) forever changed the heavy metal genre. But we all know that. We all know that the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival might have been saved if Pantera agreed to the alleged multi-million dollar reunion deal proposed to them. We all know that there’s friction between the former members.
The only time Pantera come up during our interview was when the discussion turned to an article I wrote, and how writing it not only helped me through an extremely difficult time in my own life, but how I related that to basis of the article, which was how Pantera helped metal through a difficult time in the industry.
But from the 2015 Superjoint tour that just kicked off, to the upcoming third annual Housecore Horror Film Festival co-founded by Anselmo, to the impressive breadth of bands signed to his Housecore Records label, to his “Dying Song” performance on Metal Allegiance’s September 18 album, which Dave Ellefson thought was one of the best performances Anselmo’s done on record since early Down or even Vulgar Display of Power — there we was much more to talk about.
Just don’t get him started on the New Orleans Saints.
New Times talked with Anselmo about the new mentality of Superjoint, the evolution of the Housecore Festival, and the (surprising) new music he's currently experimenting with.
Superjoint and Danzig are scheduled to perform Saturday, October 3, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
It’s the third year of Housecore Horror, set in San Antonio from Nov. 13 to 15. How has the festival evolved since year one, when you first set out unsure if it would be an annual event?
Well I gotta say that this year is 1,000 percent dedicated to Corey Mitchell. He was the cofounder, but I consider him the founder of the fest. [Mitchell died almost a year ago.] It was his idea and he really did all the arm-twisting when it came to talking me into doing this fest. When it came down to it — nobody worked harder than Corey. While we were planning for year one, he was always brainstorming for future years, talking about how we could branch out into different cities and take it to Europe. And I would say, “Jesus! Slow down, Corey, we need to get through year one first.” So really, we will carry on and sally forth onto the night, and as he predicted, we’re in a different town this year, in San Antonio. We have great bands and films.
As far as that goes, I think that’s what we’ve always aimed to do. Extreme music, ranging from metal and hardcore to horror-themed music, to the actual horror films. So as far as growth goes I think with every year we grow a little bit because it’s relevant. More power to the fest and the memory of Corey Mitchell.
I remember when we talked right before the inaugural festival and you said that you weren’t going to even mention the word “annual.” But every year the lineup gets more impressive: this year includes King Diamond, Exodus, Goblin, Incantation, Suffocation, Zombi, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Eyehategod, DropDead, Autopsy, Warbeast—for you, what musically is really exciting this year?
I love it all, really. I think the lineup is… it really can’t be denied. Look no further than King Diamond coming down to do the Abigail record, and the music he made early on was groundbreaking, and it holds water under my roof. Big King Diamond fan over here; not only as a musician but as a fantastic person.
But you know, uh, looking at the rest of the bill, besides the extreme and hardcore bands, to have Goblin [long-time Dario Argento collaborators] come and score “Dawn of the Dead” you know—anyone who was there for year one and saw Goblin score “Suspiria”—that was one of the more surreal things I’ve ever seen in my life. Once again I'm looking forward to that.
Also Saturday [November 14] is full of old and new school hardcore bands. That’s something I think maybe we would’ve mixed in together more in the past. For this upcoming one though, Saturday is just a full day of hardcore. I’m thrilled to death with the lineup.
Fans are very excited for Superjoint’s return to touring this year. You’ve said that it’s “100 times better” now than before. What do you think occurred within the band member’s mentality to make this possible?
Phil Anselmo: So-briety! (Laughter.) Simply put. Sobriety. You know, originally we were plugging along with Superjoint, truth is, and I’m not a bit embarrassed or ashamed to admit it at all, I really don’t remember much about Superjoint from back then except for little pieces. I was fucked up out of my fucking mind on heavy drugs … and the overindulgence of booze. These days, don’t get me wrong, I like my suds and I like a bit of the white grape…. But I think very damn [well] one of us has a much clearer mind. A much more stable support system within that realm. And we’re all veterans now, man. We’ve been through the lowest of times together, and this group of people—specifically, [guitarist] Jimmy Bower and [bassist] Kevin Bond — when it was time to say "fuck this road to destruction," we all kind of did that together. We all came off of heavy drugs at the same time. So I think there’s this strength with knowledge there about what not to do. So really it just happened from our clear minds and fresh blood there. It’s a positive thing. It feels like it’s fun again, and isn’t that the point? If you’re going to make music and you’re having fun while you’re doing it, nothing in this world cane deter from that.
With that fresh excitement and energy, fans can be looking forward to a truly genuine show, then.
Well I would just say, as far as energy goes, we know from being in the scene for 20, 30 years that we don't have to get up there and jump around and dance around for the kids anymore. All we need to do is throw our amps and drums up on stage.
And play the music.
And play the music as tight as possible with no bullshit, man. Just lay it on them. And during this time, we’re also going to be doing a multitude of shows with the mighty Glenn Danzig, who I’ve been friends with, for, geez, 25 years. He’s always been a complete gentleman and supporter of myself and what I do. You look at a set like that … our game plan is to rip it song after song after song, with nary a break. And we will always have interaction with the audience because I love that part as well. But it comes down to leading people with a positive impression and playing as many songs as possible.
For years you didn’t really want to have anything to do with the press, and in the past few years you’ve been extremely open with the press. You also mentioned that because of that reason, you no longer feel the need to publish your autobiography [Mouth for War] that was announced two years ago...
Well that wasn’t even my name on the book, really. The press was talking about all sorts of releases without me even really being able to assess what, and how much, of a story I wanted to put out. And really that was [Corey Mitchell] and I’s job. That was our work together. Aside from the book writing part of it — which yes, I did get soured on it. Because I feel like as open as I am with the press, I can be asked anything, but I also feel like maybe, right now, at 47 years old, there’s a good chance I might live to be 57 years old. There’s a pretty good chance I might live to be 67 years old, you know? Maybe then I’ll feel like going into certain bits of detail that I’m not comfortable with right now. There are certain parts of my life that should be private right now, and, and… as far as anything else goes, if I don’t want to answer a question I’ll be up front about why I don’t want to answer that.
As far as the book goes, we shall see. But right now, the most important thing in my life is the music and everything that revolves around Housecore music and playing shows. And getting as many different types and styles into the public through my label. Early in 2015 I went on a gigantic writing rampage of all sorts of different styles. I think that some of the stuff needs, or should be heard, by people that might be curious. Once again, we all know you can’t make everyone happy all the time. But I'm not just a heavy metal guy. I like all sorts of different styles of music, so I do indulge in writing different formats.
I would think in the next six months or so, early 2016, you’re going to hear a plethora of things I’ve done, love it or hate it, man. It’s important to me just to get it out there. That includes the new Down EP, and a few other projects I’ve been working on, that I guess I’m really not at liberty to speak of right at this second because it will only pique interest at a time that isn’t appropriate.
So when you say different styles of music, and mentioning acoustic… are we talking some country here? Phil Anselmo and the Illegals could take another angle with a name like that…
(Laughter.) I’ll put it to you like this: I ain’t writing songs that are gonna be the number one hit on any fucking goddamn list. They’re very self-indulgent. It’s just a different expression that I’ve always had.
The use of different instruments; like when something is really based around an acoustic guitar, or perhaps a different type of percussion, or different types of tones and textures, then yeah, you do have something that is different than what people may expect. And I think as a free agent, which I do consider myself, I can do any damn thing I want, and it can be scrutinized—but I’m putting it out. Popping on those diversity hats.
Well, speaking of different textures and tones and that cultural diversity, it makes me think of the NOLA metal scene. Your roots. What is another metal scene that you feel has the same type of unique intrigue?
Well, you know… I can’t really speak for the deeply rooted, different styles of, indigenous type music. But I would say Australia has an awesome scene for death metal. It’s incredible. ... And Australia is a very big land, so I think overall if you look at it city by city, they have some really excellent death metal acts.
I also think, if you go back a couple decades, and look at Scandanavia and what they really did, is invent the genre of black metal, when really I was growing up, black metal was just the name of a Venom record. As a genre, I think it was coined by the Scandanavians, mainly Norway and surely after they saw places like Finland, where there’s some great modern black metal bands, that opened the doors for even more interesting work.
You know, hearkening back to your last question, about different bands, I feel very fortunate with my Housecore family. I feel very fortunate with the bands we have, that are like innovators in the industry; currently we’re finishing up an album with this band called Child Bite. You can’t peg them as heavy metal or hardcore, and that’s what I love about them. We’re working with a lot of bands like that at Housecore. And anyone who is a musician or flat-out lover of extremities within music, I think there should be room to have that open mind and be able to give each band its day in court.
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