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.
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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  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. Kerry King previously stated that his motivation to do Metal Masters is to get you involved as well, because the world misses you. How are you feeling about heading to Metal Masters this January? It's always fun to get back together with that group of guys. I've known the Slayer guys and the Anthrax guys since like '85, '86. And Slayer and I have been tight since like '89. I've known them for a long time. They are dynamite guys, and Lord knows I have the most respect for all of them.
Jesus, it's like getting together with a bunch of brothers and sisters, man. There are a lot of ladies that work behind the scene that help really facilitate this thing. I get to see everyone! And it's like a family reunion. Inside jokes up the ass for the whole thing. We can be in the middle of a song and I'll glance over at Charlie (Benante) and we'll crack up because we're on the same wavelength.
And I appreciate Kerry King. I'm not sure if he see things the way I do. He thinks I should be doing stadium shit constantly, but honestly, I've done all that. It was fun and a great time in my life, but I love... I guess the more intimate shows and smaller clubs personally.
But I guess that comes down to where my heart is as far as where heavy metal music goes. I have always tend to dig within the underground to find the stuff I really really like. It's a personal preference that overrides everything. I'm not saying tomorrow I could start a mega band and immediately walk right into the stadiums anymore. I don't even think about shit like that.
But I see where he [King] is coming from when he says stuff like that. We jam and do Slayer songs, and then we go back and revisit the Pantera songs. That group of guys on stage is like an ultimate honor. They influenced me when I was growing up and I bought all their records. To have them play the old Pantera song with the passion that they do--it warms the old heart.
Obviously playing Pantera songs brings you back to an emotional, very powerful place. Especially this time of year... It doesn't get any easier. Realizing that... you know... it's impossible to happen again. But you know, I guess that's why the spirit of doing the Metal Masters, part five now... [big sigh]. It's fulfilling to a certain degree, and it does get emotional. But when you're on stage it feels natural. At the end of the day, it's fun and I accept it. And I love the guys for it.
What three albums would you take to a deserted island? Oh God. You have to go there?
I have to sometimes. That's a roughie....All right. This could be interchangeable within every 15 minutes. I'd take the Beatles Abbey Road... Slayer Hell Awaits. And Portal's Outre.
Out of all your tattoos, which is favorite and which do you regret the most? I gave up on great tattoos awhile back. Figuring I have some Paul Booth work on me, I guess anything Paul is cool, and everything else, is what it is. Take it or leave it. I don't really have a least favorite. Say they are all terrible!
I'm not into cool tattoos, I guess. They are too trendy now. The last couple tattoos I got were Slayer, Dark Throne and Portal [band logos]. I might just go with band tattoos from now on, because at least they mean something to me, you know?
What do you think about the Cooking with Anselmo animated videos that came out awhile back on YouTube? Oh God, yes. Genius. Hilarious. Fucking A+. I actually saw something today...I can't remember what it fucking was. Let me find the link and I'll tell you exactly what it's called. Ah! Phil Anselmo's Face on Tumblr. That shit is hi-lar-ious. I love all that shit, man. If you can't laugh at yourself there's a problem.
One more questions: which one of your character traits frustrates you the most? You know, I'm going to go with laziness, man. Honestly, you know, I guess after back surgery there was such a frantic grind as far as physical rehabilitation, and it just got monotonous. The stretching and working out the core. It was something I had to do; it was a must. You had to keep on it. And lately I've been lazy as heck, trying to relax and take my mind off everything.
I get annoyed by my laziness and it's definitely well documented on Walk Through Exits Only, like on "Bedroom Destroyer" and "Bedridden." [Laughs] But laying around not having anything pending to do sometimes feels great. But in the back of my mind I know there's always something I should be doing, whether it's band work or physical rehabilitation.
Well I don't know if anyone would call you lazy. I know that video for the song, "Bedroom Destroyer?" You're on your couch with your dog? You did say it was all about your laziness. That was actually my bedroom on my bed, and that's the "Bedridden" video. A very realistic peek into my life. You know people don't get to live in my household or in my brain; they can only assume and take what they get from interviews and seeing me on tour. I definitely have a great enthusiasm there.
But when I'm at home, sometimes the laziness overstays its welcome, so to speak. Like, 'today's' the day. I gotta off my ass and do something about this gigantic beer gut that I built over football season." And I blame it on the NFL! Damn NFL.
Oh I know; my team is the Chiefs and they did pretty well, so beer comes into play there... Yeah man, y'all must be going crazy. You were 2-14 last year and now you've got a totally different team and Andy Reid. That's the thing I've noticed: 40-something years of watching the Saints lose, and then out of nowhere--especially after Hurricane Katrina hit--we got a great coach, a great, quarterback, went to the Superbowl and won a Superbowl, and now, it's a whole different psychology because you expect to win. You expect this great team. And when it doesn't happen you feel big-time let down!
Whereas in the past you never... you wouldn't look forward to "what if." So I can see where, your team has success and what not, it builds you up to let you down every fucking year. Especially after winning a Superbowl.
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All right; always a pleasure talking with you, Phil. You too sweetheart; take care.