The Artist And The Architect – An Interview With Phil Anselmo

PhilAnselmo-604x402Philip H. Anselmo. The name conjures to mind one of the most iconic figures in metal for the last twenty-five years. Loved and hated. Widely revered, often misunderstood, and begrudged, all at once. Nonetheless, Anselmo remains an immovable force of music through his legendary stints as the frontman of Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual, and countless underground releases and guest spots. His current project is his first true solo-affair, Walk Through Exits Only (Housecore), and he has a new backing band known as The Illegals. He has other new projects in the mix outside of music too. Ghost Cult was glad to have a chat with Phil, who was upbeat about the future, and as affable as expected.

What made this the right project to become your first true solo album?

I guess when I wrote the fucker, that was my intention the whole time. I have done so many projects in my career that were just what they were meant to be, single album or two album projects, and then move on. This one it could go either way. You need to look at what is going on in my life when I wrote this record. The only thing I was doing at the time, and am still doing is Down, for sure. I think I played a few Arson Anthem gigs, but Arson is a something that is give or take. Put it this way, as you know Mike IX Williams is very busy, he is the singer of Eyehategod, and they are very busy as of late. I very much consider that a side project that can live or die. When I sat down to write this record, I knew it was very unique and whatnot. I wanted to make a record and put my name on it, without having to use this brand new title of a band for everyone to buy into or some shit like that. Because I really wrote this album from the ground up, where as other projects are really a collaboration between me and other artists. It feels very personal to me, and I didn’t want to confuse anyone. I wanted everyone to know it was coming from me. This is my gift to you, so be it.

Is it fair to say that Walk Through Exits Only seems to be an assault on the shitty state of music, and the culture music business, metal or otherwise?

Well you know, I don’t like to spoon-feed the listener too terribly much. I like for them to do what you just did, which is to assume what the lyrics are trying to articulate. Now, I do have some pointed lyrical content in this stuff. Case in point would be the title of the record, Walk Through Exits Only. I picked that title because it’s vague enough for anyone to read into it, and take it and make it for themselves to be what they want it to be. It can mean one hundred different things to one hundred different people. Whether it is an assault on the music industry people are picking up on, or my disdain for people, or this, that or the other. Understand that is it is also a record where I am screaming at myself a whole lot. There is a great deal of sarcasm and tongue in cheek lyrical content in there. Really I wanted to be the architect, and let people finish off their own building so to speak, and let them make it their own.

You have played with some of the greats of the genre in your career so far. How did you put together Marzi and Blue as The Illegals, and what made them stand out to you?

First and foremost, I could have put together a band of very well-established musicians. I felt like, if I am doing a solo record, I wanted to utilize lesser known guys, who are absolutely baddass. And when I was writing the songs I had Marzi in mind the entire time, because this type of record Marzi and I dreamed about doing for years now. With that said, I wanted Marzi to absolutely shine on this fucking record and utilize his excellent ability at layering, at soundscapes, and all of the sonic differences he brings to the game. I wanted those things to shine, very brightly. I think we accomplished that. As far Blue goes… Blue came from Warbeast, and Warbeast are my absolutely my brothers, from Fort Worth. So I want to thank them for letting me have Blue be part of this here group. Blue is a really young drummer, with unbelievable potential. I had to really work with him as far as timing went and breaking him out of the mold of 4/4 thrash and 4/4 death metal, and throw all kinds time signatures at him, abrupt stops, and starts and stops, all kinds of things at him. That was a challenge. Blue did an excellent job. I can’t say enough about those guys. Regardless of the fact whether I wrote things from the ground up, and everything on this record audibly, is meant to be in place. But the fact that these guys were able to put their own fingerprint and their own stamp of talent and on this album, it’s irreplaceable. So I’m very happy there.

Let’s talk about the Housecore Horror Film & Metal Festival coming to Austin.

It was really a small thing at first. And once word got out, that’s when things kind of got insane. A lot of bands, there was no fucking way I could pass up when they offered their services and wanted to be a part of this, special guest directors and stuff like that. It’s really mind-boggling. As a horror movie fan, for this to be such a reality, it’s almost unreal. Aside from the great bands, the directors, and the vintage films; I think the most exciting thing for me is that over the last six to eight months I have received a shitload of submissions from lesser-known directors out there that actually give a fuck about horror films. They are trying to actually do something innovative and exciting with horror films, instead of regurgitation. We have a lot of great films from these lesser-known folks, and to turn on an audience of true horror fans out there to these fans, it’s gonna be a beacon of hope for people, and the horror genre in general. So that part is very exciting and for the consumers and the people who pay to get in, I want them to have a fucking blast. But I also want people within the machinery; the bands and special guests to have a great time as well. This is year one with this thing, so I want to get it under my belt. Once that happens, we’ll start talking about this thing called ‘annual’, which is one word I am really shying away from until I get year one under the belt. All in all man, it’s going to be a blast.

I understand you are penning your memoirs, due out next year. So why is now a good time in Phil Anselmo’s life to write his memoirs?

Really I think it will be interesting because it’s not just a Pantera book, and really it’s the story of my life. Honestly, a whole a lot had happened in my life before Pantera, and even a whole lot has happened since Pantera. The journey on the way before I was in Pantera: it took a whole lot of work and circumstance for me to even be in that great a band with those fucking elite musicians. And then for me, there’s a lot more to the Pantera story than the negative that people thrive on, man. There are some absolutely fantastic memories, some upbeat memories, and beautiful memories of Pantera for me. These are life-changing things, and life lesson things, and brotherhood in there. I am not out to write a bitter memoir. There is no bitterness man, really. There is a lot of truth that I am not going to shy away from, that may not paint the prettiest picture, particularly of myself. I am very critical of myself and I am definitely my biggest critic, as clichéd as that might sound. It’s true. But I think I have definitely come a long way in the last ten years or so. I am comfortable in my skin right now, and I think the journey and the battles that I have won in life, have been positive things. And I am not ashamed to admit that. I am the kind of guy that likes to put one foot in front of the other, and I’d like to explain that, and how I got to be that way. How I got to overcome a lot of obstacles in life that I think a great percentage of people struggle with in life. Everything, whether it be drug addiction, and everything from family life, and non-family life. Even being alone and dealing with things on a singular level. There’s a lot of interesting things in there. It’s going to be a severely nose-to-the-grind-stone type of writing process throughout the rest of the year, and the next few months. Hopefully, we get everything sussed out, and we get this book out on time, and I’m looking forward to it.

KEEFY