Exclusive Interview: Phillip H. Anselmo

If you like heavy music then there is a good chance you like Pantera. I unfortunately was slow to get around to heavy music and never got the chance to see Pantera live and now I never will. I did however get to talk with legendary front man Phillip H. Anselmo about his new solo album “Walk Through Exits Only” which redefines heavy. We also talked a little bit about Pantera, Down and his upcoming festival Housecore Horror and Metal Fest.

If you’d like to listen along you can do so here:

BZ: You recently released "Walk Through Exits Only," your first solo album. You’ve had several projects over the years, what made now the perfect time for a solo album?

PA: When is there a band time for music man? Not to answer your question with a question, but when is the right time ever? It’s the perfect time, so I released it man.

BZ: Can you take me through your writing process for the album?

PA: Sure, grabbed a guitar, plugged it into a little amp, opened up a recording apparatus and started writing riffs. Then I found the right guys to implement those riffs. Once I got the band semi structured to a half assed respectable stand point I wrote some lyrics, I recorded it and bingo now we’re talking about it.

BZ: It’s a very angry and intense album. Is it difficult to turn the anger on and off?

PA: Nah man. Writing music is…you are what you do. I’m not saying I’m an angry person, it’s the attitude of music that keeps you plugging along. Honestly there might be some anger in the music itself but really maybe it just sounds that way. It might be the aggressive nature of the music too. Don’t let the first listen startle you too terribly much.

BZ: Did you know ahead of time what you wanted going into the album?

PA: I knew what I wanted; you’re just never positive right off the bat how the end result might be. I had a pretty fucking damn clear idea.

BZ: You’re taking the project out on tour as Phillip H. Anselmo and the Illegals. Are you a band guy by nature?

PA: Yeah, but that’s just me messing with the guys. I might change the name of the band fifteen different times for fifteen different releases. I just called them the Illegals to mess with them. They mess with me all the time; it’s about time I got one over on the youngsters.

BZ: We’re all fans of different types of music and have different influences. For this it’s your album and you don’t have to answer to anyone. In bands like Down or Pantera, was it ever difficult satisfying everybody’s influences and motivations and how do you get through something like that?

PA: That’s tough, with this band everybody was on the same page. Sometimes there are points where the word compromise comes in. Pantera was one of the perfect storms, because I had my ideas and Dimebag had his ideas for sure Vince and Rex had their ideas. There was a lot of give and take. There would be writing sessions where I would be intensely in the room, very alert, very on top of the writing process. Then Dimebag would go into write his lead section. That was his specialty that was his territory. Those guys, if you go back and listen to a Pantera record, there are a lot of very very intricate subtle things about the lead guitar section itself. It’s almost like a very separate piece of music all-together. Jumping to Down, there are guys that have an absolute vision before I’m even to walk in the room. So sometimes when I might come up with something it might catch them off guard because they were hearing something in their head for a while. That’s part of being in a band, you want everybody to walk out of the room at the end of the day very happy and very pleased and I guess very compensated for having them express their parts on the record and having it work out. It’s different with every band.

BZ: You’ve played to some huge audiences and to small clubs. Is it exciting to take a project like this out of the first time and play smaller venues?

PA: It is actually. I love playing smaller venues personally. But you know, a gig is a gig is a gig. It doesn’t matter to me. I can play in front of thousands of people at festival shows and I can play the McDonald’s off of I-190 if I had to (laughs), give me a fucking microphone and I’m ready to go.

BZ: Who are you taking out on tour with you?

PA: Warbeast who is on Housecore Records and also this really really different animal all together called Author and Punisher, it’s a one man band that’s really fucking crazy and if you hadn’t heard of the guy I would definitely go to YouTube and trip out to some of his shit, it’s really tripped out. The dudes name is Tristan Shone, he’s very different man. This guy builds his own instruments of noise and sound. It’s fucking crazy man.

BZ: Can you tell us a little bit about Warbeast, I know they’re on your label?

PA: Warbeast is fucking an excellent, very pure Dallas/Ft Worth thrash band. I’ve known the guys for many many years. As a matter of fact, the drummer who played with me on “Walk Through Exits Only” is really Warbeast’s drummer. The singer Bruce Corbitt offered his services or asked me to ask Blue (their drummer) if he wanted to do it and of course he wanted to do it so the rest is history.

BZ: You’re one of the best front men of all time, how do you prepare for a live show and is it difficult coming down from that?

PA: At my age, young son, I love hitting the bag because it does not hit back at least not too hard. I’ve got to get my fat ass downstairs in that hot Louisiana fucking weather and sweat off some of this gut I got and get into traveling mode. As far as coming down from that adrenaline rush, normally after these type of shows there is an adrenaline flow that needs to simmer. It’s strange, you get off stage, you talk to all of your friends that end up at the show that you haven’t seen in months and the next thing you know it’s four o clock in the fucking morning, but it does take a little while to simmer.

BZ: How different is the guy that I’m talking to now from the guy that’s on stage?

PA: Not so different man. There is a certain command when you get up on the stage and the microphone is in your hand and you know that this is your fucking show. With my experience you have to share some dominance up there, no fear, no relent. It’s a privilege to do shows and it’s a privilege to play in front of great audiences. Honestly anybody that comes out to the show, it doesn’t really matter if there is 10 people 100 people or 1000 people, those people came to see you perform and they deserve your best to a certain degree and you’ve got to lay it on them. I’m the same guy for the most part, I’m pretty chill though, but still intense in my own way, just depends on the subject matter. 

BZ: I think of guys like James Hetfield or Alice Cooper who have felt like they had to be their on stage personality 24/7 is that something you’ve ever struggled with, like running into a fan…

PA: Yeah, everybody wants to…not everybody, but I will say I have met folks who want to see if they can push buttons or test the tough guy or some shit like that. What they really don’t understand is that when you’re on stage you’re really just trying to be that dominate force up there. Sometimes that can be misread completely. I think I crack enough jokes up on stage just to let people know that I’m a pretty down to goddamn Earth mother fucker man. That’s the fucking truth. Personally I fucking hate rock stars. I think it’s a m iserable bunch of bullshit. I think the more real you can be with people in general, they don’t have to be fans or anything like that, just the more real you can be with people in any walk of life, because honestly I can’t say I’m any good at much else than what I’m into and if music is my fucking specialty it doesn’t mean I can walk in someone else’s shoes and do their job because I can’t. That’s how I look at everything, especially between people relations. It’s hard enough living in my own skin; God knows I can’t imagine living for someone else at the same time. I think it’s a two-way street man and both of us have the right of way. I prefer to make friends over having this worship or be set up on this pedestal, it’s bullshit man.

BZ: That’s one of the things I love about you is that you celebrate the fact that you’re still a fan even though you are one of the legendary front men…Pantera was a huge band.

PA: That’s just how I roll. I don’t expect other motherfuckers to follow suit. Believe me I’ve met enough fucking assholes in my day and I knew them when they were absolute zeroes and nobody’s at all. The next thing you know they’ve got an image and wrote some songs that folks like and the next time I see them they’ve got this costume on, they’re strutting their shit and their fucking signing autographs with attitude like it’s a tough fucking thing to do to sign your name. It’s boring to me man. 

BZ: Currently I feel like the fans of heavy metal music are so passionate about the bands they love that they turn on the other bands in the same genre, is that something you’ve experienced and how do you handle the negativity?

PA: You know what man I think there is always in any walk of life that you’re in, especially in the entertainment business and that extends from music to sports to whatever, if you’re in the lime light you’re going to get your negative pricks out there that scoff at what you do. You’ve got to have that balance in life, because if everybody is loving you and fucking sucking up to you then something is wrong. I’m the type of dude that doesn’t care about popularity contests or fucking who’s killer or on what top ten list, I don’t give a shit about any of that stuff man. Especially with music there is always going to be a new kid on the block. There’s always going to be new bands that are pushing something that’s different or similar like you say and I don’t know. Everybody has their day in the sun, it’s just what you do with that fucking day in the fucking sun after that fucking sunsets. It’s what you do after that what really ends up counting. There’s so many one hit wonders and fly by night fads and fucking trends and shit like that. You’ve got to pick your side of the fence, stay on it and if you need to eventually you can plow through that fucking fence too and build you a new one. It’s a big world with a lot of different ideas; everybody’s got their own idea of what’s cool, when it’s cool and how it’s cool. I can’t please everybody all the fucking time so fuck ‘em.

BZ: In October you’re launching Housecore Horror and Metal Fest in Austin. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how it came together?

PA: It’s pretty simple, the guy I’m writing my autobiography with, Corey Mitchell…the first time he came to my house he noticed all my horror regalia. Anyway man it is the first year; there are a lot of things to be ironed out. We’ve got some awesome bands, we’ve got some awesome fucking films to show. We’ve got some awesome mother fucking guest directors coming out in the horror genre from years past and current. It’s going to be fun man. I’m going to make sure everybody has a fucking killer time. That includes the paying customer but also the people that help with the mechanics of the whole thing, the bands and all the people I’ve mentioned previous. I’m very reluctant to use the word annual thus far, big time. Let me just get through year one, see how it rolls and then maybe we can start using this annual word. I think it’s going to be a blast. I think one of my favorite things about it is turning people on to some of the submission that I’ve got and had the opportunity to view in the last six, seven, eight months. There’s some awesome horror directors out there that are trying to do something different with horror films instead of the same old regurgitation and or fucking remake conundrum that we’re in. For a guy like me who haves absolutely zero aspiration to be an actor or a goddamn director, that’s good stuff man.

Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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