Few front men in this business make such a mark that 15 years after their arrival you can feel the waves still. Phil Anselmo of the one and only Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual, and many more projects is just such a man. I have witnessed myself how crazy this guy could get a crowd with only a word, but I also know that Mr.Anselmo is one artists with depth. Every project he has touched is a completely different style, influence, and purpose; how many multi-faceted artists can claim this much?
With an expansive past, new label (Housecore Records), and a full steam ahead future; it seemed the perfect time to catch up with Phil. So sit back and open your minds to an in depth and open look at one of music's most driven and gifted fronted men; Phil Anselmo:
Rafi: I remember reading quite a bit about your childhood, though I always wondered if there was a particular moment in time (i.e. album, concert, etc.) that sparked your desire to make music your career?
Phil Anselmo: No man, it was something that I just really knew at a very young age. At about 6 or 7 I knew that I wanted to be in music or I was going to be a professional wrestler. (Both of us laughing) I fell in love with it; I was raised in a house of music. By the time I hit my teen years I knew that this was it for me and I quit the football team.
Rafi: I didn't know you played football, what position?
PA: Believe it or not I actually played DE (Defensive End) when I was a bigger kid, Defensive Tackle, Linebacker, and when I got to Junior High I was a quarter back.
Rafi: Damn man.
PA: (both of us laughing) Yeah I did it all then.
Rafi: Funny thing is I have heard you compare your career to being a football player with the back surgery, knee surgery, and other injuries you have taken.
PA: Yeah in both things you really have to fight through the injuries.
Rafi: Your first band that you were in when you were a teenager was called Samhain (not the same as Glenn Danzig's band), what was the experience like for you and do you have any old recordings that you hold on to?
PA: Wow that was an amazing experience for me. That was the first time that I really got to feel what it was like playing with a group of guys who had their own equipment, had a garage, and the guy who played drums; man could he play. To see and hear someone for the first time actually play the drums was something else. I was messing around on guitar a lot during the time, even though people had me pegged to be a lead singer since I was a kid. I took guitar lessons at the time, but I didn't want to play other peoples' music; I wanted to do my own. I used to come to my teacher and show him what I would come up with and he would tell me I was wrong. That really helped me develop an ear for right and wrong chords.
Those years were so important in molding me, we were only a garage band but we had all original material. I don't really have too many recordings of it, maybe that is a good thing, but I think there is a tape somewhere in my collection of me and the drummer jamming together. It was very metal, in fact a great deal more metal than anyone thought it could be. I have listened to it within the last ten years so I know it is around somewhere.
Rafi: Shortly after that you formed a band called Razor White, heard you guys did a lot of Judas Priest covers. Ironic that in '91 Rob Halford joined Pantera on stage and you guys did a song together ("Light Comes out of Black"), did you ever tell Rob about Razor White and what was it like working with him?
PA: I didn't tell him about that band, all I could really say to him was "Rob, what a huge influence you have been on my vocals!" I still remember that first meeting that we had with him, we were in Canada, me and Dimebag were sharing a really crummy hotel room; when all of a sudden the phone started to ring. There was a strange voice on the other line asking for me, so after confirming that it is me, he tells me that he is Rob Halford of Judas Priest and that he was coming out to see our show that night. He then asked me if I knew any Judas Priest songs, which to me was like asking if you knew what Christmas was. (Both of us laughing) I didn't believe it, I mean I was listening to the voice but it was just too good to be true. I turned around and looked at Dimebag with the craziest look on my face that made him say "what the hell is going on?"
I hung up the phone and said "dude that was Rob 'fucking' Halford of Judas Priest and he is coming down to the show to jam with us!" Holy shit after I said that Dime and I went crazy. So fast forward a bit, he thought we were a really potent band and took us out shortly after on the Painkiller tour. We were in Europe for about three months. It was a really giant experience for us. At the time you really couldn't find a bigger name amongst people. I mean to be able to join him on stage, to be able to sing those songs at such a young age was really impressive. The fact that he noticed us that night it was something that we would never forget.
Rafi: Another idol of mine that you worked with a few times was Kerry King of Slayer. He was in your videos and even did the outro for "Goddamn Electric", how did you guys get so close and with Kerry's well known reputation do you have any crazy stories with him?
PA: Well man, Pantera was still playing the whole club circuit and it was a Friday night in Dallas. Slayer was playing Dallas on Sat. night, and I had already planned on going. I had my tickets ready to go; this was the very beginning of the South of Heaven tour. They actually ended up coming to our show, everyone but Dave Lombardo came. Kerry King ended up getting on stage with us and played Reign in Blood. After that me and him got to talking and hit it off really well. We talked about music mainly, he was a really big Judas Priest fan; and we ended up exchanging phone numbers. So about a month later the phone rings, and again I do not recognize the voice on the other end, and on top of that I didn't understand what the guy was saying. When he said his name all I could respond was "who?" I just couldn't make it out. Finally I understood that he said his name was "Kerry" which I was like "Kerry? I don't know any fucking Kerry!" (Both of us laughing) He explained that he was Kerry King from Slayer. I couldn't believe that he was calling me.
Slayer was a band second to none; I didn't know what to quite make of them after 'Show No Mercy'. I really liked 'Haunting the Chapel', but after 'Hell Awaits' I was convinced that this was the heaviest band ever. Kerry and I kept in touch and he ended up coming down to see me a few times and staid at my place. The first time he just came to hang out, the second time he called me and said "look this time I don't want to just come down for no reason." So I asked him "what the fuck are you talking about?"
"I want to jam this time!" Said Kerry. That was such an amazing time, when Kerry King decided to come down and jam with Pantera. He was an actual feature part of our show, we played some really classic material, and I mean even the stuff from 'Power Metal'. We also did songs like "Reign in Blood", "South of Heaven", two Pantera songs, and two Judas Priest songs. Dimebag at the time was a really big Metallica, Judas Priest, Randy Rhoades, and Eddie Van Halen fan; so sitting down and jamming with Kerry King gave Dime a whole new respect for what was going on in the underground and a new perspective on how to attack the guitar. The fact that Slayer played out of key and made it sound good, plus they were always playing at break neck speed really taught Dime a few lessons. Kerry King for me is such an instrumental figure in that one area. We still keep in touch off and on; I just talked to Tom Araya a few weeks ago right after he had neck surgery just to check up on him since I know what he is going through. He is doing fine, and will continue to do just fine. Slayer are just great people and I can't say anything bad about those guys.
Rafi: Now the press has always tended to focus on the rough waters for Pantera, but I was wondering if we could turn that around. What are some of the best experiences you had in the band and what lessons did you take from that?
PA: Some of the best highlights for me would have to be the start to the end of the US tour in 2001. Look with any band there are going to be some challenging times. When you are in a band with a lengthy history, that you have a business with, the chemistry is there; well you are pretty much married to them. All of you wake up together, travel together; use the same sink together night after night. So it was a lot like a marriage that ended in divorce. The main experience I take from Pantera in my mind is that it is only a once in a lifetime experience. I mean any situation you are in is a "once in a lifetime" moment, but to be surrounded by that much talent; Dimebag, Vinnie, and Rex were the tightest group of musicians that I had ever seen or played with in my life. They could play any style at the drop of a hat, hell they could play a Hawaiian wedding song (both of us laughing) without ever having heard it before. All they had to do was imagine it and boom they would play something that you would hear on the isle of Hawaii.
Look you have this one life to live and I realize more than anything that those were some pretty magical days man. Even if Pantera had stayed together to this day, those days still I know you could not re-create. To be around that kind of professionalism and strong work ethic was the healthiest environment that you can be in. Again, sure there were rough waters but that comes with the territory. The end result was that we were pretty fucking dead on, and when we weren't it was usually my fault.
Pantera again was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but to put it so simply almost seems like an insult. Pantera is forever! I don't know how long I have left in this world or how this world will remember me when I am gone; but Pantera will live on and will be remembered. We made our mark.
Rafi: I noticed in '99 you took a short break from singing and played guitar on Necrophagia's 'Holocausto de la Morte' what made you decide to take a break from singing?
PA: Well I am going to open you guys up real quick; I have been playing guitar pretty much my whole life. I have done two Christ Inversion records, I have played mandolin with Down, I write most of the riffs in Down on guitar, either that or about 50% of the riffs. I have played drums, not very well it was actually meant to be more of a joke, in a couple of bands. I played guitar on both Superjoint Ritual records, Necrophagia, and of course the hardcore band I am in with Mike Williams (Eyehategod) and Hank Williams III called Arson Anthem.
Rafi: Is it nice to take a break and play guitar?
PA: Yeah I love playing guitar. I am not too bad at it either, if people compiled all my work that I played guitar on, which some of them have not even been released. Actually some of them I am getting ready to re-release, they would see I have my own style. I am not a great lead guitarist, but I am one riffing mother fucker. (Both of us laughing)
Rafi: Off topic real quick, one venture you started was the annual House of Shock, how did you decide to do this and what are the plans to keep it going?
PA: Honestly man I haven't been part of the House of Shock now for about ten years. I did start it with a group friends in New Orleans and that later became a really huge group of friends. We kept it going for about 7-8 years and then we had some difference of opinions about it's direction, plus I am not going to lie I was going through some really hard times; so I just needed a break from everything. I still talk to the heads of the event and I know they are still going with it that is great!
Rafi: One of the guests you had involved in it was the legendary tattoo artist Paul Booth, how did you start working with him and is it true, from what you have seen, that he sold his soul to the devil to be able to tattoo?
PA: Funny you mention him because I just talked to him barely a week ago; he is going to be doing the cover art for one of my bands from the label. I met Paul years ago when we were touring with Biohazard and Sepultura; he was tattooing Evan from Biohazard. When I met him I told him that if he wanted to come in my room and listen to some real music to come on in, since Biohazard was listening to some early rap record or some shit like that. I knew Paul hated rap music, and I had a bunch of underground black metal material, this was just when the black metal scene was starting to emerge. I started to make him mix tapes of a bunch of different music. Now of course tattoos are always a priority, so we got to know each other that way as well. He heard about the House of Shock and would come out for a week or two every time we did it, tattoo me, and we would just sit around and hang out. It was a real blast.
Rafi: Ok back to the music, your new label Housecore Records, I am familiar that this dates back to the old Colbert house (Phil's old house in New Orleans), what made you decide to start it up and call it Housecore?
PA: Well I started looking around and there is hardcore, grindcore, there are just so many different kinds of "cores" in music. It started with a lot of my musical friends and local talent would come over all the time to drink and party with me. There was a jam space downstairs that we would have free jams in most of the days and nights in the house. Out of those jams other bands began to develop, it was crazy how it come about. One minute we would sit there and coming up with the music, the next minute we would decide on the name being Christ Inversion. I partied a lot during those days, some of those guys would be just getting off work and I was at home because this was my down time from touring, this was how I spent my free time. They would get there at about 6pm which was about an hour after I had woken up. (Both of us laughing) So I would roll out of bed and get ready, one day I just turned around and said "you know what this is man? This is Housecore music!" We all spent so much time there coming up with stuff, people would practically live there so that they could get up in the morning and just start jamming. We would joke around that we should just play in our PJs and slippers that would be our look. Hell we didn't even have to work at it just get out of bed, and that was the Housecore image jack! The name kind of started as a joke, but it really caught on.
Rafi: How different is it to build up a record label versus building a band, and how did your previous experiences affect this process?
PA: Man now that is a really complicated question. (Both of us laughing) Honestly being in a band and running a label are completely two different things; except that you want to do the best job in the correct way. With Housecore I only have a small roster and that is by choice. Because, I like to concentrate on each individual band and not set any major deadlines. I like for each band to have the opportunity to spend as much time in the studio as they need, come out of there with a product that they are proud of. I like to offer them my services, and if they choose to use them than I am all set to go. If it is a band from out of state that cannot come down and have the means to get it done themselves I trust in them. I am right now working with a band from Japan (Exactly Violent Style), so they cannot necessarily come down here to work with me and my engineer, that I understand; but it doesn't change the fact that they are a great band.
I really take pride in producing, if it's thrash; great I know thrash jack. I know black metal, and every other form of metal, but I also know the avant-garde. I know music is all I am saying, and every band on this label is extreme. Whether it is extremely melodic and beautiful, or extremely hardcore, thrash. Even the stuff I am involved in has something new to offer, Arson Anthem I think is a really good hardcore band, I think that Christ Inversion has an almost charm of it's own. Another band on the label is a band called haarp, they are a metal band but impossible to put into any specific genre. They play slow, but to just say they are a slow band is not fair at all. Just look down the roster and you will see how different these bands are. I love having this challenge of working with such a diverse group of artists. I still love doing my own music, so this is not the end of that for me; it's just something else I am having fun with.
Rafi: It's awesome the different types of bands that you have been in, some that the fans haven't even had a chance to check out yet. One you mentioned was Christ Inversion and the other one is Viking Crown. So you are planning to release that material on the label?
PA: Honestly no when it comes to Viking Crown, that was more a flash in the pan for the time. I really didn't take Viking Crown very serious at all; I think the last two records I gave about a half hour each. If you take a look at some of the kids today and the sudden emergence of really underground and lo-fi material they like, Viking Crown was about as lo-fi as you can get. It has a place, but yeah that band is done.
Christ Inversion however we have the first album out on Housecore, we have vinyl, CDs, t-shirts, the whole lot for it. We had a second demo we did in '96 called '13th Centruy Luciferian Rights' that we are planning to remix that sucker and bulk it out, not sure when but that is the plan. We want to put it out because it is done and it is massive, we are just waiting on word about the remix.
Rafi: As we have been talking about the diversity of the bands on the label one that sticks out is the Sursikes, how did you find these diverse bands that would possibly not be noticed if it was not for you?
PA: Having been immersed in the music industry all my life, I have come across these bands that are total phenoms but either not understood or jewels in the rough like the Sursikes are. I was introduced to them by pretty much family, David Minnick who is the mastermind behind the band is someone to watch out for, and the band is just brilliant. From my take they are very original; people could point to someone like Frank Zappa if you really had to compare them with anyone. To me though it is not Frank Zappa at all.
As far as submissions, we get thousands of them. I honestly cannot say I have heard every one of them; otherwise I would be only listening to music all day and not getting any damn work done. (Both of us laughing) But there are bands like Exactly Violent Style from Japan who play insane blur core, it's fucking crazy material. There is another band from Michigan called Cavalcade. All I can say about these bands is that if I listen to a demo and it keeps me listening more and more, than I know that we have something really special here.
I am looking for bands that really have something different to offer music today, for guys that know that not all the notes have been played yet. Bands like the Sursikes, Sky High, Warbeast, and Bum Freak in Egypt are bands just like that. Right now I would dare say that they are the true alternatives to music today. When I was younger there was no "alternative music" that was just anything that was alternative to pop music. So these days I would honestly have to say that the really weird and unclassifiable bands are the true alternative to what is going on.
Rafi: Well it is no secret how much the industry has changed since the days of Pantera. For example the downloading era and the digital age. What do you think about where it has gone and how do you view Housecore's place in all of this?
PA: I see it as a natural progression to things. The days of big gigantic record labels are done. It's a bunch of small labels that are in the midst of fighting amongst each other. Kids today have Pro-Tools in their houses, so they can put together their own albums. On a side note though, that is getting to be a little old too now. Everything runs its course even progress sometimes. People forget that at times progress bites itself in the ass at times and historically even destroys itself at times. I am starting to see in the underground that some of the small labels are going back to using cassette tape, now I am not saying that is a smart ideal; but it is a form of rebellion which I respect. The fact that I have a label with a roster of bands, is just saying that I still want to make another dent in the mother fucking music world. I am not looking for the next Down, Pantera, or Superjoint Ritual I already helped create that. I am flattered and thank you for the submission but I am looking for the next haarp, the next Sursikes. There is nothing out there that is like these bands. I am here to show people that there is something different.
When I first heard Hellhammer it truly disturbed me. That is the key to a band, that their music stays with you and that you cannot deny its effect on you. That is why I kept listening to bands like Hellhammer and Venom, to see just how disturbed they could make me. Eventually I found myself in love with that emotion and searched for other bands that gave me that same feeling. I guess that is what is wrong with metal today.
Rafi: Well it certainly has lost some of its balls.
PA: It's the same regurgitated crap that you know you have heard before. When you hear a band and can draw distinct likenesses, you know it's nothing new which makes it pretty fucking boring. At least when you put on a Housecore record you know that it is something new and you have never heard it before. I am not saying that some of the bands people will not find similarity in styles, the influences are there, but they are still damn good bands.
Rafi: You were talking about Arson Anthem, from what I understand Hurricane Katrina helped contribute to its formation. How did that come about?
PA: It was tough times man. Down had not come back together just yet, and I was just getting over a couple of very treacherous years. I hadnít sang or picked up a guitar in some time. Mike Williams' (Eyehategod) house burned down in the riots that followed Katrina. He ended up moving into the guest house which is about 20 ft. from the main house, that's where the practice room is. So I approached Mike and said "hey man lets do something, letís make some music." Collin Yeo, our bass player, was coming into town. I told him on the phone that if he was coming in that we had to do something that he was going to work. (Both of us laughing) Before that I sent out a few riff tapes to Collin and Hank (Williams III), so when we all got together I started to play a riff to remind them and we would take off. It took off so well and it was furious. We did the first EP in three days, though it doesn't sound like it. Man it sounded hideous and loud, it's bombastic and I have no regrets on that one. The second one is not out yet and it does make the first one look like child's play, which it was; but it was so important as it was the first bit of music I had done in a really long time. It was the beginning of a really cool band to be in, because Hank is one amazing drummer to work with. Collin is just an amazing bassist, he knows Hardcore, the bands that made the scene, the bands that influenced us.
Rafi: Now all of us have been anxiously waiting for the next Down album, what is the status on that?
PA: I actually just talked to Pepper last night. It is looking like possibly this summer or late fall, everyone is kind of decompressing right now, but it is in the works.
Rafi: You have had one crazy career, looking back at it how have you seen yourself change and is there anything you would do different?
PA: That is a complicated question man, when I injured my back sometime on the Vulgar Display tour, that was a lot of touring. That was long before 'Far Beyond Driven'. We did about 300 gigs in 360 days, and that was Pantera which was athletic, violent, and insane shows. After the injury, I was really young and didn't know anything about medicine or surgeries. All I knew was that I had a broken bone inside my body, I had ruptured a disc in my back, and they could not do a damn thing about it. There was one doctor who did want to cut on me, but had I had that surgery in the '90s I would be a ruined man today. So I kept going with that ruptured disk, which became 2 ruptured discs, and then became 3 ruptured discs by 2000. I was hurt and hurting, I was over compensating pain meds and alcohol. I at the time don't think I knew how angry it was making me. I had a lot of anger inside me because I think I felt a little flipped off, I was in my prime and I feel like I was cut in half. So in turn the mixture of the drugs, the booze, that anger, and the natural adrenaline that came form playing in a band like Pantera; I ended up verbally attacking other bands and people. This was all done purposely to piss off the media, magazines, everything. This was the equivalent of a wounded animal just lashing out at everything, it was honestly directionless. I may have said a band's name but I didn't mean it, it was crazy, this is not politics and that I understand now.
As far as what I would change, well man, while I can't take back that busted disc; I would have maybe taken 10-15 of those leaps from the speakers and drum riser back. (both of us laughing) I would maybe have one less whiskey before hitting the stage. I was nuts out there, flipping off everything I could run and jump off. If I knew then what I know now I would have been better at controlling myself when I did that. I would take back all the controversial stuff that we didn't need, we were a great band, and we didn't need that shit. There was a lot of controversy surrounding me, causing that whole love/hate relationship, when in reality I just came to be loved. I came with love, it may not have been in a traditional sense but in the end it meant that I loved you. I guess what I am saying is I wish I would have watched my tone, because I never meant any harm to anybody. I don't have anything against any band, music is music is art, it is free thinking and I am not a damn music critic. It's not up to me if you listen to a certain band, hell I am in a band. That was just counter productive, and I would definitely change that.
Rafi: I have to wonder, is there a chance you will sit down and write your memoirs down for all of us to read?
PA: I have been actually working on that for about five years. I just signed a proposed deal, so yeah that is definitely in the works.
Rafi: I got to watch your lecture that you did at Loyola University, some of the things you said really stuck with me as a fan of music and what you have done. What lessons do you hope that your fans take from listening to your speech?
PA: Since I came clean and had back surgery, it brought a lot of regiment into my life. I think when you come clean one of the outcomes is that you really want to give back; you want to help others out, because you have been there and know exactly how ugly it is. So I have worked with a lot of people on it and so far I have about a 98% success rate. There was a student in that particular class at Loyola that had overdosed and died, so it was really affecting the rest of the kids in this class. There were about 300 kids in this class, so this kid really shined, was respected, and very sorely missed. I was asked to come speak, basically about the horrors of drugs, and who better to ask than someone who had made it. I really wanted to scare the hell out of those mother fuckers man, I wanted them to see the effects of drugs and the addiction. I wanted them to know that after you step into that world, you will truly understand the meaning of true evil.
Rafi: I have to admit that is what stuck out about Down's second album, I had personally survived my fair share of drug abuse and it seemed like that album really touched on the addiction and breaking away.
PA: I honestly cannot say that Down II was really a high point in my life. Matter of fact I would have to say it was one of the lowest points. I felt like I sleep walked through those lyrics, I was screaming on paper, I was pleading with myself. I knew that the reservoir of strength was there it was just covered by, what I like to say; mountains and mountains of blankets. As you come clean a layer of blankets comes of little by little, by little. You don't just come clean and see the light, you got to take some layers off first. There was a lot of truth on that record I just wasnít there yet.
Very cool review man -- VampireFreaks.com finally features some metal. I will interview Ultimatum for you guys if you want that one. I followed Scott's website from almost the beginning and some of my collection reflected some of that.
Phil was definitely right about the things he said about Pantera, that band was an absolute monster in ever sense of the word that didn't take any bullshit from anyone including all the haters and shit.
Phil wishes that he could have taken back the things that he had done and said during that time and I don't blame him. But it's all a part of his own as well as Pantera's history now so there's nothing that can be done to change it!
I remember seeing one of Pantera's last shows, Phil didn't sound hostile on stage when he addressed the crowd. I sent you information for the band Ultimatum, and if you want to get to know Scott Waters better he's got a website of his own that's fucking huge. The CD collection he has is famous -- I just recently started listening to Ultimatum, and they've been around since 1992. †††††This is one of those interviews that is one of the best on VampireFreaks.com by far. I noticed you guys rarely interview people from the heavy metal world, and this one I can really take by storm because you did a hell of a job with it. I have a lot of respect for you as an interviewer, but this particular interview; my respect for you grew a lot.