Philip Anselmo of Housceore Records, Down, Pantera, etc.
Interview by Shawn Jam Hill
It was with great trepidation that I picked up the phone at 5:30 PM EST on Wednesday, March 10 2010 because I knew the (supposedly) mercurial Mr. Philip Anselmo himself was on the other end of the line. After spending years fronting one of metal’s greatest bands of all time (Pantera), starting up the lumbering behemoth know as Down, feuding with his Pantera bandmates, losing his best friend Dimebag Darrell to a crazed gun-toting nut in 2004 and subsequently being denied access to the funeral while generally leading a rock and roll lifestyle that famously nearly killed the man, maybe Philip wasn’t too keen on jawing with some nobody journalist way up in Canaduh.
I was wrong.
Speaking thoughtfully (some would say quite slowly) and seemingly choosing his words very carefully, Philip Anselmo spoke as would a true Southern gentleman. He told stories, rambled on a little here and there and even had a laugh or two during our 35 minutes on the horn that was (theoretically) set up to promote upcoming releases on his own Housecore Records imprint. In reality, it was a good old fashioned chin-wag.
Alright there Shawn, what’s goin’ on brother?
Well, I’d like to know where you are at.
Sittin’ here, at home watchin’ it rain.
Thanks a lot or the taking the time to talk to me.
No problem, brother. I appreciate it.
I understand that you are kicking your indie/basement rock into high gear with some Housecore Records promotions, do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, let’s roll. Housecore Records has been an idea in my brain for a long time, we had a couple false starts but now it is all rollin’.
How far back does the Housecore concept go?
Well, shit…Well really, the concept was never a record label. It started back my first house in New Orleans, down in the jam room. So many fantastic musicians played, so many cool bands played, a lot of motherfuckers just hangin’ out with nothing better to do than sit down there playing music. Next thing you know, you’re naming this project that you worked on. So many different bands spawned from so many different bands there.
Just to give me a timeline, what year was this, how old would you have been when this was happening?
I don’t know how old I was for shit I been doing lo-fi four track shit since I was 18.
And how old are you now?
I’m 41, yessir I am. But y’know, we kept it simple back in the day, man. A lot of this recording that we did retained a whole lot of magic and I think with what music is going on today, I think everything comes around full circle. Music’s very vast right now so as far as my stuff coming out, as far as the quality, as far as the directions of each project, none of the bands sound the same. That’s first and foremost, if your gonna sign a project, if your gonna really put yourself into something y’know, fuckin’ do something different and that’s what my brain was at and that’s where it remains. If I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it one way and if I move on to another, it’s gonna be done a completely different way so with that, all that’s intact, all of my old material is intact. We brought on some new bands, y’know, but we are a do it yourself label. I’m not gonna just sign a million fuckin’ bands just to build a catalogue, I’m gonna pick certain bands.
Let’s say you go to a show and you see a band that impresses you and you might want them to be part of your lo-fi family. What do you look for?
Well first of all, not everybody is a lo-fi. Take a band like Cavalcade from Lansing, Michigan, for instance. Even before I saw ‘em live, I could tell they were purposefully doing something about the regularities of music: they were different. They were purposefully different and different in a different way than any motherfuckers have done.
Like heavier than heavy?
Not necessarily, no no no no no. They’re sometimes dark and brooding, sometimes vicious, sometimes plodding, uh, very unpredictable, actually. And that’s really what I’m looking for with bands, y’know. Now, I can’t say that about every single band. The only band that really sticks out in my mind, there are a couple of ‘em like Christ Inversion, I did that in ’94 and then again in ’96-’97, I would guess it would be in the black metal vein, for sure.
And you were you singing in that band?
No, I played guitar.
Oh, Superjoint Ritual style?
Or Arson Anthem, which is a hard-core band, no two ways around that. Warbeast, from Fort Worth/the FW area in Dallas, they are straight out, thrash fuckin’ band but they are very, very excellent at what they do.
How many Pantera riffs did you pick out in their set?
No, I’m not lookin’ for nothin’ that sounds like Pantera.
I’m not even saying that, I just figure your ear’s tuned a certain way, you might just hear a little pick there, a little drum fill here and there or something…
Ah sure, I’ve heard before…Out there, I think, if any band compares to Pantera at all, it would be Warbeast. That’s more of a nitpicking thing, they’re doing their own thing.
Given all your success and all your tribulations and relationships with music media, you keep doing your own thing. What keeps you driven to do what you do?
P: That’s a very interesting question. Y’know, if you can’t give back, then you really haven’t been there. I don’t mean top of the world, I mean all facets: top, bottom, in-between whatnot. I can’t sit around bored, man. I’m a doer. If I have a dream, I’m gonna act on it.
Do you see Housecore Records as subverting what music is doing right now?
Not necessarily. I’d say adding to. When I’m gonna add something, this is me. It’s not gonna be your garden variety, y’know, every single time out. This year especially with the releases that we have, you people are gonna see the diversity and I am so ready for the love/hate relationship. It’s like so what, are you gonna please everybody the same damn time? However, I will say that there has gotta be balance (Laughs). Everything works out, y’know, the right way. There’s gotta be balance.
Do you think you have a more critical ear? Does that weed out the imitators so you can see something different going on? Is that from your own experience, being involved with music for your entire life?
I would definitely think so. You take a band like haarp from New Orleans, let’s get the spelling right: all lower case letters and two A’s. They are a metal band but they transcend the genre of it. There has been many metal bands that have stepped out and done a lot of different shit but I think haarp is definitely on to something very, very different. Conceptually, I know they are. Live, they are fucking extremely great.
Is it the instrumentation that grabs you?
Well, honestly it was a seamless set; they normally play a seamless set. The singer comes across with more fucking attitude than I can even describe here without saying a word to the audience, they pummeled. They did 3 shows on the last Down/Melvins tour and they tore the fuckin places up.
So these are all upcoming Housecore brethren releases?
Oh yeah, I can give you the rundown on Housecore releases! As soon as the records are ready to go…Late April: Warbeast and the Sursikis, they are from Detroit. Basically, it is a record called “I Didn’t Know I Was Singing” and this guy David Minnick, who has been dubbed as the master of reverse engineering by his musical peers, he’s a genius man he grabbed several different answering machine messages people left, just various people depending on when they’re happy, mad, sad, whatever, he’s taken all different emotions from phone message machines and built music around them. It’s really, really nuts (Laughs). It’s out there, man. It’s entertaining; it’s not just a musician’s record.
After that, early June we got Arson Anthem coming out. That’s me, playing guitar, Mike Williams from EyehateGod singin’, Hank Williams III playing the drums and Colin Yeo, he plays bass. This is our full length, 17 songs. We’ve released an EP…
Yeah, I read about that, I can’t find it anywhere. I’m up here in Ottawa, Canada…
Yeah, I can tell by the accent…You’re Canadian, eh?
Sky High is comin’ out, it’s this cat named Donovan Punch, he used to play guitar in Soilent Green awhile back but he’s doing this trippy, acoustic-based all organic instruments and it’s Donovan and his daughter, Azrael teamin’ up, goin’ crazy, man. So, then finally, so far scheduled for this year around late August, haarp comes out, an hour’s worth of crushing music and then finally the Manson Family Soundtrack, that’s from the Jim Van Bevens [sic] film The Manson Family and that came out around 2006 but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that me and Jim have been through our ups and downs, back and fucking forths but we finally got it together here so…
Well, you’re a busy man. Some guys would say “I’m the singer in Down, that’s my full time job” but, like you said, you’re not one to sit around.
No, I’m not. And Down, we just toured for 2 straight years. Everybody’s takin’ a break, man, everybody’s kinda got their own things goin’ on right now but we’ve all been in recent uh, very recent, matter of fact, touch with each other.
You’re gonna make your Zeppelin IV?
Y’know, we’re gonna see what we’re gonna do. I know we’re gonna write some more music, we’re gonna try to make it [a new record] for this year.
You mentioned the early Housecore concept before it even had a name. It sounds like the way Down records records.
The first record was really the loosest one. We demoed those songs on short trips, y’know. Housecore is not so much about my releases, it has really changed.
What do you get from being in a band like Down? Sounds like you could be busy just doing Housecore.
Y’know, one of them takes priority of the other once it’s goin’ on and it gives me a chance to express myself on that stage which I still love to do but Housecore gives me the opportunity to help out these bands that need to be heard, that I think deserve to be heard whether it be a new band which absolutely that’s really where I’m coming from but, for music fans in general, there’s a lot of crap that I’ve put out, that’s come out that people have liked in the past, some side projects I’ve done so, y’know, just to make their collection full I wanna give them the stuff that I did back in the ‘90s, early ‘80s, shit like that is for the fans, that’s for the fucking collectors.
It’s like an indie rock mentality.
It’s totally DIY, but anyone can use some help. You’re not born rich and on top of the world. Being with Pantera, you’re not given anything. We fuckin’ banged, we hit our fucking heads against the fucking ground and freaked out. Next thing you know, things turned out but it took a fight. Everything was against us and we took a stand. Before that, I vividly remember being kicked outta the house after quittin’ school, doing 5 gigs a fuckin’ week, livin’ in vans, livin’ in my friend’s car waiting for their folks to leave so I could sneak in through the fucking back window, take a shower, grab something to eat fucking walk, hitch a ride, actually, to practice so those were 2 hard years of my life. They were fuckin’ fun, they were a blast, I was young, I was in one of my strongest forms of body, but I remember what it was like to fucking starve. [Laughs] I cannot forget it.
Thank You for your time. Bring Down back to Ottawa soon.
Alright, Big Brother.