Philip H. Anselmo
Interview by Celtic Bob
This interview took place this summer just after the LP came out. It began as a late night/early morning talk while watching Philip’s interview with Loyola University on You Tube and how he would be very interesting to talk to. Shortly thereafter, I was on the phone talking to him about the new album, his label Housecore Records, his book, his film & music festival and Pantera’s POWER METAL album.
I just wanted to start the interview by saying that the new LP is very intense and heavy.
Yeah, I was expecting something similar to like the later era, Pantera stuff, like the VULGAR DISPLAY, FAR BEYOND DRIVEN era.
Well you see that’s the whole beauty of music. It’s like anyone with expectations, and what not, like that are in for a definite bludgeoning type surprise and the reason for that is, I’ve already done stuff like Pantera, because I was in Pantera, and this is a new day and this is new music so every single thing I do has got to sound different.
Perfect! So what prompted you to do a solo disc after so many years?
Free time, freedom of music and inspiration you know. When I feel inspired, like I did before I wrote these songs for WALK THROUGH EXITS ONLY and more. I got to act and these are the results of my actions.
So the song title of like “Music Media is My Whore”, is that like a little jab at the press? Because the lyrics to me came off more along the lines of being against the mainstream music of today.
Good catch! Good, good, good on you for catching that. Honestly dude, with this record I was showing a bit of my absurd tongue in cheek approach to things sometime, and I was taking a slight jab at certain music, media outlets, that are holier than thou and untouchable and experts at everything and I say that with a great deal of sarcasm and they know who they are.
I think we all know who they are.
This one isn’t necessarily pointed at you there Robert at all and see, at least you had the brains enough to read the God Dan lyrics, which have nothing to do with the fuckin’ media at all. So, once again, the absurd sense of humor strikes but again.
So with the title track for WALK THROUGH EXITS ONLY, is that one more along the lines of like how the downloading is killing the industry?
Once again, that is a title that I wrote that could meant 100 different things to 100 different people. But if that’s what it means to you then I say Bravo my brother you have come up with a concept. I do maybe take slight jabs at the current state of things in music and how the business is run and also how the business has crumbled to a certain degree. I don’t like to spoon feed my listeners too terribly much, I like for them to take lyrics and song titles and anything like that and make them their own. Take it and digest it and make it mean whatever it means to you, with a vengeance.
Yeah, cuz I was getting a bit of a double meaning , like on the back cover of the LP you say like ”Illegal downloading is killing the music, so is Housecore”. So I’m like Housecore, now, is that Housecore music or is that a bit of your label as well like crushing the mainstream?
Well honestly, it is a double meaning, obviously, and maybe not so obviously. Ya know, once again, making people think. Ya know, illegal downloading is killing music and that is the fucking truth so is Housecore, that means that here in the next year or so, I’m really going to embark on signing certain bands that I think are really doing something different to traditional music’s, doing something different to break the mold of traditional music or music that is expected. I’m looking for bands that are touching upon the unexpected and are actually doing something innovative within music. I got my eyeball on about 4 or 5 bands like I say and we will be hearing some more about that in the upcoming year or so.
Ah, excellent! So obviously there is still music out there that inspires you and that you enjoy.
Yes. I think there is corner stone bands in every genre that are leaders of the pack, and I think they are innovators behind the corner stone band that are within the same genre or sub genre that are changing and helping mold a different form of an originating genre so to speak. And then after that it’s the imitators who really are influenced by one movement or 1 or 2 bands and basically emulate the entire thing without one fucking trace of originality. So either way, that’s how I see it and that’s how it rolls here at the Anselmo Compound.
I was gonna say, you seem to be taking a different approach with the Housecore label than the larger ones do; you don’t seem to like pressure the bands to just get the albums out quick as you can. It seems to make like, a superior product.
Well you know, that’s the whole thing, that’s the reason why I started Housecore Records was because I myself have been through the major label so to speak, contract issue and what not. I wanted to make a label that was very musician friendly. So I put no time limits on albums and I have very simple contracts to where as long as you deliver the record that you signed up for to me, I don’t care if you turn around the day after your record comes out and go record with another band or with the same band with a different label. I think that putting restrictions on creativity is bullshit and I’m not about to do that. I think musicians ought to be allowed to be free and have that freedom to create and that’s coming from a musician, so I’m all for it and that’s what Housecore is all about.
So do you offer the bands the advice that you have learned over the years so they don’t make the same mistakes?
It depends on the situation, but of course always and if a band has specific questions I’ll try and answer them to the best of my knowledge, and if a band is looking for certain advice, whether it be in the studio, working musically or even part of the machinery that happens around the business aspects of music. If I can enlighten them I’m absolutely going to do that.
Do you notice a trend like the mistakes that newer bands make starting out? Do they all seem to make the same mistakes and patterns?
I can’t speak for them. I don’t know, I don’t read other people’s contracts. I don’t read or see what they are doing. I’m not privy to their personal information, but I still guarantee that there are record labels out there that are offering what I would consider “stock contracts” that are you know, 7 album deals for X amount of dollars, which a band does not realize when a label says “we want to sign you” (this happened to Pantera by the way) you know back in the day when we were signed. When a label offers you a 7 album deal you know at first, speaking from my experience, when I was young I thought that was a flattering thing, when in all reality it’s not, it’s a jail cell. It’s a jail cell of many years of your life, and a lot of money you owe the record company back. So with that you know for a musician and for bands and all that, and to be fair and different than the label that offered these “stock” contracts, I like to go 1 album at a time and just take our time with it and offer as much freedom as possible.
Yep, it makes for a better product at the end of the day.
It also makes for a better relationship and it also makes the musician happy. Now, if I was the type of guy to stunt any musician’s growth, I would be playing the bad guy so to speak and I’d be doing exactly the opposite of how I believe so ya know, once again, I think that the music world is vast enough to be explored and I’m all for explorations because I’m and explorer myself. I would advise anyone that’s into music to branch out as much as possible and do not ever hold back, try everything. If it’s in your heart to try something and to do something, absolutely attack with a vengeance.
Perfect advice. Any other musical projects in the works? Like do you have another solo album planned for down the road or another Down album?
Yeah, ya know I’ll make this clear; that the only two tangible bands that I’m creating with right now and touring with are Down and the solo band. So with the solo band at the end of a session of writing WALK THROUGH EXITS ONLY I think we ended up with 15-17 different tracks. Obviously 2 of those tracks went to the split that we did with War Beast way earlier, maybe late last year, or maybe earlier this year. Gosh! The old memory’s going! Those 2 songs were put out and the 8 songs on WALK THROUGH EXITS ONLY were put out, so we had, we’re definitely doing a 2 song EP specifically for the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin, Texas at the end of October and I don’t have a title for that yet at all and matter of fact I still have 1 song I’m still working on lyrically and vocally, but that is definitely coming out in October. Anything after that would be stuff that I’m gonna release way later on in the game or stuff that still needs to be worked on, or it’s going to be new Down, which we’re also working on, probably still really nose to the grindstone starting this September. But we already have speaking specifically about Down, we have some great riffs for the upcoming EP and some great material in general. I’m actually really looking forward for the new Down as well.
Wow you’re keeping yourself quite busy!
Absolutely! As it should be. You know, when you injure your back, and this is going back a ways, it’s a very frustrating situation because the world still revolves yet you’re on the shelf so to speak and you’re waiting for the day where you can break free again. Well after I had major surgery in 2006 and I embarked on severe and intense physical rehabilitation, which really entailed having to learn to walk again, it’s like a new lease on life so to speak and with every opportunity and every situation possible that I can tangibly put my hands on and work with and make something positive of, I’m attacking. I’m attacking it because no one is going to do the work for me. I’ve gotta do it myself, put one foot in front of the fuckin’ other and get some God damn work done in this life.
Yeah well like I said you are keeping yourself busy, you also got the autobiography that you’re doing with Cory Mitchell. How is that coming along?
Slow, very slow and honestly, there haven’t been much leeway or much work done on it recently because of all the solo album release and the interviews that go with that and preparation with the band. But, that’s a nose to the grindstone project come December and well into next year. It should be out about this time next year, 2014.
I am looking forward to that! Will there be much in that book on like your early life before joining Pantera and….
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me make that clear, this is definitely not just a Pantera book at all. This is a story of my life and my journey and man I will say that a whole lot happened before Pantera that you know, it was a heck of a journey to even get to the point where I could be in a band like Pantera, with its incredible musicians and personalities and then embark on that journey and then obviously after DImebag’s death and after all of that and Pantera breaking up. A whole lot has happened since then too, all encompassing, good, bad, worse, better and even better, so you know there is a heck of a story there and hopefully I can get out as many memorable and even humorous stories along the way and then definitely when it comes to being self critical in this book. I think it’s very, very important to show the real side of humanity. You know, none of us are perfect and me in specifically, I am so far from perfect that I really want people to realize that mistakes are part of life; judgement mistakes and rookie mistakes, you know there is certain things that hit you in life that you’re not ever prepared for and you make every mistake in the book along the way and it’s also about learning from those mistakes and writing in a positive way from an obnoxious abyss of life into re-inventing a person, re-inventing yourself to where you make something positive out of a negative without giving too much more away. It’s hopefully going to be an enlightening book for people who want to know my side of things as far as how certain events unfolded, an educating type of read to someone that might be struggling with chronic pain and all the pit falls that fall within the realm of life, because you know I’m not the only one in the world to feel chronic pain either, it’s a fuckin’ thing that is very tough to deal with. It’s something I’m looking forward to and can’t wait for people to be able to consume it.
Yeah, it should be a pretty interesting read. You and Cory also have a Housecore Film and music Festival coming up in October that we just touched on a moment ago. How did that all come about initially? Was it because of your love of horror films?
Yeah man, well honestly Cory Mitchell came down, I believe on his first trip and looking around my house he noticed all my horror regalia and eventually he stumbled upon my crazy fucking library of horror films and it was really his suggestion that we do this thing. It was a small idea at first and then once word got out it was like Boom! Jesus man everybody came out of the woodwork so to speak and it became this monster event. Now we have great, great vintage films that we’re going to show, we have an awesome band line-up I cannot wait to see myself and we have a fantastic special guests. Especially the great Italian horror band Goblin from Italy. That’s an amazing thing for me, I love that very much and the special quest directors that are coming out are very interesting. “Coffin Joe” from Brazil,Jörg Buttgereit from Germany from NECROMANTICS fame And America’s own Jim VanBebber the rebel director. I love all of them and it’s going to be a blast to introduce them to the people and the fans.
Really to tie this thing up, one of my favorite things about the fest is that I received over the last 6,8,9 months a lot of lesser known directors films, whether it be short films or mid-length films or full length feature films, there is some directors out there that really care about the horror genre and they are trying to do something very different. Matter of fact they are succeeding and for me I cannot wait to show really, really passionate horror fans these newer directors. I cannot wait for these people to see this stuff, because I think we got some excellent excellent directors and excellent films and it’s a great undertaking. It’s a big job to do all of this and all of that, that goes with it. Logistically at the end of the day I want the fans, the people that actually pay to see this thing to have a blast and I want the people who are part of this thing, the directors and film makers and bands, to really have an enjoyable time. I’m really looking forward to the whole fuckin’ thing.
It should be a great event. I have a couple more questions before I have to cut this off. What are a couple of your favorite horror films?
OK, right off the top of my head, let’s see. Definitely I would recommend THE OLD DARK HOUSE because of it’s atmosphere and because of its character actors in Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Melvin Douglas, incredible incredible movie, has a crazy brooding, slow pace to it, yet and incredible payoff. I gotta mention HOUSE WITH THE LAUGHING WINDOWS which is a little known, but beautifully shot film. I do believe Italian film, that is so fucking awesome and original in its take on things and a twist ending that is absolutely unforgettable. Let me think, favorite films. Jesus Christ. You put me on the spot here. You know you can’t go wrong, it might be a little generic here but you cannot go wrong with the original EVIL DEAD. The first one in that for me is the only one. I hated Part 2. I hated Part 3. I don’t like comedy in my horror and especially after EVIL DEAD 1 which is to me Stephen King put it best that it’s a black rainbow of horror, it’s absolutely fantastic.
Yeah, I watched that one there about a week ago.
It’s so great man! It’s so fucking great. To blend gore with absolutely bleak atmosphere is an A+ for me and then ya know going through the generations and what not there is a film that I don’t think is original in any way shape or form but I saw it as a kid in the movie theatre but a film called DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE with Dan Grimaldi. It’s the type of movie where nothing good happens and it keeps getting worse, not to mention it was shot during the disco days so hot disco scene and some pretty interesting scenes where the killer is in a store buying a perfect disco outfit for a jaunt to the discotheque. Makes for an incredibly interesting fuckin’ watch. And that’s the thing about films man I love so much, just the absurdity of certain films. But right now man, I’ve been on like a 1970’s shot for television horror trip, where there is great movies like WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE and THE PEOPLE that’s a crazy movie with Kim Darby who is also in the original DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK which I think is a great movie. I could talk about horror films for hours.
Maybe you should direct one.
That’s the thing; I don’t wanna be a fucking director. I don’t wanna be an actor. I just wanna sit on my big fat ass and watch these motherfuckers.
With COWBOYS and VULGAR having being re-issued over the past little while, have you ever considered revisiting POWER METAL and giving it like a proper re-release for the fans?
No, I’ve never thought about that. As far as catalogues or re-releases and what not, I’m not against it, I think it’s an interesting thing to bring up. Matter of fact, I think you’re the first guy to ever really ask if that was going to be a re-release so thumbs up for you and honestly if people got past the image and what not of the bar band hair bullshit that was going on in the late 80’s you would pretty much realize that it’s a pretty solid Metal record all around in the vein of Judas Priest, and really Dimebag, some of the riffs on that record are brutal and I say to any guitar player out there good fucking luck trying to play those riffs. Matter of fact, specifically the song “Power Metal” itself, good luck trying to play that riff with conviction and accuracy, cause that is a fuckin’ hard riff to play.