Interview: Phil Anselmo Talks Solo Project, Side Projects, Pantera, and Things He Will Never Do
By Natalie Perez
Best known as the former singer of heavy-metal legends Pantera, Philip H. Anselmo–or Phil, as most of his fans refer to him–has been around the music scene for quite some time now and left a mighty impression on both mainstream and underground metal along the way. Having led other bands including Down, Superjoint Ritual, and Arson Anthem, et al, he has finally gotten some time on his hands to go the solo route with his first-ever eponymous project, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals. Anselmo’s debut solo album, Walk Through Exits Only, which was written entirely by the man himself, is set for release on July 16–and is streaming in its entirety right here at RevolverMag.com right now. We recently caught up with the metal master as he geared up for the highly anticipated record’s release.
REVOLVER To many fans, you’re a metal legend and a rock star, but in many ways, you come across more as just an everyday guy who loves metal. How do you think of yourself?
PHIL ANSELMO I roll with the typical everyday guy any fucking day over legendary status or the rock-star label. Honestly I’m just a fucking music nerd like anybody else. I love extreme heavy metal, music of all sorts, just a big music fan, and that’s my opinion, ya know?
You chose to call your solo project Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals. What’s up with calling your band The Illegals?
That group of guys makes so much fun of me, so you know what? I am going to get them back, so I am going to call them The Illegals on this record. Just like an inside joke between us, like, on the next record, I might call them The Buttercups, or Butterflies, or The Dandelions. It’s just a one record thing. I call it my name because honestly it’s my music written from the ground up, and if I called it by another band name, it would have just been another band to buy into. So seeing my name, they will know it’s my product. It’s all my idea, and each solo record will be different than the last, so take it for what it’s worth.
Why did you think that now would be the right time to release a solo album?
You gotta look at circumstances. The question could be, Why not? Why not do it now? Why wait? Down has wrapped up its touring cycle for the last EP. So for me, right now is perfect. The timing works well. So to answer a question with a question: Why not? I am 45 fucking years old. I ain’t getting any younger, might as well do it now.
Why did you want to start your own label, Housecore Records, and was it a difficult thing to do? What is your goal with having this label?
It’s taken on different shapes and forms. I wanted it to be an outlet for music that I like or find acceptable or enjoyable. I haven’t signed a band in a long time. I do have my eyes on different bands with different music. I am a musician first, so I don’t think everything has been met yet. I have this denotation to music with the growth of music. There is an extreme-metal part of it that’s being repeated over and over again due to so many bands changing the game of it. So we’ll see what happens.
You’ve been a part of the Metal Masters clinic/all-star jam for a few years now. Do you plan to come back this year?
I would think so as long as my brothers from Slayer, Anthrax, all those guys are there, for sure. Those are some of the most awesome people in the world and everyone running it… It’s a giant crazy family reunion.
Is anything new happening with Arson Anthem?
Arson? Nope, nothing new with them. It was fun to do while it lasted. Once again, gotta look at the circumstances. Arson’s singer also sings for Eyehategod. I know they have a tour coming up lasting them a few weeks. Then they’re also are tracking their new album in the studio over here, so hopefully there’s a great chance at mixing and being a part of that record. Arson was one of many side projects I had done, but as of right now, naw.
You have been in a number of bands, some currently active and many inactive. Would you ever consider bringing them altogether for one big show?
That’s an interesting concept and I think it’s been discussed before. Maybe in the back of my mind, in my dreams, something like that could happen, but there’s a lot of music I have been sitting on for the past 20 years that no one has ever heard. It’s just not heavy metal music. Maybe there will have to be a release of the music that no one has heard of before. I have done atmospheric music, acoustic music, very depression-core style of music, not a very far cry from bands like the Swans or The Smiths at their most bleak. So I have done a lot of different styles. It would be a very semi-complex production to get out there and do it, but would be fun, too. Also, would be a nightmare figuring out so many musicians involved from the past, so picking and choosing would be hard. So it would be a maybe, ya know?
How does it feel to see Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power still having such a big impact over 20 years since it came out? Do you think it’s still as powerful as it was when it was first released?
Well, I am not so sure about that. I know that, for sure, Pantera has some of the greatest fans in the world. I cannot say enough and how awesome they have been over the years. Vulgar Display of Power is in the books as one of those influential records of its time. It’s an honor to be a part of such a movement of the ’80s, ’90s, so whether it’s absolute classic or not, I will let the critics, the fans, decide that for themselves. I gota say, overall, Pantera has the best fucking fans in the world, and what’s keeping us alive are the songs, the memories–more power to them.
If the surviving members of Pantera were ever to get back together, even for one night, where would you want the show to be, and what songs would you want to do?
Well, see, that’s a complex question. First off, Dimebag is not alive anymore, so that’s a big factor in a gigantic way. There would have to be a lot of sitting down, going over a lot of very important elements, between myself and the other members. Choosing the guitar player and what not… This is all hypothetical, really, I guess, but the answer would be, Why not where it all started? Where it all began, in Dallas, Texas? I don’t see why any other city would make sense… But then, Pantera fans are everywhere, so that’s a tough question for me to answer. I guess hypothetically it would be Dallas, Texas.
How many more Pantera demos or unreleased songs are there still remaining, if any?
Honestly, Pantera was not the band to waste a lot of time demoing, so to speak. Actual Pantera demos, I don’t think there are any that exist, unless I am proven totally wrong and my mind is completely blank–I don’t think it is. I don’t think we have any more, or any more unheard or unknown songs. I guess with all of the re-releasing of our records in 20 year interludes, this next one will be pretty pure and straight to the point, so as of right now it’s something we’ll see, but I don’t think there is anything left. There are recordings that I have done in the past, but those weren’t under the name Pantera–those with Dimbag would surprise people that have never heard them before–so letting go of that stuff, I would have to give that a lot of a consideration to let that all go. Really, me and Dimbag and our friends would come together as one and jam out for fun, just doing it for the sake of music, having a library of material, but that being released…your guess is as good as mine.
Do you ever get tired of being asked questions in regards to Pantera?
Not really, no. If it’s a question that people have then it’s a legit question. I’m not the type of guy to shrug off anything. I am an open book. I have nothing to hide or anything to be ashamed of or overly secretive about or anything. So when it comes to Pantera, I am an open book and I respect the questions and will give my best answer. So if it’s anybody, a fan or anyone wanting to talk about them, in my opinion it’s a valid answer, adding my own insight, making things special for the person asking. I always love talking music, so if they want to talk about them, so be it.
When it comes to playing the Pantera songs, does it ever hit you so emotionally that you have a hard time actually playing them?
No, no, no, no, not at all. We definitely do some old Pantera songs at the Metal Masters Clinic and all it does for me is think of the old days and it’s enjoyable for me. Pantera isn’t the first band to have a tragic thing happen. It isn’t the first band to break up or go through problems or anything like that. So a lot of my memories are the great memories playing with them, doing the shows, the audience being so fucking incredible, and the energy coming off the stage was amazing. It just brings back great memories.
Does Down have anything new in the works as of right now?
We just wrapped up our touring for the EP. We’ve already begun material for the next EP in the works, heading into the studio to work on it this November in the fall. I think the next EP will be coming out within the first months of 2014.
Besides playing in bands and running the label, you’re also putting together a horror film fest this October, and you’re working on your autobiography. As many different hats as you wear, is there something in particular that Phil Anselmo absolutely would not try to do?
I would be a terrible actor. If I had to sit there learning lines, I would hate that. It would be awful. I am a big movie buff, but a type of guy who has no plans on directing the films, just watching them. I don’t know what I would not do. I couldn’t try out for the NFL, I couldn’t start a boxing career tomorrow, I couldn’t do things that I like, like football or boxing, like coaching. That’s a complex question. I don’t think I would be good at hip hop or rap music–plus, I don’t think that would go over well.