This story was originally published in 2010 on ARTISTdirect.com and in October 2012 in Revolver's "Rock, Shock & Horror" special issue.
Behind the most powerful music and films, there's a drive to spill blood, sweat and tears in the pursuit of one's craft. All three were surely spilt during the making of Down's crushing new six-track mini-album Down IV Part 1—The Purple EP, and nowhere are they heard more than in Phil Anselmo's soulful vocals.
The former Pantera frontman continues to conjure sonic intensity like no one else. Between founding Housecore Records, riffing for hardcore outfit Arson Anthem and howling with Down, there's no shortage of inspiring and invigorating music coming from Anselmo.
Horror stalwart Bill Moseley is similarly driven. He's become a fan favorite by playing psychos like Chop Top in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Otis in The Devil's Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses. He's worked with everyone from Sam Raimi to Rob Zombie. But he's also made forays into music, performing as Chop Top in the art-rock group Cornbugs alongside guitarist Buckethead (Guns N' Roses), and with Rani Sharone (Otep, Puscifer, Stolen Babies) in Spider Mountain.
As any fan of scary movies or heavy music knows, there's an inherent connection between the art forms. "Evil Dead changed my life," agrees Anselmo, who will launch his own Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin, Texas, next October. "It was like Slayer's Hell Awaits, and they even came out about the same time."
Not surprisingly then, Anselmo and Moseley found that they have plenty in common when they sat down together to chat about their respective discoveries of music and horror, their favorite flicks and much more.
WHEN DID YOU BOTH FIND MUSIC?
BILL MOSELEY I think it was when I was on my way to church on Sundays. I started playing bongos on the car dashboard because I didn't really like going to Sunday school. [Laughs]
PHIL ANSELMO That's where your musical career started? Believe it or not, the most influential album for me—when I was just a mere shrimp—was Walt Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. [Laughs] It was side two. The first side is a narration. It goes into this wind and howling banshees! I kept the whole house up with it. I lived in the French Quarter and there was music everywhere, but that one record with all the shrieks and groans was it for me. As a kid, I'd be imitating that stuff. I think that's where I started using my voice. Not to mention, the whole house shook with Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. My folks were of that era. There you go!
MOSELEY My mom played Scott Joplin's rags, and the first '45 that I ever had was "Take this Hammer" by Leadbelly. I don't know why that was. [Laughs]
ANSELMO Wow! I inherited my folks' record collection. KISS was a staple when I was a kid. Other than that, it was the Beatles and Frampton Comes Alive!—what a record at the time!
MOSELEY Your parents were into that? We are of a different generation. [Laughs]
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU EACH OF YOU FIRST GET INTO HORROR MOVIES?
ANSELMO [To Moseley] When did you discover horror?
MOSELEY 10 years before you. [Laughs] I was actually crawling into the living room at night.
ANSELMO It's the same story!
MOSELEY I'd see movies like Beginning of the End with the giant grasshopper and Killer Shrews. When I grew up, there was still black-and-white TV. I was told to never get out of bed once you're put to bed. I'd sneak down the hallway, try to avoid the creaking floor boards and go in and watch the "Midnight Movie." I'm from Northern Illinois.
ANSELMO Did it have a horror host?
ANSELMO That's great! Your story is pretty much the same as mine. [Laughs] We had a black-and-white TV, and there was the "Saturday Matinee," which was a horror fest. As a matter of fact, I was home alone and I saw Mario Bava's Black Sabbath, but that's a later memory. There was the afternoon show, and then the Saturday night show had a horror host, The Guru. Honestly, the most impactful one was the "Sunday Morning Movie"—films like Fiend Without a Face and How Awful About Allan. Believe it or not, those were on TV! Shit like that flipped me out. I would sneak up and beg my mother every night, "Can I stay up and watch Night Gallery?" [Laughs] I was sneaking out of bed, too, though.
MOSELEY My family was very Halloween-friendly, for all of the religion and whatever that was going on. My dad loved to "arrange things" to take us kids to that scared the crap out of us on Halloween. He'd take us to the old "Hermit's House" at the edge of town. He'd park the car 100 yards down the street and say, "Go back there and get something off the front porch!" This was a house lit only by an old lantern with a bunch of old newspapers stacked outside.
ANSELMO That's awesome! When you're a kid, you can see the ghosts in the windows.
MOSELEY We'd get up there, and somebody would scream! We'd all run back to the car. We'd go to the cemetery and dad would arrange it so the cops from town would bust us with the lights flashing and we'd freak out!
ANSELMO He'd arrange it? [Laughs] That's incredible. As well-known as New Orleans is, it's a really small city. Man, they always had the neighborhood haunted houses. It stuck with me so much that I started the House of Shock in New Orleans. That's still a gigantic haunted house. I'm not associated anymore, but I was always Halloween-friendly as well. I loved the old rickety amusement-park rides. I used to live for that shit. It's torn down now, but the only amusement park that we used to have in New Orleans was called Pontchartrain Beach. It was right on the water, and they had the roller coasters and all of that. However, it had the haunted house! They'd play that goddamn Chilling, Thrilling Sounds soundtrack through the fucking speakers. [Laughs]
MOSELEY Would you get in a car to go through the haunted house?
ANSELMO Yes! It was this big Grim Reaper-type car. The skull would be holding you in his arm, and you're sitting in his fucking lap. It would always break down so we'd get out of the cars, go running through and touch the props and shit. It was awesome.
MOSELEY I just went to a screening of Fun House!
ANSELMO I like watching that movie for the fact that they're showing that haunted house. Those are killer memories.
BILL, HOW IMPORTANT IS MUSIC TO ACTING?
MOSELEY It's really important! I like to put together a soundtrack for characters I play. That way, when I go into battle, I can chill out during my downtime and listen to the music that sustains that character and sometimes illuminates it. It's essential. Those are all kind of strands of the same rope. You have to hear something in your head when you're doing those characters.
ANSELMO I get exactly what you're saying.
MOSELEY I actually did one scene in Army of Darkness, and I was hearing "The Ride of Valkyries." It was 4 A.M., and I was on a horse. I was under about 30 pounds of rubber, because I was the new captain of the army of the dead. I was leading a charge. I had a sword in one hand and the reins of my horse. I had a white milky lens over one eye and a patch over another with a little pinhole through it so I could actually see a little bit. I was leading another horse that had a rubber skeleton in the saddle, so I had to pretend the skeleton was riding his own horse. We had to charge down through 100 extras with swords, pikes and torches at four in the morning in Acton, California. It was cold as shit. We ended up doing three different takes, and it was scary.
ANSELMO How long was each take?
MOSELEY That was probably a five-minute take, which is a really long one. The situation was very perilous so I needed something to concentrate me, so it was "The Ride of the Valkyries." Somebody actually did fall off their horse, and I think he might've broken his back. The crew van showed up. Then there was a police car. That went away. Eventually, a fire truck pulled up. That went away. About an hour later, an ambulance showed up and they actually carted the guy away. It was dangerous stuff.
ANSELMO A five-minute take of one thing is long! I know that from doing music videos. Then again, that's an awesome story right there…
MOSELEY That was a stressful job!
ANSELMO But now you can smile about it. [Laughs]
MOSELEY I want to know your top five favorite horror movies.
ANSELMO That's tough! Honestly, I get on different trips. I get on Karloff trips, man—roles that people don't know too much about. He's obviously a character actor, but I think he's one of the most underrated in a certain way. Of course, the image of Frankenstein sticks forever. However, right after Frankenstein, he did The Old Dark House, where he's Morgan, the butler. What a fucking movie! It moves at a snail's pace. The atmosphere is insane. It's got Charles Laughton and a young Melvyn Douglas, who was later in The Changeling. I saw that in the movie theater. I think The Changeling is one of the best haunted house films I've ever seen. Then there's stuff like The Black Room, where Karloff does a dual role. He's twin brothers. Bedlam's a great one. Then there's the original The Bodysnatcher with Karloff and Henry Daniell. It's so great!
MOSELEY When I did the remake of Night of the Living Dead, I was told to prepare for the part of Johnny. I ended up using Die Monster Die! with Karloff as reference. I studied that.
ANSELMO That's an awesome movie! I went through a phase of Lucio Fulci. He was relentless with the gore. I like atmosphere. I love Mario Bava. The atmosphere in Kill, Baby, Kill! is incredible. And how about all of the Exorcist spin-off movies? Demon Witch Child!
MOSELEY [Laughs] You know!
ANSELMO I guess it's just a memory of being a kid, but I have an awesome collection of all the old TV series like Ghost Story and Boris Karloff's Thriller, which has great atmosphere and stories.
MOSELEY There's Night Gallery, too!
ANSELMO Night Gallery is awesome! You can't leave out The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.
MOSELEY Have you ever thought of writing a horror movie or putting out your own horror stories?
ANSELMO As a kid, I used to do this and that.
MOSELEY Let's do one!
ANSELMO I would do it. Given the outlet and the fucking time, I think I could pull it off. That's a heads-down project, but if you say let's do one, then let's do one! It'd have to be pretty harsh.
MOSELEY [Laughs] Of course! One of the reasons I was happy to play Chop Top in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was because The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had really disturbed me. It had hurt me deep. I made the mistake of thinking if I watched it another eight or nine times, I could push back from it. It only pounded that wedge deeper into me. It really freaked me out that rural America could be like that. I was young at the time. I was thinking everybody would be a hippie spiritualist at their core and not looking to eat me or my friends. [Laughs] I made it to Austin, Texas, in the Spring of 1986 to shoot Chainsaw 2, and I met [director] Tobe Hooper for the first time. We were talking about Chainsaw, and I was shocked because he said he considered that a comedy! He thought that was funny, and I was shocked! He'd warped my mind for 10 years, and now he's telling me it's funny. [Laughs]