PHIL ANSELMO – Yes, Phil Anselmo… his name is of course synonymous with the ultra-legendary Pantera. The word Metal in and of itself can easily be Phil’s middle name. However, Phil Anselmo’s name is also engraved in the Extreme Metal and Hardcore genres as well. With a career in music that boasts fronting the 1990’s unbelievably dominant Pantera, Phil Anselmo has an overwhelmingly impressive Metal and multi-music genre resume, both as a musician and businessman.
With Phil Anselmo being a key member of Down, Superjoint Ritual, Christ Inversion and Arson Anthem, nothing seems to slow him down from being a consistent player in the Metal and Hardcore Music industry, going on three decades. In the midst of such a brilliant career in Heavy Music, Phil also found time to play guitar for Necrophagia as well. Owning, operating and signing bands to his successful record label Housecore Records, is yet another side to this man who obviously loves Heavy and Extreme Music. It appears as if Phil Anselmo is writing a new chapter in his life of Metal, as each day seems to pass.
Phil Anselmo is as passionate about his Metal past as he is with his Metal present and future. The word “complacent” is not in Phil’s vocabulary. Phil Anselmo’s contributions and legacy to the history of Metal and Hardcore Music is already impressive and legendary. What is downright scary is that Phil Anselmo is continuously building upon his legacy and not resting on any damn laurels. There are many reasons why I respect Phil Anselmo, this interview only solidified them all for me.
Trying to check off all of the musical ground that Phil Anselmo has covered over his amazing career is a ludicrous thought. What is uncovered in the following paragraphs, are insights into a vast world of music talent and perspective from a man who says and does it his way. Here is what Phil Anselmo had to say:
HRH: The 2oth Anniversary of “Cowboys From Hell” is upon us. Does it seem that long ago to you?
Phil: Not at all man. Twenty years just blew by.
HRH: Can you share what the craziest moment was for you, during Pantera’s relentless “Cowboys From Hell” tour?
Phil: It was getting up there on stage every night, in front of people who did not know a damn thing about us in the U.S. or all around the world. People in Europe fuckin’ hated us back then! Every night we had a chip on our shoulders, we had to impress everyone, night after night. We owned a regional area of Texas during that tour. It was just a matter of time for the rest of the world to know who Pantera was. Being the underdog made us work that much harder. We were always a gig band and we knew we had to play live and be visual. Being seen was most important.
HRH: I personally like “The Will To Survive” demo. What do you recall about this song?
Phil: You like it?
HRH: I sure do. Don’t mind me saying, your vocals sound a bit like Rob Halford on this song.
Phil: Rob Halford was a heck of an influence on me. That’s the closest next to any falsetto in my throat! I was singing my throat out on that song. There’s not much honestly, that I remember about this song. It was early when we did that song, I think it was when I first joined the band in ’87. I recall that song as a skeleton in parts. The chunks and riffs were already there, probably meant for the “Power Metal” era in ’88. That song did not fit the profile for “Power Metal” or “Cowboys From Hell”, otherwise it would have stood out like a sore thumb.
HRH: Why do you think Pantera fans are so loyal to the band to this very second?
Phil: I think it’s the camaraderie we always had with the audience. We did not want to have character as a band that was untouchable or inaccessible. I was always talking the shit to Dimebag between songs on stage. We wanted the kids on stage with us! Hell, I’d hand the kid who came up on stage the microphone and let him sing and scream into it! It never bothered us. Our interaction with the kids back then was an impressive sight. Damn, you can see it for yourself by just going to Youtube and looking up any live Pantera videos. The videos don’t lie and seeing is believing!
HRH: In the early days, who listened to the heaviest and most extreme music in Pantera?
Phil: Me, me, me, me! I am the horse and you heard it from his mouth.
HRH: What is your greatest memory of Dimebag the person, not the musician?
Phil: As a person there were so many of them. He and I were such creative forces that there would be this butting of the heads that would be healthy. I was this hot headed mother fucker who wanted the money riffs, wanted the music more loose and I wasn’t wild about guitar solos. Twenty years removed, little did I know that Dimebag was to become the hero he is today. The machine like tightness was a staple of Pantera. I was on this underground trip, with this trio of musicians who were the most talented I’ve ever been surrounded by. The versatility and tightness between Vince and Rex, Rex and Dime was like nothing I’ve seen before or since. When it came time to execute the vocals, we all got along.
HRH: Which Pantera album could you not live without?
Phil: I’ll make a case for “Vulgar Display Of Power”. As a second tier, “Far Beyond Driven”. To be cut and dry though, “Vulgar Display Of Power”. Which one could you not live without?
HRH: Man, Phil, that is a hard one, I agree with “Vulgar Display Of Power”. But really all of them.
Phil: I know what you mean, man.
HRH: What country had the most rabid fans for Pantera?
Phil: Everywhere we went it seemed. Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico were insane! The most rabid first show was in Puerto Rico, man, it was dangerous. There were gang members everywhere outside, it was chaotic. We saw guns and weapons everywhere out in the open. Europe, the U.K., even Russia were great. Man, that’s a tough question, everywhere we went the fans were so damn kind to us. No way can I discount the States or Canada! The most fun, memorable and insane place to play was and is New York City. New York City has always been fuckin’ out of the box! For a specific show, there was this one time in Chicago. It was fuckin’ nuts. Out in the streets kids were jumping on cars and it was just fuckin’ chaos.
HRH: In the early days of Pantera, was there a lot of head butting with the song writing?
Phil: Lyrically I felt kind of restrained. I wanted to collaborate to where everyone in the band could get one hundred per cent of where I’m from as a lyricist. Later on, the freedom came around “Vulgar Display Of Power”. That’s when I really started to say look, how much longer am I gonna be the new guy? Healthy head butting equaled to healthy music though.
HRH: Who has been your single greatest influence in music?
Phil: Judas Priest and Rob Halford. David Lee Roth was a hell of a front man. Paul Stanley too. I knew I was going to be a singer all my life. As a young boy, when I was around thirteen it was Black Sabbath, Ozzy and Ronnie James Dio. I cannot leave out Dio. Even Bono from U2 influenced me to a degree. All of them made Pantera special. It’s an imperative quality to have that well roundedness to go in any genre of music. Everyone was rounded out in Pantera in their own way. Dimebag would say he was into Nine Inch Nails and I would say really? Fuckin’ off during a soundcheck, we would go off on some Country Western stuff and it would sound authentic! It’s important to listen to a little of everything.
HRH: What peer bands has your back?
Phil: A majority of ’em have my back. Any band after 1990. Dez Fafara and Devil Driver. I’m really tight with Dez, ever since he was with Coal Chamber. We still speak to this very day. Slayer, Biohazard, Sepultura, Prong, Anthrax, Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, it goes so far. It goes so far. The New York City Hardcore scene is a fantastic meeting place. I know a lot of those guys and we come out to support each other.
HRH: Theater or Arena, what’s your preference to play at?
Phil: I like ’em both man. After a six month arena tour though, there’s always a piece of me after I do that to get back into the intimate club thing and that’s great.
HRH: How about festivals?
Phil: I love ’em the majority of the time. There are no negative points to make on festivals! Pantera and Down both have done great festivals. Superjoint Ritual at Ozzfest wasn’t that great of a time though. That band was more suitable for a smaller club feel.
HRH: What is missing in the Metal scene today?
Phil: What do you think is missing in the Metal scene today?
HRH: Just that true feeling that was in the air years ago.
Phil: Your right on, there are no scenes anymore. Years back it was fuckin’ magic, man. I’m not saying one time period is better or worse here, only bands are more visible on computers now than on stage. There are not many gigs. There are a lot of myspace pages where bands flaunt their stuff. If you want to hear a band’s music you have to visit their myspace page. Today’s teens and twenty year olds could only wish to experience that scene feel. Texas had a great fuckin’ scene! New Orleans too. You could just stop in one weekend, out of the blue, to matinee shows. There was a clique of people and it was familiar to us. The general consensus about music today, is that it’s lacking a bit of originality. It’s Pantera meets Alice In Chains and it’s the same formula being used in hundreds of bands. That’s why I started my own label, Housecore Records. I weeded out certain bands that are hitting those certain notes.
HRH: Housecore Records today is what Metal Blade Records was in the early ’80’s.
Phil: Yeah, exactly. Like Megaforce Records was doing as well. There are a lot of super talented bands out there and the end result doesn’t sound too far removed from something we already heard. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. I’m looking for the kids trying to make a difference. The first listen to some of these bands might be awkward and unpleasant but I don’t mind because whoa, sometimes they turn out to be favorite bands with longevity and growth. That’s what Housecore Records is all about, growing a band. Years ago, Metal Blade Records would give a band time to grow, release a few albums and build a fan base. Today, the big record labels want a new band to sell millions of records right away.
HRH: It’s the Old School way to grow a band.
Phil: You said it. There’s always a clique of musicians genre work being duplicated, like a Thrash band in the Thrash genre doing cut and paste Destruction riffs. I do have genre bands, I have a Thrash Metal band on Housecore Records, Warbeast, from Fort Worth Texas. About six months ago, they made a great Thrash Metal record called “Krush The Enemy”, it’s their “Cowboys From Hell”. All I see is potential in this band! Dual guitars, double bass and not cut and paste stuff. The vocalist for Warbeast is Bruce Corbitt, he was in Rigor Mortis.
HRH: Warbeast is a band that I’ll be definitely checking out!
Phil: Another Housecore Records band to check out is haarp. They did an epic crushing masterpiece, “The Filth” and it’s fuckin’ deadly. Shaun Emmons, the vocalist, is massive! I’ve seen that guy control a crowd without saying a word to them. The Sursiks are hittin’ crazy different notes and their on their own page! My band Arson Anthem is coming out with a full length on October 12th, called “Insecurity Notoriety”. I play guitar, Mike IX Williams is on vocals, Hank Williams III is on drums and Collin Yeo is on bass. This is vicious Hardcore, so trip out on this record!
HRH Note: You can purchase Arson Anthem, Warbeast “Krush The Enemy”, The Sursiks and both haarp EP’s by clicking here: HOUSECORE RECORDS
HRH: Anything new to report from the Down camp?
Phil: There’s nothing much from Down. We’ve messed around with the skeletons of two new songs recently. They are two songs from the last session. Kirk (Windstein) is cleaning up his life and that’s great.
HRH: Can you see yourself collaborating with Killjoy ever again?
Phil: I don’t man. I hope is doing really well, but no. I love to play guitar, it was fun to play for Necrophagia.
HRH Note: Phil Anselmo played guitar for Necrophagia’s 1998 studio album – “Holocausto de la Morte”. Phil played with Necrophagia under the alias Anton Crowley.
HRH: If a major motion picture was to be made about Phil Anselmo, what would the title be?
Phil: Let me think here, maybe something like, no wait, I’ll think of it. Give me a second. Damn, this is a tough question. How about, drag me to hell!
HRH: Alright, cool.
Phil: No, I’m kidding.
HRH: Okay. (laughs)
Phil: King Kong!
HRH: King Kong? What? (Laughs)
Phil: I’m just messin’ with ya! (Laughs)
Phil: I’m stumped on this one and I’m gettin’ hassled on the phone here! I don’t need this!
Phil: From shit to roses and from shit to roses again.
Phil: No, that’s terrible!
Phil: How to break your back and still sprint at 42! There, that’s the movie title!
HRH: Good one, Phil. (Laughs)
HRH: Do you have any commentary on the BP oil spill in the gulf?
Phil: It makes me examine mankind once again. By all rights, I can’t speak for anyone else but me. I’m just another ignorant man figuring my way through life. With all due respect to what other religions other people follow and what they consider to be their god, If I’m going to call anything god it’s this planet underneath our feet. When you stab god in the chest, like a human so much blood is in the body. There’s only so much oil in the Earth. I know people down in the Gulf, the locals, who have been living off the industry of fish for generations and they are hurtin’. Any food place around the world that imports from the Gulf are gonna be hurtin’. I think there’s a fact that people in America are not allowed a loud enough voice. If there was a reasoning here there would be pamphlets in the mailbox asking if it’s o.k. to drill a mile into the Gulf, into the Earth. You drill one mile into the Earth here and tell everyone it’s foolproof, who’s the fool when it breaks? We stabbed god in the heart and it makes me look at mankind like we are a conquering, vicious, breed of life on Earth. We need to take a step back and look at what we have done. We only have one planet. There should be a law of man, a law of mankind, to respect the Earth we live on.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Vinnie Paul?
Phil: Wish I did.