Phil Anselmo: The Hellbound Interview

Phil Anselmo

By Jason Wellwood

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when preparing for an interview with Phillip Anselmo. I knew that I didn’t want to go over the same inane Pantera questions that had been done to death. When the man in question has his fingers in so many pies (so to speak) there is a wealth of other, more pertinent subjects. Fortunately for me, Mr. Anselmo is an excellent interview and he led me where he wanted to go, which was perfect. We managed to talk about all the things I wanted to know about and even hit on some things that maybe some folks didn’t know. What surprised me the most about the interview was the depth of his introspection. I doubt that Mr. Anselmo sees himself as any sort of motivational speaker but coming out on the other side of things as he has, there is a wealth of wisdom to be shared. Thankfully he gave us a taste here.

Hellbound: How are you today?
Philip Anselmo: I’m doing good man, I’m doing really, really good.

Busy day for you?
It’s going to be, starting with you and going from here and I’ll be in the studio until late tonight.

Is that a typical day for you, do a little bit of press and then hit the studio for the rest of the day?
It depends on the typicality of it all. Yes, I’m in the studio quite a bit and yes, I do press quite often. Actually to tell you the truth, it’s very special, because I’m doing a solo record right now and I’m at the half way point of getting the drum tracks laid.

So the songs are all written for the solo record?
I’d been demoing, I guess about a year with this one kid on drums, just a local guy, a session guy. So I had, the basic skeletons for these songs sort of in place. You know, not married to one particular part or another. Then I did a whole lot of fine tuning and I found a drummer that I wanted to jam with: the kid from Warbeast (Joe Gonzalez), an excellent drummer, a great, great, great drummer. He does play thrash metal in Warbeast but that doesn’t limit him from all spectrums of heavy metal. He’s very flexible and diverse, so it’s awesome. I get the best of both hands and feet, if you will, out of a drummer.

Will you be handling the rest of the parts of the album? Playing guitar, singing and playing bass as well?
I’d say about 99% for sure, I might have a couple of guys do some leads. I’m nothing great at leads, I’m kind of creative with themes but as a lead guitar player I’m pretty God-awful! Depending on the music, you know, I’m thinking this particular project might call for someone with a little more lead guitar talent.

It’s nice to hear about a solo record coming out that’s actually a solo record and not someone throwing their vocals over someone else’s work.
Fuckin’ A man! Yeah, you know the super group thing has been beaten to death in the ground. I didn’t want to just assemble this band, another band again, ala Superjoint, ala Down, ala something I’ve done before. So, like you said, total solo record. I wish I could play drums though, I tell you that! But this kid is fucking insanely good, I would never aspire to be as good as this kid. He’s fucking pretty incredible.

Any idea at this point when the album will be released?
See, I don’t want to put a date on anything like that because there is still a lot of work to be done and then on top of that I got a lot of work in between which involves Down, which involves a lot of my bands here at Housecore. Definitely, Warbeast, and haarp, they recorded a couple of songs apiece, I’m working on a haarp EP, they’re coming in to record another song, so that will be three songs for one of their new EP’s. haarp’s full length is coming out this month on the 23rd it’s called The Filth and it’s fucking epic! I produced the record and this motherfucker is just gigantic sounding, it’s, oh God! It’s a beast, it’s a monster of a record! I’ve got them, I’ve got Warbeast. They recorded two new songs and I might do a spilt with them with some of my stuff, and haarp as well. And I’ve got a band called Ponykiller in the studio, definitely not a metal band so that’s a whole different project which is fun to do…so yeah, I’ve got my hands fuckin’ full! So as far as answering your initial question, I want to put the record out next year but I just don’t want to put a date on it yet.

Fair enough! You’re definitely a busy guy with the solo record, the producing, the label and Arson Anthem just dropped their full length which is fantastic…
I appreciate that! Well, you know my whole take all on that is: the older I get the more I realize that life is just blazing by. It’s a quick spark, it goes so fast. And music, you know, since I was a kid, since it first tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Come this way boy’ you know…you may as well fill up your life with the things that mean the most to you and get the most out of you. You know what I’m saying? It’s a labour of love. You know, I’m not getting paid for this record (laughs) I’m not getting paid to be in my own studio. This is coming out of my wallet with every bit of intention of just creating the music. I don’t even know if people will like it, I don’t care. Whatever. Even my other bands, I realize that musical tastes are just as diverse as anything people are either going to love stuff or hate it. That’s not my concern. My concern is just creating the process of music from all different angles and aspects and man that makes me a happy camper!

That’s a great way to look at things. It’s good that you are able to be happy these days.
Yeah bro, that is a heck of a sentence that you just said right there. I really had some dark days, desperate days. It’s kind of baffling to me now…not really baffling because I understand where I was…shit…I’ve been clean six years now and I look back and even before, back injuries, bone breakage, pain killers and all that shit came into my life, there was always some sort of hovering doubt in my life. And it’s really unwarranted. When I see young people today and they are depressed and they are down and out, I sit there and I think to myself: ‘You know what? I wish I could really convey to them that everything’s all right. Problems are just problems. They will pass with time.’ I wish I could say that to people because it’s fucking true. You know as long as you keep honest and you keep working hard and you put your fucking best into everything, you know, it’s going to come back to you. Call it karma, call it whatever, I’m a believer.

Awesome! I read that you’re working on your autobiography but it wouldn’t dwell too much on music, is that the message that you’re looking to convey with your autobiography?
Well definitely that’s part of the message but, not to lead you astray or anybody that would be interested in such a book, of course it’s got to touch on music! But it’s not your average, ‘we were on this tour, we were on that tour, we were on this tour, bang, it’s over’, it’s not like that. It’s going to be just your average ‘rock’ thing, there’s a lot that I’ve learned from this ‘rock’ business that are life lessons, you know? True life lessons that, you know, no matter what line of work you’re in, we’re all still fucking, very, very, very VERY human. And every damn one of us is going to run into something along the way in life that doesn’t particularly suit us and we have to adapt. And that’s a big, gigantic thing. There’s a lot of people who don’t adapt and therefore they’ll fall into the tailspin of one thing or another. And the tailspin is never good because it puts you in a hole, puts you living in the past, it puts you in the wrong spot. When really, every day you wake up, there’s that fantastic opportunity just to put your foot in front of the other and move forward and keep being a useful, worthwhile human being. Like I say, we only get one shot at this thing called life.

Very true. You mentioned earlier about back pain and bone breakages…how is your pain these days?
You know man, it’s not that big of a deal. I’ll say that there was a fantastic stretch during the summer where, fuck man it was awesome! I could just jump out of bed and be a normal person. But with the change in the season and living where I live about an hour outside of New Orleans…put it this way, early this week it was close to 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) and today it’s about 50 so I can feel a bit with the weather change. But really overcoming any of this pain and having it control your life is working it out man. You’ve got to get up, you’ve got to stretch and you’ve got to get your fucking ass moving! You’ve got to do your core work, it’s a responsibility, it’s a personal responsibility. I can see where a lot of people who deal with chronic pain fail because it’s a lot easier to lay in bed and take a bunch of fucking pain killers. Believe me, I know that story too and I know that route. So, these days, once again, to be a more useful human being, it’s best to do what’s best for the body. When your body’s talking to you, answer it!

So you have a daily workout regime that you do now?
Yeah, absolutely. Every day of my life I have a stretching routine that I MUST go through. And if it’s not just a simple stretch then definitely at least 3 days out of the week I’ve got to do some core work and it helps out vastly! Big, major difference! I’m just laying around and I start to cramp up, it’s not going to get any better just laying around. You’ve got to get up and fucking work it out. It’s a personal responsibility, take account for yourself. You’ve got to pull it off.

So, will there be a Phil Anselmo workout book at some point then?
Maybe that will be part of my book…I’ll say 10 push ups here, 3 sets of sit ups, some basketball hoops. No, fuck no! I’ll probably touch on it for sure but there will not be an aerobicize video coming out with Philip Anselmo.

Perhaps that’s for the best!
No doubt! (laughs) There is some self image to uphold here! (laughs)

We touched on it earlier but, now that the Arson Anthem album is out, will there be some touring happening?
We are looking at January, you know I’m working around Eyehategod’s schedule because Mike, obviously sings for both bands. You know, Hank tours ALL THE TIME. But if the right offers come in, I’m going to try and twist Hank’s arm and we’ll see what happens from there.

Hank played here (in Thunder Bay) this summer and seeing all three sets is pretty awe inspiring.
I like the first two, I’ll say that much. But I’ll tell you what man, he’s an incredible drummer. He’s an incredible drummer and a whole lot of people wouldn’t know that but, I met Hank when he was 15 years old. Pantera was in town in Nashville and we had done some initial drum tracks for Far Beyond Driven and that’s when I met Hank. He was in a local band called Buzzkill and he was a drummer, originally a drummer. Not a lot of people know that but he’s been playing drums a long time and you can hear that on the Arson Anthem album, he’s a fucking madman.

And you’ve also got Collin Yeo in the band and he’s the singer for Ponykiller.
That is correct! I’m doing that record right now, actually not right this second but next month for sure. They’ve already laid their basic tracks. I’ve been watching Ponykiller for awhile now and watched them develop and I think they`ve got a really strong line up right now. They’ve got some really solid, talented musicians in the band. Their record is very unique. Collin, as far as a vocalist goes, he’s got everything he needs, great range, great ability all around…as a producer as I listen I can tell that he sings and plays guitar at the same time. So I’m going to try and separate all that and get him to find an identity with his vocals because he’s got a great voice. He`s got great lyrics, they’ve got great songs. And just to point out, I’m not talking about a heavy metal band here, Ponykiller is very far from a heavy metal band. I’d describe them as ugly, very ugly, trippy, maybe even a little psychedelia pop, that absolutely is not pop! (laughs) they’re fucking different man!

It sounds like it will be an awesome record to check out!
A different record to check out! Once again, I’m not looking to please everyone here, I’m looking to find those bands that are hitting those hidden notes man. I’ve said a million times and I’ll say it one more time: as a musician I love to believe that not all the notes have been hit yet and I’m looking for the bands that are hitting those hidden notes. And I’ll tell you man, they are definitely a different band and bless them for it.

It’s hard to wade through the same ol’ same ol’ to find the gems.
It’s true man, there is a lot of regurgitation out there.

But you seem to be doing a great job finding bands like haarp and Ponykiller and getting them to sign on with Housecore.
Yeah, I think that these are bands that don’t want to be part of another label’s gigantic roster because of how they don’t necessarily fit into everyone else’s formula that’s been done before. They really are doing something fresh within a genre. You take haarp for example: to say haarp is a slow band is fair, but to say they are just another slow band is a sin, sacrilege, that’s bullshit, they’re fucking different.
(Phil’s assistant cuts in at this point to cut us off as we’ve gone over time)

Thank you so much for taking the time for speaking to me today Phil.
Hey Bro, any time man, any time, anywhere!

Take care of yourself and congratulations to you on all the great work you’ve done not only on the Arson Anthem record but with Housecore as well.
Hey brother, I appreciate it man, I really, really, really do. And I can’t ever tell you how much I appreciate it. It’s the truth.

Well, we’re glad you’re still doing it.
All right daddy-o – well I hope we talk again soon! Later Thunder Bay!

Jason Wellwood hosts Blowing Up The Lakehead, heard Mondays from 10pm-1am Eastern on CILU, from Thunder Bay, ON.

Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site.