This Love: Phil Anselmo talks about his life in, and love for, metal

Photo: Rob Fenn
Philip H. Anselmo (Pantera/Down/Superjoint) took nearly an hour of his time on his birthday to spend it on the phone for an interview, in advance of bringing Superjoint to The V Club Sunday for a stop on the It Takes Guts Tour, with guests King ParrotChild Bite, and Byzantine.
Listening to him talk passionately about being in a band, his love for metal, running a label, and just making friends, well, what he had to say was his gift to the fans, the bands he helps at Housecore Records, and bands in general.
Here is the interview in its entirety.

Reposted/expanded/unedited from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch interview

WVRockscene: Today is your 47th birthday – you doing anything special or get any cool presents?

Phil Anselmo: Yeah, I’m sitting at home on my lazy ass, and I’m not doing jack shit. I’m takin’ a break, and that’s the best present I got.

WVRockscene: It’s been a long time, how excited are you to take Superjoint back out on the road for this “It Takes Guts” tour with King Parrot and Child Bite?

Anselmo: It’s gonna be awesome, man. You take the group of guys in Superjoint, you mix ‘em liberally with, fuckin’, King Parrot and Child Bite? (laughs) It’s bound to be a kickass fuckin’ time. I love all those guys, and it’s gonna be great.

WVRockscene: Superjoint just played its first ever European show, at Hellfest, how did that go, and how busy have you personally been in 2015?

Anselmo: Well, it seems like I do something every year. The year before that, [Phil Anselmo and] the Illegals played, a year before that, Down played; they’d had a cancellation, where Clutch had to pull out due to a death in the family, so we filled their spot.

This Hellfest gig was excellent, dude. It was really fun. But, I will say that, it was our second show in over a decade, so, it was a pretty damn big stage. Like I told the guys after the gig: the chemistry is still there, we just need a few shows under our belt, and then I think we’ll be just fine.

One of the reasons I started Superjoint to begin with, was to get back into the intimate rooms and clubs, just to have that feel again. So, I think bringing these songs into small clubs again, the shit’s gonna feel good, it’s gonna be alright.

As far as 2015, I’ve been strapped in this cave called the studio, since January, hashing out all kinds of stuff, mixing records for [Housecore], for the future, and Jesus, man, just writing all kinds of stuff. Matter of fact, one of the records we mixed came out today, the Author and Punisher album. That was a trip to work on, very freaky. Really a different type of production there. A very talented man, Tristan Shone, the man behind all these machines.

But, um, just writing new Illegals, practicing with Superjoint, writing new Superjoint. I did a couple under the radar projects that will probably see the light of day, I don’t know, it’ll come out in the wash. Fuck, what else? Down gigs, I’ve done a handful, more in August, but really, mostly, it’s just a bunch of studio work, man. Just keeping busy, you know? Keeping my fucking eyes peeled. Gearing up for year three of the Housecore Horror Film Festival, which is always very trying in the early stages, but right now we got a fantastic team around us, and they’re kicking a whole shitload of ass while the rest of us work back out on the road.

WVRockscene: Running Housecore Records, in this digital age, there are pros and cons. In a recent interview, Fat Mike of NOFX talked about running Fat Wreck Chords, and exposing and helping out bands he likes, but said it almost feels like the thrill is gone, or at least the immediacy of the Internet and all these bands at your fingertips takes something away from the experience of finding out about new bands at shows. Being now 47-years old, being old enough to remember the pre-Internet days, how do you see your role at Housecore?

Anselmo: You pretty much laid out the foundation for it all in your description. There are pros and cons. There are differences between today and pre-Internet, and all that shit, you know, the good old days, of having, you know, early 80’s, and well into the 90’s, being a music fan, and actually having to get off your ass and chase music down, whether it be demos, or just checking weekly in the underground music section, just to see what’s out there, reading fanzines, shit like that.

It’s completely different today, where basically, running a label is a big time labor of love. Records are stolen left and right, by everybody. And, for musicians, and I can definitely speak for musicians, you know, we know that in order to make a fuckin’ buck these days, you gotta get off your ass and get out there and hump it, and play fucking shows. We get that.

That’s why, with Housecore, we look for those bands that are lifers, that are willing to get in a fucking van and hump it for a while. You know – get out there and tour! Play for people, and take risks! Because, right now, your paycheck ain’t comin’ from album sales, physical sales, anymore. People talk about vinyl making a comeback and all that shit, and to a certain degree, it’s true. We believe in it. We do vinyl everything. Am I blown away by the sales of it? Not really. But I do see the interest, and it’s interesting that people are wanting to have this physical copy of anything at all in their hands today.

And, I’m not going to distinguish between what I think a real music fan is, you know? Someone who actually buys a record and supports the bands that they like, or people who steal music and still love the music but will come out to a show and buy a t-shirt. You know, that’s a tough water to navigate for me. Of course, I’d definitely prefer that people buy every album that they fucking goddamn well have stolen (laughs).

Because, I’m gonna tell you what, there’s eventually, well, you reap what you sow. This movement of stealing music is going to backfire bigtime on people, and in ways that they’re not prepared for. And I can’t wait for that day. I’m not gonna give away any secrets, but I will say that day is comin’.

Also, when you do something like this, the way I think about things, it’s like, heavy metal, and extreme music, really, has been so kind to me my entire fuckin’ life. I’ve had a lot of success through hard work and have made great fans – without the fans, you’re zero. So, you know, I think it’s very natural to want to give back, and help out up and coming bands I do like, and let it be known that they definitely have my stamp of approval, and I got their backs.

Even non-Housecore bands, like the guys in Portal, or Deathspell Omega, you know, extreme bands that I have complete respect for, outside of the bands on my label, I’m gonna support ‘em, you know? Because I like ‘em and I think they’re worth the time and definitely worth the effort of listening to, because you hear something new every time you listen to it. These are bands that are very much lasting to me, you know?

I find great inspiration in all places; of course, everything from The Beatles to Black Sabbath, to Merciful Fate, to Slayer to Morbid Angel, and the young innovators within sub-genres, and I’ve already mentioned two of ‘em, Portal and Deathspell Omega, they’re different genres, but still innovators nonetheless.

I don’t know. I’m a fan, man. I’m a music fan through and through. Fuck it, it’s what I know best, next to boxing and horror movies. And, at 47, I don’t think I’m gonna be challenging for the heavyweight title anytime soon. So, I think I’ll stick to discussing horror films, discussing boxing, and I’m gonna continue to keep making music, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
WVRockscene: You’ve mentioned how kind metal and extreme music has been to you over the years. Looking back on the nearly 30 years that have passed since you were brought into Pantera, how, given how hard you’ve worked, and you mentioned that, how lucky do you feel looking back at that one break, that has given you this life?
Anselmo: Well, that’s a pretty broad stroke. But, straight to the point, I feel extremely blessed, you know? Not everybody gets as lucky as I got. Right now I’m a free agent. That’s how I view myself these days. I can do pretty much anything I fuckin’ wanna do. There’s no strict schedule. There ain’t no one gonna get me out there with six straight months of touring, or shit like that. No fuckin’ way.
I’ve literally broke my fuckin’ back, literally ripped my knees apart, I’ve destroyed the skeleton inside my skin for this shit called extreme music. And there’s no regrets, except for the everyday, chronic pain I feel from the abuse, I guess, of just being on that fuckin’ stage my entire life. But you just deal with it, you know? There’s pain that goes around the entire world. Fuck it. Mine ain’t any more significant than anyone else’s.
But I feel very, very blessed, and the fact that I can put together a project and can see even a small contingency of people enjoy what I do? That’s a blessing. When I look at other contemporaries, or people before me, even, and you listen to their voices, and they have this distinct voice, and you know it’s them when you hear it, I think that’s a sign of success. And I think I’ve got that quality of voice, that when people hear it, they’re like, ‘Fuck, that’s Anselmo!’
However, there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t released that is very different than most people would be used to, to a certain degree. Eventually, when I go and release everything it’s gonna trup some people out, and let ‘em realize that, um, I’m a diverse motherfucker, and not just heavy metal music, or hardcore music. I think heavy music doesn’t need distorted guitars and shit like that. There’s all sorts of heavy music out there. Some classical music is heavy as fuck. I’ve tried to touch on those, and bands that have influenced me over the years, and you still want that heavy edge, whether it’s the lyrics, or just the atmosphere or the tonality, depending on the project.
WVRockscene: Musicians and artists talk about the catharsis of writing and/or performing. Given the pain you’ve endured physically and emotionally, over the years what kind of solace has writing lyrics offered you?
Anselmo: The world is large. Topics are many. There’s more out there than religion. There’s more out there than politics, and there’s more out there than social statements. Case in point: on my first solo record, most of it was about me going fucking bananas in my own fuckin’ bedroom. I wanted to write about something that was one hundred thousand percent real, and not just supposition.

Like, Satanism, or nationalism, or politics. There are all kinds of bands that have done that, and done it better than me, you know? Fuck it. Why should I fuck with it? Plus, half of it is fake anyway, the religious part, if you ask me. It’s like ‘Ehh,’ (sighs disgustedly) – it’s boring, you know? Can you play your instrument? That would be nice.
But either way, writing lyrics, some shit I’ve written in the past, I hate it of course. It sucks. But to someone else, it may be the best thing they like about my style. Lyrics are for everybody, and when I say that, when I write lyrics, definitely don’t try to zero in on one particular topic, really, for one song. It’s all about the song and the flow of the song: what would give that song its own personality? Its own train of strength to make that song the best song possible. But I love to leave that bit of room in there, open for interpretation.

Take a song like “This Love” by Pantera: that could mean a million things to a million different people, and that’s fantastic. That’s how I prefer it.

So, lyrics, like I say: ehh, love ‘em, hate ‘em, take ‘em, leave ‘em, to some people it’s great, to some it’s hogwash, so guess what? You can’t please everybody all the time, so fuck it, you may as well write what you feel like writing.

WVRockscene: In your interview with Graffiti Magazine, you talked about your enduring friendship with Superjoint bandmate Jimmy Bower. How special is it to have Superjoint back and share this experience with your good friend, after all these years?

Anselmo: Considering how deep we were both – and you have to lump Kevin Bond in there – there was a great contingency of my old friends who lived on the edge, so to speak. The mere fact that we’re all alive makes me glorious and deliriously happy. And the mere fact that we’ve learned our lessons and came back from it stronger than ever, and, can cope, and, can talk and be comfortable with one another, is priceless.

Because, a great case in point would be, uh, Pantera. What broke Pantera was lack of communication. I was guilty of it. They were guilty of it. Both sides were guilty of it. And, bingo, sure enough, we broke up and ended up on bad terms. And we ain’t the first band, and we ain’t gonna be the last band that happens to.

So, any advice I would give to up and comers, would be speak freely, you know? And the guys that can’t take criticism, probably shouldn’t be there to begin with. It’s best learning that early in the game than later in the fucking game, down the road, and you have to tell somebody “You’re not pulling your fucking weight,” and he becomes a crybaby, and wants to quit and go home, and you’re stuck out there with your fucking thumb up your ass.

Be up front right off the bat. Speak your mind right off the bat. Talk it out like human beings are able to, you know? We have this fantastic gift as humans called reason. We should all be able to sit down and hash things out, civilly and democratically, and with the ability to, and, I hate this word, compromise.

Because, if you’re doing something that is, I guess, stepping on the toes of one of your bandmates, or upsetting them in some weird way that you’re not aware of, and they let you know about it, you gotta have part of your heart where you say, “Oh, holy shit! Pardon me, sir, it won’t happen again,” and move on. It’s like, you gotta have that open mind.

Fuck it, man. I think being straight with each other is fantastic, and I think that’s something that me, and Jimmy, and Kevin, and, look here man, the very brutal honesty of all of this is, I got a 25-year old drummer, little “Blue” Jose Manuel Gonzalez, he might be the most mature fuckin’ guy I’ve met. (laughs) He’s bone sober and has a good head on his shoulders. He’s a father, and he’s got his priorities right. And I can’t say enough about Steve [Taylor] my bass player. He’s a hard worker, and he’s a damn good songwriter, and a great musician.

The group, you know, we get along very well. It’s stunning. The same can be said about Down. Like a lot of bands, you go through lineup changes, and stuff like that, different, uh, chapters in life, shit like that. You gotta respect that, and if you wanna keep the band going, that’s up to the band, and it’s up to you, individually, as well.

But, if you find the right guys to fill some hefty shoes, then, not only are you lucky, but you also probably reignited the band’s energy level, you know, with the infusion of new guys and new influences.

WVRockscene: Whether it’s Superjoint losing a decade to internal disputes, or Pantera/Dimebag/metal fans being robbed due to an unspeakable evil, do you feel like you’ve lost time or you have been robbed of something you love?

Anselmo: No, I don’t think I’ve lost time. I’m the kind of person, I will take the time to mourn the loss of a fallen comrade. But, I’ll also remember that fallen comrade would’ve wanted me to continue on, and keep fightin’. Keep on puttin’ those fuckin’ feet forward and movin’ forward. And, I’m a forward movin’ motherfucker.

So, really, when Pantera ended, for me, it was probably time we needed a break, anyway. If Dimebag was alive, do I think Pantera would’ve continued? Absolutely. I think we would’ve put our differences aside a long time ago, and continued on for as long as we felt like it.

I can say the same thing about Superjoint. When we broke up and called it a day, it was time. I was exhausted, man. I was dealing with Dimebag’s death. I needed a fucking break. I needed back surgery. I needed knee surgery. I needed to get my brain back together. I needed all kinds of shit; therapy, mentally and physically, you know?

When you do that, it makes you a better person, in one way or another. I would never call that lost time. I would call that recharging the battery for the next chapter in life. So, no, I don’t feel like it’s lost time. I feel like it’s life. And, I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to lose somebody dear, and close, in my life.
Hopefully (pauses) – hey, it’s gonna happen to everybody, whether it be a parent, a brother or a sister, or a best friend, you’re gonna lose somebody along the way. I just hope that people can remember, that, you know, life does still go on, and, there are ways to cope.
You might not understand, you know, all the mysteries of life, but does anybody have all the fuckin’ answers? No, they don’t. Not everybody has all the perfect fuckin’ answers to life. Human beings are very complex creatures, and everybody sees the world a different way, you know? Everybody wants different things out of life.
There’s a lot of variables there, and there’s no way one person can sum it up perfectly, unless, uh, there ain’t no way anybody can sum it up perfectly, unless you just want to say “Live and let live,” and we’ve seen that before, and does it work? No, it doesn’t, because people have different ideas of what live and let live is on top of that shit. (laughs hard)
So, you know, I say do your fuckin’ best. That’s what I say. Do your goddamn best, today, to better yourself, to better the people around you. Take care of your own. Fuck, always be open to makin’ new friendships, and listening to people, and trying to understand instead of combat immediately if it doesn’t jive with what you’ve been thinkin’, you know?
Because, there’s a lot of different ways to look at things. There’s a lot of very intelligent people out there, way more so than myself, that I find very interesting, and I’ve learned from. Hopefully a little bit every day. That’s my thing: just do your best you can today and tomorrow and next week, next month, and next year. Fuck it.

WVRockscene: Looking back on all these years, how special has it been to not only share being in a band with your friends, but meeting and sharing it with your fans? To be able to bring Superjoint, like you said, into these smaller more intimate venues?
Anselmo: I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it. I look forward to meeting people, man. The fans, I find that, I learn something from them. When fans get past the fact that, this rock and roll guy they have enjoyed for many years, then they realize I’m pretty much a just a regular guy, and we have similar tastes and shit.
Dude, I’m easy to please: for me, it’s music, boxing and horror movies. Great, let’s start talkin’. You know, I can learn about a new band, fighters, movies, anything, out of meeting new people, and being open with the audience.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the term rock star, unless it really applies. And, it’s normally a pretty negative connotation when I use it, at best. The way I feel, man, I just feel like a music fan, myself. That’s how I’d prefer to be seen, whether people want to put me on this oddball pedestal or not. I think, once you meet me, you would probably, you know, just consider me a damn fun, damn fine acquaintance.
That would be a lot better for me. (laughs) If you meet somebody one time, and you have a conversation with them, you can still enjoy their fuckin’ music and whatnot, just realize some of us are really just down to Earth motherfuckers.
Man, I could go into the truth of it all. Like, some of the nicest people I’ve ever fuckin’ met, you know, would be Black Sabbath, Ronnie Dio included – maybe one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life.
So, are they stars? Fuckin’ Black Sabbath? Hell yes they are, in their own way. But are they rock stars? They most certainly, uh, don’t conduct themselves with this air of being untouchable or unapproachable.
They’re some of the nicest people. The truth is, they’re some of the people I like to model myself after, instead of, the dicks in this business? Yeah, they exist, for sure.

--- Superjoint performs Sunday, July 19 at The V Club in Huntington with special guests King Parrot, Child Bite, and Byzantine.

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