Philip Anselmo – Technician of Distortion

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True metalheads most likely need no introduction to the name . He was, of course, the voice of one of heavy metal’s most legendary bands, the “Cowboys from Hell”, Pantera. However, as there are surely some metal newbies out there, a brief rock history lesson may be necessary.

Philip Anselmo, Brazil, April 2013The backbone of Pantera was founded in 1981 by brothers Vincent (drums) and Darrell (guitar) Abbott, later to be known simply as Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell. Soon vocalist Terry Glaze and bassist Rex Brown joined the crew. Dressed in spandex, for the first few years Pantera was actually a glam metal band; a far cry from what would be their signature sound in later years.

Around 1987, Terry Glaze was let go from the band and soon, young New Orleans native Phil Anselmo came into the picture

Pantera’s first album with Anselmo, Power Metal, was released in 1988. While Anselmo’s vocals were much heavier and harder-hitting than Glaze’s, there was still a hint of glam and spandex to Pantera at this point. However, the Pantera that we know today was evolving and in 1990 the band released Cowboys from Hell, which is now considered their “official” debut album, despite the fact that it was actually their fifth release. Exit the spandex, enter the Abbott brothers’ hard charging guitars and drums, and Anselmo’s harsh screaming vocals and also a tremendous vocal range, featured on the seven minute track Cemetery Gates. Their style was dubbed by the band as “power groove.”

1992’s Vulgar Display of Power, featuring Walk and This Love was another metal masterpiece and is listed on numerous “Best of” lists.1994’s Far Beyond Driven earned the band their first Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance and ended with a cover of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan.

During this time it is said that Anselmo began behaving strangely and distancing himself from the band. Due to intense back pain, the frontman began to numb himself with alcohol and then eventually heroin. Anselmo also began a supergroup side project called Down, featuring members of Crowbar, Eyehategod, Corrosion of Conformity, and Pantera of course, and they released their first album in 1995.

The Great Southern Trendkill was released in 1996, despite increasing band tension, with Anselmo recording his vocals in New Orleans while the rest of the band recorded in Texas.

Following a performance in July of 1996, Anselmo overdosed on heroin, surprising his bandmates, whom he apologized to the next night. Due to constant touring, it took four years for Pantera to release their next studio album, but they were able to release a live album in 1997. All of the members ventured into side projects before returning to the studio in 1999.

What has now become Pantera’s final album, Reinventing the Steel was released in 2000 and the band performed together for the last time the following year, though at the time they did not realize this would be their last show.  Once again, Anselmo took some time with side projects, such as Down and Superjoint Ritual. Pantera officially called it quits in 2003 and it was most definitely not an amicable breakup, with a war of words in the media. The Abbott Brothers formed a new band, Damageplan. While playing in Columbus, Ohio on December 8, 2004, Dimebag was tragically shot and killed on stage. Anselmo was told by Dimebag’s longtime girlfriend, Rita Haney, that he should not attend the funeral. In recent years, Anselmo and Haney have made some progress toward reconciliation.

History lesson complete. While that may not have seemed brief, true fans know that we have barely scratched the surface.

Phil Anselmo -Walk Thru Exits OnlyFast forward to 2013. The past is the past and Phil Anselmo is in a much better place in life now, after having surgery for his chronic back problems in 2005 and knee surgery in 2009. His solo album, Walk Through Exits Only, by Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals, was released on July 16th ( and debuted at number 35 on the Billboard 200 chart) on his own record label, Housecore Records, and he is currently promoting his horror festival that will take place in October. From his New Orleans Housecore office, Phil spoke with Screamer about all of this and more.

Fans are eagerly awaiting Phil’s autobiography that he has been working on with true crime author Corey Mitchell. They will have to maintain their anticipation awhile longer, as the writing is going at a “snail’s pace”, due to Anselmo’s hectic schedule. However, there is another collaboration with Mitchell that will be coming to fruition soon.

The author paid a visit to Anselmo at his New Orleans home to discuss the book and quickly discovered Anselmo’s massive collection of horror memorabilia and extensive library of VHS and DVD horror films. According to Anselmo, “He was blown away. I think it was one of those things where he was like, ‘Man, you should do a horror festival,’ and I was probably distracted at the time and said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Next thing you know, it’s up and running.”

The Housecore Horror Film Festival has grown far beyond what anyone would have imagined and will now be a three-day event in Austin, Texas on October 25-27, featuring more than seventy screenings of full length and short films and documentaries, and nightly concerts from the likes of Down, Crowbar, Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals, Eyehategod, and Warbeast.

“At first, as far as films and bands go, we wanted to do something that was, at least in the beginning, a lot smaller in scale. Then, so many bands and personalities within the movie industry and horror film industry and directors and whatnot started coming out of the woodwork. It was like, wow, all of a sudden we have this event here!” says Anselmo.

Anselmo says that what is most exciting to him about the event is that, “We’ve been receiving submissions from lesser known directors, and under the radar directors who aren’t really known by the public. These are some directors that are really, really striving to do something different with horror films, so for me, it’s like turning a group of friends onto one of my favorite records that I’m into at the time.”

Philip Amselmo - Brazil, April 2013The festival’s website states their mission as this: “We don’t have any high-falutin’ mission to speak of. Our goal is simple– to scare the living crap out of you. We want to provide horror and heavy metal fans a place to congregate amongst thousands of like-minded souls. Watch frightening flicks, thrash out to some serious headbangin’ music, and experience the thrill of a weekend of horror with your fellow fanatics.”

Though he is an enormous fan, and could most likely put something out that would do justice to the horror industry, you won’t be seeing any feature films by Phil Anselmo any time soon. He says, “I’m the type of guy that has no aspiration at all to become a director or an actor or anything like that. I just like watching films. So for me, it’s super encouraging that there are people out there that are really trying something different within the horror genre, so I’m mega excited about that.”

In addition to films and music, festival-goers will also have the chance to take part in Q & A sessions, book signings, and side-show attractions. Brazilian director and actor Jose Mojica Marins, otherwise known as Coffin Joe, will also be making an appearance- his first visit to the United States in nearly 20 years.

While this could turn into a huge yearly event, Anselmo is wary to refer to it that way. “ I’m very, very cautious when I use the word ‘annual’ at all. I’m trying not to do it. I really want to get this first year under the belt. My biggest thing is I want the consumer, the person that buys an actual badge for this thing to come and have a blast. I want the bands and the directors and the special guests and all those people who show up to be a part of the machinery, to have a pleasant experience and a memorable, fun time. And you know, it takes a lot of prep work.”

For more information on the festival, visit http://housecorehorrorfilmfestival.com/

Housecore is also the name of Anselmo’s record label, on which his solo album, Walk Through Exits Only was released. Anselmo produced the album with Michael Thompson and wrote the entire record himself. Recorded in his own studio, Nodferatu’s Lair, the recording was definitely not a quick process, says Anselmo. “It took three years because I was in the middle of producing two separate bands and I was also in the middle of doing the last Down EP, so I was doing this thing in sections, in sessions. It was a lot of stop-start work. There are pros and cons to doing a record like that. Of course you never want to break the momentum, but we had to at certain points. But it also gave us time to reflect and to really listen to what we had.”

Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals made their first appearance on the War of the Gargantuans split with Warbeast earlier this year, with two songs- Conflict and Family, Friends and Associates.

Philip H. Anselmo - 2013Although the album is referred to as a solo project, there are most definitely some other amazing artists working with Anselmo. Guitarist Marzi Montazeri has known Phil since the late 1980, when Dimebag Darrell of Pantera introduced them and they became quick friends. “I’ve always known that Marzi was going to be my guitar player,” says Anselmo, “so this is a long time coming as a project; something that we knew we would do together. He was already there- not just on my radar, but absolutely targeted as a guy to play in the band.”

Marzi may not be a household name, but that could change as people become more aware of his great skill, according to Anselmo. “He’s a great guitar player and that will become more evident after the record is out and time goes by. People will look in hindsight as they realize what a great player he is, if they don’t already see it in front of their faces.”

Finding the perfect drummer wasn’t quite as easy of a decision, however. “I was struggling for a while to really find a drummer- an under the radar drummer. I didn’t want to put another supergroup together. I’ve already done the supergroup thing with Down and other bands.”

During the early stages of the record, Bruce Corbitt, the singer from Warbeast mentioned to Anselmo that he should use Jose Manuel Gonzalez, known as Blue, who is Warbeast’s drummer as well. “Blue started jamming with us when he was very young. He still IS very friggin’ young! But he was 19 when he started jamming with me, so there were a lot of growing pains- a lot of throwing a lot of different time signatures at him and just really teaching that stuff from the ground up,” says Anselmo.

The singer, who was up for Best Vocalist at this year’s Revolver Golden Gods awards, knew exactly what type of drum sound he wanted for this album, and it’s not what anyone would refer to as simple. “I didn’t want speed just for the sake of speed.  I wanted to create rhythmical bursts that created their own type of speed, and in my opinion, in order to do that, there’s a lot besides the footwork,” stated Anselmo. “There’s a lot of hand work and tomtom work that goes into that–not just your average blast beat or something like that.”

Over time, Blue was able to capture the essence of what Anselmo was looking for and impressed Phil with his abilities. “Once he got it- he has this awesome way of adding his own feel to things. Because honestly, he’s truthfully ambidextrous, to where he can do things with his feet that he can do with hands as well and just as fast, which is really really crazy.”

The bass player on the album, Bennett  Bartley, is involved in several other bands and has a day job and was not available for touring, so another player will be joining The Illegals on the road. “On this particular tour, we’re going with a guy named Steve Taylor who works really tight with Marzi and has jammed with him for many, many years.”

Phil Anselmo

Where did the name of the album come from? Anselmo prefers for the listener to make their own interpretations. He says, “I don’t like to spoon feed the listener at all. There are certain lyrics and certain lines on the record that are very tongue in cheek, or sarcastic, or just a different facet of my personality. To me, Walk Through Exits Only, at first was just a powerfully delivered line within a song and I thought that the song title was vague enough to where people could listen to it or read it as a sentence and it could mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. Sometimes I like to be the architect. A lot of times I like for the listener to finish the building so to speak.”

When asked to describe the sound of the eight song album, Anselmo says, “You know, I probably can’t do that as aptly as I can probably two years from now. What I wanted to do was make a record that is just as extreme as anything out there. I wanted it to be the type of record that is very tough to slide into any particular slot or subgenre or whatever. I wanted it to be almost its own type of extreme music. So you know, whether I did that or not, once again that’s going to be something I can say more about after the records out and many months down the line.”

The Technicians of Distortion tour will be hitting the streets on July 31st. Don’t expect a pyrotechnic show or anything of that sort though. “I’m never a big production guy. I’m more traditional. Honestly, I like the music to do the talking, so a lot of the stage dress and shit like that, for my type of music its more of a distraction,” states Anselmo. “Really, its just very raw, sweat, and fucking ugliness up on the stage.”

Phil Anselmo 2What can fans expect from the live show? “I like each show to be very unique unto themselves. I like the availability and spontaneity so each show, in my opinion, will be different from the last show in their own way. So don’t blink. We’re going to do the full record plus the two songs that we did on the split with Warbeast a few months back, and there could be–and I can’t give any of this away–but there could be some blasts from the past, and then there may be some of my favorite songs from growing up interjected within the set.”

Perhaps some Sinead O’Connor? Well, probably not, but Anselmo does have some musical tastes that may be surprising to some hardcore metalheads. He shares, “I listen to everything from, fuck man, the Beatles to the Smiths to  fucking noise bands to fucking black metal, death metal, hardcore… I love it all. Sinead O’Connor, I loved her first record. Music’s a vast world, and I’m not just a metal guy so you know I’m pretty well immersed as far as the ol’ tunes goes.”

So between the Housecore Horror Film Festival, and the Technicians of Distortion of tour, Phil doesn’t have much time for anything else, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. A new Down EP is rumored to be coming in early 2014. We can also expect more from the bands on the Housecore Records label, and Anselmo has also been working as a columnist for the Boxing Insider website, as boxing is another passion of his. And of course, we will continue to wait for that autobiography.

In closing, Anselmo shares,“I’d like to invite everybody out to the shows. It’s going to be a very unique experience and one that you might not see again, so I would say just come out to the fucking shows. Come out to the horror festival. It’s going to be a blast, and buy the record. BUY the record. Illegal downloads are for fucking pussies. You know, if you really want to support bands that you like, then you better put some fucking god damn grub on their damn tables or they ain’t gonna last long.”

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