Extreme intentions – an interview with Philip Anselmo

By Melanie Falina
Originally published July 14, 2013

There are a myriad of images that come to mind at the mention of New Orleans vocalist Philip Anselmo.
The most prominent of which being Pantera – songs like “Walk” and “Cowboys from Hell” have become very poignant anthems in the lives of many metal heads. Pantera remains among the grand-daddies of influential American metal bands with a timeless sound and vibe, and can still kick the butt of not only many of their original peers, but also the heavy hitters of today.

Down and Superjoint Ritual – another couple Anselmo projects each having earned their own respect and followings, each one a force to be reckoned with. And then there are the other projects of Anselmo’s from Arson Anthem to Christ Inversion, from Southern Isolation to Eibon to Viking Crown.

Anselmo’s tireless and unrelenting creative juices combined with his ability to express himself in an array of musical styles that range from metal to thrash to punk have made him somewhat of an artistic chameleon. Madonna’s got nothing on Philip Anselmo.

And now, as a further testament to creative expression, Philip Anselmo is releasing his first ever solo effort, Walk Through Exits Only. Due out on July 16, 2013, Walk Through Exits Only is a ferocious, eight-song release that will rip the air out the lungs of even the most jaded metal music fans around.

Phil Anselmo - Walk Through Exits Only (2013)With this being Anselmo’s first official “solo” album, was the recording procedure any different for this project than the albums he’s recorded with Down, Superjoint Ritual, and other bands? What was the difference in approach?

“Every record is different in its approach,” explains Philip Anselmo. “With Walk Through Exits Only I wanted to create an extreme record without having to absolutely borrow from the past, as in follow tradition completely. I wanted an ugly sounding product at the end of the day. Not some glossy, ‘modern’ sounding effort. And in my opinion, there are figurehead bands within the underground that can’t be touched, so there was no way I was going to imitate them. But I wanted a record that could hang with them as far as extremities go, but with a different approach, both musically and lyrically. This, I did have the final say so over without debate.”

What is it that dictates the musical direction for Anselmo when working on new music?

“It’s all about mood. Creating any type of art is all about mood. I’ve been making extreme music in one fashion or another for decades. And truthfully, Down has a big enough fan base to where I could remain content to do only that, but music is a vast territory and I am an explorer. And I’m a lover of all things considered extreme in music. Therefore, this LP was made with very organic intentions.”

Anselmo then adds about this release:

“I didn’t need to do it, I wanted to.”

Was there a certain message or feeling that Anselmo wanted to convey with the songs on Walk Through Exits Only?

“As I mentioned before there are some excellent bands within the underground/extreme music that I consider leaders. After that, if there is no innovation within genres or sub-genres, bands that are compelled to create music based on the leader’s work becomes somewhat boring, or redundant. I wanted to break the mold both in song structure and lyrical approach. Don’t get me wrong, I love songs devoted to Satan, Cthulhu, death, murder etcetera, but aren’t those topics a bit tired outside of a handful of bands? They are for me, from a creativity perspective. I didn’t want to be part of any other genre’s clubhouse, so to speak. I am a rebel of sorts; a rebel of realism within my music, definitely influenced lyrically by great hardcore bands in the past that speak of true subjects, like Agnostic Front and Discharge, etcetera.”

With Anselmo being so good at creating music with different sounds and vibes, is there anything musically that he has not done yet that he’d still like to?

“I have created hours upon hours of different music over the years that the general public has never heard. Maybe one day I’ll release them all in one big package, but we’ll see. I’ve delved into all acoustic sessions, atmospheric sessions, sessions with Danny Lohner (former NIN guitarist), and many others. One day, perhaps, all these songs/projects will see the light of day. I adore the lo-fi four-track cassette demos I’ve done in the past as well, so there has been a lot of ground covered. Time will tell what music I might release next, especially if I’m excited enough about the genre to do so.”

In a relatively short period of time Anselmo has created a lot of great music and been in awesome and huge bands, but he’s also had some rocky experiences in life and known great physical pain and struggles. What does Anselmo think is the most important lesson that life has taught him thus far?

“I think being honest with my fan base has really worked for me. I loathe rock stars. I am a music nerd, a fan, a follower… just like any fan of music might be. And although I have blood-relatives, a lot of times I feel closer to my audience than my true family, because at least my fans get what I’m doing, to a certain extent, whereas my family does not. Communication between band-mates is imperative. Communication is the key to any healthy relationship.

If I need to be checked, I expect to hear it put in plain words what my faults are, and give my band-mates the ultimate consideration by shutting-up and listening, then acting on the advice given. Same goes for anyone else in any band. There is absolutely no room for egos when it comes to being real with an important subject. Sit down, shut up, listen and learn. And never be afraid to speak up if you see a problem! If something seems out of place, address it, because no one else is gonna do it for you.”

Music aside, Philip Anselmo is not only a huge sports enthusiast but a devoted fan of his home team, the New Orleans Saints. Does Anselmo see the Saints making it to the Super Bowl this coming season?

“Ahhhhhh… a trick question! Honestly, after last season (Saints were 7-9 with the most abysmal defense ever), I’d be very surprised to see us even crack the playoffs. The NFC is getting tougher and tougher in general… just look at the NFC-West…. so to answer your question, no, I don’t think we’ll be seeing the Saints in the big game this year, and our window is closing rather quickly and furiously with Drew Brees getting older, as well as our wide receivers and offensive line. People can debate our defense all day long, but I’m actually worried about our offense this year just as much!”

Philip Anselmo and his band, The Illegals, will be playing Chicago’s House of Blues on Sunday, August 4, 2013

Additional tour dates are listed below:

JULY 2013
31 Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, OK
2 Wooly’s, Des Moines, IA
3 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
4 House of Blues, Chicago, IL
6 House of Blues, Cleveland, OH
7 The Intersection, Grand Rapids, MI
9 Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI
10 Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ONT Canada
11 Heavy MTL Festival, Montreal, QC Canada
13 The Palladium, Worcester, MA
14 Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park, NY
16 Best Buy Theatre, New York, NY
17 Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA
18 The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD
20 The Masquerade – Heaven Stage, Atlanta, GA
22 Tipitina’s – New Orleans, LA

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