Phil Anselmo of Arson Anthem & Down
After dominating the metal/hardcore scene over two decades with an array of high-profile projects, Philip Anselmo’s taking his new role as label head as serious as a heart attack – but don’t head down the Housecore Records path looking for the next Pantera.
Standing as the definitive collection of Anselmo’s side projects from past to present, Housecore Records represents a genre-bending collection of artists that stretch far beyond the influence of the CEO’s musical legacy. After a breakout year in 2010 with releases from new artists like haarp and Sursiks, this year will see an upping of the musical ante on all fronts, including a new solo project from Anselmo, as well as the possibility of the first new Eyehategod album in a decade.
Arson Anthem‘s latest release, Insecurity Notoriety, was released on Housecore Records in October to critical acclaim. Brought together in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the power-punch supergroup that is Arson Anthem features Anselmo, Hank Williams III (Assjack, Hank III), Mike Williams (Eyehategod, Outlaw Order) and Collin Yeo. The band is embarking on a six-date show trek this week with fellow Housecore Records artists haarp and Warbeast.
After digging deep with haarp frontman Shaun Emmons last week to get his perspective on the Housecore family and the upcoming tour, this week we set our sights on the Housecore king himself, Philip Anselmo. Through our conversation, it became clear that Anselmo’s hit a solid stride of motivation, and 2011 is going to begin some crushing new chapters for the Housecore community.
It’s been just under a year since we last talked, and a lot of things have been put into motion since then…
Thank goodness for that, man.
The Arson Anthem record is getting some good press. It seems to be everything fans hoped it would be and more, but I think I blasted out a few frequencies in the eardrums. I think it might’ve been "Crippled Life" – I had headphones on, and they were turned way up. I wasn’t ready for that screeching solo of yours.
(Laughs) I know that motherfuckin’ solo perfect too. I actually do, note for fucking note. You’d be surprised.
How do you retain those little things, with all the projects you’ve got running? Is it just a matter of repetition?
You gotta get back into it, for sure. Because we’d written that stuff a long time ago, and we always need that little window of space to be able to do any shows. Hank had a little time off, so you launch yourself back into it… but once you do, people’s style picks back up and you find your place pretty quick. I’m pretty good with that right now, as far as knowing all those songs.
How’s the Housecore kingdom these days?
Things are coming around, man. There’s always room for improvement or things that need improvement, but we’re doing good, man. Just trying to make everything better day by day, just fuckin’ keep it real.
The last time we talked, you were excited about some new Eyehategod material you were trying to get the guys to get moving on. Back then you dropped the news that Jimmy Bower was writing some new riffs.
Yeah, and guess what? I’m still waiting (laughs)… still fuckin waiting man. Still waiting! What the fuck is he waiting for?! The world is his oyster. Let’s have a record out of you assholes (laughs). Not yet.
There’s a hot-button issue that’s been messing with my head that I’d like to get your thoughts on. In the wake of this Arizona shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of all those people, Rush Limbaugh went out and said that the shooter’s insane, and it’s clear because he listens to heavy metal, among other things.
If Rush Limbaugh said something about the idea that someone murdered someone or is crazy because they listen to heavy metal, that’s a kneejerk reaction. And from me especially, because motherfucker I create heavy metal and I don’t have a murderous fuckin’ bone in my body. Nothing that’s gonna fuckin’ take me somewhere and take the coward’s way out. He’s out of his mind. I think that’s about the most shallow view you could possibly take. I think you really need to take a look at what ignited some stupid motherfucker to do something like this.
Obviously it’s a lot more than heavy metal. I don’t know what the guy was listening to, but it wouldn’t matter if he was listening to tapes of Osama Bin Laden preaching the goddamn jihad. Look at the guy first, don’t look at the music. He’s out of his fuckin’ mind. Fuck Rush Limbaugh.
Looking through the history of damnation of heavy metal music or rock music in general, it falls in line with Marilyn Manson being blamed for Columbine and so many more incidents that preceded it…
Even before that it was kids committing suicide and it getting blamed on Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne’s been through this whole thing too. As a matter of fact, there’s been some isolated Pantera fuckin’ events where kids have done certain things and they were caught and they were wearing Pantera shirts. People were alarmed and what-not, but I mentioned Ozzy and Rob Halford from Judas Priest actually went to court and spoke in an extremely sane way – he took the stand on behalf of all of us, before any of us had been blamed. At least ten years before all that blame really took off. But Rob Halford almost singlehandedly enlightened the court system to the fact that you cannot tie insanity, murder or anything into music people listen to. So Rob Halford definitely deserves a pat on the back for that one.
It’s being fabricated once again, but with people like that the entirety of the conversation is made to set fires.
I’d love to sit across from Rush Limbaugh and have him try to prove me crazy. I’m absolutely fucking craaaaazy, but I’m not stupid. You can love any kind of music and still use judgement, you stupid motherfucker.
So moving on, how do you maintain the empire of Housecore, being damn near family with all these cats? There’s obviously different tax brackets in play, and different life priorities at the moment – how does it all gel?
One day at a time, brother. I get a lot of help from my lady Kate – I tell everybody, she is the brains, she is the machinery, just leave all the dumb musician stuff to me and we’ll be fine. As long as everybody who’s helping here at Housecore knows their spot, the bands that we work with are great, they know their place, and we all work together. Sure, a lot of times it’s my deal to keep peace amongst bands, to make sure everybody’s conscience is clear, because you’re married to your bandmates. You are, by all rights and means.
So there’s this combustible relationship, but in the end, all of what could be called anger is really love. Too much passion for what you do. So I understand this, so if there’s a band dispute, I take it upon my shoulders to at least try to iron things out. Once the voice of reason comes through and people hear a different outside opinion, which could be maybe mine, maybe Kate’s maybe someone else within the organization just trying to pull everything together, things generally work out. I’m around a great group. I’m lumping all my bands in – not just my bands, but the bands I work with as well. Everybody wants the best for their band, so they give their best. So it’s my job to keep that morale up. I want to keep these people happy, and like I said, I enjoy what I do. So it’s a one day at a time thing – if a problem arises, we all fight together.
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That sense of family definitely comes across. I was talking to Shaun yesterday from haarp while you were sleeping just a few feet away….
He’s here right now, next door at the studio filling out orders. Put it that way. We live this shit, and we’re family.
Exactly. He and I were discussing how daunting that unified force can be to outsiders, specifically people you might consider competitors in the scene.
We are a tight-knit thing, and from day one I never wanted this big giant roster for the sake of band names. For the sake of one band after the next. I did the compilation record because there’s certain bands that yes, I do want to work with. Take Exactly Violentstyle from Japan. If you look at our compilation record they’re on there, and they’re this grindcore band that’s fucking insane. I haven’t put out a full length EVS record yet, but we still keep in touch, you know? We still look out for ’em. There’s a band from Lansing, Michigan named Cavalcade who I love, man. We may do business later this year, but as for right now, we support them 100%. So yeah, you’ve already mentioned the comradery and family values that we do have here… you don’t see all that with other labels. You really, really don’t.
I remember back when I was working with one of my bands that I’m not working with anymore, it’s really not important who it was, but Pepper from Down was at one of the gigs, and he comes up to me at the side of the stage. I’d been watching and jamming with ’em and stuff, and he comes up and he’s like, "Man, wouldn’t it be nice if the head of Down’s record label would come out and watch us and jam with us like this?" It just doesn’t happen really often. But man, this shit just comes so natural to me that I can’t help but have some fun, too.
It seems necessary to maintain a lighter attitude with so much intensely serious material being laid down, to keep pressure from building too high.
To have any time of success… you can go into the studio, and everybody can be serious as fuckin snakes, and the next thing you know, there’s bad feelings in the room, there’s not a good chemistry. I like to keep things light. Mixing records sometimes can be a serious, stressful thing. I’ve been through this shit so many times. I’ve done so many recordings, I’ve been in the studio half my fuckin’ life. I know how to behave. I know when I see someone else slam their guitar down and walk out of the room, I know what they’re going through. So I take it upon myself to go have a talk with them, to let ’em know look man, you’re not the first one, you won’t be the last one, and let me tell you this funny story or whatever – I lighten the fuckin’ situation up. Not to mention I’ve got a crazy sense of humor, so it’s kind of like oh shit, let’s put up with Phil. But later on, they see. They get the method to my madness.
You’re doing a Crime Film Panel with Corey Mitchell and others at SXSW, which will also boast Hart D. Fisher, Ami Canaan Mann and John McNaughton, the man behind “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”.
Yeah, I am. I sure am. Lookin’ forward to that one, because it’s a step outside the musical comfort zone, but right into something else I’ve always had a love for.
It’s not your first dance with horror, either, after the column you did for BloodyDisgusting. You reached all the way back to Curse of the Demon, which was from what, 1957? Would you do something like that again?
Yeah, I did some columns for BloodyDisgusting, but I almost felt like maybe I pushed it a little too far. The last film that I reviewed was called Who Could Kill a Child? And they kind of buried it right away…. maybe it was too extreme, I dunno. I didn’t know there was such a thing, so I’m not sure. But I’m friends with those cats, I’m happy to write up some new stuff for sure. That’s no problem at all.
What’s the climate like with these three bands, building up to these shows? 6 shows, Arson Anthem, Warbeast and haarp. Is the limited number strictly due to Hank’s availability, or lack thereof?
It’s pretty small comparatively, where Pantera would tour for 300 days out of the year or Down, where we toured two years straight. So we’re looking at a smaller sort of approach here, but we’re really looking forward to these outings, man. To answer your question in full truth about Arson and why it is like it is, we only get Hank for a certain amount of time because he’s busy doing his own thing, and we all respect that. So we’re going to make the most of it and squeeze the most out of it that we can. We’re gonna get his ass behind the fuckin’ drums, like I need him to be, and we’re gonna do those fuckin’ gigs, man, because Hank’s awesome. Really, really great drummer, man. Great musician, great guy to be around. Very well-rounded.
It’s a great opportunity, I’m glad we’re able to do this, and really I thank Hank for sure, because he doesn’t have to do this. But he does it, you know? It comes from his heart and I appreciate it. I appreciate all the people, and I appreciate the opportunity. I hope folks come out to the fuckin’ shows, man, cause it’s gonna be fun.
Yeah, we’re hurting for some action out West. Maybe this little blast of shows can get an itch going for more.
Here in the next few months we might know some more. I’d love to take Arson Athem around to some major cities. Fuck, I’d like to go to goddamn Europe. So we’ll see what happens in the neat future, but this six-gig run seems like a good start for the year.
Speaking of this year, fans have been eager for news on Down IV, but I hear there’s not been a lot of time for that….
Yeah. Man, there will be a time for Down. Matter of fact we had a meeting this past week, and I know Jimmy’s gotta go do an Eyehategod tour in February. But after that, I think we’re looking to do some shows starting in March. Maybe local around here, maybe even some Mardi Gras gigs. But yeah, last week we sat around and they played me some new stuff they’re working on, and it sounds good. Sounds like it’s got a lot of promise, and really they just need me in the fuckin’ practice room. So all this is going to happen this year. It has to happen. I know there’s a responsibility here. Down has a fanbase and they are very very very loyal. So I don’t want to let those people down. They deserve some new music, we have it. We’ve demoed other songs, there’s songs that haven’t even been released that people have never heard, so there’s always Down there. For all you people out there, don’t you stress. We got the Down coming.
The last time we talked you mentioned some newer, more aggressive material you’ve been working on that could be a figrehead, a little spearhead for Housecore. That’s the ultimate fuckin’ plan, you said.
Yeah! I’m also working on a new solo record, and that’s another important thing to me. I’ve got my main man David "The Puma" Troia works on all the Housecore releases with me as normally the engineer, he’s going to be co-producing this record with me because he’s a great, great motherfucker that’s been my right-hand man for a long, long time. He’s got his due, he’s a fantastic idea man and right now he’s going through all the drums that we laid for all the tracks. He’s tightening that end of it up. Every little open space I have in my life I’m going to be working on this stuff. And I really do expect to release this in one form or another is release this this year. I think what I’m gonna do is release some 7" splits with a couple of my bands, sneak it out little by little that way, and lead it up to the full-length. It’s good to give people a taste here and there, let ’em know what they’re getting into. That’s the plan, and we’re all on the same page. I can’t say it’s like that every fuckin day (laughs), but today it is. And that means it’s a good fuckin’ day.
When you were teasing it last time, the two words you used were "fucking deadly".
Oh yeah. It is, too. I’m so happy and proud of what this new product is, everything down to lyrics, down to riffs, down to ideas. I think it’s a fresh breath. A new injection that’s been long missing.
Arson Anthem / Warbeast / haarp dates are as follows:
Jan. 25 – Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero
Jan. 26 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
Jan. 27 – New Orleans, LA @ The Hangar
Jan. 28 – Forth Worth, TX @ Rail Club (VIP tickets sold out)
Jan. 29 – Fayetteville, AR @ Drifters
Jan. 30 – Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
Keep up with all things Housecore at the official Housecore Records site.