PHIL ANSELMO GIVES METALSUCKS THE SKINNY ON HOUSECORE RECORDS, ARSON ANTHEM’S FIRST FULL-LENGTH, AND HIS FORTHCOMING AUTOBIOGRAPHY
I know I’ve written this phrase a few times in the past, but rarely is it so true: Phil Anselmo needs no introduction. You know who he is. You wanna read this interview. Period.
I will give you a little taste of the topics Mr. Anselmo and myself recently discussed via phone: his label, Housecore Records, and his upcoming autobiography, which will be co-authored by MetalSucks’ own Corey Mitchell. I did not utter the words “Pantera”or “Dimebag” even once, even after Phil did, because, well, what’s the point? The guy gets asked about Pantera literally all the time. It’s not like I was gonna be the interview where he suddenly slipped-up and revealed some new piece of information.
Luckily for you guys, Anselmo still has a lot to say even when he’s not talking about one of the most famous metal bands of ever. And so without any further bullshit…
Well, it’s been something that we’ve been talking about for years, man. I guess I knew I had a lot of music that I’ve done in the past, and there were some new bands that I’d come across from touring and just knowing people in the business for so long. Basically I thought it was a win-win situation, both for the newer bands having the opportunity to get their stuff out there for people to hear that normally wouldn’t have the chance to hear that music, and also for the fans in general who haven’t heard this music with these other bands that I’ve made… for the collectors, for the fans, for anyone who just needs to hear this stuff. So it’s there for them. It’s for the bands. It’s for the fans. It’s a win-win situation.
Are these bands that you just find through recommendations, or are they bands that you hear on your own? How do you go about your artist selection?
Well, I live in a very musical, prosperous area here in New Orleans. So a lot of bands from around here that are known and established bands and basically believe in what we’re doing here. I got Crowbar, Soilent Green and bands like that. Then there is the new blood like haarp, and you must get the spelling on that correct. It’s all lower cased letters.
Two “A”s. haarp. haarp is a newer band. Having lived in Texas, I also know the guys that are in Warbeast, who are from Dallas – Fort Worth. I’ve known them for years. Then you get submissions, and from submissions there have been a lot of stand out bands. You can’t please everybody and you can’t reach out to all the bands, but through submissions we’ve met up with bands like Exactly Violent Style, who are from Japan, Cavalcade from Michigan, The Sursiks from Detroit. So there are a vast amount of bands that I know of offhand from touring and, also, like I said, people sending in their submissions. It comes both ways.
It’s kind of an interesting time to be going into the record label business, with record sales not being what they used to be.
Yeah, man, I’m not looking for [money]. Believe me, when we started this thing, it was a fact that we knew that no one was going to get rich and fucking famous off this whole deal. It’s more of a service really. It’s a heartfelt thing. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of giving back, man. Extreme music has been kind to me for my entire life, man. It really has… in one form or another, whether it be my successes in bands or just sitting in a fucking car listening to a cassette tape – either way it’s been rewarding. So, just to help the spread of different, new music in a vast world of fucking music out there, hey, it’s the least I can do. And it just feels natural, so fuck it.
It seems like you’re saying that your view of the role of a label in 2010 is to introduce the band to the people. Is that right? Am I interpreting that correctly?
I’m just introducing a new bunch of music for music fans to get into, man. There’s a lot of music out there. A lot of websites and blogs with fantastic music, and I just think that I have a roster of bands – whether I’m involved or not – that people need to hear. I mean really. It’s as simple as that.
So what are you working on now that you’re really excited about? I know you’ve listed a lot of bands to check out, but if there was one or two upcoming Housecore releases that you’re particularly excited about…
One or two. That’s tough, man.
I’d have to say for pure thrash, I would definitely go with Warbeast from Fort Worth. They just wrapped up their first record, Krush the Enemy. It’s total fucking Fort Worth style fucking thrash, man, and these cats play their asses off. It’s Bruce Corbitt, the former singer of Rigor Mortis, singing for the band. The band behind him, I’ve known the guys for years, so I know they’re just monsters on the instruments that they fucking play, man. The guitar players are excellent. That was a fun record. But also going back to haarp, that was another amazing record to do. Two totally different styles, different sounds, I had a hand in production on both records, so that was a challenge in itself. haarp I’m very excited about. Warbeast I’m very excited about. The Sursiks‘ I Didn’t Know I Was Singing record is an amazing fucking record. Definitely not heavy metal, but extreme nonetheless. I can’t say it’s for everybody, but it is for everybody. It’s a musicians band, but it’s also interesting enough to be able to touch all those different emotions – whether happy, sad or whatnot, The Sursiks grab it, man. It’s fucking genius. Then there is Sky High, which is Donovan Punch, former guitar player for Soilent Green. He’s doing something there with his daughter, Azriel, and it’s fucking pretty special.
What else? That’s a bunch, but I don’t want to short change anybody.
Each fucking release is very different, and we’re trying to do it where it’s one extreme vs. the next. Like the new Arson Anthem is coming out this year. I play guitar in that band. Mike Williams from Eyehategod sings. Hank III plays drums. Collin Yeo plays bass. We’ve done an EP that we put out like two years ago, but this is our first full-length that’s coming out this year. That’s hardcore, and on the flipside, at the same time, we’re releasing Disembodied, which is basically a soundtrack for Jim Van Bebber’s film, The Manson Family, which came out in like ’03. There’s a wide variety going on here.
So even though you’re obviously very much associated with metal, that there’s no genre of music that’s off limits to Housecore?
No, not at all really. I doubt that you’re going to hear any hip-hop or trip-hop or whatnot coming out of Housecore, but as far as anything that is different… to go back and reiterate haarp, they’re definitely classified as “metal.” But they transcend the genre. They come up with such different concepts and whatnot. They’re a very different, different band – kind of in their own category, I would say. They play slow, but to call them “a slow band” is absolutely unfair. They’re crushing. They are resolute. It’s a beating. They’re fucking onto something. I just want to make a difference, because there is so much fantastic music out there that goes by the wayside or is only known by a handful of people. The music underground will always be here and always has been here, and thank goodness for that. That’s where the next generation of popular musicians come from, if so allotted with the fucking opportunity of overcoming that. Regardless, difference is what I’m after. Difference and quality.
Yeah, man. Well, first of all, I’m not playing ball like most labels do. Housecore is extremely artist-friendly, almost over the top so. Like I said earlier, we didn’t do this crap for everybody to get rich; we’re doing this because it feels natural, and it’s the right thing to do. This is for the artists. This is for the fans. The bands come first. Their music is theirs. I’m not out to tie their fucking hands. It gets done, and it has been done. When you sign to a major label, you don’t have that freedom to go do something else if you want to do it, even if it’s a band that has no relation to the current band that you’re signed under. With Housecore, of course you have that fucking freedom. If you put out a record with Housecore and you want to turn around and do an ambient project with your fucking dad, then go for it. [laughs] I’m not going to fucking interrupt you. I’m not out to interrupt, man. I’m out to engage.
Where did the name “Housecore” come from? It’s an interesting name…
We started calling our music “housecore” back when I lived in my first house in New Orleans. There were so many musicians at the time, we’re talking the early ’90s, mid ’90s, all through the fucking ’90s, from ’93 on. So many different bands, man, come through and stayed with me. My house was pretty much a party house. Motherfuckers would crash out there, and we didn’t have anything else to do but wake up and play instruments, y’know? The jam room was downstairs, and it got to be so intense, there would be so many different musicians around. There would be one project working, and the next one waiting to get their time slot to go in and fucking do their thing. So we started calling it “Housecore” – and obviously it’s a spin-off of hardcore or any kind of core there is. The reason being because a lot of times I’d be on break from tour with Pantera, so I wouldn’t have anything special to do but play music. I would wake up after being up until six in the morning, and there would be people pounding on the fucking door. I’d roll out of bed, throw on a robe and fucking answer the door. Next thing I know, I got a guitar in my hand, and I’m still in a robe. [laughs] It’s like, Housecore, Jack.
That’s cool. So you said that you’re going to finally do an Arson Anthem full-length this year. Are there any plans for you guys to tour behind that?
No, there are no plans, but it’s definitely not out of the question. I know a lot of people want to see it. I guess it would just have to be the correct situation, because I know Hank [III] is doing a lot of touring this year. But, and I do say “but,” he said something about having some off time in May and that could work really well, especially with the release that we have coming out. If we can do some gigs throughout May, that would be fucking great. I have one Down gig in Europe in May, and other than that, I’m pretty open. Hopefully everybody else is. I know Mike [Williams] has to do Eyehategod, so we’re working around everybody’s schedule, and that’s always how it’s always fucking been. That’s always an obstacle we totally got to overcome, but we’ll do it. I’m sure we’ll do some shows.
Cool. So on a totally unreleated note, I know you’re going to start working on your autobiography soon with a writer that we work with, Corey Mitchell… I was just wondering if you could tell us anything about that and what you have in store for the book.
Well, as opposed to what most people may figure or think or imagine that I’m going to write about, this is not a book that’s in any way, shape or form really like your average rock book. It’s not a pissing contest when it comes to the death of my guitar player. [correcting himself] The murder of my guitar player. Honestly, it’s coming from my perspective of being a guy that has fought through chronic pain his entire career, and what it’s like to be in my situation with all the pitfalls, all the crooked fucking doctors out there, all the things that can go wrong. It’s well documented how many things have gone wrong in my career. So, it’s kind of my take on that, and a lot of the lessons I’ve learned from pain – chronic pain itself. You can win or lose, straight-up. Anyone who deals with chronic pain can attest that it fucking creeps into the mind, y’know?
So do you think that you’ll not be concentrating on your music career at all? Is it going to be more about the chronic pain and less about the music?
There is going to be some [discussion of my music]. If I didn’t talk about some of the music career, I think it would be a little bit of a fucking gyp for the fans. People want to know certain things. Of course, yeah it’s going to be about it, but then again, I’ve been carrying pain around with me since I was 24. I’ve been through major back surgery. I’ve had knee surgery. I broke both my wrists. I’ve broken my ribs twice. All of my fucking fingers, two of my toes, I’ve had a hernia. Man, you name it. I’m like a fucking football player.
Once again, pain comes with every step of my fucking life – chronic pain. There are ways to fight it, and there are ways to submit to it. I’m going to show both sides of that, and hopefully shed some light on the drug world, the evils of the drug world, the helpful drugs, certain doctors, and hopefully shed some light on how you can cope with chronic pain through a regimen and through will power – unabashed, undivided motherfucking will power. There’s a strength there that needs to be untapped. I’m going to give a couple of keys, and it’s up to people to find their own locks and unlock that motherfucker.
So how are you feeling now?
I’m alright, man.
I’m alright. I did re-tweak my back, but it’s just a little protruding disc. I did it punching a bag while I was rehabbing my fucking knee. [laughs] But I’m doing alright, man.
Speaking as a fan, I can say that all of us really appreciate you persevering.
Hey, man, without the people, man, I’d be an asshole. I’d just be nobody, and really, I’m just a music fan myself. I appreciate everybody, man. I really fucking do, man. Everyone out there is fucking great.