Phil Anselmo can easily coast off of the fruits reaped from his time as lead vocalist for one of the biggest metal juggernauts of the past 25 years. Instead, Anselmo’s post-Pantera career has seen him wrangle every non-mainstream drop of musicality that he can possibly consume – see Arson Anthem, Phillip H. Anselmo and The Illegals, Down, and of course, Superjoint (the moniker since shortened from Superjoint Ritual).
Phil’s recently given Superjoint a new lease on life, releasing the band’s third studio album, Caught Up in the Gears of Application, some 13 years after their last output with A Lethal Dose of American Hatred. Superjoint, now consisting of Anselmo and main partner in crime, New Orleans sludge legend Jimmy Bower on guitar, along with original Superjoint participant, guitarist Kevin Bond, sees two members of Anselmo’s Illegals solo band come aboard in bassist Stephen Taylor and drummer Jose Gonzalez. The album is a chaotic blend of unadulterated hardcore, chugging metal grooves, and slapback punk ethos. Tracks like the anger-personified “Today and Tomorrow,” where Phil has no qualms in proclaiming that “Today’s ‘fuck off’ is tomorrow’s ‘fuck you,’” or “Sociopathic Herd Delusion,” where the band spits out a noisy, wide-open groove, are all part of Anselmo’s M.O. at this point, and the album is, appropriately, a sonic chop shop of everything he’s known for, musically.
Anselmo talked to us shortly after Superoint’s album release party/show in Dallas, TX. He seemed genuinely happy about releasing new material with the band, and gave more than an inkling that he’s got nothing short of a flood of music waiting in the pipeline. He also talked openly and honestly about what drives him as a songwriter – every indication is that, at present time, Phil Anselmo’s creative muse is a monster ready to strike hard.
Listening to this new Superjoint record, it’s very much a purge of negative emotion – a violent catharsis, if you will. Tell me a little about how that attitude was harnessed for this record.
Honestly, there was no incredible recipe for it – it’s just us trying to sound, and do like we would have done had Superjoint never disbanded to begin with. You’ve got to take a look at that and understand, that when you take so many years off, and you’re a band made up of other guys from other bands, you have to get back into the spirit of why you created Superjoint in the first place. That was very important to us. We decided to stick with what influenced us – the bands that influenced us, the sounds that influenced us when we were just starting the group, and growing through the two records we’d done. We needed to get to a place where we felt…I don’t know if “acceptable” is the word, but it needed to be, without a shadow of a doubt, a pure Superjoint record. I’m not the best guy in the world to say, “We did it!” I’m going to leave it to all of you music geniuses out there, and critics, and what not. We were just real and honest to the approach and sound of Superjoint.
You had the album’s release party in Dallas not too long ago. I watched some YouTube footage of the band’s performance – you guys seemed hungry and vital on stage that night. What were your feelings on the show?
You know, every time I play Dallas, Texas, it’s like my second home, of course. There was a lot of support out there as well – a big, big thumbs-up to the Dallas and Ft. Worth crew and Superjoint horde, so to speak. I think we were ok – we were fair. The more shows we do, the more pinpoint things will get. There was a lot more material we could have played. So, I can’t sit here and go over bit by bit every aspect of our performance, but I think that we can get better – and we will.
What kind of direction did this record take as you were working on it? Was this one of those records where there are seismic shifts in what you originally intended to do?
Well, that’s never been the case, I guess, when you have a vision for a record – you don’t come out with exactly what you possibly had envisioned. I never do that; it’s always taken one step at a time, and one riff at a time. When you’re gearing up to do a record, you go in with the best ideas possible, and root through a whole bunch of mediocre ideas, and at the end of the day, you hopefully get the best of what you were looking for. I do think that what riffs and what parts, and how we went about this record – it is what it is. And, for god’s sake, we recorded this record over a year ago. I like it, everybody else seems to dig it.
This really sounds like a record that was done live – was that the case?
Much of this was recorded live. We strive to make different sounding records, overall, compared to, say, if you look at today’s biggest bands. We try to be as real as possible – real drum sounds are very important, and go crazy with three guitars. I do play guitar on these records, whereas Kevin Bond – although he’s been a part of Superjoint since the beginning, it was really me and Jimmy (Bower) on the first two records, playing everything. Kevin would always step in live and play my parts – he’s a way superior guitar player than what I am. Creatively, I’m not a good guitar player, so to speak. Having Kevin, myself, and Jim track and balancing it all out – that was interesting. The more real, as far as the records we grew up listening to back in the 80’s – I think that’s what we were going for.
As far as the tracks on this record go, I’d have to say my favorite is “Sociopathic Herd Delusion.” I love that big, messy groove the track has. What stands out on this record for you, musically?
Oh man…that’s a good question. Hmmm…I’ll make this as short as possible. Each one of these songs has its own little thing to it and its own little feel – whether it be a lyrical thing, or a riff thing, all the way down to the length of the song for some reason or another. Take a song like “Ruin You” – it’s basic songwriting. But, you know, like with “Ruin You,” you add the lyrics, and for me it comes out like a damn good song. Like “Sociopathic Herd Delusion,” it speaks a lot to today’s climate of the good old internet use and what not, lyrically. And, like you mentioned, there’s the feel of the song – the drive behind it. It’s addictive, so to speak. “Receiving No Answer to the Knock,” the last song on the record, it goes through a lot of different feels and tempo changes, and different musical influences. Really, it’s just the power of chugging that damn low “E” string – that’s nothing new. But, to beat that source into the ground with a little bit of innovation, and some semi-tricky things that you might not catch the first two or three times, it’s stuff like that to make the songs interesting to me. All of these songs hold their own little charm.
One of the great things about Superjoint, is that it’s so hard to categorize…
Then don’t. If you do, just call it heavy metal, hardcore, or whatever – you don’t have to stick it into a hole. Just call it freaking Superjoint music, you know? That’s just me venting on everybody desperately trying to categorize something. Music is music, and that’s that, really.
I agree that there are way too many sub-genres these days. You hear a description, and it’s like, “What did you say this is?”
Agreed – one thousand percent. You know, god bless these bands that are purely death metal or purely black metal…I can go down this list. But, of course, once you start naming them all, where does one stop and another begin (laughs)? The list can be longer than the option itself.
I’m sure you’ve heard from fans time and time again how your lyrics have helped them through tough times. Tell me a little about what that’s like for you – putting your life experiences, good and band, into song.
Honestly, Mark, it’s very important for me. I’ll take a quote from my Aunt. She said, “Baby, if you didn’t have music to get your frustrations out, you’d be in jail right now.” That’s her being dramatic, but in a way, I can’t disagree with her. Everybody’s life is very, very different – that’s one thing I’ve always known. We are all individuals. Although we may all have a lot in common at a human level, there’s always going to be that fluctuation; differences, opinions, tastes, and likes. So, take for instance I write a song about my relationship with my father. It amazes me sometimes when I go back and listen to any number of bands I might have been in, and hearing how much my disconnect with my father has affected me and my songwriting to a major degree. I know for a fact, and this is from people coming up to me saying, “What you wrote strikes a chord with me, and here’s why.” I really get it a lot on this one subject. It helps them through the day because they know they’re not alone in these feelings. There are a lot of people out there who were raised just by mom for quite a while, with no dad around – and when you saw dad, he was a total fucking dick. I’ll call it for what it is (laughs).
The demons of your childhood sometimes surface way later in life; it’s bizarre but it does happen. Writing something that other people can get and understand – I’m glad I can be of assistance, because really, I was literally screaming my heart out about this particular situation in my life. The same thing goes with many other subjects, but I also had the whole drug addiction thing – people coming up to me going, “Man, I struggled for years and your lyrics helped me.” I’ve been down that road as well, and I’ve been very open about that subject. I tell the truth the best I can about that subject. But, I will also throw the absurdities at people, too – especially lyrically. I will throw a jumble of words together, that yes, mean something to me, but could very well possibly mean nothing at all. That’s where I like to build imagery in my lyrics – I like them to be vivid; for people to see it in their heads. I want them to shape it to however it fits their own life.
I like honesty as a songwriter. I guess that’s why I’m a Morrissey fan and a Smiths fan. There is no greater truth-teller than Morrissey.
You seem to be in a very creative place right now in your career – the solo album a couple of years ago, the Down E.P.’s, now getting Superjoint going again, not to mention your continuing commitment to your Housecore label. I know you’re always juggling projects…
Man, I’m sitting on like five albums, I wish I could put ‘em all out right now, because they’re speaking right now. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to wait until next year, then everybody will think I wrote ‘em ten minutes ago. It’s like, goddamn, I’ve been sitting on these songs forever, man! Yeah, I’ve got a lot of different musical expressions; and I’m mean different genre-type stuff, whether it be 50 times heavier than Superjoint, or a completely different genre altogether. Lot of stuff for ya, big brother. It’s like my engineer says – we were talking about my guitar playing, and he says, “You’ve got singer hands!” (laughs) And yes, he’s insulting me, but damn, these singer hands get some songs written.