Even if Philip H. Anselmo’s legacy began and ended with Pantera, he would have been one of the most noteworthy metal vocalists of the last quarter century. However, that was the tip of the musical iceberg for him. With subsequent bands Down and Superjoint Ritual, he proved himself to be a workhorse, and since then, his own label (Housecore Records) and bands including black metal band Scour and his Philip Anselmo & the Illegals have kept him more than busy. With the release of Scour’s Red EP in November and the forthcoming release of the Illegals’ sophomore album Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue on January 26th, it’s safe to say that he’s not sitting still. He spoke to us about his forthcoming project, En Minor and another death metal project he has coming up this year. And with him keeping a low profile for much of last year for reasons most readers of this site are already familiar with, he also opened up about his sometimes contentious relationship with the press.
How did the Scour shows you just played go?
Good! We’ve practiced about four times, we’ve played four gigs. It gets a little better every time. I think Dallas show was, eh, fair on our part, but the next night was in Austin was a lot better. Shouldn’t that be the case? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the more times you play with a group of people the better it gets. It was a lot of fun though, playing small clubs. Honestly, I love it though, I can’t get enough of it. It’s so fuckin’ real, so honest. It’s a good feeling to have a crowd check you out and be observant and have this honest relationship with the audience. I may be up there screaming, but it’s like I’m 100% one of them out in the crowd. It’s a very grounding feeling. They spent their money and their time to be there, and it’s very cool.
Did the two shows inspire you to play more shows as Scour?
We’re already playing Roskilde in the Summer and will probably do a secret show around then too. It’s obvious that they feel fine about the arrangement. They know that some nights will be tighter than others, so if they’re fine with that shit, I love that attitude. It’s always been like that, each show should be it’s own unitue experience, with that lingering “Oh fuck, we haven’t jammed in six months, but if you remember the song, I do. Let’s go!” If that’s part of it, sign me up.
If you played more shows with Scour, would that make it less special and spontaneous?
With Scour sure, but with other bands, putting the effort forth and the grind is worth it for the fans.
Speaking of other bands, it doesn’t seem like it’s been five years since the last Illegals album. Did you always know there’d be a second album?
Yeah. As a matter of fact, when we were wrapping up with the first album, we’d already started treading towards water that was leading to the second album. I’ve said this in other interviews, but a lot of those riffs were taken from stuff that I recorded in ‘96 and ‘97. I felt like I was sitting on some pretty cool riffs that were written in the spirit of early death metal, like Morbid Angel in their Blessed Are the Sick and that first wave of black metal, like Immortal’s Battles in the North. The rawness was always part of it, but that carries over to the death metal I prefer today. I drug those riffs along with me, and had some great input from Steve Taylor. What an awesome , awesome co-conspirator in this writing of music game he’s become. As Heart would say, he’s a magic man, but in different circumstances. No matter what the project is, he’s on his toes, but I have great input from him. Mike DeLeon is playing guitar as well, so honestly, there’s three guitar tracks on the record between those two and me. We’re all doing our own thing, and it brings an extra jaggedness to the record. Also, Walter Howard joined the band on bass, and he’s another creative youngster. He catches on quick and is easy to work with and easy to be with. And Blue is on drums too, and talk about time flying, he’s been jamming with me since he was 19 and he’s 26 now. It was recorded between 2015 and 2016, so it’s ole to me, but it’s new to you. It’s a gigantic nod to the Australian death metal scene and a nod back to the classic records of extremity that moved me as a youngster and an oldster. With Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue, I wanted to create a record that had the relentless feel of like a Dark Angel Darkness Ascends.
Both Superjoint and the Illegals share some members. Do you know when a song is a Superjoint song and when one’s an Illegals song?
We come up with riff after riff after riff, and every now and then, a riff or two riffs will pop up that’s out of context for the individual band. Say if it was a Superjoint writing process and something just seemed out of place or over the top, that’s something I might lift for the Illegals, of course only if I wrote it or Steve wrote it. It’s very interesting right now what you can squeeze out of this awesome circle of musicians. There is Down still, too, and when you start mentioning other bands ,the next project I’m putting out after the Illegals is En Minor. Practically everyone other than Blue, who does some small percussive stuff, is on this record. Steve and Mike wrote an En Minor song that’s not on this first record. This is a big collaborative process, even Bobby from Down is in it. There’s so many layers of guitar tracks and vocals on it. It’s very different.
What’s the direction?
Minor key, very clean guitar. Definitely a different use of a variety of instruments. It’s very vibey. I know I’ve compared it to things in the past trying to paint some sort of picture, but it’s never accurate, so I’m going to try to stay away from too many similarities of bands, but it’s very anti-pop. It’s a shout-out to a great subgenre of a subgenre. I know a lot of musicians have stepped out of their regular type of music and done something different, but if you look at the body of music that I’ve done personally, I think it’s going to stick out like crazy. En Minor is very poignant about it’s approach, and for me, very different, because as a natural baritone, it allows me to be a baritone. Restraint is a strength with this band. It’s recorded raw, like I like, real sounding, like I like, and there might be some meat on that bone for some people.
You’d mentioned Down before, and I know you guys are all busy, but have you thought about the third EP yet?
You know it and I know it that it’s a well-documented thing that Down is made up of other bands, and when certain truths emerge about what the causation of Down is, it’s when the other bands are idle. Right now, C.O.C. is doing very well and I’m hearing things about that album, and Jimmy’s got plenty of Eyehategodstuff going on. We make room for it, and give respect where it’s due. I think we’ll positively obligate that four EP thing we set out to do originally. We knew there would be interruptions going into it. The chances of a new Down record coming out is extremely high.
From a scheduling standpoint, Scour just came out in November and the Illegals album will be out in February. As a label owner, how do you plan scheduling? That’s a lot of you out there.
By the end of 2018, my goal is to be one of the tougher musicians to stick in one box. No offense to the legacy of Pantera or Down or Superjoint, but I have always known that I’ve been more than just a metal vocalist. I’ve always been drawn to the extremities as opposed to the flavor of the day. I have a very eclectic taste in music. Lately I’ve been listening to Chicago and James Gang. When I want to flirt with other styles, I immerse myself in it. I realize that music is as subjective as food. It’s about mood, what you love, what you hate, and what you’re expecting, but I would ask fans to keep an open mind. I also have a death metal thing coming out that I did with a bunch of secret anonymous entrepreneurs of greatness that I cannot mention or I’ll have my proverbial balls kicked off. I did it back in 2014-15 called Sub Metatron Nganga. It’ an EP called Aklo-Mayombe Grimoire. It’s more of a horror-themed death metal record, and I’m sick of sitting on it, so I’ll put it out there.
The Illegals song “The Ignorant Point” is about the press. Given the few years you’ve had in and out of the spotlight, and given the fact that you’re doing press right now, do you have any further thoughts on the media?
That particular song is meek compared to other songs about my relationship with the press. The media in general is ridiculous politically, depending on which channel you have on. Both sides are ridiculous, so I’m having a hard time putting any faith or truth in mainstream media. As far as music media, I don’t understand the obsession with it. I don’t go to music websites ever. It doesn’t intrigue me. I already know what I like, and I listen to music that’s sent to me or someone recommends to me. That’s how I discover music. And these sites all have these clickbait titles of scandal and outrage, and this freedom to write not only falsities, but also to make accusations and implications of some of the worst kind ever. I’ll shoot straight and I don’t give a fuck.
When people throw around the word “racist,” I don’t take that lightly. That’s not a word that should be tossed around. That is a hard-hitting implication, and a motherfucking albatross to throw around someone’s neck. These bloggers that write for these websites find this false strength when they write and attempt to tear down, and not just me, some of the architects that their entire platform is built on. And this pious, opinionated moralism, and they get away with damn near slander and hide behind fake names. These are some of the most visited websites, and I think it’s on that grand chance that there’s going to be a clickbaity title. And some of these titles end up being a true story but the ones that are just knee-jerk reaction pieces that are written up callously and with malice attached, and, to quote my own lyrics, ‘without a passing nod to face the intended target,’ some of these puritan pious ass-kissing websites going to maybe reach out and ask me personally “what led you up to this point were you did this thing that outraged me?” Will they reach out to me? Fuck no they’re not? And you know what that makes them? When they’re obsessed with looking for these things, it’s a great deal of projection. It’s a moral virtue signal to take up for this cause that they think can’t defend itself.
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana in some of the most diverse situations and neighborhoods of my life. I’ve seen the marginalized my entire life, and they wouldn’t want these weakling pussies fighting for them. They can fight their own battles. I’m on to their game, and they can’t peg a goddamn thing on me. I challenge any one of them to a debate. I know I won’t be taken up on this challenge, but once you attack my character, anyone with a modicum of honesty, if they took a brief visit through my life and summed up what I’m all about, they would know that any claims of superiority over skin color is one of the last things on my agenda. I’m worried about standing on my own two legs, and that’s my government and political lean. I guess if you put me on some political compass, I’d be leaning way way way left, but not crazy fringe hardcore left. Once you get the hardcore wing, left and right become the same bird. Anyone with those kind of ideas can fuck off.