PHIL ANSELMO WORKS HARD. Between recording and mixing a new Down release, running his own label Housecore Records, curating last October's Housecore Horror Film Festival, and releasing and touring for his first solo record, Walk Through Exits Only, the former Pantera frontman has kept his plate full. Anselmo took a moment to discuss his recent projects and how they add to the illustrious career he's already carved in loud music. Anselmo and his band the Illegals play Hawthorne Theatre on Saturday, January 18.
MERCURY: I have a feeling it's not as spiritual or metaphysical as it sounds, but what does "walk through exits only" mean?
PHIL ANSELMO: Honestly, whatever you want it to mean. It was a line that I wrote that eventually became a lyric, and eventually became the title of the record because I thought it was vague enough for people to want to latch onto it and ask the exact question that you're asking. It intrigues you enough to poke around for an answer, you know.
Did you feel any particular pressure to perform on your first solo endeavor? Were there high expectations?
There's always a pressure to perform no matter what you're doing. I've done so many records with a lot of different bands, but on this particular record I was very focused. I knew I wanted something harsh, but I wasn't sure how it would come out. But man, when I got into the studio it would only come out one way—no matter how I wanted to twist it, how I wanted to fuck with it one way or another. Sometimes you just can't fight what your subconscious wants, I guess. I don't think I would change a thing.
The lyrics are pretty depraved and full of self-loathing. Is this record a release for some hang-ups you have, or is it all just tongue-in-cheek?
There are some songs that are absolutely cement in their approach, lyrically. Particularly the bedroom songs. Those songs are about me being the type of fucking asshole that has 10,000 things on my plate, and I wake up and I know I need to get started on just one of them, but I don't know where to start. Then I find myself sitting in the same place at 2:30 in the afternoon that I woke up in at 8 am. Answering emails and checking football websites instead of doing what I have to do. There are other songs on the record where I guess I'm an architect with words, and at the end of the day I want people to finish off their own building so they can fit it in their own mind. [I] create the imagery and let people run from there. I don't wanna spoon-feed anybody.
How much of the riff writing did you do?
All of it.
Man, some of this stuff is so gnarly. I read about the record before I heard it. People were saying it was your take on extreme metal, and I thought, "Well, how extreme could it be?"
You know, I know what's out there, for the most part. You can always learn something new every frigging day when it comes to music 'cause it's so vast. I know what I like, and I know what bands I like. I'm more impressed these days by innovators, because it's very rare that you see a band come out of left field and sound completely different, especially with the bass, drums, and guitar format. I'm not trying to change the world or anything like that, it's just a record I wanted to do. People are gonna judge it for whatever it's worth. I'm not trying to win over any new fans at fucking all, and I'm not trying to blow away my contemporaries. I wrote a record because I was inspired to. It's a bird finger, and I'm gonna send that motherfucker flying in every direction.
What made you want to jump in the extreme metal ring?
I didn't want to repeat the history of what I've already done. Believe me, I have no intention or aspiration to be on the fucking radio, or be this giant hit writer. That's about the furthest thing from my needs or wants at all. I like making the music that I make. It's fun, it's challenging, it's fulfilling, and it feels like it's organic and real.
With Housecore Records and the film festival, you're doing much more then just making music these days too. Are you feeling like it's too much work, or are you having fun?
Sometimes I might feel overloaded with the workload. Or, uh... "overloaded" sure didn't come across right, considering my history [laughs]. You know, there's your headline right there, "Phil Anselmo feels overloaded." [More laughs.] I think with this shit called scheduling, and this other shit called a calendar, I can make it work.