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Interview: Phil Anselmo Talks Warbeast Split, Down and New Solo Album

The Evel Knievel of metal discusses his solo album, the Down tour with Warbeast and more.

 

Down vocalist Philip Anselmo and Warbeast have just released a new split EP entitled War of the Gargantuas, via Housecore Records (grab it here), featuring two new and crushing songs from each artist. Serving as the first release of any solo work by Anselmo during the span of his nearly 30-year run as a member of Pantera, Superjoint Ritual, Down and countless others, the release is a hotly anticipated fascination point for fans, and also features former Warbeast bassist Alan Bovee before his amicable departure from the band (Dre Karst has joined on bass).

Down and Warbeast are hitting the road this month in support of War of the Gargantuas (dates at bottom). We caught up with Phil Anselmo earlier this week, discussing the upcoming tour as well as the Anselmo/Warbeast split release, his physical well-being (or lack thereof), his upcoming solo album, the late Dimebag's admiration of Warbeast shredder Scott Shelby and more.

 

I've heard these new songs, man… and holy shit. Holy shit. What motivated the solo route?

Thank you, buddy. Well, man… I've always had this great affinity for extreme music. That's a well-known fact. After Dimebag's death and after things went really sour with Superjoint Ritual, and Down became one of the main focal points if not the main focal point of my musical output. I won't call it an empty feeling, because at heart I'm a free agent – I can do what I want. Down will be there, and all that stuff. But if I was going to put my fingers on something heacy again I wanted it to be different from anything that I had touched before. Not that it's annoying or anything, but I see a lot of the comments saying it's similar to Superjoint. But it's coming from a musician who knows and played guitar in both projects – it's very different. Maybe they're alluding to the vocal style that I use, but I guess that's just what naturally comes out of me. To do an extreme metal record is something that is well within my capacity as a musician to write stuff out of the box, write stuff that's probably more extreme than the band I'm in at the present time, and it's something that needs to come out of me one way or another.

The two songs of mine that are on this split are some of the more straightforward, and honestly tame in comparison to what the full-length will offer. So I guess I'm really glad that you think it's any good at all. I appreciate that much of it, and there's plenty more to come.

 

What about this really comes across as tame? I'm not hearing tame in this at all.

It's true. The full length really touches on a lot of the same stuck-in-my-room, agonizing in fucking pain, what the fuck do I do besides bounce off these fucking walls? But I may touch on some other interior things that I'd like to put into plainer words, but it's best that it comes out in music. Because it can get kind of ugly or might be taken the wrong way, so I guess it's kind of like the freedom of having the stage to vent as one platform without harming anyone else's reputation or integrity in music. But as far as subject matter, it's not the be-all end-all. I've got so much fucking material to sort through that I did get recorded, and there's about three songs that I haven't even touched vocally yet. I'm just sitting back to see how these songs, and the full length down the road – we're aiming for early Summer release – run. Not everything's been tapped, subject-wise. There's a lot of irons in the fire, a lot to cover.

 

We talked a year and a half ago about a lot of it being informed by the pain in your back…

Not just the back, now. It's my whole fucking body. I've destroyed this fucking skeleton. So let's clarify, and make sure I'm the Evel Kneivel of fucking goddamn metal. I think anyone who suffers from chronic pain can agree with this – you feel this great significance. What I wanted to capture was that significance, and as a matter of fact I think that's one of the lyrics on "Confict," on the split. I touch on the significance, and really it's a selfish thing, in an offbeat way. But you can only exist as far as your mind will allow you to exist, and I think chronic pain will stop time dead in its tracks. You feel like you're the only one, and how unfair it is, and a million different feel-sorry-for-yourself type feelings. In my better sense of mind I know that I'm far from alone and far from the worst, and the earth keeps spinning. Everything keeps moving, with or without me.

So I guess a lot of these songs are very selfishly hedonistic/defeatist attitude. But between you and I and the readers, there is no quit here at the Anselmo camp. But sometimes especially within these songs, you gotta get this whole fuckin' bad day, bad week, bad whatever off the fucking chest, you know?

I think that's something that draws people in overall, just being fans of yours – there's a certain resonance of character and personality that people relate to. It's one thing to be a kid, hanging on to rage and fury 20 years ago alongside the sounds of Pantera, and to find themselves 20 years older now with kids and jobs and real life shit, realizing there's a different set of pain, a different set of conflicts and challenges and circumstances that people need to rise up against. In some ways it works well for the legacy of what you're doing, in terms of having a well to keep coming back to.

That's beautifully put… Jesus, you nailed it right there, man. You really did. That was beautifully put.

 

As a fan it's rewarding to have that evolving well of inspiration to return to, not that the intention is to exploit your suffering…

Oh, I'm the one exploiting it, believe me. I'm full aware of that. But it's not like I want the sorrowful pat on the back or anyone to be overly concerned. As a musical expression, just feel the anger. Just feel this fucking anger of going from the feeling of invincibility to just out of nowhere fuckin' this feeling of vulnerability, it's an incredible transition to make. And to make heads or tails out of, and come out of with any type of positive. I know it's been done before, look at NFL players or boxers or other musicians or any walk of life that's suffered in some way inside themselves. I've never been asked to go into battle, to war for my country, which basically makes you absolutely disposable. You're really signing your life away, because it could be gone at any second – so there's got to be some sort of anxiety there.

 

Especially when the question is whether or not you're there for a legitimate reason.

Fuckin' bingo. Really bingo. It's like man, what are we fuckin' doing here? But you can look at that side of life, then look at a guy like me whose purpose in life is served, or it's being served now – first and foremost, I'm a musician through and through, and a live performer. And to take away even a meager scrap of what I could give physically is just insulting to me. I have such resentment towards that. I really do. And it took me a long time to come to grips that I'm not in this 22 year old elite strong-backed body anymore. Maybe I'm stronger today both physically and mentally because of it, after all. Because I know limitations, how to take care of the body better.

 

What are you looking forward to on the Down tour with Warbeast?

What I always look forward to, which is a packed house full of core, cult fans that are there because they actually know the music and love the music. Knowing that Down has that type of core audience, we're not this big popular radio band or flavor of the day, so we're not going to get the curious onlookers or people who just want to show up to party. I know that these audiences, the majority of them – and I do mean 99.9% percent of them know all the lyrics, know the songs, looking forward to hearing the new stuff from the Purple EP, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting all these people face to face, talking with 'em, meeting 'em before the show, after the show, whenever.

But I'm also looking forward to watching audiences that have never checked out Warbeast before, because Warbeast are fucking excellent live band.

 

There's no shortage of personality, either.

My god, so much personality up on fuckin' stage it's ridiculous. Between Bruce and Scott Shelbeast – and I'll say "Shelbeast" again – my god the dude's a star. He's, to me in my mind, the next great lead guitar player to come out of the DFW area. They've got two guitarists, and the other kid Bobby is a fucking excellent player, but as far as a guy who actually takes control of the band and writes a great amount of the material, Shelbeast is truly the epitome of a beast. He's a sight onstage, man. (laughs) I'll just leave it at that.

Scott I've seen onstage since the old Gammacide days, man. They were just a local band in the DFW area, and he was a shredding motherfucker onstage. I remember, just after Pantera was signed, me and Dimebag went out to Joe's Garage to see Gammacide play. And Dimebag wasn't one to give many guitar players too much props, but sure enough, I remember him elbowing me several times during the set and saying "This motherfucker's badass! This dude…" just complimenting Scott over and over. And I've gotta say, since those days Scott has matured and grown into his own thing, man. He's really got his own fuckin' thing going. I'll put my goddamn reputation on the line by saying that he's a unique talent, very much so.

 

DOWN and WARBEAST 2013 U.S. Tour Dates:

1/11 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live – Ballroom

1/12 – San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Live

1/14 – Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee

1/15 – Las Vegas, NV @ Fremont Country Club

1/16 – West Hollywood, CA @ Key Club

1/18 – Anaheim, CA @ City National Grove of Anaheim

1/19 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades

1/20 – San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom

1/22 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market

1/23 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater

1/24 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House

1/26 – Denver, CO @ The Summit Music Hall

1/28 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue

1/29 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave

1/30 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s

2/1 – Chattanooga, TN @ Track 29

 

Keep up with Phil Anselmo and Down on Facebook.

 

Photos: labproductions