From November 13-15, 2015, the third edition of the festival will take place at the Aztec Theatre in San Antonio, Texas, during which films from the personal collection of Anselmo (and the festival's late co-founder, Corey Mitchell) will be screened, as well as oodles of live metal performances, by the likes of Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Eyehategod, Poison Idea, and Zombi, among many others.
But it's as the frontman of such metal acts as Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual, and Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, that Anselmo is best known. And when he accepted a phone call from Songfacts on the afternoon of his 47th birthday, he was more than wiling to discuss his two great loves: horror flicks and heavy metal - plus the stories behind several headbanging classics.
Phil Anselmo: Thank you, buddy.
Songfacts: How does it feel to be 47?
Anselmo: Old. Old and dusty.
Songfacts: The third edition of the Housecore Horror Festival is upcoming - how did the idea come up originally?
Anselmo: Originally? Well, I was working with a guy named Corey Mitchell, who sadly passed away at the end of year two's event. Immediately, really - the day after the event. It was his idea - he came in my room one day, and saw this giant wall of VHS that I've collected over the years, and all my DVDs and whatnot. So he said, "Man, you ought to do a horror festival." And I was like, "Sure, OK." The next thing you know... I mean, Corey is a doer, he was not just a dreamer, he was an absolute "action man."
I had a small type of thing in mind originally, but Corey, being the creative guy and mastermind he is, the next thing I knew it was, "Wow! Wait a minute. This thing's sort of big, and there are a lot of bands. What's going on here?"
Year one was awesome, and we said, "Fuck it. We're going to do year two." And we did year two, which was even better and bigger and crazier and awesome all together - until the day after, when Corey passed away.
But you see, this year is definitely in honor of Corey Mitchell, because I'll tell you what, he was the hardest worker for the festival out of anybody. He wanted this thing, and he wanted it to grow, and he had grand ideas about branching out, doing it in different cities and then taking it on tour and bringing it around the world and having it grow and grow. So to not do the festival wasn't an option at all. It's like we'd be letting Corey down if we didn't continue on. Plus, for me, it's great bringing on board a bunch of awesome bands.
We get to screen killer movies, and one of my favorite elements is getting the submissions from lesser-known directors and seeing what they're doing, and how they are growing with the genre of horror out there. And whether anybody's innovating or not. It gives me a clearer vision of that.
It seems like there's always a couple of surprises every year, and I do mean good surprises as far as films go. So that's always a plus for a horror film lover like myself, and eventually, everybody else that digs the genre. It's a labor of love, but it's also a lot of fun at the same time.
Songfacts: Have horror movies influenced your lyric writing over the years?
Anselmo: Sure. Absolutely. Look at Vulgar Display of Power - where did that line come from? The Exorcist. Bingo.
Songfacts: Can you give some other examples?
Anselmo: Overall, the genre of horror, and when you cross over a bit to sci-fi, and you watch the old television classics, like Outer Limits or Twilight Zone, there's so many awesome one-liners within the material there, that if you take the time to hit pause and scribble it down, and break it down to your own interpretation, you can get some great stuff.
Take for instance the last Illegals EP that I did, which was for year one of Horror Fest. I think there's a line at the end of one of those two songs we did that was completely Outer Limits inspired, but still fit in a whole different way. So I was inspired by the initial delivery of the line - I do believe the name of the episode was The Sixth Finger. It influences me quite a bit, actually.
Songfacts: How different or similar is the songwriting process with Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual, and the Illegals?
Anselmo: Each band is a little different. Superjoint is really a collaboration of riffs between me and Jimmy Bower, and now recently, Kevin Bond, for sure. Down has always been a collaboration of riffs between me, Pepper [Keenan], and Jimmy, but as of late, Pat [Bruders] and Bobby [Landgraf], and also Kirk Windstein. I can't leave Kirk out. Jesus, he always wrote riffs.
So we'd always bounce that shit off of each other. And with Pantera, gosh, Vinnie Paul could come up with a drum pattern that would spawn a riff, and hence, spawn us organizing a song together, and segue into parts and putting the song together. Then once I felt that we had enough meat, I'd put bread on the sandwich, so to speak, by writing the lyrics.
But really, with the Illegals, it's more me straight-on, guitar in hand, directing everybody. It's more of a one-way street to a certain degree, but I'm always open for good innovation, or what I would call acceptable advice or a compromise. Good input.
I try not to stay married to anything I might have come up with on my own, and once I get in there with the drummer and bass player or guitar player - whoever it may be at the time - somebody comes up with something, and I'm all ears. But it better fit the bill. I've always been a stickler like that. Any band I'm in, everyone has their own ideas, but God bless if I don't like them, I'm gonna tell you.
Anselmo: Sometimes, it can be the rhythm of a sentence that gets me going, because everybody has a certain meter or cadence within conversation and simple sentences. And it's interesting to me, because you can find a rhythm within a jumble of words and I guess to turn that into a riff on the guitar, it's challenging and it's interesting.
But to answer your question point blank, nine times out of ten, definitely the guitar.
Songfacts: What was the lyrical inspiration behind Superjoint Ritual's "The Alcoholik"?
Anselmo: Self-reflection. That came very naturally from writing about my entire crew of friends that I had for a long, long time. We were young when I wrote that song.
Songfacts: Down's "Stone the Crow"?
And I guess over the years, they've become something. They've become whatever they are. I still think when people sing that song live with us out in the audience, I don't even think they know what the fuck they're saying, but they know the pattern to it, and they know the notes, so fuck it, it's good enough.
Songfacts: Was Pantera's "This Love" autobiographical?
Anselmo: Not necessarily. It was just a message to "clingy women" at the time - young ladies. I was a very young man when I wrote that song, as well. I was young, and thought, "Let's not make more of this relationship than need be."
It could have been autobiographical, however it could be about and for anybody, and they can make it fit their life, as well.
Songfacts: Pantera's "A New Level"?
With Vulgar Display of Power, we definitely wanted to make a statement musically that would coincide with this live show that we had - the energy that we were putting out there.
Songfacts: Who are some of your favorite songwriters of all-time?
Anselmo: Just this year alone, I've seen Nick Cave, Morrissey, and Stevie Wonder... give me a break! David Bowie, the Beatles, Queen... oh my God, Queen. Mercyful Fate, early demo and first album Agnostic Front, Black Flag, Black Sabbath. Man, I can be answering you until 5:30 tonight.
Songfacts: I was surprised to learn you are a fan of The Smiths.
Anselmo: I adore them. Brutally honest band. Tongue-in-cheek humor, dark humor. Excellent musicianship, excellent songs.
And really, Morrissey is a phenom. It's like, "Where did this guy come from?" And, "Did he always just have this crooning talent?" It's pretty magical, if you ask me.
Songfacts: Have you ever met Morrissey?
Songfacts: Lastly, what are some obscure/overlooked horror films you would recommend?
Anselmo: I always go back to The House with the Laughing Windows - great movie, beautifully shot. [Director and screenwriter] Pupi Avati movie, excellent film.
I'll go with I Bury the Living - great black-and-white awesomeness. Actually, Stephen King's favorite movie.
The People Who Own the Dark - what a great movie.
Let's see, rare and bizarre: The Sinful Dwarf, that is a fuckin' filthy movie. It makes you want to take a shower after you see it. It's a great movie. Awesome.
There's a weirdo movie called Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon [aka The Mansion of Madness] - what a weird movie, man. But it's definitely worth a look. Great setting, great tripped-out sets, and beautifully shot.
And then there is a flick called Innocents from Hell, and that's a crazy possession-type movie in the vein of The Exorcist. It was probably shot in the '70s, and definitely very dark. Beautifully shot, very atmospheric.
Dominique is Dead [aka Dominique]... I could keep going, but I know you've got enough there.
July 8, 2015. For more Phil, visit philanselmo.com
More Songwriter Interviews