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Interviews   

PHIL ANSELMO: DOWN, VIBRATIONS AND “A BREATH OF FRESH AIR”


Phil Anselmo seems to be omnipresent in the metal world these days – a bit like at Hellfest 2013, where he gave two concerts and joined Voivod and Accept on stage. A year after our last chat (at the time, he was still working on his solo album and Down had released their first EP just six months before), he’s back to talk about his band’s second EP, in a planned series of four.

This rather quick interview was limited to the basics, namely the line-up changes within the band, their state of mind at the time of writing, and the future of Down and his solo project with The Illegals.

« As each song unfolded, […] I felt Black Sabbath, at times I felt Witchfinder General or old 80s metal, and also Saint Vitus at times. »

Radio Metal: Kirk Windstein had to leave the band to concentrate on Crowbar. What was your feeling when he announced his departure?

Phil Anselmo (vocals): Well, to me, of course it was disappointing and sad, but we all love Kirk very much and I think that his well being is much more important than any one band he’s ever had. He’s still very close to us, he’s one of our brothers. His decision to simplify life and concentrate on Crowbar, it has to be respected by all of us. Once again: we love him very much and we wish him well.

Kirk was replaced by Bobby Landgraf who’s been close to the band and he’s its stage manager as well. Was it essential to have somebody who was already part of the family?

Well, you know, Bobby’s been working for us, as you say, for almost a decade. Bobby was always that guy, if Kirk or Pepper or whatever was sick or something like that, Bobby would be the guy that would take their place. It never did happen, but he was always that guy. So, when Kirk left, there was no thought put into it: Bobby was our guy, he has always been our guy. He’s a great guitar player and I would say, for this last EP, he walked in first day and started contributing. Honestly, I hoped quite a bit for… As a matter of fact it’s a transition, a smooth transition, and I’m quite happy with that.

That’s the second line-up change for Down as Patrick Bruders replaced Rex Brown just three years ago. Do you think this new blood brought some fresh perspectives and ideas to Down’s music?

I do. I think it’s very incredible. As a matter of fact, this is Pat’s second record playing with us and he was a great contributor on this last EP, man. And Bobby, like I mentioned earlier, came in and contributed right off the bat. So, to me, and I think for everybody else, to have the newer guys contribute, when really the main contributors over the years have been me, Pepper and Jimmy and of course Kirk, it helped out quite a bit man. It feels like a breath of fresh air or an infusion of new enthusiasm. It was great.

As a consequence, what was actually the whole band state of mind for this EP, from a musical perspective?

Honestly, every record that I do and we do is based on the moods that we’re in. As each song unfolded, I definitely got, honestly, a lot of vibes that are a big part of Down to begin with, when we started in 92. Of course I felt Black Sabbath, at times I felt Witchfinder General or old 80s metal, and also Saint Vitus at times. So, as long as I was catching those types of vibes while making this last EP… Because, shit man, if it weren’t for those bands, fuckin’ Down wouldn’t exist anyways. So, that’s the vibe I caught, man, thumbs up.

Do you feel it was beneficial to make this brutal album with your solo band, The Illegals, before going back to Down? Do you think that it gave you a fresher look at Down’s music?

No, not really. Down to me is Down, it’s not rocket science and at the end of the day it has to sound like Down. It has to be Black Sabbath, worship Trouble and all of those bands. But for me, The Illegals is a different outlet; it’s a different attack or take on extreme music with, I’d say, hardcore sensibilities, especially coming from my end vocally. So, Illegals and Down are completely separates. For me, with the solo band, with The Illegals, it’s something that can grow and be different on every release. It’s like we walk through it and it’s the only one that is going to sound like that. The ten inch that we’d put out after that for the horror fest (note: Housecore Horror Film Festival) sounds completely different and anything that we’ll write in the future will be very different, but still extreme in its own way.

A song like « Conjure » sounds a lot like something Black Sabbath could have done, even the vocal lines at some points sound a bit like typical Ozzy lines. Did seeing Black Sabbath reunite and release their new album 13 influence you guys in a way?

No, not at all. I think that Black Sabbath has been an influence on all of us since we were young men. And, as I mentioned before, without Black Sabbath, there would be no Down. I think it all goes hand in hand.

What’s your opinion about the new Sabbath record, by the way?

Honestly, aside from missing what Bill Ward brought to the table with the drums, after hearing a lot of people say “oh, I don’t like it, I don’t like it”, when I first heard it, and I only heard it all the way through maybe one time, I liked it. I thought it was good! I thought it was dark and kind of ominous. Yeah, it’s cool with me!

Pepper Keenan said that the end of the last song on the record « Bacchanalia » was a hint at what the next EP might sound like. So can you confirm that it will be a more laid back, atmospheric, “Planet Caravan” kind of record?

Well, you know, I’ve got mixed feelings about that, because, of course, each EP should have its own style and its own vibe to it. And I wouldn’t dispute what Pepper Keenan said right there. But, there’s a part of me that says: would it be really fair to do an all acoustic record, or something like that, for Down fans? So, I’m not sure. Once again, I think that it’s going to come down to the mood, really, to the mood we’re in at the time. Now, I will say that I do think that it will be a more ambitious record. But still at the end of the day it has to sound like Down. I guess, we’re gonna have to wait to find out.

« I’m willing to experiment, because, as a musician, I think that’s what music is all about: experimentation and growth. »

Last year was a big year for you as you have released your first solo record. What are your thoughts now about it, retrospectively?

I think it’s a starting point. It’s a good springboard. And I think that, maybe, the follow up will be more understood by people that trashed it and didn’t understand it right off the bat. Like I said, I think it’s a good starting point, but still there can be more, if you know what I’m saying, and I’m looking forward to that.

Are you going to continue on the same road with the same musicians or do you have a desire to change and try other things?

Yes, I think that each record should be different. I think that each one should have its own personality and feel, and if that takes adding musicians or adding different elements to the sound itself, then so be it. Of course, I’m willing to experiment, because, as a musician, I think that’s what music is all about: experimentation and growth. I’m gonna be trying to cover a lot of different grounds.

There’s this new video series called Cooking Hostile with a cartoon version of you cooking. We know that you like it but have you thought about offering your own voice for the show?

Oooooooooh! Well, how do you know that I haven’t already been doing that?! It could happen… It could happen!

The first annual Housecore Horror Film & Music Festival was held last year for the first time. Can you tell us more about how it went and how you got the idea for this festival?

I think that over the years it’s been well documented that I’m a horror movie freak, and my collection is very large and vast. Last year, the fuckin’ festival was excellent. It was fun and it was a blast. Honestly, I was a nervous wreck before it happened, but once I got there, saw how organized everything was and how laid back everything was, to me it was a blast, meeting all these special guests and seeing all the films, and the bands were incredible. I think it was a total fuckin’ success!

Have you thought about making your own horror movies just like Rob Zombie does?

Ah, not really man. I’m the type of guy that prefers to just sit on my fat ass and watch horror movies. I think that if I’m to start doing this I might ruin it.

Mike Williams from Eyehategod told us that you guys have talked about doing a new Arson Anthem album, although last year you were quoted saying that « nothing new was going to happen ». Is this the work you did with Mike for the new Eyehategod record that triggered the need to collaborate again?

Oh, man, Mike and I work great to together. He’s one of my best friends and it’s a pleasure to be putting out the new Eyehategod on my label Housecore Records in the United States. You know, never say never on things. To me, right now, really, all I’m going to concentrate on is touring with Down and The Illegals, doing the best we can here at Housecore. So, as far Arson Anthem goes, let’s just say never say never!

Interview conducted by phone on April, 24th 2014 by Amphisbaena
Transcription : Spaceman
Questions and introduction : Spaceman

Down official website : down-nola.com

Album Down IV, Part 2, out since May, 12th 2014 via Roadrunner Records.



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