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Interview

Phil Anselmo On The Illegals, Scour And En Minor, Playing Pantera Again, Boxing And More

Over the course of my twelve years with Metal Underground, I've had the honour and pleasure of speaking with and meeting bands I grew up listening to, as well as some of my absolute favourite musicians such as Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ, Ashmedi of Melechesh and Barney Greenway of Napalm Death. This past week however, I was able to make a personal and professional dream come true, when I met up with one of metal's most famous figures; Phil Anselmo.

For many of us, Anselmo was an integral part of our youth, roaring the rage we felt as adolescents (and indeed, still do today) as the frontman of Texas based quartet Pantera. Anselmo has never been one to stay still though and in addition to appearing as a guest on albums by the likes of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, Crowbar, Anthrax and even Anal Cunt, he's also been involved in countless bands, fronting such other successful groups as Down, Superjoint Ritual and now, The Illegals, with more releases to come from the first and third of these bands, as well as newer projects such as Scour and En Minor. So how soon will we be able to hear these new records? What has it been like performing Pantera material again on the festival circuit and how shocked was the boxing aficionado by Anthony Joshua's loss to Andy Ruiz Jr? For the answers to all of these questions and more, read on.

Diamond Oz: You're on tour right now with The Illegals promoting "Mental Illness As A Virtue." It's been about a year since it was released, so that the dust has settled, how do you view the album?

Phil Anselmo: Well, I meant the record to be hideous. I meant it to be one of a kind from The Illegals, one of a kind from me. Just extremities, death metal, grindcore, all that stuff. I doubt I'll do another record like this so it's unique in that form. Also you gotta think, directly when we were beginning to get ready to tour, about a month out, that's when Vince Paul died and that was a shock to everybody. So then came earnest calls for us to do the Pantera material and I gotta say, never in a million years did I think it would be this band that was doing the Pantera stuff. But I said, "Give it a shot fellas" and they did a great job and I felt that the tribute is a must. It's something that we have to do and that's a strange place to be, with one grindcore record vs a whole career of Pantera, so the crowds have been mixed and interesting and great, really.

Oz: Yeah, I was fortunate enough to see you at Graspop last week and it was such a great way to kick off the festival and I think the audience could see how much it meant to you as much as it meant to all of us.

Phil: It's insane man. It's real history and the thing that I think gets me through without overthinking it too much is seeing the younger people in the audience that you know never got the chance to see Pantera. The only way I guess that they even heard of Pantera was through their parents, so it's good to see all that young blood out there and to see them singing all the words... It's inspiring.

Oz: I would imagine so. How much time did the rest of the guys have to learn the set?

Phil: Jesus! A month, barely a month. Then on the road we'd be going over all the things and in sound check they'd attack it and stuff so big props to them, huge props to The Illegals, they're a great, great band to work with in general. Everybody's humble and on the same page which is pretty rare in my experience, you know, most band guys are into a bunch of different stuff. To a certain degree it is like that, but when it comes to The Illegals' music, it seems like everybody has got a pretty pure vision and that's interesting too because like I said, this one record is probably one of a kind. We've been writing some new stuff as of late and it's definitely meant to be different from the other stuff and the fact that everyone's locked in so quickly... I have zero complaints.

Oz: Well just listening to "Choosing Mental Illness..." you can tell how skilled they are and like you say the record is meant to be in the death metal/grindcore vein but it doesn't sound anything like say Extreme Noise Terror. It does something pretty rare which is it puts a new take on brutality...

Phil: (Laughs) Maybe an old man's take on brutality! I grew up with it man, I watched it all happen organically. Still, one man's extreme is another man's ballet.

Oz: Obviously to promote the album as well, you did the music video for the title track, which has the One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Next take. It's kind of funny because the video is about six minutes long and obviously grindcore songs are normally very short and to the point.

Phil: That's one thing, man. I do wish our songs had been a little shorter. When I go back and listen to them I'm like, "Urgh! That's where it should have stopped!" but I hear you. I think you'll find a lot of things like the video alone, it shows that we're a different kind of band. I think each record will be extreme in its own way, but I want to use my voice differently on this next record coming up and we'll see how it turns out. It's going to be interesting.

Oz: Absolutely. You've spoken there about a new record and there seems to be a lot of momentum behind The Illegals now. I think everyone knows this is what you're doing now so with this behind you, do you think it'll be a much shorter wait for the third Illegals album?

Phil: I would hope so. I want to start getting something in the can in January. I just want to get in the room, work for the entire month of January and see what we come out with.

Oz: Of course you're involved with a lot of other projects, a friend of mine saw you at the Maryland Death Fest with Scour and said you were incredible. How far along are you now with a full length Scour release?

Phil: They're waiting on me. The music for the next EP is finished, they're just waiting on me but I've been going through a dry patch of creativity or maybe like a brief time out. It happens to me every now and then where I'll immerse myself in music, one sort or another. That last David Bowie record, I immersed myself in that thing then when I came out it was like, "Nothing's really appealing right this second," so I go back to listening to old Italian horror soundtracks and see what kind of inspiration hits me out of nowhere. So Scour, Illegals, all that shit, it's gonna come in due time.

Oz: I've read about En Minor as well. I think it's a Gothic thing, like Bauhaus...

Phil: It's really not. I used a generalisation and everybody took that ball and ran with it. It's not a heavy metal band but it is a very special band for me and I guess for most of the members. It's one of those things I can't really say too much about because... Everybody knows about it, but they haven't heard a lick of music and it's like, "Damn, I'm painting us into a corner here." I think it'll be really interesting to see how people react to it, because in its own way, it's superbly heavy but in a more vibey way and the lyrics are pretty dark.

Oz: Cool. One thing I've always wanted to talk to you about is the "Manson Family" film. I really liked that movie and of course you were pretty heavily involved with that, contributing music and I think you financed it to an extent as well. In particular I liked the song, "Long Hair," and I was wondering, while it might be a silly question given all that you've got going on, but at some point would you like to expand on that kind of music and the sixties influences?

Phil: Well, wait until you hear En Minor! I might have already done it. I love the sixties style and some of the people that have listened to En Minor tell me, "This is oddly fifties. This is oddly sixties." Here we are back to talking about En Minor with not one fucking thing to draw from but in a month or so, that'll be under more scrutiny because we do have an EP coming out, which isn't enough because the full length is after that and it's sitting there, ready to go.

Oz: Well, EPs seem to be a more.. appropriate way to get things done. Obviously Down IV was done over four EPs...

Phil: Well that was a time thing. But with En Minor... We got offered a gig at the Psychofest in Vegas and I think it's more of a thing where we need to get some product out there because we're headlining one of the stages on the Friday night. I know people aren't going to know the music or anything but it's the type of music where you don't have to watch the band really. They don't have to stare at me.

Oz: You're not gonna go full Chet Baker and refuse to continue playing. With so many projects; The Illegals, Scour, En Minor, where does that leave Down and Superjoint?

Phil: I don't really feel like doing Superjoint anymore. With Down, we've got the twenty fifth anniversary coming up of "NOLA," so I would expect to do some gigs there but also it needs to be respected that Pepper's doing things with C.O.C., Jimmy's really busy with Eyehategod and Kirk is doing Crowbar and that's one thing, if we do anything for the twenty fifth anniversary of "NOLA," I want Kirk in the band. I don't want to interrupt anybody's life, if we do anything, it'll be a couple of shows here and there make it a special thing.

Oz: Yeah, maybe do the whole album. It'd be very interesting to hear "Jail" live, which is my favourite Down track.

Phil: We used to do that live and if you like "Jail" then you'll definitely like En Minor. So, maybe do something like that.

Oz: Well, just to finish off with something a bit lighter. I know you're a big boxing fan, did you get the chance to see the (Anthony) Joshua and (Tyson) Fury fights this month?

Phil: Yep. I knew something was gonna happen. I've got a crazy hypothesis of why and what but, I've never seen anything quite like that Anthony Joshua loss and it was bizarre. I saw the disconnect with him in the dressing room. It was like, "This is not the real Anthony Joshua here. Does he really feel out of his element?" That was strange because if you really want to get down to brass tacks, he quit that fight. One of my hypothesis is that boxing is a rogue and crooked sport, but it's also a booming business.

The way Anthony Joshua lost, he did get hit with a nice shot on the temple, which he never looked like he recovered from but with Fury and Deontay Wilder announcing that they were going to have their rematch after one fight so that takes up about a year and a half, two years, figuring these guys fight like once a year. So where does that leave Anthony Joshua, the dude holding all the belts? I think the best business for him was to lose so he could have this gigantic rematch with Andy Ruiz back in the UK, win all his titles back and keep the dramatic effect alive. I'm not sure I even believe that, but for business and boxing business, a guy like Andy Ruiz winning, beating Anthony Joshua, which I never thought in a million years would happen, but if you think about it and look back at the older fights, we saw Anthony Joshua fight Joseph Parker and I thought Joseph Parker had the better feet in that fight and had he let his hands go a little bit more, could have won the fight. I was surprised Joshua didn't press more.

Then we saw Joseph Parker fight Andy Ruiz to a very close decision back when Parker was still undefeated, for the vacant WBO title. It was a tight, tight scrap. They say styles make fights. A lot of people said Joshua and Ruiz's styles clashed and that it'd never be good for the big man, but I think all Joshua had to do is go back and study every single Wladimir Klitschko fight since Wlad got with Emanuel Steward and learn how to fight big. He'd win that fight easy, because when I see Joshua coming to the ring and he's a 6:6 guy while Andy Ruiz is about 6:2, Joshua makes himself small. He gets down to the level of Andy Ruiz and that's a big mistake, an amateurish mistake.

On top of that, we've got big Fury, who right now I think is fighting with this lightness about him, in his heart, in his mind. I don't think he's beatable. I think he's unstoppable in this era. I think he's a special, special fighter and a lot of people don't know this, but the guy he fought, Tom Schwarz is a tough guy. I like Schwarz and I rated him decently before the fight and I read comments on boxing sites like, "Who is this bum, Schwarz?" He's not a fucking bum, he's a tough fighter and I was worried because fighting Fury, you're gonna look bad. He got completely outclassed and stopped and that was just in two rounds. Big applause to Fury, he's the number one heavyweight in the world right now.

Oz: Yeah, I'd have to agree with you. I don't really want to but I don't think it's debatable.

Phil: Believe me, before the last group of fights, I had Anthony Joshua rated number one, now he's at four.

Oz: At the same time though, you don't want to take anything away from Andy Ruiz because the way he was boxing... The speed alone...

Phil: Perfectly. Perfect. He stuck to the game plan and that's the only reason why it went seven rounds because he calmed back down, cooled off and went back to his game plan of boxing and counter punching. Otherwise I think he would have stopped Joshua earlier. I thought it was over in the fourth, I didn't see how Joshua was going to get out of the third and into the fourth. And speed, that's great and all but... Andy Ruiz is beatable. By all stretches of the imagination. He's a very good fighter, great boxer, but he's not a GREAT boxer. He's not one of the best. I think Fury would toy with him. I think Andy Ruiz would give Deontay Wilder a lot of problems, or possibly could, but Wilder's got the equaliser. If Deontay Wilder lands a left hook, right hand on Andy Ruiz, I doubt he gets up.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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2 Comments on "Phil Anselmo On The Illegals And Playing Pantera"

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gripper's avatar

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1. gripper writes:

I appreciate all of your hard work Oz!
Clearly Phil understands what you and MU bring to the heads.
Congrats!

# Jul 1, 2019 @ 4:23 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Thank you very much Gripper! Really appreciate that mate!

# Jul 1, 2019 @ 7:19 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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