An Interview With Phil Anselmo: Metal Frontman Discusses Upcoming Housecore Horror Film Festival, His Love of Horror, Musical Projects, And More.
Phil Anselmo is a man who doesn’t like to sit still. He’s been involved in numerous musical projects since his work with Pantera. And he’s a lifelong horror movie fan.
Now his two passions will converge with The Housecore Horror Film Festival, 4 days of metal bands and horror movies, which runs from Oct 24th-27th at Emo’s East, The Dirty Dog, and Antone’s in Austin, TX.
Anselmo isn’t just the curator of the festival; he’ll be performing with his veteran metal act Down, as well as his new band The Illegals, who’ll perform songs from his recent solo album Walk Through Exits Only.
I recently had a chance to chat with Anselmo about the festival, his musical projects, and his love of horror movies. So enjoy our Q&A below:
SLIS: I read that writer Corey Mitchell (who’s working with Anselmo on his upcoming book) suggested the idea of Housecore Fest to you. What was your first reaction when he proposed that idea?
ANSELMO: When he first he brought it up, it was probably our first face to face meeting and I was just getting a feel for Corey and him with me…In all reality I didn’t know what to expect right off the bat, but then he just said; you should do a horror fest, and I probably half-ass answered, yeah sure!
And the next thing you know he asked what do you think about adding bands…and I said well there’s Housecore Records, there’s New Orléans that we can tap into, there’s the Dallas-Ft. Worth scene we can tap into and I was like why not? And then Corey really took the ball and ran with it.
So a lot of credit goes to him and his partner in crime Tammy Moore…And here we sit today less than a month out and it’s a hell of a fucking event.
SLIS: So who came up with the idea of Austin hosting the festival?
ANSELMO: Well that was his idea and I trusted him on a lot of the decision-making because if he feels comfortable having year one in Austin for a particular reason I’m fine with that. And I love Austin, so I’m fine with it.
SLIS: So do you think you’ll plan on expanding it next year and touring different cities, or just doing it in Austin yearly?
ANSELMO: Well personally I’m thinking we need to get through year one to see if there’s even a feasible reason to do year two, etc. I want to get this first year under the belt and see how things run…But there’s been talk of doing a different city each year.
And I’ve done plenty of European interviews where they’re screaming please bring this festival to Europe, so there are a lot of options out there but I beg everyone please let us get through year one before we even use that horrible word annual, (laughing). But my hopes are high and I have a pretty positive outlook on this whole thing…I think we have a monster event on our hands. And it should be a blast.
SLIS: So what was the first horror movie you ever saw, your gateway drug into horror so to speak?
ANSELMO: I have a pretty incredible memory when it comes to childhood. And I remember the first movie that I emotionally became attached to and I couldn’t have been more than 3 years old when I first saw the original King Kong. I was super fascinated by Kong himself and the stop motion animation and all of that. And really at the end when he died I cried my eyes out like a baby, and therefore it really left an impact. And it showed me the power of film, and what it can do to the emotions when done correctly.
I was raised in New Orléans in the French Quarter for a great portion of my childhood so I was very fortunate because in the early 70’s they had a Friday night horror film show and on Saturday there would be a creature feature in the afternoon and another horror program later in the evening, and there was this thing that was really awesome called the Sunday morning movie…and they would show everything from Godzilla flicks to the original Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and How Awful About Allan.
Stuff like that I can name right off the top of the old memory banks that I saw as a child. And they really left an effect and made the love of horror very contagious within the old brain of mine. It was a sponge soaking up everything.
SLIS: I just interviewed Sean Yseult recently, who’s really excited to play the festival (click here for that interview). I asked her this question, which I’d also like your take on; why do you think heavy metal and horror films work so well together?
ANSELMO: I think the correlation is apparent. I think the easiest way for me to summarize a question like this if you look at a movie like Night Of The Living Dead or Evil Dead Or The Exorcist…something like that where there’s a possessing demon and has a voice…you look no further as far as influence on music than death metal you know? Would death metal really be a genre without these movies? I’m not so sure. Go listen to the vocals.
Like where did they get this idea to perform at such an extreme way vocally? I think 110% from possession films like The Evil Dead you know? So I just see it as a hand in hand thing…and even going maybe a step further look at what Evil Dead did for Slayer and Hell Awaits.
For me it’s like those movies and that album went hand and hand…it just left a tremendous impact and almost like companion pieces to each other…If you look at modern times there’s band called Portal from Australia, a really incredible death metal band that, for me these days are an incredible companion piece to Lovecraft…I think it’s always been there as far as extreme music goes…but I bite my tongue when I say extreme music, because I look at a guy like Roky Erickson and he wrote all his monster songs…and look at the Misfits you know. Once again you’re hearkening to imagery to Night Of The Living Dead, so the horror influence is there.
SLIS: So I was looking at the film lineup. I’m a huge horror fan, but I’m excited to see some films that flew under my radar. In particular the Coffin Joe stuff looks fantastic. When were you first exposed to his films?
ANSELMO: When I joined Pantera in the late 80’s, all of a sudden I was making a little bit of scratch after each weekend’s gig…So really what I did was get me a simple apartment with simple needs…and one of those needs was a VHS player, and something to listen to music through…so I really liken tape trading of horror films and music…very similar to me in how passionate I was…and trying to find different things and what not…so to answer your question…there used to be a lot of what you’d call pirate movie outlets. And I used to order films for this one particular guy, and he said Have you ever heard of Coffin Joe? And I was like, no, so he said I’m just gonna send you a bonus movie of Coffin Joe. And it was At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.
I was blown away…and from that point on, I was an absolute Coffin Joe freak. I had the fantastic opportunity of meeting him when Down played in Brazil. He came out to the show and he brought me all this awesome shit…posters and booklets and pamphlets from all of this stuff he’d been a part of. And I didn’t realize his body of work you know …this guy has done every thing from children’s films to porno (I laugh)…It’s true! But it’s amazing how lasting and creative his horror films are even today. It’s gonna be great to have him down, and apparently he’s bringing a lot of unknown artwork that he’s done over the years, and we’ll have a little gallery set up with a lot his paintings and drawings that he’s done and shit that I’ve never seen so I’m looking forward to it big time man.
SLIS: I remember seeing Cannibal Ferox back in college (see where it ranks on my grossest movie scenes list). I was traumatized. What was your first reaction when you saw it?
ANSELMO: Well Umberto Lenzi has had a vision for a long time and he’s seen it through. And I think I saw the Cannibal movies out of sync, ‘cause I think I saw Cannibal Holocaust first, which is in my opinion, the greatest found footage film ever made…The Blair Witch Project ripped it off completely, and came up with a completely inferior product.
There’s so much I can say about these movies…the political statements in them. Also the actors and actresses that are put through these films, they’re troopers man, they’re real method actors and actresses…And Deodato put them through the fucking ringer man…realism, political awareness, found footage and biting the hand that feeds…all these things come to mind when I think about those films.
SLIS: So let’s talk music. When did you decide you wanted to make a solo album?
ANSELMO: That’s a tough thing to pinpoint, but if you look at my track record at all, even when I was in Pantera and all throughout those crazy years of incredible memories and honestly great success, I was always doing different projects. And really I think as a musician…to be pinned down to one genre, it feels a little bit unfair. I guess I consider myself an explorer in music. You know, Down is what is it is: a Black Sabbath-based band that happens to have a southern feel and maybe that’s because of where we come from and how we get things across…but we know that at the end of the day when we go to write Down music how its going to turn out and what it should turn out to be.
For me as far as doing the solo record…I’m a big fan of extreme music of all sorts and especially death metal and black metal and any subgenre that may fall in-between the cracks…And I wanted to create a record that I felt was as extreme as anything out there but with perhaps a different twist on its approach whether it be lyrically or just pure attitude wise.
So whether I’ve done that I guess time will tell…so right now Down and my solo band (The Illegals) are my only two working bands and I’m going to try to keep it like that for semi simplicity, or maybe quasi simplicity’s fucking sake. We’ll see how it goes from there man. I have to give a little shout out to the fact that my solo band has another EP coming out strictly for the horror festival; it’s a two song 10-inch vinyl and very different than anything off Walk Through Exits Only. I think that’s its epic in its own way as a matter of fact. The EP is called Housecore Horror Film Fest EP… think the B-side is really one of the most epic songs I’ve ever written in my life.
SLIS: I know you’re playing two sets so I wanted to expand on my earlier question: how does the live experience differ from you with Down vs. The Illegals? Does each set feel different for you (for lack of a better term) when playing for an audience?
ANSELMO: It is different, man; Down has been around for a long time. We did our first demo in ‘92 and I guess our first record came out in ‘95…and Down has a very strong core fan base whereas The Illegals are looked at as something new, something different. I think people are still wrapping their heads around it, whereas with Down everyone’s familiar with the stuff and they know the personalities on stage and the songs inside and out. So there is a difference there, a different type of energy a different type of approach and a different type of crowd reaction…so it’s a little bit different on both scales of the spectrum. But that’s fine by me. I’m really cool with the unexpected. It is what it is and that’s how the ball bounces and I’ll take it.
SLIS: I think one of the highlights for many attendees is going to be Goblin’s Suspiria set. Who’s idea was it to have them score it live?
ANSELMO: I think it was a joint idea between Cory Mitchell and Goblin and whoever else pulled all this shit together behind the scenes. It was just presented to me like “Hey Phil, how do you feel about Goblin playing?” And that’s like asking me “Hey Phil, would you like 3 Million dollars?” I feel like I hit the lottery. That is a first round knock out…That’s me jumping 20 feet in the air saying ABSOLUTELY FUCKING YES. So that is very unique and as a fan I’m looking forward to that as much as anyone else. I’m stoked.
SLIS: Me too! Soundtracks are so essential to a great horror movie, have you ever thought about scoring one yourself?
ANSELMO: I have dabbled with it just a tad with Jim Van Bebber’s Manson Family movie. I did a lot of that soundtrack and some voiceovers for that…I still have my old family piano that’s been in the family a long time… actually I mess around with horror soundtrack stuff all the time…I still have horror stuff that I’ve incorporated that has never even seen the light of day with bands like Christ Inversion. You know we only had one record that came out. And I never released a second record, I don’t know why, I just never have. Probably because we’re not a functioning band, but there was a lot of piano based horror stuff that I collaborated with Ross Karpelman on, who played keyboards on Pantera and Down records, and he played with an awesome New Orléans band called Clearlight.
I’m the type of guy that has so much fucking music that I’m sitting on over here. I never released it to the public. It’s really horror related…It’s always been an interest of mine. But, as far as taking on a gigantic film and scoring it, honestly right now between Down, the Illegals, the Horror Fest, the book, touring, etc., etc.– I’d have to clear a lot of time, because you know if you want to do a proper horror soundtrack, first of all I’d want to know what the movie was about, I’d have to get a feel for it. So, believe me man, I love making and creating that type of music. Maybe one day I’ll put it all out, maybe I won’t, but I’m sitting on a lot of ammo, so to speak, over here.
SLIS: Do you think one day you would like to produce or direct your own horror movie?
ANSELMO: NO, NO and NO. I’m not a fucking director. I don’t have the patience for it. I like to just sit on my fat ass down and watch horror films. That’s one thing I want everybody to be very clear on. Basically I hate to ruin the experience for myself. I like to watch horror films these days for aesthetic reasons and really for relaxation…because it’s taking my mind away from all the other work that comes with a day. So horror films are really just my way of escaping these days and I’d like to just leave it at that.
SLIS: Any new filmmakers at the festival that you’re particularly impressed with?
ANSELMO: There’s some full lengths that are really very good. And there are some shorts out there that I think are fucking excellent…and I think the directors could be tomorrow’s go-to guys…they could be the future of horror because they’re not following the rules, they’re not going with the hot trend, or found footage or remake bullshit…it will be really interesting to get their (attendees) take as to what these under-the-radar directors are doing today.
It’s almost like turning a friend of yours on to it…actually the whole festival is sort of like an extension of my living room. It’s like, when I run into a movie that I think people really need to see or if I come across a person that claims to be a horror film fan, I like to test them, I like to say well have you seen this and if they say no then I make them sit down and watch a film, or someone who’s into extreme music and they haven’t heard a band I happen to be into, I will make them sit down and play this band for them and turn them on…I’m just looking forward to it, big time.
SLIS: Also I know the official lineup/schedule hasn’t been announced. Any idea when that will be finalized?
ANSELMO: We’ve finally got all the bands nailed down. I’m waiting on the final film tally and which submissions are getting the thumbs up. It’s a committee judgment to a certain degree. But I do have the final say so in a lot of this stuff…especially when it comes to films so I would think a finalization will be coming here in the next week or so.
**UPDATE: The official line-up has been announced! Click here for the full schedule.
SLIS: And getting back to your book; how is that coming along? Any word of a release date?
ANSELMO: I’m very far from completion. It’s infantile in my opinion still.
SLIS: So if you could only watch 5 horror films for the rest of your life, what would they be?
ANSELMO: (groans) You realize this is an IMPOSSIBLE question.
SLIS: I know…. I just wanted to see what came to your mind first (laughing)
ANSELMO: The first couple films that popped in my mind would be the original Evil Dead. Which I think is one of the biggest flukes in horror film history, just looking at Sam Raimi’s body of work…I do not like comedy within my horror, and if you look at Evil Dead 2 and 3 there’s elements of slapstick…it kind of ruined it for me…I think another film would be The Old Dark House with Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton and Melvyn Douglas. It’s just a really incredible film, incredible atmosphere.
Man…you really put me on the fucking spot! (both laughing)
The second I get five films out of my mouth I’m going to bite my tongue.
The Curse of The Demon is an incredible movie man. Great special effects for its time. Incredible story of witchcraft and black and white magic.
And House Of The Laughing Windows by Pupi Avati; Italian film very under the radar. Very beautifully shot.
I want to say The People That Own The Dark, but I’m not 100% sure …and there’s films like The Sinful Dwarf…ugh, that’s the type of movie that you want to take a shower after you’ve seen it. Absolutely hideous. (laughs)
Then there’s a movie that’s super unique called The Vij. Very different…It was shot as a student project. The revolving set that they shot it on is absolutely very unique…I think it’s based on Russian folklore or a fairy tale. Beautifully shot, very creative, outrageous in general, fantastic character actors.
Goddamn. See man you opened up a can of whoop ass…that’s just an impossible question! When you talk to a fellow horror fan you can go off…just like bands that you’re into. There’s just so fucking many of them…you can’t catch them all, you can’t own them all, so chances are you know somebody has seen something that you haven’t. And that’s awesome. That’s spreading the word.
SLIS: Any last statement you’d like to make as far as your expectations for the festival and to those who are attending?
ANSELMO: I want everyone to have a blast. I hope this thing runs smooth as silk. I’m just looking forward to it. For everybody that’s bought badges already, a big thank you and thumbs up to them. But there’s always more room and more space for more people so bring it on. Come on out to the goddamn fucking Housecore Horror Film Festival, cause it will be a very unique experience.
SLIS: Thanks so much Phil, it’s been a pleasure. I look forward to checking out the fest and seeing you live!
To get badges, and more info on the finalized lineup, check out the official Housecore Horror Festival website. I’ll be covering the festival in both my Horror Examiner column and through here, so be sure to check it for updates!
And you can order Anselmo’s solo album from Amazon below: