Walk Through Exits Only, Philip Anselmo’s eight-song, solo album with his band The Illegals was released on Anselmo’s own Housecore Records this week. Produced by Anselmo and Michael Thompson, it was recorded at Anselmo’s studio in New Orleans. The former vocalist for the now-defunct Texas metal band Pantera kicks off his first-ever solo tour, “Technicians of Distortion” in Tulsa at the historic Cain’s Ballroom on July 31.
Anselmo hasn’t steered entirely clear of controversy during his long career, and yet he’s definitely not the one-dimensional stereotype of a hell-raising, headbanging frontman, either. Although drugs, alcohol and a brush with death are all part of his story, so are chickens, jazz pianists and boxing.
“I’m excited to be starting the tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Anselmo told me in his Louisiana drawl. “The crowds have always been fantastic and very knowledgeable and very, very active at the shows.” Although fans can expect to hear the new album cover to cover, Anselmo noted that each show on the tour will be unique. “One of the most important things for me is that each show, no matter where we play, it’s going to be a different set. I want each show to have its own personality…not one night will be the same as the next night, so basically, don’t blink. Come out to the show and don’t blink,” he laughed.
Those who’ve seen Anselmo with Pantera or Down, know this performer literally throws himself into his music. A boxing enthusiast, Anselmo uses the sport to stay in shape and to prepare for the physical demands of touring. “Well, I’m figuring I’m 45 years old. I think the safest way for me to say in shape is hitting the bag, cause the bag don’t hit back,” he joked. Still, Anselmo is no stranger to injury from both his music and his hobby.
“I’ve devoted my life to physical music, to hard-hitting, impactful music. Yes, I’ve been through several operations, everything from a hernia to a 3-4 level fusion in my lower back, knee surgery, broken noses, broken wrists, broken ribs. I bleed for my music, for real. In a world where schlock and stage makeup and image and fake blood are a commonly used format for shock value, I like to consider myself sort of the real deal…When blood is there, it’s mine and it’s real. I’m a warrior for the music, and I bleed for my music. I’m not the first to do it, but in my opinion, I’m carrying on a great tradition of physicality in music.”
Anselmo may be willing to shed blood for his art, but he no longer sees it as a necessary part of his performance. “Everyone’s seen me do the old jumping and going berserk and crazy. I don’t want to rely on any of that. I don’t have to do a dance for the kids anymore. They know who I am. They know exactly who I am. I feel out each show individually, so whether I bleed one night or another, that’s not a predetermined thing. That’s something that comes with spontaneity…Each show is going to have its own personality, and if one has me a bloody mess by the end of the show, the more power to it,” he concluded with a laugh. “I love it.”
Anselmo comes from a musical tradition. “My family, especially on my mother’s side, is made up of great jazz pianists and great musicians in general, so it’s kind of an atavistic thing that I would end up being a musician to begin with,” he commented. According to Anselmo, living in New Orleans, and later Texas, strongly influenced his own sound. “When you think New Orleans, most people think jazz and blues…When I was growing up here in the early 80s and middle 80s, popular music was heavy metal and early hardcore…There were some great, great local bands that really brought fantastic influence to my life.”
With his move to Texas in 1987 to join Pantera, he encountered a different approach to the music. “Although they were in the same kind of heavy metal, hardcore genre, there were gigantic differences between the two of them,” he explained. “New Orleans bands had a lazy, slow feel to them. When they would drop into a half-time part, it would be extra, extra slow; the New Orleans bands had more of a groove to the music. But in Texas, intensity was the rule of the day, playing as fast as possible, but with precision was very important…New Orleans and Texas were both great foundations for me.”
Now back living near New Orleans, Anselmo has made sure he has the resources he needs to survive in the aftermath of another tropical storm. “I’ve got some chickens for eggs. I do have a garden, and its yield is fantastic. I fish in the river. I have all those things plus a water well,” he explained. “My point with all of that is self-reliance,” he continued. “This is the type of year and time of year, especially in the Louisiana Gulf Coast in general, when I think everyone is a little wary, especially after something like Hurricane Katrina happens.”
Catch Philip Anselmo with The Illegals, featuring Marzi Montazeri (guitar), Jose Manual Gonzalez (drums), and Steve Taylor (bass), on Wednesday, July 31 at the Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK.
-With permission from Currentland