Phil Anselmo on New Orleans After Hurricane Isaac, Down and His Upcoming Solo Album (EXCLUSIVE)
“There’s this lingering anxiety, an actual true sickness,” says Phil Anselmo about life in post-Katrina New Orleans. Just two weeks back Hurricane Isaac came and went, leaving entire neighborhoods water-logged and without lights, air-conditioning or clean water. While the damage wasn’t even a fraction of what Katrina left in its wake, the malaise still hangs over the area. “There are people even younger than myself who still have not gotten over the fact that their future after Katrina was just altered. I can think of one couple that had had big plans and then Katrina hit. I don’t think she has recovered.”
Phil Anselmo has never been one to trivialize anything.
It’s Monday morning and it couldn’t be busier at Phil’s house. In less than 24 hours, he and significant (not to mention responsible) other Kate Richardson will be on the road for a month and a half with the mighty Down. To further shatter their serenity, Phil is doing last minute interviews surrounding the release of Down IV: Part 1 – The Purple EP, which the world finally gets a hold of tomorrow [It hit stores on Sept. 18]. There’s dogs’ barking and people coming to the door. No rest, solace or relative peace and quiet for the wicked. Plus, the Saints lost hard yesterday.
Watch Down Performing ‘On March the Saints’ Live
“I approached this sucker the same way I always have,” says Phil launching into a discussion about The Purple EP. “When we demoed Down in ’92, I didn’t show up with a lot of material. I didn’t show up with anything but an idea. I think that’s how everybody did. I’m not sure if anybody was sold on any riffs they had in mind. It was really organic. We had three days to do that demo and came out of it with three songs that we still play today.”
Down IV is hardly an EP. It’s six songs that stand up to and often exceed anything in the Down repertoire. Think: “A NOLA vibe,” says Phil, likening the record to Down’s classic 1995 debut album. “The songs are organic, not overthought and very true to the nature of Down.” From steamroller of riffs that open the disc with “Levitation,” The Purple EP is a travelogue along muddy riverbeds of hulking hooks and lyrical demons. “Open Coffins” or “The Curse Is A Lie,” this is further proof that while Down is hardly a prolific as any of us (them included) would like to be, every tune they craft is very fucking vital. “We have never lived up to the bargain we have made with our cult following of fans,” the frontman laughs. “We’ll get asked ‘When is the new record coming out?’ and a couple years turns into three or four years. It’s miserable.”
Plans are made to be broken. In the case of Down’s recorded output, Anselmo & Co. (including, of course, guitarists Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein, bassist Pat Brudders and drummer Jimmy Bower) have eschewed the normal album format for Down IV for projected four EP’s, three more of which are supposedly slated for 2013. The initial idea was for each of the EP’s to reflect a certain aspect of the band’s multi-faceted musical grip. Until it’s laid to tape, don’t be so sure, if that’s going to be the case. “I’m a terrible predictor,” says Phil. “We do have this diversity about us. We can write pure heavy metal songs and then we can write songs like ‘Stone the Crow’ and then we can write songs based around acoustic work. We have these options. It depends on moods – it depends on what moods I’m in or the band is in. I can’t see the commitment to a smooth rock record or an all-acoustic record.
Watch ‘Stone the Crow’ Video
“Would it be even be right to do a thrash record?” Phil points out. “We’re not a thrash band. That might seem as almost as out of character as us doing a death metal record or an all violin section record!”
It ain’t like Phil hasn’t been far beyond busy in the past few months. What’s in the caustic gumbo of music he’s been recording at the mecca of Southern fried sound: Nodferatu’s Lair? Let’s start at the solo record due out in early 2013 titled Walk Through Exits Only. A solo record? How does it differ from anything Phil Anselmo has already put his good name to?
“It’s probably the most extreme thing I’ve ever done,” says the singer. “I tried to throw a wrench into what would otherwise be described as tradition. It’s heavy metal for sure. It’s almost like taking the lyrical simplicity of a band like Discharge and applying it to something non-traditional. The melding of traditional hardcore presentation with a simplicity that pounds a hook into your head over and over and over ala something like [Discharge's] Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing. There’s nothing predicable about the record.”
Then again, when it comes to any musical discussion, Phil Anselmo is omnivorous. “I’m a student of the game,” he admits. “Just really a big time fan.” He freely sings the praises of Ghost as current faves. He also gladly name checks Aussie avant-garde death metal crew Portal and eccentric trad-metallers, The Lord Weird Slough Feg who he describes as “That old metal thing meets the Highlander!” Phil also waxes on about his current fixation: old school thrash. “I know it sounds as generic as it gets but I’ve been going back to the older Slayer records. There’s something about Hell Awaits and even Reign In Blood that’s just relentless. Then again, there are bands like Dark Angel, Viking, even Kreator‘s Pleasure to Kill – just really interesting sounding, really fucking heavy.”
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