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Philip H. Anselmo, gravel-throated vocalist for The Illegals has seen a few things in his time. The world from atop mighty stages. The death of his brothers. Even his own temporary shift off this mortal coil. He’s still kicking on, as a soldier in the global metal cause.
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The Illegals are his charges, leading them into battle armed with Sabbath-forged riffs, bouts of insanity, and the odd Pantera song. That’s right; Anselmo is bringing back the music and legacy of Pantera on this latest tour. With the passing of original drummer Vinnie Paul, the time couldn’t feel more right to revisit those legendary tunes. A “true tribute” as he calls it. Hitting the Aussie highways with his beloved King Parrot this April, Phil sheds light on where his head at when it comes to his musical life. Oh, and we finally pin him down to barracking for an Aussie Rules team. Carn the Saints! (Was it really a surprise?)
How was Mardi Gras, Phil?
Boring, I didn’t do anything.
Are you over it?
Yeah, it’s boring man.
Not your scene?
Not anymore. No. I got all that shit out of my system a long time ago.
[Laughs] Something like that.
Tell us about the new Illegals album, Mental Illness as a Virtue.
Well, I got a great band around me. I have the freedom to play any type of music that I want at this point in my career. The Illegals are fun, they’re talented, they’re great. We do a very extreme type of heavy metal but we’re kind of all over the place, so for me the last record was about as extreme as I was going to get for that record. And at this point man, it’s like a lot of shit has happened. So just to cut to the chase, you know, this time last year when I was getting ready to tour, I found out that Vince had passed. Vinnie Paul had passed and that was unexpected and tragic and sad as shit.
It took some wind out of the sails. But then people started requesting and asking a whole bunch and begging me really, to revisit some old Pantera songs. And honestly, The Illegals has messed around with some Pantera just as, you know, for fun back in the day and it was always just a couple songs. But I never thought I’d have to ask this crew of dudes who were really raised on other extreme music and death metal and stuff like that, to learn a set of Pantera stuff, but when I asked them they were very receptive to it and they understood the importance of it. So now, this whole tour has really altered us… you know it’s like playing newer, more extreme stuff, with The Illegals, but then also touching back with the Pantera stuff, man. It makes for a trippy audience man, so it’s a bunch of fun. I’ll take it.
The Pantera family, as unfortunate as it is to say, is shrinking. Do you feel it’s time to revisit Pantera? Not to revive it as a band, but perhaps touch on the music, as you and The Illegals are.
I like to call it a tribute … a true tribute. Now, ain’t no reason to not touch on the Pantera fans because I’ll tell you, if it weren’t for the Pantera fans I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing right now. Not talking to you, I’m sure. But I’ll say, also on another level, bringing in and playing the older songs, the Pantera songs, I’m seeing a lot of young faces. A lot of young blood out there, definitely people that had never had a chance to even understand really want Pantera is, or experience it live. Now, I’m getting to see it in the audience and it’s a pretty fucking awesome thing. I cannot deny it.
You’re touring Oz with King Parrot. You’ve sort of taken them under your wing, pardon the pun.
Well, I met Youngster [Vocalist Matt Young] a long while back. We talked and I met with the other guys and they all want to do a record together. Also, I mean they’re part of my label, they’re part of my family. So I love those boys and they remind me a whole lot of the attitude that I had coming in to this music biz, and I love their attitude, I love their style, I love their whole shtick. They’re my boys, I love them to death. I can say great things about King Parrot forever.
It helps they go for the Saints in the AFL, and you being from New Orleans go for the Saints in the NFL.
Yeah, man. People tried to talk me into it, I’m trying to find a home team to choose so I can get into the game, the finer points.
Just go for the Saints mate.
What’s the city there?
Now, ain’t no reason to not touch on the Pantera fans because I’ll tell you, if it weren’t for the Pantera fans I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing right now.
St. Kilda. We can take you down to Linton St., meet the boys.
I’ll do it. St. Kilda. I’d love it. I’d love to do that.
Done. Talking about NOLA, it seems to be a magnet for weird metal. Eyehategod, Crowbar, your own bands…
Well, it’s a distinct side of metal. I think New Orleans is known best for the slower, heavier grooves and that’s stuff I touched on with Down, but definitely Crowbar and Eyehategod and all those … you know, all these bands. It’s really, it’s Black Sabbath worship, man. Melvins and Black Sabbath worship. From back in the day, the middle 80s. Hey, there’s a lot of talented motherfuckers from here. I had the fortune of growing up with them, you know. Everybody from Kirk from Crowbar, and Pepper from [Corrosion of Conformity], and all the … man, I could just sit here and rattle them all off. It was great growing up around that talented group, and it was competitive, and boundary pushing, man. Really fuckin’ great.
Do you think there’s still that boundary pushing out there? Sort of like when The Beatles put something out and the Beach Boys are like “shit, we have to top that.”
Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, I keep my distance from music a whole lot. I don’t go to music websites. I don’t look up bands. I like what I like and people turn me on to some good shit. But I will say, this past year … and look, this is probably my fault but I haven’t really heard too many bands … too many new bands that have really grabbed my attention and I’m sure they’re out there. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I think, in this modern day of press a button and get every fucking thing you want, I think sometimes … I guess you get blinded by the amount of bands. Back in the old days you had to search bands out one by one and just check them out when you could. These days you can do it anytime you want and hear thousands and millions of bands if you wanted. Just for me, I guess I haven’t had the energy to go digging around for bands, but nothing’s really leapt out at me. And like I say, sometimes I think maybe it can be blinding. Am I wrong there?
No, not at all. I think before the Internet revolution you might have had a great band but it never got signed. For all we know, it never really existed. Now you can get bedroom producers putting shit on Spotify. Shit being the active word there.
Well, like you say, it’s so many fucking bands that I guess you just need to slow down, and I guess I’m wagging my finger at myself here. You gotta slow down and smell the roses. Is that the right? Yeah something like that, you gotta look for it man. Look for the gems. I guess I’m going to have to get inspired to do something like that again because last time I did it, what five or so years ago, I came up for air and man, I found Portal, you know? From Australia. Brisbane. I still to this day, they’re my favourite death metal band of the modern era. Until I hear it, then I’ll know it, you know?
PHIL ANSELMO AND THE ILLEGALS Thrash Blast Grind Tour
With special guests King Parrot, Palm & Potion
Thu 21 March // The Basement // Canberra
Fri 22 March // Max Watts // Melbourne (Sold Out)Sat 23 March // SLAYFEST at Amplifier Capitol // Perth
Sun 24 March // Enigma Bar // Adelaide (Sold Out)
Tue 26 March // Empire // Christchurch* (Cancelled)
Wed 27 March // Galatos // Auckland* (Cancelled)
Fri 29 March // The Back Room // Brisbane
Sat 30 March // The Factory // Sydney
Sun 31 March // The Cambridge // Newcastle
Thu 4 April // The Corner // Melbourne w/ Black Rheno
Fri 5 April // Brisbane Hotel // Hobart w/ Black Rheno
*No Palm & Potion