Philip Anselmo Discusses New Down EP, Housecore Horror Film Festival + More
Down are back with the second installment of a series of four EPs. ‘Down IV Part I: the Purple EP’ was released in 2012, and the follow up, ‘Down IV – Part II,’ is out today (May 13). The band is also currently on tour with Black Label Society.
Loudwire spoke with frontman Philip Anselmo about the new Down EP, his solo project with his backing band the Illegals, his contribution to the upcoming Eyehategod album, this year’s Housecore Horror Film Festival and other topics. Check out our interview with the legendary Philip Anselmo below:
You recently jumped on the Golden Gods tour with Black Label Society. How have the first few shows been?
It is going well on my part. Obviously, I can do better. It’s always the first week blues working in the old throat. Going between the more death metal stylings of the Illegals back to quasi-Southern rock of Down is always kind of a challenge, but other than that, the crowds have been really over-the-top, great, amazing. The Black Label Society guys are fantastic. The two other bands on tour, the Butcher Babies and Devil You Know, everyone is cool as f–k. It’s laid back and intense at the same time.
When you go into a Down tour, do you have to revisit the catalog and re-remember the lyrics or are they all in that memory bank forever?
No, it’s not really that. It’s really the switchover of vocal styles. Me, at my elderly, frigging, date of expiration here, you’ve got to take care of the old voice. Really that is my only battle right now.
Is it strange to look over to the side and not see Kirk Windstein there after all these years?
To a degree. Bobby Landgraf is an incredible guitar player. He had worked for us doing the guitar teching and stuff like that before. He has always been on that side of the stage. It’s like déjà vu meets welcome to the band, brother. It’s not all that strange.
Let us talk a little bit about the new EP, ‘Down IV – Part II.’ Would you consider it a continuation of the first EP, a sequel, or something completely different?
I like to think of and approach each record as its own thing or its own album. It is its own thing. I feel real good about it. The songs came out as organically as possible. The sessions were incredibly diplomatic and democratic. Everybody added in their two cents and we went for it. To me it feels very good and unique.
Does ‘Bacchanalia,’ the last track on the EP that ends in a laid back and mellow style, give a hint of the direction the third EP might go in?
That is an interesting way to look at it. I can’t say no to that question because honestly I guess it would be a bit of a segue. The third installment of these four EPs may be a little more ambitious with textures and sounds that we might use. For me really, at the end of the day, it’s got to sound like Down. We are a band that has touched on using smoother tones, if you take a look at a song like ‘Stone the Crow’ or something like that. Of course, we have gone completely and 100 percent acoustic, as well, on several different albums.
We have that flexibility, but I always battle with myself to think, if we put out an all acoustic record or a smooth rock record, would that be totally fair to Down fans? I’m not so sure. I think, yes, it will be more ambitious but there’s got to be some heaviness to it. Down at heart is a heavy metal band based on Black Sabbath worship. I think there will be signs of growth, but it has got to sound like Down and with that comes heaviness. Ambition and heaviness and the mood that we are in will dictate where that record takes us.
After you wrap up this run in the U.S., you are headed over to Europe for a bunch of festivals. What is Down’s level of awareness and popularity over there as compared to North America?
It’s interesting. The Europeans do not forget anything. Even flash in the pan bands here in the United States somehow have a pretty strong following in Europe. They are very educated in music, very passionate. We do very well over there and we are very well received.
It seems like in the U.S. the past few years there has been a rise in festivals, like Rocklahoma or Rock on the Range. Do they compare at all to the European festivals?
A festival is a festival is a festival. The Europeans have been doing it longer. They have some festivals that are just so massive and so well run. You have to include the awesome audiences. I can’t impress upon you how much passion they are toting around. It’s a tough comparison because I think that Down has a hardcore fan base worldwide and that definitely includes the United States.
I always feel like Down is kind of a different band. If you round up say 100 bands, we stick out like a, I won’t say a sore thumb, but I will say a thumb. We stick out no matter what festival situation we may be in. It’s all fun to us.
The Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals album ‘Walk Through Exits Only’ has been out for a while now. Were you satisfied with the response?
I thought it was a good response. It doesn’t matter how well established you are individually. If you are going to throw something brand new at your fan base, it is going to take a while for them to digest it all. I still think we are in the slow digesting mode because one record can only tell so much about a band.
I’ve been writing a bunch of new stuff for the Illegals and being very, very conscious to make sure that it’s completely different, but still extreme at the same time. I think it’s going to take this next record and maybe even the next one after that for people to even be able to completely figure out what our intentions were on the first record.
I have been through all this before with different bands. You have to prove yourself on that second record. When that comes out or when we are ready to put the sucker out, I will know more, you will know more, and we will go from there.
Turning to the label side of things, your Housecore Records is getting ready to put out the Eyehategod album. What was your role in its recording?
It’s a type of record where they did drums in one room, guitars in a different room, and when it came to vocals, that is where Mike IX Williams felt the most comfortable with working together with me. We work awesome together. We know this from doing a couple of Arson Anthem records together. Mike is very particular. He is very serious about what he does, especially when it comes to Eyehategod.
When it comes to Eyehategod, I have been a fan since their first demo. I feel like I know them very well. Mike trusted me. We worked really well together on this thing. Honestly, I think it’s his best work. To be bold enough, I think it’s Eyehategod’s best record ever.
I’m so proud of them and proud to be part of this. It goes beyond words. I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s going to be a blast. I’m very proud to be part of it. That is all I can say.
The first Housecore Horror Film Festival was a huge success. There was the recent announcement about the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ cast reuniting at this year’s festival. What did you learn from last year’s event that you can apply to this year to make things bigger and better?
Honestly, to not stress out on it as much. Year One was like, “Oh my God. What are we getting into here?” We saw how laid back everything was and how well set up it was. That relieved a whole lot of anxiety. I’m looking forward to it, yet still in my opinion we are in a lot of infantile stages as far as securing certain buildings and securing certain bands and making sure we get a gigantic library of different films. To me, it’s all still very much in the works and has a long way to go before I can feel absolutely comfortable about it.
It is great to have the ‘Texas Chainsaw’ cast. Everyone that was a part of it that is still alive and kicking is going to come down and view this thing together for the first time. It is a lot of guys and gals that were in the actual film that have never sat down together and watched the whole original from front to back in one sitting. That is going to be really so unique and mind blowing for a horror freak like myself. It once again goes beyond words. We are working hard towards everything.
You have a lot of irons in the fire. Anything else you have going on that you need to mention?
I think we nailed everything. Whatever it may be, irons in the fire, there is always room in that fire. Just bring it on, man.
Watch Down’s Video for ‘We Knew Him Well’