Philip Anselmo of Down Talks Tour, "Down IV Part I – The Purple EP", Solo Music, H.P. Lovecraft, and More
Mon, 07 Jan 2013 06:46:14
Every Down show is memorable for one reason or another.
Much like their recorded output, the legendary group's gigs are like living and (fire) breathing beasts. From Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein's impenetrable guitar salvo to the thunderous stomp of Pat Bruders and Jimmy Bower's rhythm section, the music rolls with divine darkness. At the center of it all stands Philip Anselmo. His voice ushers everyone into the void with unshakable fortitude and hypnotic delivery. In other words, you're in for a hell of a ride.
Down launches the "Weed and Speed" tour with Warbeast—who kicks ass and are on Anselmo's label Housecore Records—on January 11. It's the first time the band has touched down on the West Coast since unleashing last year's immediately immortal Down IV Part I – The Purple EP, and fans stand as anxious as ever to see them.
In this exclusive interview, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino sat down with Philip Anselmo to talk about the tour, the EP, his solo material, what he's been reading, and so much more.
How has the Down live experience changed? Being that the band is more of a full-time thing, do you feel like the shows are tighter?
It depends on the show. We're a tight group. I think each show has its own personality, so to speak. Every night is different, and it takes on its own life. Like any of my other bands, there's no puff, gimmicks, or special effects. It's just amps, drums, and a bunch of hideous-looking motherfuckers playing music [Laughs]. That's how I roll. Personally, as far as what I'm going to get up on stage and do, we're not a big gimmick band. It's straight-up reality, fucking truth, and honest energy.
Is there anything on Down IV Part I – The Purple EP you haven't played live yet?
We have not done "Levitation" live yet. We've done "Witchtripper". I think we did "The Curse Is a Lie" once. We do "Open Coffins". We've done "Misfortune Teller". I think the only songs we haven't done are "This Work is Timeless" and "Levitation". It's just a matter of time before we bust them out. You never know.
You guys always end up jamming on riffs live within extended outros and intros. Do those ever land on records later? Does that spark more writing?
Yeah, it can spark more writing. Then again, it can spark a never-ending song too [Laughs]. We are the worst band when it comes to ending songs because we get on this fucking jam, dirge session that can last five minutes or fifty minutes [Laughs]. Each thing takes on its own life depending on the day and the mood.
"Family, Friends, and Associates" and "Conflict" from the War of the Gargantuas split simply slay. They're truly intense, but they still showcase another evolution for you.
I appreciate the kind words man. I really do. I think those songs are still a far cry from the full-length that will be coming out this upcoming summer though. To me, they're more in line with the straight ahead songs I've come up with. Be prepared for a different listen when you hear the upcoming full-length. I wanted to do something different with a lot of fucking energy that would, I guess, come off as faster or more energetic than your basic fast playing at a million miles an hour with blast beats. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's just been overdone so many times. In my mind, there are ways to rhythmically capture a lot of energy without having to resort to the common way or speed-for-the-sake-of-speed feel. If you look at the basic drum beat on "Conflict", it's not a blast beat. It's a big syncopation of kick drums and toms. It creates a massive energy with the double-picking guitar. It's a first taste people can wrap their heads around. Be forewarned when the full-length comes out though.
Lyrically, "Family, Friends, and Associates" and "Conflict" throw a real gut punch. Is this a little more direct than the Down material which is more visual, hypnotic, and ethereal?
I would agree with you one-hundred percent. With the Down lyrics, the listeners can take them and interpret them in their own ways. With the solo shit, I'm being very direct. There isn't any wordplay. There isn't any hidden message. It's all right there in front of you. There it is.
Was the "Witchtripper" video your concept?
That was actually my and Pepper's concept. We had a blast making that thing. That was probably the most fun music video we've ever done. I think we all got a gigantic laugh at the end of the day. It was hilarious.
The homage to certain horror films is evident, and it's funny at the same time.
Exactly! We're at the point in our career where if it's not fun, it's not worth doing so we're going to make this shit fun no matter what. I think all of us in the band really thrive on that absurd kind of humor. To me, that's the only way to go. I love it!
Do you remember the first Down live show?
Well, we had done some local shows way before a record came out or anything like that probably in '91 or '92. We opened for Eyehategod in this tiny little place in New Orleans called R.C. Bridge Lounge. That was our first gig. If I'm not mistaken, I think it was Mardi Gras time. It was a good show. Nobody really knew the songs. Back in the '90s, audiences were different. I think they were more, what I would call, educated, as far as crowd unity goes, mosh pits, stage diving, and stuff like that. Those shows were a whole lot of fun because everyone knew what to do with themselves in the audience regardless of who was playing. All of it was aggressive enough. Back then in New Orleans, there was a gigantic slow movement. They were shunning speed metal, death metal, and everything that was fast-paced. At that time, bands that were playing a million miles an hour got old for a lot of people around here. The crowds were very hip to what was going on, and they'd really give a nod to the guys who said, "Fuck it all" and went for it. That would be your Crowbar, which at one point in time were called The Slugs, and Eyehategod for sure. There was a micro-scene down here that had yet to be discovered by the rest of the country or the world really.
How important is it to have that time to really think between records?
With a band like Down, one thing we have definitely discovered about ourselves is we can't overthink the product. If you put the five of us in the same room, it's going to sound like Down, especially when the objective is to write Down songs. It's going to turn out sounding like us. There isn't some big fucking science to it or anything like that. Even with the second record or definitely with the third record, maybe we were thinking too much or trying to put too much emphasis on trimming fat or overthinking production—whatever the hell it may be. It made us very cognizant of why people would choose Nola over the second or third record as their favorite. Really, we took the same approach as we did with the early demos for the EP. That was "Don't fucking overthink the goddamn thing man. Don't put too much emphasis. Don't waste so much fucking time trying when you damn well know how to fucking do it." For us, the best way to do things is to get true and honest sounds. On the new EP, we let stuff be very raw. Of course that's fine by us. The records we generally listen to are under-produced and raw. Those are some of our favorite fucking records. That part of it was easy. Approaching the lyrics was very easy for me. It seems like the more I detached myself from the project, the more honest it became and the easier it became. You've got to figure. On Nola, there are parts on some people's favorite songs like "Stone the Crow" where I'm not even saying anything. In time, those incomprehensible yellings become words and people can sing what they think I'm saying [Laughs]. It all becomes one fucking organic type of real jam session. The less time you spend fucking moping over the situation, it turns out better. At least it's that way with Down.
What have you been reading lately?
I'm on a super H.P. Lovecraft trip right now. Dreams in the Witch House might be up your alley. Figuring this is my third or fourth time going through these short stories and novellas, whatever you want to call them, Lovecraft never ceases to fucking amazing me at how tedious his style is and how over-descriptive it is. It's suffocating in a way. To me, that's an effective thing in horror. There's something about every story. Figuring the dates they were written, between the early 1900s and the 1930s, it's so ahead of its time that one might not be wrong in saying H.P. Lovecraft defined almost the entire horror genre himself outside of a few other writers. I know that's a bold statement, but I find it very true. Another one of my favorites is Haunter of the Dark. Oh my god, it's very ghastly. The Thing on the Doorstep is ghastly. There are some great ones. At the Mountains of Madness is completely elite, but has those over descriptive suffocating elements within this amazing mass and beautiful use of language man. A lot of his words, you need to use the dictionary on a Kindle at certain points. You run into a word where you're like, "What the fuck does this mean?" they're out of date. They're archaic terminology. His use of the English language is amazing. There's something ghastly about every sentence he writes. It's very poetic and amazing imagination. It's so detailed over-the-top. I'm freaking all over again. It seems like the older I get, the more these stories cloak you and grab you by the heart. I can't say enough. There's his own mythology he created based on his imagination and reality factual characters from history all the way to Greek mythology.
What's your favorite Down song?