Philip Anselmo Talks "Walk Through Exits Only", H.P. Lovecraft, and More
Fri, 19 Jul 2013 12:24:48
Let's get one thing out of the way first. There is absolutely nothing in all of heavy metal quite like Walk Through Exits Only, the debut from the legendary Philip H. Anselmo and his band The Illegals. You can't compare to anything either from his storied catalog or elsewhere in the entire genre. It's a tapestry of brutality that's both hooky and haunting. We'll also get another thing out of the way. It's a game-changer and one of the best metal records of the decade.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Philip Anselmo talks Walk Through Exits Only, H.P. Lovecraft, and so much more.
Rarely does music this heavy boast these kinds of hooks…
That's the credo. Any band can be insanely technical just because they have great players. I'm a big believer in hooks, man. I've digested and regurgitated this record so many times. It's tough for me to see it from an outside level. It feels militaristic as far as the approach goes. I like that part of it. I guess I'm ready to advance on the initial image. That will come in time too.
Was there a moment that this all became clear?
It's so tough to judge your own product because you're so fucking close to it. After millions of lessons, not to mention building the thing from the ground up, it becomes another record, song, or thing you've done. Maybe in a couple of years, I'll be able to step away from it and say some exact things about it. Right now, all I know as far as the goals of the record go, I think in my heart once again I didn't want to alienate Pantera fans, Down fans, Superjoint Ritual fans, or any fans of what I've done in the past. Although, it's a far cry—in my opinion—from Down or Superjoint. Look at the source it's coming from. You're going to hear certain familiarities. As far as sounding like Superjoint, Pantera, or anything like that, neither one of those bands will do as this one does. Superjoint was about as "precision" as D.R.I.'s first practice, comparatively [Laughs]. Pantera probably would've mapped out things a lot differently. It's its own animal. That's all I can say about it as far as a definite is concerned.
It really clicks on headphones. There's a lot going on in there.
Good! I love sounds. I love instruments. I love the ability to use and incorporate different instruments into extreme music. I said it a long time ago. This all goes back to my tirades about how I believe that not all of the notes have been hit and how I'm looking for music and bands that is in itself searching for the hidden notes. This helps broaden my take as far as the future goes. I have plenty of insane ideas for the future. Once again, this was an introductory record for the listener. There's a lot more extremity to come.
Some of the more ambient moments of reprieve heighten the impact of the heaviness.
Yeah, it also hearkens back to my love of ambient music in and of itself. I love horror movie soundtrack music. I love crumbling discordant sounds. Marzi Montazeri is very good at coming up with the "soundscrape" thing, so to speak. We're going to get a lot more inventive with that stuff as well. He gets some crazy fucking tones out of that axe. The only anti-guitarist instrument would come at the end of "Betrayed". It's my actual big standup piano we're using there. That's all real stuff.
You've had that piano for a while?
It's been in the family, yeah. So it was passed down to me.
When did that phrase "Walk Through Exits Only" come to you? It's a declaration of power.
It was honestly just a lyric I wrote. I guess I felt that "declaration of power", so to speak. People might ask themselves, "What does he mean specifically by that?" It's something I'll never answer. It means many different things to me, and I think it could mean a lot of different things to different people. That's about it there.
How did "Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens" come together?
It obviously started with the riff. I knew that I wanted dramatic words that could be somewhat of a social outlook statement on how the world is today. With everybody able to comment, their bravery with those comments, people with their iPhones, constant information, and the internet in general, it keeps everyone occupied whilst the real world goes on. There are some ugly changes out there. The mere fact that there are some forums for people to comment on. I think they're missing the biggest point. People can leave any comment they want, but it's not the same as revolution. It's not the same as true protest. A comment board is just as simple as a comment board is. It's there one day, and it's gone the next. The government aren't reading it. The powers-that-be don't give two fucks. They just know you're sitting at home and what you're doing because there's your comment at 9:55am or whatever. It's pegged down almost to a science. I think I say it in one of the lyrics in "Betrayed"—"They've got us right where they want us" to "I believe in mass obliquity. I'm convinced of a hidden agenda. I'm amazed at the mass hypnosis I see. I see they've got us right where they want us. We've been betrayed". That's a bit of a running theme that applies to "Irrelevant Walls" as well as even "Battalion of Zero". That has the line "Heads up hands down". It's like, "Put your fucking down for a second. Pick your head up and see for yourself".
There's such a powerful impact to the album. These eight songs make for a compact attack, but the scope is as epic as a three-hour movie. Lyrically, you're looking outward here whereas Down feels more ethereal.
It's also a rigorous listen. There's a lot of information somehow within that forty or so minutes of music. There's a lot of work in there whether it be riffs or song structure. As far as the lyrics go, with Down you're correct, I can be more—ethereal is a fine word. I can be more fantastique, so to speak. Hell, I can be less direct. It's obsequious even. With the solo record, the things said are definitely fucking more direct and straightforward.
Are you still on an H.P. Lovecraft kick?
Big time! In fact, I've expanded a little bit. There are several writers who have taken the Cthulu mythos and expanded upon it. I've found this obscure go with the last name of Tyson, and no it is not the boxer [Laughs]. His name of Donald Tyson, and he wrote a book called Alhazred. It's about The Mad Arab and his life growing up and how he became The Mad Arab. Now, I'm just past chapter five going into chapter six, and it's become a very interesting read. It's a huge fucking book. I don't know how many chapters there could be. I don't even think I'm one-fifth through it yet. It's definitely a cool vision about where this Abdul Alhazred writer of the fabled Necromicon really came from.
You can't get H.P. Lovecraft's stories on first read.
No way, it's impossible. The older you get and the more accustomed you become to the antiquate words and antiquated ways of how he uses words, it's amazing to think of. Then, you've got the archaic words he uses and the straight up fantasy he throws in there that's a head scratcher. It's incredible. Have you gotten to The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward yet?
Adding it to the "must-read" list…
That one and The Dunwich Horror…do yourself a great favor. The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a massive commentary on supreme ghoulism, and it's fucking incredible. Same goes for The Dunwich Horror. Cosmic fear at its best. Nobody touches Lovecraft.
The Housecore Horror Film Festival is a new ball game.
We want to make sure everything's all lined up nice and perfect for everybody to come enjoy themselves. That's a big business in the house right now.
What's your favorite Philip Anselmo song?
See our feature review on the album here!