Justin M. Norton
Does Phil Anselmo need an introduction? In the unlikely event that you ended up here by accident here’s a quick dossier: former vocalist for platinum selling artist Pantera, one of the few metal acts to achieve worldwide fame. Frontman for New Orleans sludge supergroup Down, guitarist and vocalist for Superjoint Ritual and guitarist for Arson Anthem. Anselmo is hoping to add another title to his already lengthy resume: businessman. He founded his own label Housecore Records two years ago, but is looking at 2010 to be a breakout year with releases from new artists like haarp and the possibility of the first new Eyehategod album in a decade. He’ll also be releasing the soundtrack for the cult horror film The Manson Family.
Anselmo says his label is in part a way to give back to extreme metal. “I’ve been to the top of the mountain and I know what my name is,” he says. “I love helping bands. It’s a journey, a learning experience. That’s why I’m in this ship. This is an artist friendly label to a fault. I give, as I should. Extreme music has been kind to me my entire life. “ Anselmo spoke to About.com about his plans for the label; his collaborations with horror filmmaker Jim Van Bebber; what it takes for a band to get Anselmo’s approval and his thoughts on the five-year anniversary of Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell’s death.
Justin M. Norton: Housecore Records was started two years ago. What do you have planned for the label in the coming year?
Phil Anselmo: It’s going to be brought to the next level, mainly because the projects we are working with have their stuff together. A lot of bands find themselves trying to meet deadlines and regretting a record later. I’ve been in that position a bunch of times. There’s always stuff on a record you think you could have done better. I like my bands to be relaxed and happy with their product, so I don’t put any time limits on them. Like Orson Welles said in the commercial “we shall sell no wine before its time.”
So you will sell no music before its time?
Yeah, but we will have a lot of releases this year. It’s going to be good stuff.
One of the best known bands on the roster is Eyehategod. Do you see their next album being released on your label?
That’s always been the plan. I won’t hold anyone to anything. I can say yes, but if it didn’t happen there would be no skin. But going with the more positive ‘yes it is’ direction – they’ve had these five songs floating out there. I have the demos at home so I know they have the stuff. I think they’ll have an opportunity to do a few different runs even though they’ll be touring Europe. They are busy. But I’m looking forward to it. If there is anybody out there that screams at (guitarist ) Jimmy Bower to get in there and do the record it’s me. He always has an answer, even if it isn’t what I want to hear.
Would that be your breakthrough release?
I would say them, or Crowbar. We have so many contrasting styles on the label now. That will be more evident in the upcoming year. Anything is possible. As far as a breakthrough records, the fact that Eyehategod is well known certainly doesn’t hurt. They are an established act, but we have new bands that will appeal to certain audiences as well and are great at what they do. There is always potential. Not to mention…if I do something, and I’m going to create something, I’ll do it on my label.
At one point you ran Housecore along with Killjoy of Necrophagia’s label Baphomet Records. You are now running the label solo – what happened?
You can scratch that. That was a false start. Nothing was distributed or for sale. Housecore’s conception really came with the Arson Anthem album in 2007 and we were always solo. So that’s an urban myth.
Housecore is primarily known for releasing acts you are personally affiliated with, but do you see yourself expanding and signing other bands based on demos or recommendations?
I’ll do a little bit of both. I have to believe in the band. There’s one or two things they need to bring to the table. To be technically proficient is great. But I’m not looking for perfection.
What gets your stamp of approval?
I want something different. There’s a band from New Orleans (on the label) called haarp. They are heavy metal, sure. You’d classify them as such. But they transcend the genre and have invented a genre. They play slow, but to call them slow isn’t fair. They are conceptually fresh. They might be an ugly listen the first time through. The first time I listened to Venom or Hellhammer it was an ugly listen, but it stuck with me. I feel the same way about haarp.
There’s also The Sursicks. They are extreme, but they aren’t metal or punk rock or hardcore. They are master musicians creating and inventing a style. They are very flexible. To describe their music is tough. They use horned instruments and strings, anything they can get their hands on.
Take those two extremes and that’s what you will get from Housecore. Way different tastes and styles, released together. I like the contrast.
Did the compilation last summer help get your label in front of a new audience?
It might have piqued interest.
Do you see yourself moving away from music and more into a supportive role by managing the label and producing artists or will music continue to be a significant part of your life?
I can’t let go of music, nor should I. I’m playing guitar with Arson Anthem and our second album will be out this year, sometime in early June. The record is called Insecurity Notoriety. Mike (Williams) from Eyehategod sings and Hank III plays drums. Arson Anthem is something I love to do. I love playing guitar and writing guitar parts and I need to keep jamming. I’ve got a fire in my belly. By the end of the year, Down might be writing new stuff. I see many things in the future and it’s good to have things to look forward to.
Have your vinyl sales accounted for a significant part of your business?
Yes, and I’m glad. I would print vinyl anyway, but vinyl sales are up. The fact that kids want tangible, collectible items in their hands is a good feeling. It’s a world where you can go download free music, that mentality is strong. But there’s nothing like just holding on to a copy of a record. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but when my generation was growing up I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a record.
Several of the bands on your roster appeared on the soundtrack of cult horror filmmaker Jim Van Bebber’s film The Manson Family. I know Van Bebber accompanied Down on a European tour to film a DVD. What is the status of that project?
That’s been put on and off for so long. There are a lot of mixed emotions. I think what Down wanted to capture through Jim’s lens was our comeback as a band. I had just gone through back surgery and that was a personal triumph, to get back there six months out. As far as I know the deal (for the film) is not complete.
Can you see your label collaborating with Van Bebber on any future projects?
That’s tough to say. I just finished The Manson Family soundtrack. But Jim gets pulled in a lot of different directions and so do I. We’ve wanted to put it (the record) out for a while. I’m very happy with it. Hopefully it will be out on Housecore in late August or the first day of September.
A lot had been written this year about the fifth anniversary of Dime’s passing. Is it difficult to revisit what’s one of the most difficult experiences of your life?
Each year gets harder. This was a very tough year and a very tough December. When an artist dies that means so much to people he doesn’t go away. You still hear about Elvis. We hear about Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Layne Staley. The list is long and it’s a sad one. It is hard for me? I respect the love. I know I will never have another person like this in my life…Dimebag Darrell. To know that there is no tomorrow with him in it is crushing. He was a man of the world and a man of the people. He was very real, very vibrant.
So it get tougher every year. I keep my Pantera and Dimebag to me. That’s Phil’s stuff. I have so many recordings that the world will never hear…well, I can’t say ever. I have recordings of us doing the most ridiculous things. Traditional thinking would be to shrink wrap it and sell it, but Housecore is a new chapter, a new page.