Well-known as the frontman for both Pantera and Down, Phil Anselmo has taken music one step further with Phil Anselmo and the Illegals and their new album, Walk Through Exits Only, on Anselmo’s own record label, Housecore Records. Anselmo has found the perfect match in guitarist, Marzi Montazeri, too. Montazeri is a guitarist who has a brilliant way of using his instrument to create alarming, atmospheric layering and extreme accents.
The brief Q&A with Phil Anselmo below is mostly centered around this collaboration with Montazeri. But one thing touched on was how, as an owner of an independent record label, Housecore Records, Anselmo has rewarded many artists a creative freedom they could never get from a major label. Anselmo knows full well the restrictions of being signed to a major label. And Phil Anselmo and the Illegals’ latest album is a perfect example of a “no limits” creativity.
The following is a brief Q&A with Phil Anselmo:
If you think about it, major labels — and I’m thinking just about metal, for instance, in the ’80s — many underground bands like, to name a few, Raven, Loudness, Savatage, a lot of those bands were ruined by major labels. It’s a shame, you know.
Phil Anselmo: You obviously come from a school that I do, where you know all these bands. And I grew up with Raven, and Loudness before they became a total Motley Crue kind-of-influenced-type band. You know, [Loudness] were very much just a very hard hitting heavy metal band back when they were doing stuff like “Esper” and songs like that — and the “Exploder” guitar solo (both songs off of 1984’s Disillusion). They were just a heavy metal band without all the image and stuff like that. I don’t know, maybe they were coaxed into one image or another image or something they weren’t cut out to be. That’s not my call when it comes to bands and what not. First of all, image is not my forte. I kind of like music to do the talking.
To me, the music on the new album, Walk Through Exits Only, seems to be influenced by the NYC Hardcore scene.
Anselmo: I love NYC Hardcore. … Lyrically, I would agree a lot. Truthfully, bands like Agnostic Front — specifically Agnostic Front — with their huge hooks and what not, I can agree with you.
And there are a lot of lead guitar accents and soundscapes throughout each song — they’re brief and almost industrial sounding. It leaves a mark that you can’t forget. It makes you want to go back to the song and listen to it again. Are those parts from guitarist Marzi Montazeri?
Anselmo: Yeah, but as far as basic riff structure and a maybe a lot of atonal notes that you’re hearing, that’s pretty much my stuff, man. Marzi has his strengths that I knew he had coming in. He has always been a great guitar player and I gave him absolute free reign on leads. Some of the soundscape stuff that he does is very unique and he always had that as part of his repertoire since I’ve known him and we always wanted to utilize it. Maybe it’s a little bit of both — me writing to his strengths. It’s a long time coming record for Marzi and I. We’ve been talking about doing this for quite a while.
Maybe it is you writing to his strengths. That’s a good way of putting it. On the song “Music Media is My Whore” there’s such a nice accent to the leads.
Anselmo: Absolutely. And that’s another strength of his layering of guitars. He is a very creative and interesting layerer of different levels and frequencies which make this big wall eventually. So he’s damn good at what he does.
That layering is very important on Walk Through Exits Only. Is that easy to replicate live? Do you get another guitarist on tour?
Anselmo: No, that’s the thing. Marzi’s the type of guy to where he wants to be a perfectionist, even live. So this is something that has worked in his favor for a long time. It’s something he can pull off. Marzi is a special talent. For the life of me, he’s the type of guy that’s been in Houston, Texas and he’s well-known around Houston as a Blues player. He’s the type of guy that can play just about anything in the world. I’m somewhat of a task master where I can say to Marzi “Look. Here is the path we are going down’ and he can adapt which is an incredible thing, and a luxury, really. You now, once he’s on assignment and he gets what’s in front of him, then he takes off in this insane direction. Which I did not want to suppress at all. I wanted to enhance, for sure.
[pullquote_left]First of all, image is not my forte. I kind of like music to do the talking.[/pullquote_left]
And the last song on the album [“Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens”], Marzi does some leads that are like Tom Morello meets Kerry King.
Anselmo: Yeah, well, he’s probably a little more in key than the ‘ol Slayer boys but I’ll say that the last song in particular — with the outro — that is something that he’s had for a very long time, really in one shape or form. You know, the long, slow, scraping outro — and that’s always been something I wanted to incorporate into something we were doing. And I’m glad — very glad — that we had that opportunity.