Phil Anselmo Talks Solo Records, New Down Material & Pantera's Legacy

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Phil Anselmo, former lead singer of the mighty Pantera, currently of Down, is a busy man. But he always has time to talk about his beloved New Orleans Saints, who are going through a trying offseason, to put it mildly.

"I can talk Saints all day. I think we have a great season coming up and I think it's all going to blow over," he says of the Bountygate scandal currently enveloping the team.

Saints head coach Sean Payton was slapped with a season-long suspension by the NFL for the team's bounty program, targeting opposing players. "Free Sean Payton" shirts can be found all over the French Quarter these days in NOLA.

"Once we get Drew Brees under contract, we will be ready to kick some ass," Anselmo adds.

When Anselmo isn't playing in Down, his main band since 2006, he's the head of boutique Louisiana label Housecore records, a metal imprint that he started to foster upcoming groups that he champions.

"To me it's like heavy metal, that whole life experience, has been so kind to me. I have always championed the underground, for so long," Anselmo says.

Back in the Pantera days, he was instrumental in getting smaller acts like Eyehategod, Morbid Angel and Neurosis on bills with the band, helping to broaden their audiences and expose them to Pantera crowds. But he's also not going to load Housecore with too much filler either, like ahem, a lot of rap labels.

"I'm not the type of guy to roster up, so I am not going to sign a million bands," he says. "I like to work with my guys and see their vision through."

Anselmo just finished up working his Warbeast and haarp, two Housecore acts, at his recording studio an hour outside of NOLA. Down, the project he began in 1991, is prepping four new EPs for release in the next year.

Set to concentrate on a theme for each, the band should be debuting some of the material in Houston at Saturday night's Warehouse Live show.

Without Pantera, Down shows have become a rallying point for fans of the legendary metal band ever since lead guitarist Dimebag Darrell was shot and killed onstage in late 2004 This past week saw the 20th anniversary reissue of Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power, an album that seems to have only gotten better with age.

Think about it -- the face-melting, blood-boiling "Walk" is almost old enough to buy beer.

The new single off the Vulgar reissue, "Piss," has been a monster on rock radio, even though Pantera hasn't been active in over a decade.

Anselmo and the surviving members of the band, drummer Vinnie Paul and bassist Rex Brown, put together the reissue with the help of their label through e-mail messages. Anselmo's pride in the album doesn't waiver, but working on the release does come with plenty of emotions.

His tone grows wistful and somber when he talks about Pantera.

"We have not been a band since 2001, and I get mixed emotions," he says. "I'm proud, and then I am a little saddened by the whole thing. Losing Darrell was monumental in all of our lives, but the spirit of Pantera, it carries on and on."

"It makes me miss that fantastic audience, those huge anthemic songs. I am a little sentimental." I let him know that that level of sentimentality seems out of order from his public persona.

"I shoot it straight," says Anselmo. "Sometimes you read an interview from a musician, it seems like a paint-by-numbers deal."

Once his obligations with Down and the Housecore groups settle down, he is looking forward to releasing his own solo album. "It's an extreme listen," he says.

It's been in the planning stages for years, but just this past year did it become reality.

"I tried to take everything I knew about heavy metal and extreme music and contradict it, take it like a ball of clay and reshape it." Anything that was traditionally metal, he adds, was tricked out, with the help of guitarist and Houston native Marzi Montazeri.

"Just to call this record heavy metal would be shortchanging it," Anselmo promises.

With haarp, 8 p.m. Saturday at Warehouse Live.

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