By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
There have been many singers and screamers in hard rock/heavy metal, that have stood out among the rest. From singers like Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, to Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Biff Byford of Saxon, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, and Sammy Hagar, they have all rocked the stages of the world, and are recognized as masters of the 70s and 80s metal scene. Just when it looked like rock would be taken over completely by glam metal and alternative/grunge, one band came in and helped lead it into the 1990s. They called themselves Pantera, and they brought groove metal to the forefront of the music scene. Along with Dimebag Darrell’s righteous guitar playing, Pantera had the ultimate screamer for a front man, one who brought them greatness, Phil Anselmo. Pantera has been long gone for some time now, but Anselmo has kept busy with other projects, including his latest outfit, Phil Anselmo & the Illegals. Having just released their newest album, I had the pleasure of speaking with him recently.
When I introduced him as a yeller, he took to the complement and said it was about time somebody got it right by calling him a yeller. He calls them the Illegals for nostalgic reasons involving his love for groups from the 1950s and 60s. Their new record, Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue, just dropped in stores, and as we talked, we would get into an in-depth conversation about the making the album. He talked about how having 3 guitarists, including him, made the album sound different from their debut, Walk Through Exits Only. Anselmo also told me the album’s sound was a nod to Australian death metal groups like Portal, and American death metal bands like Morbid Angel. Superjoint bassist Stephen Taylor switched to guitar with the Illegals, and Anselmo talked about his relationship with his band mate.
I would give him a tough question of which song off Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue was his favorite, but he gave me huge props on digging for information. He believes it all depends on what the fan likes to hear and how they interpret the song. There were times where he got deep in thought about current events and whether or not he would write about those topics. His response was brilliant. For a man who loves to scream into a mic, he is quite intelligent, in my mind. I asked him which Pantera song was his most memorable; he talked about the time they were asked to play in the “Monsters of Rock” concert held in Moscow, playing in front of 500,000 screaming fans. Man, I wished I could have witnessed that. Anselmo recently had surgery on his back and hopes to be ready to tour with the Illegals later this year. We even talked about my grandfather, singer Chico Holiday, and he is curious about his music. That is awesome to hear.
Like my Mike Portnoy interview, this was one interview I will cherish forever. It was supposed to be 25 minutes, but Anselmo was enjoying it so much, he gave me an extra 10 minutes. While most singers have developed huge egos over the years, he is as down to earth as you can get. I would like to think that we became metal brothers after our chat. To Phil Anselmo, I salute you. Horns up!!!
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