Where, for you, do Phil Anselmo and The Illegals fit in amongst your repertoire on top of the likes of Pantera, Superjoint Ritual and Down?
“It’s just another expression of music. Firstly, Pantera has been done for over a decade. It does take up a small amount of time and effort, because it is still a business. But that’s that. On Down, we went in knowing that it was made up of many different other bands, and that we’d need to leave room for each other. Corrosion Of Conformity just put out a new record, so Pepper [Keenan] is out on tour. Eyehategod [and drummer Jimmy Bower] are on the same tour. My guys are working and I love it. The same thing goes for Superjoint. They know I’m crazy, I know they’re crazy. We will eventually get back together and make another record. There’s always time for [those bands]. Right now I’ve got room for The Illegals, and for whatever comes next, or whatever people want to hear.”
Logistically, fair enough. Where does it sit stylistically, though?
“People ask me, ‘Why so many bands? Why don’t you just put it all under one band?’ But I am a music nerd. I’m a glorified fucking music fan. If one of my favourite bands puts out a record that’s completely alien to what they’re known for, it’s a put-off. Every time they change on me, it feels like some kind of betrayal!”
That can get a little hard to keep track of, mind…
“I realise that this music is not going to be some mass appeal thing. I’m not writing to have a number one record. I just did a project for the fun of it. I see it in no other way. Music is freedom! And I am going to fucking explore…”
You seem to be exploring black metal on Phil Anselmo and The Illegals’ LP…
“I don’t really think I was coming at it from a black metal mindset – more death metal. Some of the older riffs on there I plucked from old shit I had held back, from 1996 or 1997. I wrote those during an epiphany of nostalgia that I was having at that time, going back to the first two Morbid Angel records. They just seemed like riffs worthy of being used – and I’d gotten sick of sittin’ on them. For me, those riffs work so well with the modern sounds. Big props to the modern Australian death metal scene for being a big influence, too. It was a case of, ‘If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ That’s the beauty of music. And that’s the beauty of being a free agent. I can make any kind of music that I want – and I have.”
Which Aussie acts are you a fan of?
“Portal, number one. They’re the greatest death metal band around, in my opinion. I love their spin-off, too, Impetuous Ritual. I also like Vomitor, Cauldron Black Ram – especially the first two records – and Mournful Congregation, who are quite different. I’ve got to give props to King Parrot, too. They’re part of the Housecore Records brotherhood.”