Phil Anselmo Discusses ‘Vulgar Display of Power,’ New Down EP, Solo Album + More
Phil Anselmo was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. Anselmo talked about Pantera’s 20th anniversary re-release of ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ and what fans can expect from the upcoming Down disc, as well as his own solo album. If you missed Jackie’s show, read the full interview with Phil Anselmo below:
Phil, now 20 years later what do you hear in ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ that maybe wasn’t so obvious to you when you were 23?
Well you know I was surrounded by great, great, great musicians and I’ve said that in the past but really it’s the technical prowess, I guess the trickiness. I don’t want to use the word technical like we were some big technical band but really there were some tricky things, in and outs and just overall strength of songwriting. We wrote some very big anthems at the time.
It’s such a landmark album and so many people really love it, what’s the most unusual compliment you’ve ever gotten about ‘Vulgar Display of Power’?
Wow, unusual – let me think here. I had one kid in Canada approach me – this is strange, this just popped in my head and I think this is the first time, this is exclusive stuff here Jackie – I was walkin’ through and I guess we were still building up as far as popularity goes and we’re playin’ a medium sized club. So this kid walks up to me and he says “Phil, you are the James Brown of heavy metal” and he just walked away. It was like said in a very thick French Canadian accent and that’s all he said to me and he walked away and I had to think about it for a second and I’m guessin’ he’s talking about all the “Ooow” and all that crazy stuff I don’t know during the songs, freestylin’ – maybe he’s right but I don’t know maybe it was just a weird, weird situation.
Talking about it in the terms about the people that approach you today about Pantera, how do you feel when people tell you how the band affected them or seeing Pantera tattoos all over peoples bodies. How does that make you feel today?
It makes me feel – well obviously grateful and at the same time it’s amazing because I don’t associate myself, I don’t conduct myself as a “rock star” type at all in my opinion and I try to keep stuff as real as possible. The biggest thing to me is like if they’re gonna tattoo Pantera on their body or anything else to do with me and what’s goin’ on in my music career – I think the biggest thing is, tattoos are forever and sometimes you get a tattoo and some people might regret it later on or what not that’s the biggest thing for me. I never want to let these people down so that’s why I’m a mad man, working constantly on new stuff, new music etcetera, etcetera, etcetera because I don’t want to let these folks down, man. They deserve the effort, they deserve the 100 percent effort out of my guts, musically and they deserve the standards that I keep as far the direction of music that I want to head into in the future. Like I said, in short – don’t wanna let these folks down.
You are doing so many different projects and different things, what’s happening in Phil Anselmo’s world with your label and your other bands?
Gosh, well we just had Warbeast in town for a full week and we cut drums, rhythm guitars and bass and record time. They came very prepared and I’m super excited about that release and then a couple months ago haarp was in and they did their second record for Housecore and it’s crushing and slow and resolute and I’m very excited about that. I recorded a solo record, it’s been in the works now for a couple years and it’s just always a little built obsessions I can squeeze in but really we put our heads down – I got some fantastic musicians and I wrote some very, very extreme songs that I guess I been wanting to do for a long time just to get ‘em out of my system. As far as a release date on that stuff, I’m not so sure yet – I know this, that everything’s cut, everything’s done and we already have what I would call a preliminary mix on it and then of course we got the new Down record, man, which is finished and mastered and we’re just waitin’ on art work. I’m goin’ crazy over here Jackie.
Sounds like it. Let’s go back to the Philip Anselmo solo album. What are you going to call it?
It’s called ‘Philip H. Anselmo’ and I’m thinking about calling this sucker ‘Walk Through Exits Only’ ‘cause there’s a powerful song on the record called ‘Walk Through Exits Only’ – it’s very hard for me to judge I guess that’s for the listeners out there, that collect heavy metal and listen to all kinds of heavy metal. It’s really up to them to judge but I can’t say it’s any core or black or death or speed or anything like that – you can’t really lump it into a genre. Easily I can – if you wanted to call it heavy metal I guess that would be safe but also unfair in a way. It’s probably one of the most extreme things I’ve ever done but really within that extremity I wanted to build songs and I have a fantastic guitar player named Marzi Montazeri who – I let him, what I like to call, put his finger prints all over this thing. He’s an executor at the rhythms that I demanded, really, really, perky jerky stuff, some tricky very complex in its own way. I’m just excited for people to really get a chance to listen to it and I’m excited to get some feedback on this thing, man. It’s different.
Are you putting out the solo record on your own label?
Oh, of course.
What would you compare it to, if you were going to say compare it to any of your previous work. What can people expect?
Probably something more extreme than I’ve ever done – take a band like Superjoint Ritual for instance, that was really based around loose, hardcore, metalcore, if you will. It’s not that at all, to me I don’t hear any Superjoint at all. Basically what I did is I took the structure of heavy metal and I grabbed it like a ball of clay and I reshaped it and anything that really touched on I guess what you would call traditional heavy metal or hardcore or whatever the hell you want to call it - I changed it, I changed the whole damn foundation. There’s a lot of band’s out there that do some amazing stuff, amazing songwriting so to judge this record or try an pin it down – it’s very, very hard for me but the feedback I’ve gotten on it from people, they’re pretty friggin’ blown away, man.
This is kind of hard and strange for me to put too but figurin’ I’m no spring chicken at 44 years old it’s the young crowd - I’ve played them some stuff and they bring up a point that they’re amazed that an old guy like “The old boy still has it.” [Laughs] Look, man I’m excited about it once again but when it really comes down to judging it, I guess I’ll just leave that up to the public and it’s a tripped out listen.
Phillip, both good and bad, how did ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ set the stage for the band’s next several years?
Well Pantera was a type of band that would tour 300 days out of the year for several years straight and I think ‘Vulgar’ made that and absolute. We were on the road, we were constantly touring that record. Depending on how your life is set up - I was very young at the time so being gone from home and what not was no big deal at all. Later as the years went by and what not – touring, I love it to a certain extent but then once again these days I have the business to come back here and run and a lot of bands that count on me.
As far as ‘Vulgar’ goes, a lot of touring and a lot of momentum was built, a lot of fans were won over, a lot of fans accepted us which was to their credit really. I’ve always said Pantera fans were the best in the world and I still believe they really are, man. I’ve never seen a more voracious audience in my life. I guess with all that tourin’ and all the momentum and building and building and building, I guess it really set the stage for us to play in bigger venues and you can’t discount other bands liking you either and wanting to give you a chance and honestly Skid Row gave us this gigantic chance by bringin’ us into arenas and giving us this tremendous long, long U.S. tour – that was probably some of the best exposure we’ve ever had and heck yeah there were a bunch of nights where people just stared at us. [Laughs] They were like “This isn’t Sebastian Bach, this is some ugly, crazy bald guy screamin’ at me” but really we won over those audiences and from that point on business started boomin’, man, so it was a long road.
If you wanted to pick a song, since you’re co-hosting the show, is there a band -- Warbeast, Down, Pantera -- anything you want to play?
Oh gosh, man. Well I’ll make it easy, figuring the first order or business around here is this Pantera re-release – I’ll go with my favorite song off the record and probably roll with I guess ‘A New Level’ -- crank that sucker Jackie, crank it baby!
Well the new Down EP which I’m having this incredible title block, cannot think of a damn name for this friggin EP and it’s driving me bananas but going into this recording session – we all had this idea of just a no nonsense straight-forward record, don’t put too much thought into it as far as over thinking a particular part or song. We wanted to strip everything down and once the feedback I’ve got around here from a few people that have heard it – the first thing that comes out of their mouth is because the intro to the whole thing catches them a little bit off guard they’re like “I’ve never heard anything like this before out of Down” and then once the record gets movin’ everyone says to me “This sounds like friggin classic Down” I guess like in a similar vein to the first record, the ‘NOLA’ record.
To me I’m happy with this EP – we went through a lot of different things, personally during the making of this record that I can’t really get into right now but everything has worked itself out and really at the end of the say I’m happy with the result. I’m thinkin’ if you like Down, if Down is your cup so to speak there’s no way we could’ve let you down. It’s a lot of downs in these sentences and really there’s no pun intended but if it is I’ll do it and I’ll take it for Godsakes. So look out for this new Down, man, it’s a classic baby.
If we were going to pick one of your favorite Down tunes to play, what would that be?
Oh Gosh, my heart would say – heck what’s the name of the last song off that third record, oh man, [sings] ‘You Want Nothing In Return’ nah, maybe that’s a little too sensitive for heavy metalers out there. I’m gonna roll and this is once again a very easy one for me because if we’re going to celebrate 20 years of ‘Vulgar Display’ I’ll send out a song to my brother Dimebag Darrell like I do every single night live and I’ll send the song out to him, and to you Jackie and I’ll send it out to all the listeners out there and I’m gonna roll with ‘Lifer’ off of the first record because my God, Dimebag lived breathed, drank and ate heavy metal like no one else I’ve known besides myself and he was the epitome of a ‘Lifer.’
Phil, it’s been 20 years since the release of ‘Vulgar Display of Power.’ What is it about this album and this band that makes it still resonate of new generations of metal fans?
Gosh, you know maybe you’d have to ask them but if I’m gonna take a wild stab – back in the early 90s and late 80s heavy metal was going through a lot of production and changes as far as the sounds of records. I think we were somewhat pioneers and a more modern sound, guitar tones were crazy heavy. Vinnie Paul’s drums, the tones that he chose, even the stuff that he would do with the electronic drums and triggers and stuff like that – it wasn’t so common when this record came out in ’92. So I think all that attitude, severe, severe attitude – I think that resonates with a lot of today’s bands and then once again I’d be crazy if I left out Dimebag’s guitar playing – he’s an amazing player and hopefully very instrumental in influencing a lot of today’s younger players.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Joe Duplantier of Gojira on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.