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Phil Anselmo Talks Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power,’ His Love for Dimebag + More

Phil Anselmo
Liz Ramanand, Loudwire

Phil Anselmo is one of the most honest and candid individuals you’ll ever come across in the metal community. The singer of Pantera, Down and Superjoint Ritual is a straight shooter with a slow Southern drawl that’s markedly different than the imposing figure he cuts onstage in his many bands.

Loudwire spoke to Anselmo about a range of topics such as Down’s EP, his solo project and the crippling of his beloved New Orleans Saints due to NFL punishment over the bounty issues. First up, though, is his frank discussion of the 20th anniversary reissue of Pantera’s classic ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ album, which includes the unearthed song ‘Piss.’

Find out how he really feels about that song; where his relationship with his ex-bandmates stands at this point in time; and how the man who referred to himself as “Walking Through Walls Anselmo” in the early ’90s views ‘Vulgar Display of Power‘ 20 years after its release.

Anselmo also spoke of Dimebag Darrell and his heartfelt description of the late Pantera guitarist will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The “new” old song ‘Piss’ sounds a bit like ‘Use My Third Arm’ to me. I thought I heard the riff…

It is the riff from ‘Use My Third Arm.’ You were absolutely hearing it right.

[Editor's Note: 'Use My Third Arm' is a track on Pantera's 1994 album 'Far Beyond Driven,' suggesting that the riff may have originally been written for 'Piss' and then used for 'Use My Third Arm.']

How do you feel about unshelving this song after so many years?

It was not one of my favorites, since it didn’t make the record to begin with it. It stuck out like a sore thumb for me and it didn’t fit the track listing. If I was a big, gigantic fan of a band, and I wanted anything I could get my f—ing hands on, it is unique in that right. If you are a fan of Pantera and you want the library and any tidbit you can lay your hands on, then this would be cool to have. Honestly, with Pantera, we did not have much left over. We wrote very focusedly. Is that even a word? It was a late night last night…

I know what you mean by “focusedly!” When we spoke to Vinnie Paul, he said the same thing, that Pantera didn’t have a lot of leftover session material.

It is a collector’s item and we don’t have that many collector’s items. It’s for the collector.

Here we are, celebrating another Pantera milestone, as ‘Cowboys From Hell’ turned 20 a few years back. Why has ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ stood the test of time? Why is it such a special album?

If you think about it like a time capsule and think back to when the record came out, in 1992, first of all, heavy metal production was going through great changes. It was leaps and bounds and we were at the forefront of helping that change. Dimebag’s guitar sound, and the drum tones, all that f—ing stuff was relevant. I am in no position to say this, but a lot of people say it stands the test of time. That [production sound] is where they form this opinion.

To me, as far as what pops out of my mind, all I can really say is that we were in our strongest bodies and our strongest minds at the time. We had come out of the whole tour process of ‘Cowboys From Hell,’ which was revealing and educational for us. We were at the top of our f—ing game and writing songs with a chip on our shoulder, so like I said, we were prepared for this record. That jumps out at me. This was a time in Pantera’s career where we were the most super duper focused that we ever could have possibly been. We were at our strongest.

The lyrics of ‘Mouth for War’ pulled me through some dark periods. I found strength in them, like so many Pantera fans have.

That is another thing. Lyrically, I was Superman’ed out. I was ‘Walking Through Walls Anselmo.’ Nothing could stop me back then. I could wake up and leap out of bed and not feel a goddamn ache or a pain. I didn’t hear a creaking joint or anything. You know man, I was in my strongest body. Those lyrics on that record, like those for ‘A New Level?’ Wow, man. F—ing come on, Nietzsche. I had no knowledge of Frederick … at the time.

Do you have a favorite song from ‘Vulgar?’

That’s a tough pick. If I had to, I’d go with ‘A New Level.’ The riff is punishing, and once again, those lyrics, man. In hindsight, I look back at them, motherf—er man. It’s not like ‘Oh s—, what happened?’ But ‘Ooooh s—.’ I got it and I got it so young. You grow, go through bulls— yourself, having penned these myself, you think that you are not 24 anymore, you are 34, and now f—ing 44. Jesus Christ, you look back, man, my head was in a more logical place than it is today, but like you, you read into it, let it affect you. I can do that these days, since I am not so close to it anymore, I can step back and listen. I can listen, since I am not as close and not in it. I can sit back and be objective, as a listener. I’m not an outsider, but I can listen to it with a fresh opinion.

Do you have any communication with Vinnie when you work on these reissues and Pantera business since the rift between you both?

I still speak with [bassist] Rex [Brown]. The Vince thing is unfortunate. I cannot judge where Vinnie’s head is at. Anyone who witnessed their own brother being shot to death in front of them, you cannot … I will not judge him or his frame of mind. I deal with it. I cannot and will not lay in this past. I have to move on. Like we all do, for the health of our own minds. Either way, I will not judge Vince. But to answer this question, this lady [business manager] is the go between for all of us. The only time me and Vince are in close proximity is through joint emails. We all get the same email regarding what will be on re-release, this and that, we all give our opinions and she takes it from there. That’s as close as I get to Vince, but Rex and I are still close.

Regarding Dime, where is your head and your heart nearly eight years after his death?

I probably think about him every friggin’ day. Music is music is music, but he was a gigantic part of my growth as a musician and a part of my life, a brother, a person that I loved. I loved him. Dimebag, I can’t say enough. I mentioned it before. I am the type that cannot stay put in living in the past and solely in the past. It’s not healthy and it doesn’t feel right. Yes, I’ve moved on, for the health of my own goddamn brain, but there s a part of me that will never come to f—ing grips like anyone who loses someone to murder. You can’t come to a full circle.

He will come up in conversation. There are memories of him everywhere. It’s all over the walls and the studio. I don’t like to dwell on the negative. I get to remember all the fantastic s— the guy brought to my life and to other people’s lives. He was an all-around beautiful motherf—er with those piercing blue eyes, eyes that I can see now in my head. They were truthful, loving and caring, and he was insanely talented.

The 20th anniversary edition of ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ comes out May 15, and can be pre-ordered here. Check back with Loudwire for more from our interview with Phil Anselmo, including the latest on Down and his thoughts on the controversial off-season for his beloved New Orleans Saints.

Watch the Video for Pantera’s ‘Piss’

Pantera, 'Piss' - Best Metal Songs of 2012 (So Far)

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