Q and A with Pantera and Down Frontman Phil Anselmo

Though only active from 1981 to 2003, until this very day, Pantera is one of the most famous heavy metal bands that has come to existence. Once Phil Anselmo (lead vocalist) joined in 1987, he was not only able to change the genre from thrash to glam metal, but he was also able to further explode the band’s popularity into something that they never expected.

Even though Pantera is no longer capable of creating more music, this does not prevent Anselmo from continuing doing what he adores.

Currently the frontman for a Louisiana-based metal act, Down, and the owner of Housecore Records, nothing seems to be stopping him. Anselmo will forever be a highly inspirational heavy metal singer that has and still persists to donate a load to the music industry and fans from all over the world.

What were your inspirations?

Anselmo: I lived in the French Quarter as a kid and there were musicians everywhere. I grew up in a house listening to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. It was born in me, it’s all I could say. I knew I was going to be a rock singer.

What drew you to this particular kind of music?

Anselmo: The energy, the unbridled energy, man. There’s no energy like heavy metal energy, if you catch my drift. Watching extreme drummers play, extreme guitarists, it’s amazing.

What is your favorite “Cowboys From Hell” track?

Anselmo: My favorite “Cowboys” track would have to be ‘Primal Concrete Slege.’ For obvious reasons; brutal song…brutal song. The song came out of nowhere. Vince ripped into this drum beat, Dimebag freaked out and the next thing you know, I was in the back room scribbling lyrics…magic.

Who came up with most of the lyrics for the album?

Anselmo: As far as the lyrics went on “Cowboys From Hell,” it was at a time where, as a band, as a cohesive unit, everyone did have some input. But it would be up to me, in the end, to make sure the lyrics were what they were.

Does it feel like it was yesterday when this album (“Cowboys From Hell”) became so huge and so huge that it changed the world of metal? Were you aware of how much this album was going to kick ass?

Anselmo: No, not at all. I was not aware, no way. We knew we were a great band, but we still had a whole lot to prove. “Cowboys From Hell” was really our introduction to the world. We conquered things regionally, but we had to prove ourselves night after night, after night. That paid off; it’s like homework.

When changing your vocal style from powermetal in “Cowboys From Hell,” what influences did you take on board?

Anselmo: I found a lot of beauty in certain thrash-metalist vocals. Don Doty from Dark Angel, oh my God, I have to lend Don Doty a lot of credit. There was a lot of Slayer worship at the time, but certain words he would pronounce, the way he would do it, the way he would hit it, was just different and dead on.

What was your inspiration behind ‘Cemetery Gates?’

At the time, there was a close friend that had died, and it had a very heavy impact on everyone. When I went to write the lyrics, I didn’t want to be specific because in my mind, it’s kind of cheesy in a weird way. ‘Cemetery Gates’ had that borderline to where if you sang the wrong lyric, it would ruin the song. I made it to where the listener could interpret for themselves. Just read it, listen and apply it to your own life, basically.

What is your favorite Dimebag Darrell solo from “Cowboys From Hell?”

Anselmo: What comes to mind immediately is ‘The Sleep.’ Go back and listen to ‘The Sleep.’ Ripping solo, so much fuel. Insane.

What is your favorite Black Sabbath album?

Anselmo: It’s got to be torn between two lovers feeling like a fool, here. But definitely, “Sabotage.” If I’m going to go with one, it’s definitely going to be “Sabotage.” “Sabotage” is a masterpiece, but you can’t leave out “Paranoid.” I love those two records.

Where was your favorite place to perform?

Anselmo: That is an impossible question. We had so many awesome audiences, I cannot sit here and just start calling out cities because you know who you are. All of you people out there, anytime I spoke, I spoke the truth on that damn stage. Especially when I’m praising an audience. You know who you are, man.

What song makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up or gives you goosebumps?

Anselmo: Right off the top of my head, it would be David Bowie’s version of ‘Wild As The Wind.’ As a matter of fact, Nina Simone’s ‘Strange Fruit;’ insane.

Since you like boxing, what kind of work-out exercises do you do?

Anselmo: I do a lot of core work, I do a lot of endurance. I use the bosu ball a whole lot. I stretch, basic push-ups. I hate to say this, but I have not been able to hit that bag in a long time. I have a pinch nerve, but that’s a whole different thing. I can coach my friends too and that’s fun to do. I love boxing.

What is your favorite and most meaningful tattoo?

Anselmo: When in doubt, always go with the first. I have a definite sense of humor behind it, but the old “Phil-core.” You can’t beat that.

What band was your main influence when being in Pantera?

Anselmo: Too many to mention. Too many. We’re talking about an extreme band that understood rhythmic blasts that moved people. Van Halen, bits of Judas Priest, definitely Metallica, I would say parts of Slayer. Slayer and Metallica had fives years on us, so they were big influences. Metallica really made the breakthrough in heavy metal, as far as guitar sounds, but then Slayer killed me, oh my goodness. Without Slayer, I’d be a different man today.

If you were 18-years-old now, would you still try to make it in the music industry?

Anselmo: Of course. It’s not making it, making it is all here. When Pantera went number one, I’m the type of person where it was overwhelming, but still, I never expected it. It’s not why I got into music. I was a little underwhelmed at the same time. Not to take away from the accomplishment, it’s a great honor, but I think making it is all a state of mind. Just play music for the love of music. If you can make a living doing it, more ups to you. Put in the work it takes, whether it be in the practice room, studio, but definitely on that stage. I would suggest any band to get their ass out there and get on that fucking stage.

What do you hope to accomplish with your autobiographical book? Is it a cautionary tale? What do you think the world needs to hear from the story of Phil Anselmo?

Anselmo: Yes, it is a cautionary tale. It’s an interesting journey. I’d have to say that there are several stories that nobody has really heard before that will maybe help mold things. You’ll understand me better because when you write a book, self examination becomes a part of the process. You get to understand who you are, you see every flaw and you start to understand why. It’s fun getting old, y’all, just get ready. You start learning things. Either way, self examination also leaves you in doubt as to what you thought you once knew. As far as this book goes, I can’t give away too much, but it won’t be your average rock and roll autobiography, I promise you that.

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