ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante has weighed in on last month's incident when ex-PANTERA singer Philip Anselmo made a "white power" gesture onstage at a concert.
Anselmo performed the PANTERA classic "Walk" at the January 22 "Dimebash" event at the Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood, California in honor of his former bandmate, late PANTERA guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. As he left the stage, he made a Nazi-style salute. He appeared to say "white power" as he made the gesture, but he later claimed he was referring to drinking white wine as part of an "inside joke." Anselmo has since released a video message, saying that he "deserves completely" the "heat" that he has been getting over his actions and claiming to be "a thousand percent apologetic to anyone that took offense to what [he] said."
Several notable musicians have come out and criticized Anselmo for his actions, including ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian, who suggested Anselmo show how sincere he is by making a donation to Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Scott also wrote in an online post: "Philip's actions were vile and that should be the focus here; anything else is just noise."
Now Benante has defended Philip for his actions, explaining that Anselmo is "genuinely sorry for saying" what he did and calling the former PANTERA singer "my friend."
Speaking to the "Moshpit" radio show, which airs from the SYN Studios in Melbourne, Australia, Benante said (hear audio below): "I think Philip made a mistake. I think there were other things… other factors involved in that situation that people probably didn't see. And I've known Philip Anselmo forever, and I don't think Philip is a racist. I just think he's become the poster boy for this. And I know it shocked a lot of people and it pissed off a lot of people. But I think he's genuinely sorry for saying anything like that. And, yeah, he's my friend."
In an interview with Sticks For Stones, Ian said that Anselmo should be forgiven for his actions "if he proves that he deserves to be. Just asking to be forgiven doesn't mean you should be forgiven. And I've had a running dialogue with Phil since this happened. It's not like I just posted something online without actually speaking to my friend. I've been having a dialogue back and forth with him. 'Cause if I didn't care, I wouldn't have contacted him at all. But I cared. Phil, I've known the dude almost thirty years. He's like a brother; he's family. And when someone in your family has a problem, you discuss it and you try and find a solution."
He continued: "My attitude towards the whole thing was, to me, silence is complicity. If you don't say something about something like this, then you're condoning it, and I can't condone that in any way, shape or form. It's not okay in any world, let alone the metal world, to do these kind of things in any type of context, because words are too powerful, especially Phil Anselmo's words, because there's too many impressionable people out there who listen to every fucking thing that he says. So, you know, bottom line is he needs to prove that he should be forgiven, and the only thing that will prove that is his actions. And I am, of course, willing to give him the opportunity to prove that, because, like I said, he's like my brother. So I didn't write him off. I talked to him about it, and I have every hope inside of my heart that he will prove to the world that he is not this person."
Ian went on to reiterate the fact that he wants to see Anselmo learn from the incident and realize the error of his ways.
"The fact is he made his mistake in front of the world," Scott said. "You just need to be smarter than that — bottom line, you know. I mean, words have power, and that's what people need to understand. Not everybody understands your context. Not everybody sees everything you're gonna say about it. Some people will only see what you did and think that's okay. And that's the truth, because in the aftermath of the whole thing, and after I posted what I posted, I couldn't believe some of the ignorance coming back my way. Possibly the stupidest thing that I saw was someone saying to me, 'Well, why would you want him to donate money to the Simon Wiesenthal Center? That's a Jewish thing.' Sorry, to quote, 'That's a Jew thing, and 'white power' has nothing to do with Jews.' So that just shows you the ignorance out there. So, you know, people need to be educated. That's the bottom line here. People just really need to fucking learn a little bit, and I hope good will come out of this in some way, shape or form. Because it can't be accepted anywhere — not just the metal community, but anywhere in the world, it's unacceptable."