In the new issue of Sweden's premiere metal publication, Close-Up Magazine, journalist Martin Carlsson speaks at length with vocalist Phil Anselmo on a number of topics, including his numerous side projects, PANTERA and Anselmo's past and present drug use. The interview was conducted over the phone on May 4th, while the singer was staying at Ritz Carlton in Cleveland, Ohio, where one of his many bands, DOWN, was playing. BLABBERMOUTH.NET can now exclusively present the entire conversation, word by word, transcribed directly from the interview tape.
Q: What happened to the deal [you had] with Relapse [Records for your Housecore/Baphomet record label]?
Phil: They [Relapse] turned out to be dicks and I decided not to go with them. They basically sent out an offer and we walked and talked and worked through it for quite a while. Basically they took it upon themselves, before my permission was granted, and you don't do that. Let's just say, that's enough of that and I don't work with them.
Q: As far as the pissed-off nature of SUPERJOINT RITUAL's Use Once And Destroy, it kind of reminds me of PANTERA's Far Beyond Driven.
Phil: I think it's completely different to PANTERA. Sound-wise, it's different, sound-wise it's different. I think the mere fact there are no leads makes it VERY different. Lyrically, with PANTERA I'm more straightforward and there's a message to be had. For SUPERJOINT RITUAL it's more or less a kind of sporadic thing and… what's that word I'm looking for? I can't remember the fuckin' word… it's more of a loose net of thoughts instead of something very concentrated.
Q: Still, PANTERA's Far Beyond Driven did have the same "fuck you" vibe to it that I get from SUPERJOINT RITUAL.
Phil: Any album I do, I say that with every record, 'cause if I'm gonna do a record I'm gonna do it fuckin' one hundred percent no matter what it turns out to be. That is my freedom as a musician and this to me… if you have any type of education into what the sounds and the feelings were like when hardcore and heavy metal met each other and met that crossroads. People call it crossover music and it sounded like what SUPERJOINT RITUAL sounds like. I'm just reliving those days, basically.
Q: Are you talking pre-D.R.I.?
Phil: D.R.I. are definitely a crossover band. Something like their album Crossover was crossover metal fuckin' hardcore. Bands like AGNOSTIC FRONT were crossover and even DISCHARGE had a heavy metal type guitar sound and a very attacking approach. Not that that was never used in hardcore music before, because it obviously was. I'm just saying that in SUPERJOINT RITUAL's music there a fine bit of both.
Q: I probably consider MOTÖRHEAD to be the first crossover band, in that they combined punk and hard rock.
Phil: I agree to a certain extent, but you say rock'n'roll as well and I don't necessarily hear any rock'n'roll in SUPERJOINT RITUAL. It's hardcore and metal, and just those two.
Q: You recently told Revolver magazine: "A lot of people in this business need to be seen. I need to NOT be seen." Yet you've put yourself on the SUPERJOINT RITUAL album cover.
Phil: I don't remember saying that. When I usually say something like that, it means that you look at today's round-up of kids and everybody's got this "look at me, I need to be looked at" type of fuckin' image. I'm not trying to dress up for anybody's fuckin' doll house. I look and dress the way I do every day of my fuckin' life and I'm gonna walk on stage the same fuckin' way.
Q: You've been doing more interviews for DOWN and SUPERJOINT RITUAL recently than you did for the last couple of PANTERA albums. Do you feel a greater urge to push these projects than PANTERA, which kind of sells itself?
Phil: Not really. There was a point in time in PANTERA where when we first came out every journalist was always jerking us off and making us out to be superhuman, larger-than-life, the greatest thing since blowjobs. Then I guess I said something that didn't fit into their little world, something I guess wasn't so politically correct one of the million things I've said that's pissed people off. Then they started writing their backlash against me, so then I decide to myself: "Fuck 'em! I don't have anything to say to these people." That's when I cut off all the interviews and said: "No more fuckin' interviews for me." Towards the end of the last two or three PANTERA records I said: "Instead of journalists making up what THEY think I would be thinking that time, maybe I should come back and say something myself." So I had done some interview with PANTERA in the past. Furthering the whole thing with DOWN and SUPERJOINT RITUAL, SUPERJOINT RITUAL you gotta realize I write at least 85 per cent of the fuckin' music. I would say that's more or less my band. It's easy enough to say that the guys playing in the band, the mainstays Jimmy Bower (guitars) and Joe Fazzio (drums), it would not sound the same without them and I wouldn't wanna have it without them. Regardless, of course I'm gonna talk about SUPERJOINT RITUAL. DOWN has become such a fuckin'…(loud burp)… thing where I think each individual becomes important to the band that it's not "Phil Anselmo's band", so to speak, anymore. They know me and my name from PANTERA probably the best, but it doesn't in any way, shape or form mean that I'm the leader of DOWN. DOWN is a large collection of ideas from all five of us.
Q: For the new DOWN record you did something that you refer to as "getting into character", which included shooting up. Can you really dabble in something like heroin and just get off it like that?
Phil: I've never said I shot up.
Q: It was in the May/June cover story in Revolver magazine.
Phil: Bullshit! I've read Revolver magazine several times and they've made references to drugs that I may have used or whatever, but never once did I ever say that I came straight up and shot up. Fuck!
[However, responding a direct question in Revolver: "So you took heroin just for inspiration?", Anselmo said, "There's a lot of different reasons why."]
Q: As far as getting into character, what does that entail when getting into SUPERJOINT RITUAL mode?
Phil: You gotta realize, in my life there's gonna be a certain amount of what I do anyway. Like I said, I don't change and I think you're maybe taking this "getting into character" thing a little too far. What I mean by that is that when you wanna express certain ideas and feelings… with PANTERA it's one hundred per cent "we are more metal than fuckin' you!" and that's what we wanna get across. With DOWN it's more or less about the fuckin' song itself. We wanna write the best songs possible under the monicker of the bands that have influenced us. With SUPERJOINT RITUAL it's paying homage to a fuckin' time that I don't think has been completely forgotten. I know people out there still worship DARK ANGEL's Darkness Descends. I'm just saying that it's like you wanna be in that frame of mind to write that type of music. Not that it sounds like that kind of music, 'cause I don't want it to sound EXACTLY like anything less.
Q: There are some great riffs on Use Once And Destroy. Why don't you ever write riffs for PANTERA?
Phil: Because I can't play that style, I really can't. I may come up with some stuff, but by the time it gets into Darrell's hands it's a whole different thing. He can't… basically I can't play like him, he's got his own fuckin' way to playing. I wrote the riff to "Mouth For War" and that was just getting lucky, pretty much. Any other thing I write for PANTERA I'm basically humming it out to the guys, so that he can get the notes and play it his way.
Q: What's life like at your property down in Louisiana?
Phil: It's a gigantic piece of land, 17 acres of pure woods. Beautiful isolation is what it is.
Q: Speaking of isolation, how did you a your wife Opal get together on the SOUTHERN ISOLATION project?
Phil: I've been working with fuckin' Opal for nine years now. We have a band together called BODY AND BLOOD, which I've been doing since 1989. It truly involves a lot of clean guitars and anything from piano or any different sounding instrument instead of your basic heavy metal electric guitar and loud ass double kick drums. It doesn't have any of those elements. It involves actual singing instead of screaming. All that's a part of me as well. Because it's THAT doesn't mean it's trying to be successful on any commercial level. Believe me, if you heard the music there's no way you'd say "Jesus Christ, this is a top 40 hit." This is no hit at all. It's slice-your-wrist fuckin' type depressive music. As far as SOUTHERN ISOLATION goes, Opal had been writing songs for 15, 16, 17 years and basically I offered to produce: "I hear some things I can bring out of these songs and could possibly make them better. If you disagree, just speak up." We worked together, I did some background guitars and I got some musicians to do some instruments that added a lot of minor key stuff that made it so deep and pulverizingly sad and heartfelt. It was a nice challenge and I'm glad it turned out as well as it did. Soon we're gonna be working on their full-length record, which is really a trip. It's got some really, really different sounds and different things to it. It's in the same vein, just a lot more of The SOUTHERN ISOLATION feel.
Q: With your involvement, SOUTHERN ISOLATION is getting coverage in metal media, which basically is not the target audience.
Phil: I know. It's a shame. It should branch off, but I figured that's gonna take time. It's definitely NOT a heavy metal offering at all. Hopefully it'll get some recognition. It's incredible how through me web page people write in and offer their opinions and things like that. It's so fuckin' positive and kind of crazy.
Q: Speaking of the web, I was just on the SUPERJOINT RITUAL message board and came across this discussion about you and your wife Opal. One guy wrote: "Kinda hard to image him (Phil) with a woman. She'd have to be one hard ass biyatch to put up with the PANTERA lifestyle. Most women can't hang with that."
Phil: I guess that's his opinion. He don't know me and I don't know him. He definitely don't know my ol' lady. Fuckin' life is a complex thing and if people are just looking at me as "Philip from PANTERA" they're missing out on fuckin' gigantic picture here. PANTERA just happens to be one, and I mean ONE, of the bands that I play in. It happens to do very well and now I'm in DOWN and that's starting to do really well. I plan on everything that I fuckin' do to marginally have some success, because if I do it and I do it in a way that I believe it's worth the public's time and it's definitely gonna capture some kind of audience, I'm gonna do it. There's always another side to me. I write stuff that is so fuckin' bizarre and out there that I'm not sure I'll ever let it see the light of day.
Q: The public's perception of you is either of this aggressive type of this totally depressed individual. Are you happy?
Phil: You gotta understand, there's a fine line between happy and sad. Sometimes it feels good to be miserable. I can't explain it. Am I content, is another way to put it. No, I'm not content. There's a lot more I want and there's a lot more to do. All of a sudden there was a point in my life… especially after PANTERA came in at number one on [the] Billboard [Pop Album chart], and I NEVER thought any of that shit would fuckin' happen, somewhere in a painstaking moment in my life I figure I had done everything I had set out to do, which was not true at all, so I had to set new goal. Really my new goals were just sitting all around me. I was in a conglomerate of bands that were good and they're finally getting the chance to see the light of day. They're gonna gain their own measure of audience and it's not gonna be fuckin' small potatoes, man. It's gonna be a nice size crowd.
Q: The fact that you've been able to create your own little world with all these bands and projects, is that the accomplishment in life that you're most pleased with?
Phil: Absolutely. I do have my own world and I prefer not to go out a ride roller blades and see what the new download is with the dot.com and whatever the fuck's going on out there. It doesn't do fuckin' much for me, so I gotta create my own, which is what I do.
Q: You mentioned the dot.com. Isn't that an integral part of your world, seeing that most of the records you appear on are only available through the web?
Phil: Not really, man. The only reason I have to do that is so that Elektra or WEA or whatever they're fuckin' called will allow me to put out my records. I got luck with the SUPERJOINT RITUAL release, but other than that it's a headache trying to fight them and have them let go of another "Phil Anselmo fuckin' project". I know it and you know it, I've so fuckin' many of them that to sit there and barter with them over each and second one would take a lifetime. Instead I have a blanket fuckin' clause saying that as long as I release it over my website then it's cool. Basically I've got others to handle all that shit for me and I decide when and what I wanna release.
Q: Is PANTERA's record contact up for renewal soon, so that you could renegotiate the terms?
Phil: Well, two more albums left with the PANTERA thing. You gotta realize that the cycle of an LP, especially with PANTERA, would be two to three years and that's six years down the road. I'm not willing to wait that long. Fuck that!
Q: In recent interviews you've eluded to not being very happy with PANTERA and hinted at the possible demise of the band. Please straighten the record out.
Phil: The record is that fuckin' I'm in PANTERA. I'm a full-fledge fuckin' member. But what I wanna make sure of is that when PANTERA decides to hang it up I wanna be sure that we're on top instead of dwindling in success. To me, the last tour that we did with SLAYER and all that fuckin' stuff, that was a gigantic fuckin' tour and the record sales were average. Average meaning just as good as the last record. Everything went gold and heading towards platinum. That means that the hardcore die-hard audience is still there and nobody's off turning there back's on us. I wanna keep it like that. I really, really, really wanna keep it like that, to the point where we just fuckin' go out on top. I don't wanna be any less than when we started to get popular. I don't want that at all. I don't wanna be the guy that people are sick of seeing on stage. That's why I'm happy putting out records through my label without even touring them. I just want people to hear them and you don't have to tour everything.
Q: Just to clarify things even further: Will there be another PANTERA album?
Phil: (silence for a few seconds) I would think so. I surely would think so. When I don't know. We'll have to work out a few things and set some standards and some goal. I don't see why we shouldn't.
Q: Since all the comments you've made about the future of PANTERA appeared on the internet, have you been in contact with Vinnie and Dimebag regarding their views on the matter?
Phil: Actually, no. They live their lives, I live mine and I fuckin' barely fuckin' have time to go take a piss. When I do speak to them, we shall talk.
Q: Dimebag is working on the fourth installment in the home video series. Since there wasn't a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of you in the last one, will you even be in the new one?
Phil: Well, that only goes to show… He's kinda off on his own, he does his own fuckin' thing and I'm not there a lot for it. I kinda keep to myself on the road and on a PANTERA tour I'm mostly by myself.
Q: Is it a totally different thing when you're on tour with DOWN and on the upcoming SUPERJOINT RITUAL tour?
Phil: Yeah, it is. These are dudes I grew up with since I was young, young. We have the same ideas about a whole lot of things and it's just a little bit easier to hang out with them. Everybody's kinda going through their own thing in life, too, right now. In PANTERA there are some things that are going on that I'd much rather not comment on. I think that they, mostly Dimebag, he has some things to root out in his life and make things right before me and him can get down and be happy again. Not that we're unhappy at all. Truthfully, we get along just fine, it's just that he has his way of thinking and I have my way of thinking. Sometimes that slightly gets in the way, but we're not the type of people to fuckin' let fuckin' small things ruin the big picture. We'll straighten whatever it is out. I have fine faith in that.
Q: Are these other bands like DOWN and SUPERJOINT RITUAL a way for you to clear your head while all of that is going on?
Phil: Nah, it's more or less music that I've made that I'm finally getting out there for people to fuckin' hear it. It's not really not clearing my head at all (laughs for the first time). It more or less confuses things more than anything. Not confuses, but added more to the agenda, it you know what I'm saying.
Q: You've been raving about black metal for years and years. When you finally put something out in that genre it was VIKING CROWN, which frankly was lame.
Phil: You gotta understand, VIKING CROWN is what it is. It IS lame. VIKING CROWN is not what I would call my black metal effort at all. I was in a band called CHRIST INVERSION, that is yet to come out, for years before that. To me, VIKING CROWN was another thing that got put out that I basically let go. I didn't care and was like: "Here, take these fuckin' old tapes I did." It was just bullshit things I did in 20 minutes and fuckin' Killjoy from NECROPHAGIA would fuckin' package it all up beautiful, like it was this incredible record. To me it took no time to do that stuff and it didn't take much thought. So no, I'm not that proud of it and I don't give a fuck who likes it and who doesn't. I was interviewed by this dude the other day who was "I love it 'cause it's so raw." That's pretty funny, too. Anyway, believe me, I know what I like about black metal and my ideas of black metal are probably overrated. I like just a handful of black metal band, the rest take themselves way too seriously when they get completely too involved musically. They try and add ten million different tracks to fuckin' something that would be fuckin' better off with two guitar tracks. It's just too much for me. That's why my favorite bands are still HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST. As for modern things I like DARKTHRONE and the first three IMMORTAL records pretty well and the last two to a point. I like old EMPEROR and shit like that. CHRIST INVERSION is the band that I play in that is the best representation of black metal, better than VIKING CROWN ever would be.
Q: What's up with the EIBON project?
Phil: It's just really hard to get that group of people together. Fenriz is in DARKTHRONE and Satyr's in SATYRICON, and of course they're in Norway. Killjoy, whether of not he wants to be a member I'm not sure anymore. I definitely enjoy jamming with Fenriz and Satyr. I thought that song ("Mirror Soul Jesus") we did for that sampler (A Different Perspective, Moonfog Records 2000) was pretty good. We'd done three or four more that never really got completely finished. Musically they were finished, but vocally I don't think anybody was blown away or completely happy. I know we have to finish that off at some point or another.
Q: I get the impression that people come to you…
Phil: (interrupts) Absolutely. I don't go searching out nobody.
Q: What I was trying to say was that they come to you in New Orleans. Would you consider spending a few weeks in Norway working with them?
Phil: My schedule is so fuckin' beat down that it would be very hard for me to do such a thing. If I ever had a real chance to do it, I sure would go up there. I've met the core of the black metal people up there and they're all pretty genuinely cool, so I'm sure I'd get along with them.
Q: You commented on the death of ALICE IN CHAINS vocalist Layne Staley by telling Billboard magazine: "He wasn't strong enough to shake it off. There's a way you can. The guy has to understand there are methadone clinics all throughout the United States that are willing to help you. That could've definitely helped him and saved him and gave him his life back." With your past history in mind, do you think it's that easy to kick a heroin habit?
Phil: I think that it's a definite start, a helluva start. Instead of risking your life your life every single time you go fuckin' tap the vein, at least you know what methadone does is put you on a fuckin' schedule. You have to get up, you have to do it, you have to become a functioning fuckin' member of society, you have to fuckin' move. You can't just lay in a bed and wait for it to come to you, stay on the phone and wait and wait and wait till you get your fuckin' fix and then lay around some more. You can't do that. I'm a doer, not a dream, so I can't be laying around away. I gotta get moving. Methadone is, I think, for someone who notices and sees the rough that they're in. Heroin after a while becomes a fuckin' problem, it becomes a thing in your life that a whole lot of you wants to see gone. You realize you're that not the same person, you realize that you're not keeping up with things that need to be kept up with, you realize that you're not even half the person you were. You need to get away from that. To cut cold turkey on that stuff is extremely, extremely, extremely hard on the body, extremely hard on the system. You're almost risking death and in a lot of cases you are risking death. So in that case, methadone can help you immensely, it really can.
Q: Didn't you go cold turkey after you overdosed on heroin on the PANTERA tour back in 1996?
Phil: Yeah, I sure did. But at the time, it wasn't like I was doing heroin every day. I wasn't a one time thing, but it was a heavy wake-up call. Had I been doing heroin for months and months I would have definitely needed some professional help, which I did need?
Q: Where do you stand on drugs today?
Phil: It depends on the individual and there's no way I can speak for the masses.
Q: I was actually referring to your own intake of drugs.
Phil: Well, (very long pause)… I think moderation is a keyword. Abstinence is also a keyword for certain things. You just have to decide within yourself, just like I did, which is right and which is wrong for you.
Q: Any chance of DOWN coming to Sweden?
Phil: Perhaps, there's always a good chance. We just have to work out the logistics. In the meantime, you always have ROACHPOWDER.
Q: Are you refering to the Swedish band ROACHPOWDER?
Phil: You're goddamn right, I am.
Q: Do you like them?
Phil: If I wanna listen to DOWN I put on the DOWN record, if you know what I mean.