Interview: Phil Anselmo

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<This interview was conducted in 2003 when Phil had just released, “A Lethal Dose of American Hatred” with Superjoint Ritual>

“This is the band I always wanted to be in.”

And no, he’s not referring to the band most of you know Phil from. He is in a new state of mind. It’s all about Superjoint Ritual right now. Just like anything else Phil has ever done, it’s full on with as little bullshit as possible. He’s still escaping the shadows of his previous work, but that only seems to fuel his current directions.

Anyone who is familiar with the words that spew from Phil, they know anger and frustration in the face of opposition is just gasoline on the fire for this vocalist. Superjoint Ritual might be a different assault than most expect, but it’s still a punch in the face for music. Phillip Anselmo style.

When speaking to Phil, at least interviewing him, it’s not your standard tempo of conversation where one person says something, then the other responds. I question… and Phil sits there for about 40 seconds pondering, and then in a two pack a day grumble he expounds in depth on the topic. I can sense the hesitation in answering anything too quickly, as a sign of doing countless interviews previously and learning how the media often twists things to their own agendas.

But he was still gracious enough to indulge in some of Cali’s finest chron and let us in on the current state of mind of Phil Anselmo.

So it’s all about Superjoint Ritual right now?
Phil: Absolutely.

100%?
Yeah.

Phil Anselmo (for the people that just don’t know) was the singer for one of the best metal bands of the 80’s thrash movement. He then put some time in a side project called Down. Now, he’s in a whole another unit. Although, Superjoint officially started in 1993, it took about seven years and about four rare demos before the first album was recorded in 2000, and another two years before it was released in 2002. Why keep going? Why come back to Superjoint? What keeps pushing Phil Anselmo to keep up the aggression?
I’ve been wanting to do Superjoint for so many fucking years. It’s about time. It’s something I want to accomplish before. I never even think about hanging up my music career, but the style of music that Superjoint is… it’s a certain sound that I’ve wanted to do for quite awhile.

The Superjoint press kit says you are the antidote to “nu-metal”. True?
Yeah. We are out to destroy. It seems to me like, back in the middle ages when the boys in Bon Jovi and Motley Crue and all those type bands were… ah, I guess they were big and topping the charts and what not. But then Metallica, Venom… well, really Venom… Merciful Fate… this whole European metal thing started invading I guess. Then the Americans picked up on it. Metallica, Slayer… a host of others brand new heavy metal bands throughout the early 80’s. Bands that I would like to say were pretty much for the most part, anti-image. And it seems to be today, image is a real important thing once again. It seems like if you are not painted up special way or have some tailor made outfit to put on to go out on stage… I don’t know… there’s too much of it out there. It’s time… just like in the 80’s… the non-image band. The band that just got up on stage in jeans and fucking t-shirt and exemplified the fact that music is the important thing, not what you look like. That’s where we are coming from.

Anyone who knows the music that Phil has been involved in, know there is anger involved. Hatred as a higher force of self-empowerment. How does Phil maintain the anger?
That’s an interesting question (and I get asked it quite a bit) and I never really know how to answer. I don’t know if “anger” is the precise word. It’s more like just keeping your edge. Just taking a peek at the real world now and again and what’s going on with the music scene of today… that’s enough to piss you off. And the lack of devoted heavy metal people. Even in the underground these days with Black Metal. When Black Metal made it’s resurgence in like ’91 and ’92 with Mayhem and Dark Throne and stuff like that. I thought it was great. Then next thing you know there were 5000 bands wearing spikes, leather pants, black and white makeup…

Back on that importance of image…
There it is again. Image. Once again. I get really tired of it quick. To me, I’m for a band whose forefront is the music. Period. And not the image. And I think that Superjoint Ritual is a band whose sound is not a very common sound these days. It’s aggressive enough and I guess politically incorrect enough to capture a certain audience. People that are fucking tired of it. People who are sick of being spoon-fed this fucking record company put together boy band bullshit. Even though bands like N’Sync and all that have no meaning to my fucking life, your life, whatever. Basically when a producer and a record company develop an artist, they are making you or breaking you. It’s up to the fucking record company. I would rather have the opportunity to go out on my own here than be heaved out on my fucking head. Yeah, I could walk away from music today, sure. But I’m not going to until I’ve made a severe dent for heavier music.

You mentioned the control of being on a record label. But at a certain level, you have to be on a record label. You are on a new label… Sanctuary Records.
It’s Sanctuary Housecore. Which is my label. It’s Sanctuary “slash” Housecore. So the freedom is there for us. They trust us 100%.

I notice you are really active on posting updates on your website. I take it that’s important to you?
Like if something was misconstrued by someone who doesn’t understand me, like if I said something, or I find some special need to address an audience for a special length of time… A lot of people say “God, Phil talks so much!” well there is a reason for that. I’m leaving an imprint. I’m leaving a feeling they didn’t just come to any show. The fact that I’m sticking out in their heads… sometimes deserves a little bit of explaining and I want people to understand that with the diary… I just want to make everything crystal clear.

I get the feeling that people want to take shots cause of your music past or whatever.
Well when you are baddest motherfucker… people are gonna take shots. But the shots that they take are like… it doesn’t fuck with me at all. No problem.

So for the baddest motherfucker, one might wonder where the chinks in the armor lay. What does Phil Anselmo fear?
I’m not sure really. Not being accessible. Losing that hardcore crowd and that way of thinking. I don’t even want to put that in peoples heads, cause it’s not so. We definitely have a hardcore following. We have people that will skip out on the big metal fest across town just to see us. That’s what I call a hardcore motherfucker for Superjoint and me in general. Maybe they’ve never even heard Superjoint before and they just want to see what old Phillip Anselmo’s up to. But as far as being afraid… ah… (Hears someone banging on the outside of the bus) … I’m afraid I’m gonna kill somebody if they don’t stop that shit.

What’s the most decimating song in the SJ set right now?
That’s rough. Um….

Interview is interrupted as news of some brew-ha erupting outside where, “Some kid knocked on the bus and Joe just kicked the shit out of him”. Phil decides to leave the bus and check it out despite pleads from assistant not to go outside. Nothing dramatic happens and Phil returns to the interview… (Phil answers previous question)
‘Permanently’ I guess would be the most representable track as far as direction is concerned.

What do you want someone to take away from a live SJR show?
“Reality.” Like a dose of reality. I don’t want people to walk away from the show and think, “Geez the lights were great.” Or “What a cool costume Phil had on tonight.” That’s not what music is about man. I want them to come out of there, “Jesus, that was the heaviest thing I’ve seen in a fucking while man. These motherfuckers where blowing down the house.” I want them to say, “That was the fucking most dangerous audience I’ve ever been in.”

What bands have made that impression on you lately?
Nothing. Not a fucking thing. Superjoint… y’know? But in the past. Definitely… old Agnostic Front shows… man… there was a time when the scene was fucking… if anybody from the underground was coming through, then the underground kids were gonna come out and they were gonna make their presence known. I would say just hail to the crowds of the 80’s through the 90’s. But now, for us, I would definitely say we are bringing resurgence to that type of feel in the audience. It’s really getting close with our shows. I don’t see it at many other people’s shows. But at our shows, it’s definitely growing.

How did your stint as an MTV VJ work out?
I don’t know… it was more like… fucking… I had been up all night working on this whatever or whatever and then they gave me this list of fucking songs to pick from. I wasn’t that wild about that. I told them basically if they were really going to want to bring back heavy metal to a program on MTV, then they are really going to have to get in touch with what real heavy metal is. And that’s going to involve a lot of homework. So when you hand somebody a list, they are going to need to have more than the new Clutch or some shit like that to pick from. I could do it if they gave me the resources. I could definitely find what I want to show. In other words, I wasn’t happy with the list of music they gave me. What it boiled down I guess was OK, but not what I would have played personally. They told me I had free reign… but it was within their limits, y’know?

Why should someone choose the path of music?
I think that most kids see it as they like the glamour. They like something about it that’s more visual, that’s more… I mean, you can read a lot of “Why did you become a musician?” and a lot of guys answer is “To get pussy.” Or for this or for that reason. But my thing, there was no way I could steer around it. Ever since I was very young, I’ve always known I was going to be a singer in a band and that’s what I was going to do for a fucking living. I’ve always known that.

What goes through your head when you are on stage?
Man, it’s definitely a different frame of mind. You can’t really be thinking about anything in some respects. I can’t say “going through the motions” because that’s definitely not it. It’s more like a switch that clicks on and I’m “on” and there is nothing that’s gonna stop me. Once and once I’m done, “click” it goes off and I’m just Phil. I’m laid back. But when that mics in the hand and I’m on stage and I’m fucking going, it’s tough to really gather what you’re thinking about. I want that crowd man. That’s what I want.

Aside from music, what does Phil do to entertain himself? Does you still have the fascination with true crime literature?
Oh yeah. I like that. From a sick standpoint… who is the craziest… who is the sickest and from a forensic standpoint, how they actually figured this whole mess out and caught the motherfuker. But I love horror films. I love boxing.

What is it about boxing that appeals to you?
I guess the one on one thing, it’s not like a team. Well, yeah you have a team if you are boxer. You have your trainer, you got your conditioner, whatever. But once that bell rings, it’s just you against the other guy. It’s one on one. I like that.

Politics? Feel like going off on our president or what we are doing in Iraq?
I just think that anybody that complains about what the President has done by sending over troops and kicking a little ass, they need to realize, y’know… let’em go cry and let’em go protest to the victims of 9-11 for number one. Number two, if we absolutely did nothing, then, I think most of America would be at the polls and all saying “We should do something.” So the President was in a no win situation. He HAD to go over there and fucking lay down the law and kick somebody’s fucking ass… he really did… by public pressure. If you fuck with the US, there is going to be a rebuttal. And thus far, we’ve been so, bit by bit by bit just chipping away at them. And being successful to a certain point. We are putting the fear back in the fucking terrorists. Because the countries that are harboring the terrorists, fuck, they are dead if we find out. And they know it. And so they don’t want the terrorists there. They are going to be saying, “Get out of here. You are not welcome here either. We don’t want America fucking kicking our ass. Get out of here.” And they are not going to be wanted anywhere. So I think by laying down a fucking offensive, we laid down a lot of ground rules about fucking with America.

Even if the reasons cited for War were the Weapons of Mass destruction (that have yet to be found)?
I think the media has a funny way of twisting what really is so. Anybody who pulls that on America is going to get their fucking ass kicked. I don’t care who you are… you are going to get blown up. It just reminds me that I don’t think there is any successful country that doesn’t have a backstabbing, bloody knife hidden in some drawer somewhere. Things have to get ugly. And they do. And they have for thousands of years.

The major press seems to be paying attention. You were in the Rolling Stone with the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen cover! What’s your opinion of the major music media outlets?
Not much. After years of ignoring Pantera, who was a phenomena really, within itself, for how many records we sold, and how well we did, with as little media coverage as possible, at least the mainstream media, the radio, etc. Which to me is as mainstream as you can get, besides MTV. And then again, there is MTV.

I remember MTV giving you guys a nod back in the day.
Well, on “Vulgar Display of Power”… but the very first time I slipped up and said the word “nigger” or did something that may have not been politically correct, they were all over my ass like I was the guy who shot the president or something. And that’s what I didn’t appreciate. That’s what most media outlets do. They build you up only to tear your ass fucking to shreds.

Is there a personal goal to this all?
Absolutely. I can easily say I’ve done everything I’ve wanted in music. I’ve been in a band that’s been No.1 in billboard, I’ve fucking done this and done that. Been to Russia. Done this show, done that show. Toured with every band that ever had anything to do with any kind of influence on me. What you have to realize is that Pantera’s day is over with. Much luck to them in whatever they do. But Phillip Anselmo himself needs to set new goals or… I just don’t see me working at the store down the street. Fuck. I gotta play music.

What’s the last mistake you made?
Got married.

That was a mistake?
Oh yeah.