Philip Anselmo Talks Pantera's "Vulgar Display of Power", Down, Solo Record, and More
Fri, 18 May 2012 08:08:35
Philip Anselmo epitomizes integrity in heavy metal.
Whether it's his label Housecore Records or any band that he's in—Pantera, Down, Arson Anthem, and the rest—Anselmo approaches everything with each inch of his being completely devoted to it. This is a man who not only bares his soul musically but is willing to bleed for what he believes in. Now, that's the definition of a Vulgar Display of Power.
That mentality certainly permeates the Pantera classic. With the 20th Anniversary Reissue of the record available now, it's as prevalent and powerful as ever. Anselmo approached the album wholeheartedly, and you can hear it loud and clear on the likes "By Demons Be Driven," "Hollow," "A New Level," and more. Most importantly, you'll feel it.
Vulgar Display of Power influenced an entire generation, and it continues to inspire young artists. So, in honor of the record's reissue, ARTISTdirect.com's editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to Philip Anselmo about Vulgar Display of Power. Philip opens up about what he was watching around the time, the stories behind some of the songs, the new Down EP, his forthcoming solo album, and so much more.
What were you watching or studying around the Vulgar Display of Power-era?
Well, I've always been an unabashed horror fan, and nothing has changed all the way through these two decades that have gone by. I was probably going through more of a gore phase so definitely Evil Dead and shit like that. It definitely left a big impact on my life. If I was watching anything else at the time, I'd say Mike Tyson was a big influence as far as his stature and his figure of intimidation. He was this striking and polarizing figure in the sport of boxing. Of course, he transcended the sport itself and became a somewhat of a multi-national icon before the problems down the road. During those times, Tyson and Holyfied were huge.
Tyson's ethos of coming from the bottom with such precision and attitude matches Vulgar.
It really does. I definitely see parallels there.
Vulgar's attitude never diminishes. It's the same angry animal it was 20 years ago.
Agreed! It is. It's truth [Laughs].
There's such a gnashing energy to "By Demons Be Driven". Was that a special song for you?
Well, there's a lyrical departure there. Put it this way, there are a lot of street and gut level lyrics on the record as well as common sense. With that song in general, I wanted to throw a fucking monkey wrench into the whole thing and step out of the box lyrically. They aren't crazy, bizarre lyrics. Once again, I have to agree with you as far as being one of my favorite tracks off the record. The chorus is the epitome of Pantera. The tightness of the rhythmic blast and the catchy chorus fits well. It's really the riff that just crushes me.
Did you ever play it live?
You know what's interesting is we always wanted to get to everybody's favorite song. Once again citing the main riff in that song, there were a whole lot of times we'd come out of a song and go into something with a rhythmic ending—"Domination" or "Hollow" come to mind. Live, we'd combine the ending of "Domination" and "Hollow" quite often. As a capper, we would end with the rhythmic blast of "By Demons Be Driven". For the most part, it was part of a medley. As far as playing the whole song live, we may have done it here and there, but it was definitely a rare thing. To not play that "By Demons Be Driven" riff live was like torture though [Laughs]. We'd squeeze it in there whenever we could.
"Hollow" is so brutal it's beautiful. Do you look back on that one as a standout? There's a lot of raw emotion there.
To me, it's extra special really. I was a hardheaded youngster and very focused on what direction I wanted to go with Pantera. We were capable of doing so many different styles within the genre of heavy metal itself. I thought we had touched on what I would call the power ballad thing with "Cemetery Gates". Then, we had "This Love" which was more about leading the listener into a false sense of security and then bludgeoning him. When we were writing "Hollow", I felt like we'd touched on it before. I remember getting worked up in the studio. The rest of the guys were like, "Go relax!" The next morning, I woke up and got a phone call pretty damn early from Dimebag. He said, "Don't say anything. Hurry up. Get dressed and get your ass down to the studio." This is back in the day when I lived two blocks from the studio. I went there. He told me to sit down and listen. Those motherfuckers wrote that entire badass jam-a-thon ending that night while I was at home! I was so pleased. I jumped up with my tears in my eyes practically [Laughs]. I just said, "Thank you!"
It's some of your most vivid lyrical output. .
Along the lines of "Cemetery Gates", when you grow up as you grow older, you see how fragile mortality is, and you start losing friends one way or another. I didn't want to be point blank. I didn't want to tell a direct story. I didn't want to sing about one sole person or isolated incident. I wanted the lyrics to fit for the listener. I wanted the lyrics to be wide open enough to where the listener could form their own opinion as to what the song could mean to them in their lives. It meant several things to me. It's an open enough subject and story. Whatever is going on in someone's life, they could make it fit. That was important to me.
Did you have a favorite riff or solo from Vulgar Display of Power?
Well, there's always a soft spot in my heart for the main riff in "A New Level" because it's so fucking crushing. Guitar solos…I really like them all. I'm not going to lie. Darrell was a fantastic guitar player. The solo on "A New Level" is a ripper, man. It's so tasteful and sonic in its delivery. I won't say it's my favorite guitar solo. Once again, I'm always an overall fan of anything Dimebag laid down. In my memory right off the bat, it's one of his great solos.
Where are you at on the first Down EP?
It's finished! That motherfucker is mastered and done. It's really stripped-down. It's raw. Any feedback I've gotten on it has been, "It sounds like classic Down". It is what it is man. I think it turned out pretty good.
How many songs are on it?
It's six good long ass songs. The body of work is there. There's big chorus and slow Black Sabbath-infused heavy metal rock 'n' roll with a bit of a southern twist and of course dual guitar work reminiscent of a band like Trouble. Lord knows without Trouble, Down would be in Trouble [Laughs]. Really, it's Down. I'll let you outside listeners make your damn opinions, and that's that.
Well, I can't wait! The solo record sounds like it's really close to your heart.
Yeah, it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. Once again, I'll leave it up to the mass listeners to judge it. I think it's very extreme without being any type of "core" or death metal, black metal. You can't really slide it into a slot. As far as heavy stuff goes, I hope I'm treading on new ground. I can't compare it to anything else. There's a lot going on musically and riff-wise. To me, it's the type of record that the more spins you give it, the more you hear within what's going on overall. Those are my favorite kinds of records. You can't catch everything on the first listen, and there's some depth to it. It's going to be very interesting. I can't wait to put this motherfucker out.
What's your favorite Pantera song?
See our video between Philip and actor Bill Moseley here!
Photo: Corey Soria