PHILIP ANSELMO: Singing In Key Is ‘A Chore’

Brandon Marshall of recently conducted an interview with former PANTERA and current DOWN singer Philip Anselmo. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. The vocal approach [on your solo debut, “Walk Though Exits Only”] marks a return to your trademark screams. Why have you shied away from that style for so long?

Anselmo: As far as the vocals go, it’s something that I’ve always had and always will have. With DOWN, it’s a different vocal approach completely, and they are two separate things. If there was ever a mesh between the two, it’s accurate to say you would hear that live more then on a record. With DOWN, I have this unfortunate task of having to sing in key, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, because singing in key is like a chore. With the solo stuff, there is a precision to it, but thank goodness key is by the wayside and out the window. It makes it easier for an asshole like me. I can do several types of vocals, but with DOWN, it’s a matter of what fits and what doesn’t. DOWN music is just DOWN music in my mind. We know the genre inside and out. As far as the extremities, the solo stuff is a great outlet for that. So, I’m going to keep those two separate, if you will. You have done and said some outlandish things on stage. Is the man up on the podium the real Phil, or a rock-star persona? Do have any regrets?

Anselmo: First and foremost, I have been onstage since I was 13 years old. I’ve developed somewhat of a persona onstage, but honestly… I don’t think there is anything false about it. I feel as down to earth onstage as I do off the fucking stage. I really aim to let people know that. I want them to feel like instead of me being this untouchable figure on the stage, and having a show go by and have ’em feel like “OK, we saw a show,” I would rather have them feel like they hung out with me for the fucking night, ya know? I like hanging out, and I like shooting the shit about music. I like being relaxed out there. You mentioned the fucking rock-star persona; I have never been a rock star EVER in my fucking life. People might want to put me in that position, or paint me into that corner, but me myself, I consider myself a music geek like everybody else. I’m a fan of music. People look at success and they think you are born into it. That’s not true. I’ve broke every scar in my body, every fucking bone in my body has been broken for music; every drop of blood on that stage is fucking real. That doesn’t come with a silver spoon in the fucking mouth at all. It’s hard work, a lot of time, a lot of gigs under the belt, and a lot of time on the fucking road. The regret part… of course. There was a time in PANTERA when I could barely stand up. I was in such grave pain from a severe lower back injury. There was no time except touring time, album making time, and career time. The height of PANTERA‘s popularity was when I was in my most agonizing pain. There is no way that after your record comes in at No. 1 on Billboard and your in this heavy metal band that…. First of all, I’m a great pessimist as far as I feel about what is going to be successful, and I don’t like to speculate because your only setting yourself up for a letdown if it doesn’t come to fruition. I don’t think anyone in PANTERA thought, “Jesus, one day we are going to be the biggest band in the fucking world.” Nobody thought that, nobody felt that. All we knew was to throw down and play music with a chip on our shoulder. To cut to the chase, when I was in extreme pain, I tried to quench and dilute that pain with booze and pain pills. That shit lead to hard drugs. I said things and spoke my mind about other bands, and I would say half-assed shit, when really I had no business talking about other bands, during a PANTERA show. I was, like, in this demented, wounded animal stage where I would lash out man, and, in all truth, that’s not me at all. It does show the power of hard drugs and hard booze wear and tear on the body, and what it does to the mind. It desensitizes you. When you basically feel horrific on the inside, that’s what you’re going to put out there. Yes, I regret it. I regret it very, very much. I feel very fortunate to not be in that position anymore. I use those days as a prime example as what not to be ever again in my life. I take it as a learning experience, but yes, yes, there are regrets. Had I taken this massive success that I could barely comprehend in my 20s, even in my 30s, I could not comprehend my success. Had I taken my success more seriously and treated my body the way David Lee Roth or Henry Rollins, or one of these guys that are very physical on stage, and kept an elite attitude towards their conditioning and their well-being on stage like they did… In other words, I really wish I had not jumped off an eight-foot drum riser, completely wasted on Wild Turkey, trying to land with pinpoint accuracy. In other words, I basically dug my own grave by living the lifestyle to its fullest, and I do mean the rock ‘n’ roll, crazy, get-drunk-every-fucking-night lifestyle that PANTERA lived. We fucking lived that shit to the hilt, and that’s not suggested for anybody. [laughs] I would save the partying for later, or on days off, man. What is a public misconception about yourself, or a lesser known fact, fans may be surprised to know about you?

Anselmo: The first thing that comes to mind is, you strip away that rock-star mentality, I’m very approachable, very nice to people and kind to people. Most mistakes I’ve made in my life were made due to the fact that I couldn’t say no in certain situations, where I was being overly nice to where I couldn’t say no. I’m not talking about doing drugs. I’m talking about obligating myself to certain situations that maybe weren’t the best idea for me at the time, especially after the injury and after having my mind clouded with drugs and alcohol. Making life decisions at that point are always going to come off as half-cocked. What people should know about me is that I’m very approachable, and I will answer… I’m a wide-open book. Don’t ever feel overwhelmed to be down to earth with me. I can talk about your average day, I can talk about the weather, or I can talk about football. If I don’t know what the fuck your talking about, I’ll ask ya what the fuck you’re talking about. I’ve seen motherfuckers that I’ve grown up with and known for a while that I can call friends. I’ve seen their personas grow and grow onstage to where they ended up believing in there rock star capsule. They believed it. I’ve seen them conduct themselves in front of fans in a way that I felt embarrassed for them; because you could tell they were putting on a show and all this bullshit. It’s a shame for the fans, because these particular people weren’t really being themselves. They could have talked to these kids and been down to earth, because they are great people and actually pretty nice to talk to; instead they get the rock-star treatment. I see it, and I recognize it, and I hate it. I think it’s fucking bullshit. I think it’s absolute crap, and I like to distance myself from that entire thing, man. I adore the underground. I adore up-and-coming bands. I adore the youngsters, the younger generation. I love what they hold in store for the future, especially the bands that are doing very extreme things, whether it be heavy metal or pop, as long as it’s extreme. To bridge that gap, you have to be as real as possible with people, instead of some veil-cloaked, fucking guarded rock-star mythology, fucking mystery to these people. I’m not a fan of it, man; I don’t like it.

Read the entire interview at