A Moral Metal Panic – Am I allowed to say I like Phil Anselmo?
“You used complexion of my skin for a counter racist tool” – 5 Minutes Alone
Some time ago I was wearing a Pantera T-shirt out and about when someone stopped me. Rather than the usual compliments though they mentioned Phil Anselmo’s incident some years back. This then happened to me again at a gig and whilst at first, I was quite defensive, it did pose the question: Am I allowed to say I Like Phil Anselmo?
To give a simple answer, I would probably say “it’s your own life – like who you want”. So, if you are looking for a short answer… it’s yes! However, I think we can probably do a little better than that.
In the beginning
To start with, for those of you who have been living under a rock, surrounded by penguins in the Ant-Arctic, Phillip H “Phil” Anselmo is the singer of the legendary Pantera. Originally starting out as a glam metal band in the mid-80s, they opted for a different sound, a new singer. Their fifth album, Cowboys from Hell ensured the birth of their huge commercial success. Following up with Vulgar Display of Power, Far Beyond Driven and The Great Southern Trendkill, these all contributed to the band selling over 40 million records worldwide.
For those of you about to pounce on me – my opinion is still not quite made up in 2000s Reinventing the Steel. They received nominations as well, making it high in the charts across the world, with the peak being Far Beyond Driven. Known as well for either being part of the second wave of Thrash Metal or pioneering Groove Metal (depending on your opinion) and being good friends with (amongst others) the almighty Kerry King, they were truly at the forefront of Metal during a decade which was by all accounts, a let down when compared to the one before. Pantera were the hope, the new chosen ones, and most of all, they behaved and appeared like us, the fans.
Now I could go on about Pantera for another 5 pages. I have tried to summarise all the points into the above, but it’s probably fair to say I LOVE PANTERA. Official Live: 101% Proof is a truly awesome live album and captures the aggression & musicianship of a band close to their absolute peak! “Walk“, “A New Level“, “5 Minutes Alone” and “Cowboys from Hell” will make pretty much any favourites playlist I will ever make and contributed to my (now) awesome air guitar skills!
Anyway, moving on.
Since Pantera disbanded and the tragic passing of guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott (not forgetting the more recent tragic passing of his brother and drummer Vinnie Paul) Dimebash became an annual event celebrating the life of Dimebag. It had musicians attend and play and has been a continuous success. Then on one night a few years ago things took a bit of a turn.
On the 22nd of January 2016, at the annual Dimebash event in California, the evening ended with Phil giving a Nazi salute and shouting “white power” at the crowd. Let’s just be clear right now before going on – in my opinion, the language and gesture used by Phil has no place in life or society and certainly has no place in my metal. If you disagree with that in any way, probably best you go now.
Initially, Phil stated that he was making an inside joke about the power of white wine, which he and others backstage had been drinking. Seriously if that is true – don’t do comedy Phil, stick to your strengths! He shortly afterwards went on to say “I Fucking love everyone, I fucking loathe everyone, and that’s that. No apologies from me”.
Then after this were a number of high-profile musicians who spoke openly about not being so impressed with Phil. Robb Flynn, who was also there, made a video (it’s still on YouTube) saying that this had no place in metal. Phil should not get a “free pass” just because he is Phil Anselmo. He went on to make the point if it was other musicians across the world, then heads would roll.
Anselmo then took a few days to think of his words and released a statement through Housecore Records on its YouTube channel. This could be possibly due to Phil being an owner of Housecore Records and felt that he could ensure that his words were not twisted by the media. His statement was:
“Philip H Anselmo here, and I’m here to basically respond to all the heat I’ve been getting that I deserve completely.
I was at Dimebash, and it was extremely late. There was heavy-duty talk between myself and those who love Dime. And heavy emotions were flowing, jokes were made backstage that transpired upon the stage, and it was ugly. It was uncalled for. Any anyone who knows me and my true nature knows that I don’t believe in any of that. I don’t want to be part of any group. I’m an individual, and I am a thousand percent apologetic to anyone that took offence to what I said because you should have taken offence to what I said. And I am so sorry, and I hope just…man, give me another chance to…just give me another chance. I love all of you. And anyone who’s met me, anyone who knows me knows that I love all of you. Bless you”.
Sounds alright, I guess? Maybe, but I am not exactly sure.
To be fair, if you have watched that video it’s quite clear that Phil is not in the best place. Perhaps he is in the midst of coming to the realization of what had happened. That is no bad thing in principle, so I think I can probably forgive him for not having something entirely prepared.
However, it probably does raise a few points though.
Firstly, why, in the name of Judas Priest, did he not get something, of any kind, prepared? Surely, being around the media for so long and being involved in so much social media himself (you can check his other bands, tours, Housecore etc) you would have thought he may have had a bit of time to think about it. Now, that does not mean in and of itself that his sentiment raised is not genuine, but it is a bit concerning.
Secondly, why did he only mention what he said? There was a hand gesture that has simply been glossed over entirely there. Maybe I am being somewhat particular, but that is just as unacceptable as the language used.
He has since been involved in a number of interviews, Loudwire’s interview titled Phil Anselmo on Dimebash Incident: Online Scrutiny is Fake & Sociopathic being arguably the most-watched. This interview clip was uploaded almost exactly one year on from the incident. Phil starts off by saying he has taken himself away from the media spotlight (wise if you ask me) and then goes full-on attack mode. Anselmo mentions that because he is a nice guy he won’t “mention names”.He says there are multiple people in the music industry pretending to be “pious” when he knows otherwise. He finishes with “they know that I know”. He goes on to say:
“When I apologized, I meant it. As far as anyone that I may have truly offended, but in this day and age, I have come way too far, my book, my life is open. I’m open about everything. You can ask me about drug use, you can ask me about anything in this world, you know, I’m an open book. And I think that there is this online community and then there’s the real world.”
A discussion then takes place between Graham Hartmann (the interviewer) about how when posting something online it can be there forever and due to no interaction, can be seen as quite offensive itself with no justification found. Hartmann then goes on to describe this behaviour as “sociopathic”. Phil agrees, stating that it is “dangerous” and goes hand in hand with the computer age.
Phil elaborates further, stating that through social media, everyone can have an opinion, but none of this is researched in any detail. He describes this as “fake and sociopathic”. He finishes the brief interview by stating that everyone is an individual, that everyone is different, and people should not follow the crowd.
I must be careful to not fall into the trap of potentially being one of those individuals Phil and Graham are describing. I should start by saying that this interview clip was a clip, so perhaps did not allow for a chance for Phil to elaborate further. Further, the title of the video does not really show much on the incident in question. Both faults would lie with Loudwire though and not Phil.
However, it does again raise a few points:
Firstly, I didn’t seem to hear or find any remorse. Now I have seen enough Phil Anselmo interviews to know that apologies are not normally high on his list. A further sentence or statement saying again that he wishes to apologize would have gone a long way.
Secondly, going on the attack is probably not the best line of defence here. The idea of being known for doing something bad, then saying that I know others that are as bad or worse than me could be a somewhat infantile response.
Thirdly, I don’t think he has been all that clear when referring to online commentators. Whilst almost any YouTube video comments section is often filled with toxic commentary, I think it is probably a little strong to say “sociopathic”. For reference, sociopathic tendencies often revolve (in part) around a lack of empathy. In this case it’s more likely that we are forgetting all the trolling going on in this instance. Also, the opinions posted can now be posted from behind a screen and a keyboard, meaning everyone can be a little braver these days.
Fourthly, Phil always used to speak with such assurance and positivity around individualism. However, in this context, it does not really help his cause for showing his own empathy to those he offended one year prior to that interview. Being yourself and being headstrong was not the topic required here.
It should also be mentioned at this point that even a cursory search of “Phil Anselmo White Power” into YouTube brings a number of videos that do seem to show Phil (much earlier in his career) talking about being proud of the colour of your skin. I am not going to transcribe his words, as I do not wish to give them a platform. Further, when reviewing these videos, whilst not outright racist rhetoric, it does leave a sour taste in the mouth. You can make up your own mind there.
I would have much preferred there to be a different answer. Something more meaningful and reconciling. Maybe I am an idiot and expecting too much, but if Phil could do something meaningful (as suggested by Anthrax’s Scott Ian) such as provide a clear and sincere apology, and donate to a cause to fight discrimination and anti-Semitism, that would certainly go some way to heal the wounds. Please, Phil, give us the chance to forgive properly. We won’t forget, but we can forgive.
Writing this has been somewhat emotionally traumatic I cannot deny. I loved and respected Phil Anselmo hugely. There was a poster of him on my wall, and I used to hang off his every word. I was about £100 short of getting a CFH tattoo. It is not fair I know to expect him to be the man I want him to be. To be the inspiration to me in the bad and low times, but I still cannot deny its disappointing. I wanted this to end with me celebrating Philip H Anselmo, but I cannot. It doesn’t feel right.
What I can do though (and hopefully you will join me) is celebrate Pantera! Pantera is not Philip H Anselmo. Pantera was a great band and still one of my favourites, the misgivings of one band member in this instance do not mean every member of Pantera thinks the same. Until we know for certain, let’s embrace that logic! Therefore, it is time to dig the shirt out and raid the music library. Then pick your favourite track, crank it up to 11 and headbang until you need a chiropractor.
Party on Dudes,
Read more of my thoughts and articles here: Joe’s Metal Jive
P.S. if you have ever been on the receiving end of Anti-Semitism in your life, or wish to contribute to a good cause, please check out: