Interview: Down Vocalist Phil Anselmo Talks New EP, Down IV Part II
This May is a special month for fans of the Nola metal scene as Down, Crowbar, and Eyehategod are all releasing material within the span of two weeks. To celebrate the occasion, Revolver caught up with each of the band’s vocalists for the reviews section of the June/July 2014 issue (on newsstands June 3). Here, Down vocalist, Phil Anselmo (pictured center), talks about the songs on the band’s new EP, Down IV Part II , as well as his solo work and touring with Black Label Society.
REVOLVER Can you tell me about the lead single off the new EP, “We Knew Him Well”?
PHIL ANSELMO I kinda like people to think for themselves and come up with their own conclusions because a lot of times I’ll have a couple of specifics in mind and then somebody will come along and say to me what their thoughts are on a certain songs is about. And I find it really interesting because it’s something that I haven’t even considered before in my life and it makes sense to me the way they explain it. So to get to your answer, “We Knew Him Well” is about several different people, not just in my life, but the lives’ of my bands, family life, anybody that is I guess very very close to you. That’s one I wrote for them.
In “Sufferer’s Years,” you say, “I hate this time of year.” I was curious as to what you’re referring to.
Well, that’s something I don’t mind being very specific about because December is a very tough time of the year for myself and my household in general. It’s the month we lost Dimebag and when my fiancée lost her mother to cancer. It’s always very gloomy around here and maybe even a frustrating time of year. It feels like with every passing fucking year, it it never gets better. It honestly gets worse. So “Sufferer’s Years” is about the line in the song “darker December” and I mean that very literally.
What about “Hogshead/Dogshead”?
I guess that’s a little peek of America today, or hell, it could be the world. A lot of different people with different ideas about the quality of life they should be living and there’s some radical ideas out there, there’s some peaceful ideas out there, some logical ideas out there, but you know, getting everyone on the same page is right next to impossible. It seems we gotta make the best of it. “Hogshead/Dogshead” for me is really pointed at America and how we’re built of so many different cultures and religions and we are the melting pot but still there’s a great percentage of people out there that seem to forget we’re all born in North America or the actual United States of America–this shit called American. People want to be labeled anything, and I can understand that, too, but still the truth of the matter is we are American and we tend to pull in different directions when in reality, if we pulled together a little bit more, in unity or in concert, we could get a lot more done hopefully.
What about “Conjure”?
So “Conjure” is basically the old adage of be careful of what elements are hovering around you at all times, and be careful what you want out of life and what you bring into your life because a lot of times it might seem crystal clear and the right thing, whatever that thing may be, but in reality it’s a trap waiting to happen or to be sprung. So it’s basically “be careful what you wish for,” something like that.
I know you write musical parts for Down, on top of singing and writing lyrics. What did you contribute to this EP?
I’m a riff writin’ motherfucker. But I will say on this last Down record, honestly, it feels like this is the one that I’ve least been a part of as far as writing too many riffs. But I did write a few riffs on this one. But shit man, I’m going to have to give riff of the record to Jim Bower [Down drummer] on “We Knew Him Well”—that’s a New Orleans swayin’ motherfucker right there.
This is the first Down record with Bobby Landgraf instead of Kirk Windstein, who left late last year to focus on his main project Crowbar. How was it working with him?
Bobby is the type of guy that’s always been around the band the last decade. He’s either been opening for us with his other band Honky or guitar tech-ing for many, many years. So he’s somebody that we know very well. He’s also a Down fan and I think that if you can get a guitar player that is ultra-talented as Bobby is, and believe me, he is, and you get him to come in and contribute right off the bat, which he did do, you get a new spin. It’s another Down fan’s point of view of what a Down song sounds like or sounds like to them. So really it was a great infuse of new blood and with that, a whole new energy.
You’re touring with Black Label Society. How did that come together?
I know Zakk [Wylde, BLS vocalist-guitarist] real well and he has great musicians surrounding him. I keep in touch with Zakk probably not as much as I should, but more than you’d probably figure.
Due to my age, I never got to see Pantera live, but when you went out on your solo tour as Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals, you did play some Pantera songs. And you’ve been playing “I’m Broken” with BLS. Why do you think it’s important to perform those songs.
Pantera was a very unique thing, man. Honestly, we were young as fuck and in our strongest bodies. We would sacrifice our bodies for the live show every night and over and over and over and over. The thing with me, though, revisiting those types of songs—I knew it would be fun for the audience and I also knew that it would be different for the crowd, like yourself, that missed the opportunity to see Pantera live strictly because of their age.
There was really a connection between you and the crowd. You always seem to go out o f your way to do things like shake hands with people after the show.
One thing that I’ve always stressed and really tried to stress is that Pantera really had the greatest fans in the world. And just because you play music, have written songs, and have had a level of success, you don’t have to be an asshole. You don’t have to be a dick. You can be nice to your fans. You don’t have to be this larger than fucking life guy that needs 75 security fucking people holding everybody back. That’s never been my style. My style is, please come up to me and ask me a question, please come up to me and talk to me. Let’s talk about the real shit. Let’s be real with the people—the people that fucking that matter the most, that’s the fans, man. I don’t buy into all the rock-star shit—it’s boring. It’s motherfucking true. Ha! Trust me, it’s boring. It’s crap.