Phil Anselmo of Down: "It's Like a New Lease on Life"

Categories: Interviews

Jimmy Hubbard
Phil Anselmo is known by many things in the metal community. He's been called "fucking brutal" when he takes the stage and the "Evel Kneivel" of heavy metal because of all his stage injuries. To some, he's a brother and a tough guy; to others, he's an asshole whom they'll only cross once. But one name stands above the rest: a legend. It's a title that he earned fronting two of the biggest names in metal: New Orleans-based metal super group Down and, of course, the legendary Pantera.

But it was Anselmo's tough guy persona mixed with his throaty rasp and falsetto screams that helped to establish the Arlington boys in Pantera as an unstoppable metal force throughout the '90s and early 2000s. He was like an evil Superman soaring across the stage. And it's the same attitude that he'll be unleashing on Friday, May 23, when his band Down appears with Black Label Society as part of the Revolver Gold Gods Tour at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie.

"I'm always looking forward to coming back to the DFW area," says Anselmo. "It's my second home. I love the people. And I think the area has probably one of the most unbelievable talent pools. I mean think about it: Mike Scaccia and Dimebag Darrell came from the same fucking place. That's magic, Jack. That's something that doesn't happen twice."

In the '80s, Pantera was a prominent glam band in the DFW metal scene. Guitarist Diamond Darrell, drummer Vinnie Paul, bassist Rex Brown and singer Terrance Stamp were known for their stage show and crotch metal attire, silken jump suits and big hair. It wasn't until the band discovered thrash metal from the likes of Exodus, Slayer and Metallica that another form of magic would lead them to Anselmo.

Anselmo joined the band in the late '80s and brought a level of horror and depth to the band's music, creating some of metal's most notable songs, like "Cowboys from Hell," "I'm Broken" and "Walk." The guys traded their jumpsuits for jeans and t-shirts, Diamond changed his name to Dimebag, and they soared to stardom in the early '90s.

Anselmo's public life has been full of controversy from a back injury that led to an addiction and cost him his band Pantera and nearly his life, to his public dispute with Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, fueled in part by the music media. Anselmo is a survivor who took his new lease on life and created Housecore Records to promote metal bands like local favorites Warbeast, a band that includes former members of Gammacide and Rigor Mortis.

It was while living with bassist Rex Brown and "a bunch of crazy motherfuckers" in the DFW area in the '90s when Anselmo first came across a Rigor Mortis' demo. "I popped it in and pretty much stole it," he says. "I loved it." Shortly after, he met the local metal legends: singer Bruce Corbitt, guitarist Mike Scaccia, bassist Casey Orr and drummer Harden Harrison. "They were killer," he recalls.

Sadly, Scaccia died of a heart attack while playing onstage at The Rail Club in December 2012. Down will be headlining the "Rock the Heart" benefit show on Saturday, May 24, at Emo's in Austin. Proceeds will benefit the Mike Scaccia Heart Rock Foundation.

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