In a brand new interview with the Phoenix New Times, former PANTERA and current DOWN vocalist Philip Anselmo was asked what the biggest correct choices were that he made as a young adult that if he hadn’t made, PANTERA as we know it today would’ve never been a band.
“Well, honestly, a lot of hard work,” Anselmo began. “I was in a band in New Orleans by the age of 13, and doing my first gigs. Eventually I got into a band with older guys . . . I was always the youngest guy, somehow.
“I’ll put it like this: I used to come home from school, and practice JUDAS PRIEST‘s ‘Unleashed In The East’ live record, and sing it a couple times over before my folks got home from work. And uh, all that practice just right there helped me mature quicker than some of my musician peers, and it showed. Eventually with the band I was in, I was still in high school and we were doing gigs five nights a week, five one-hour sets a night. So really I did my homework on fucking stage, whether it was JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, SLAYER, MOTÖRHEAD songs . . . It paid off in the end because it brought me flexibility. And this is really before black and death metal bands took off.
“So when I first joined PANTERA, it came about because we were playing the same circuit. I mean, New Orleans is only an hour from Dallas by airplane, so we were playing the same places really. We had always heard about PANTERA because they were supposed to be ‘the band’ that was going to be the next big band. And we all knew about Dimebag being a great guitar player. Word got out that their lead singer of many years, Terry Glaze, left the band, and they needed a fucking singer. My name came up and they got in touch with me, and I went and tried out one night. We jammed. It was a brief but awesome experience. Four days later, I’m back in New Orleans. Dimebag called me up and said, ‘What do you think?’ I asked, ‘About what?’ He said they had a gig in Shreveport and asked if I wanted to come jam. So I said, ‘Let’s do this.’ I had a tiny bag with a couple T-shirts and a couple pair of underwear and shorts, and that’s about it. [laughs] And I guess also some vinyl I tried to hang on to under my arm, man . . . And I flew to Dallas, and the rest is fucking history.
“For me, it took a lot of hard work way before I got into PANTERA.
“When I got to PANTERA, they were going through a really gigantic rebuilding phase, you know? After Terry Glaze quit, they didn’t stop. They had about five replacement singers, their crowd dwindled, and it was tough. Once again I was just another new singer to the area. So we really had to rebuild the fan base that PANTERA had at a young age. They had really early success with Glaze. Case in point: they sold out this place called the Bronco Bull back in the day, and it was over 1,500 to 2,000 people, which is a big achievement, especially considering I was just playing clubs in Louisiana that just held 50 fucking people. So to rebuild that fanbase was a challenge. And then also to reshape the band was an even bigger challenge. I had my idea of what heavy should be, and they had their idea of what heavy was. So, there was a lot of education between the four of us, and a lot of growing up between the four of us to even get to a point where we actually did destroy the myth of the club band. And the club band back in the ’80s was to dress and look like MÖTLEY CRÜE, or you don’t have a gig. So for me, this was one of the toughest times of my fucking life, because I was playing that part and I fucking hated it, honestly. I was unhappy with it. And the PANTERA boys knew this, and eventually we did rebuild that fanbase through heavier music and many different chapters of earning and learning the respect of super-underground heavy metal music at the time.
“And I can cite Kerry King from SLAYER back in the ’80s, when he first came out and saw us at a club, and we friended Kerry King. He used to come down to check us out — once again, this was way before we were signed to any major label — and he would come down and jam with us. And I think that was a major influence on the entire band I guess, because at the time I think Dimebag was really mainly a METALLICA-type guy, and I was much more a SLAYER-type guy, and there was a difference back in the day. For Dimebag to jam with Kerry King, I think it showed Darrell, that it was an amazing challenge to play this type of music and he learned a whole new respect by jamming with Kerry King. So I think the whole SLAYER connection is super imperative to the future of PANTERA, and also the rebuilding of the fan base before we were signed, and eventually we were pulling in so many people I had to say, ‘Fellas, we don’t have to play the club game anymore.’ And that’s when all the spandex went in the trashcan, which was one of the happiest days of my fucking life, because we could be ourselves and let the music do the fucking talking. We could be ourselves. Fuck the image. And to me, that’s the school I come from. Let the fucking music do the talking, and let the image come later or on just let people perceive it how they want.
“So we defeated the club scene, man, and that was a gigantic feat. And the rest is obvious history.”