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Ozzfest Special: Interview With Superjoint Ritual Vocalist Philip Anselmo

By Sefany Jones, Contributing Editor
Saturday, August 14, 2004 @ 3:07 PM

A Candid Coversation With One

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Here I am at Ozzfest on July 31st, in San Bernardino, CA. It’s fucking sweltering hot, I'm drenched in a thick coat of dirt head to toe from the desert moshpits, and I think I’ve got a contact buzz from being on God Forbid’s bus. I’m scheduled to interview Philip Anselmo, the self-proclaimed King of Metal, the vocalist of Superjoint Ritual, two hours after their performance. I actually had a few bets running backstage on whether or not this would actually take place. No one had confidence.

Promptly at 7 pm, Phil’s assistant/ girlfriend shows up to take Junkman and I to the bus. We chill out with Superjoint drummer Joe Fazzio for a few while she ushers some people off the bus. More clouds of smoke engulf us.

We sit down in the back with Phil and his newly shorn head, just a mohawk striping his skull. He’s slowly sipping on a Beck’s, while this weird, creepy “mood” music is playing softly over the intercom. He smokes his Marlboro reds down to the filter. He’s in a great affable mood, extremely pleasant. We’re offered some beers, and start rolling tape.

After the hour-long interview, as I stood up and thanked him, Phil says, “Drop your purse. Sit your ass down. The mics are off, right? We’re not finished.” We’ve already missed Slayer’s performance. Judas Priest was about to take the stage now. What to do? Fuck it. We talk for another hour, in which he reveals some pretty incredulous stuff, which I swore not to divulge, and I won’t. Now, there are certainly arguable conceptions about Philip’s personality, and definitely questions about his sobriety, drug use, state of mind. I’ve known Phil since 1995. I’ve seen him then, and I’ve seen him now. He swears he’s been off the drugs –clean – for three years, and I believe him. I can see the difference.

What you may not know about him, however, is that a while back he crushed two vertebrae in his back – just from years of headbanging on stage, and other self-inflicted abuses. It causes him great agony on a daily basis, and he does take pain medication once every morning to relieve this pain. The only other option is surgery, which would require – and let me paraphrase Phil here – for his guts to be removed from his body through a large incision in the front of his body. They operate, and stuff his guts back in. Then they flip him over, do another operation, and stuff his guts back in. What he is left with is the 50/50 chance of being permanently paralyzed for the rest of his life. Behind where Phil is sitting, there is a shelf with over 30 bottles of vitamins, which he says he takes every single morning. He works out every single day to keep his back healthy. If he misses a day, severe pain wreaks havoc in his body and he is unable to function.

Anyway, the pain meds make Phil speak a bit slowly – in addition to the fact that he is a very deeply-thinking person. He’s constantly searching through his mind for the right words to express himself. He doesn’t just brush off questions, or give quick answers to appease. He treads back and forth across the line of humility and a God complex. He stays true to his self, whether it’s popular or not. The conversation that follows is filled with great emotion and emphasis, pride, contentment, sorrow and regret, but mostly, an optimistic outlook on the future of Superjoint Ritual.

Onstage at Ozzfest, Phil began to talk about his other band, Pantera, that “maybe you’ve heard of” and that maybe we “had some lingering questions” – “We’ll here’s the answer to one of them – where is he? Rex Brown everybody!” So the question posed was whether this was a reunion of sorts, or had they been close this whole time…

ANSELMO: Me and Rex have always remained tight. Once you’re in a band like Down, you become a “lifer” and that we hold completely sacred, and our lives may divide, they may take their own course, and you may do things without your brother… But every time you see your brother, or you’re around your brother, he is somebody that you love and respect and that’s what a lifer is. And your brother can be a person, music, anything that makes you… just… exist in the now. Just sit there and…and just love it, you know, instead of thinking about, “Oh… I’ve got this to do and that to do, I’m nervous, I’m paranoid, where’s my Zanax, give me a Valium, ohhhh no no no no no… the world, the world, the world…” -- coming down and crushing you on the head. When you play your music, and when you see people that you love, that’s good stuff.

We discuss the beginning of formation Superjoint Ritual. We’re trying to figure out when the first song was written, which I believed to be “Ozena” in 1989, which Phil says is incorrect, although that is what is says on the CD booklet. Here’s Phil’s take on how SJR got going…

ANSELMO: Superjoint… it was songs that I had written about myself for… God knows what, when or… [for] whenever I would run into the band that the style would fit, and Superjoint Ritual fit that particular music style. Put it this way: I wrote maybe 3 songs in the ‘80s, and Superjoint Ritual got together in ’93, so since, since ’93. Period.

I then prompted the question about the disappearance of original bassist Mike Haage (pronounced HAY-gah) which brought Hank III into the fold….

ANSELMO: It’s was just a way—way better move. Well, if you want to know about Mike Haage, basically, he and our drummer [Joe Fazzio] had a big time falling out, and I think from that point on it was an absolute falsitude [sic] to think they could ever jam together [laughs] … Forget it, you know. And I understood where Joe was coming from.

So, I then wanted to know if this is where Phil was “at” – was this the band for him permanently…

ANSELMO: I am at the now, I feel great, man. [Holds out his arm.] Feel that arm; feel that shit. I am a 190 pounds of fucking sheer… revenge. I am a walking Slayer concert. I am one explosion after the next. Philip H. Anselmo is so--- I am returned… When I say revenge, I mean… anyone who doubted me in the first place and anyone who has the gall or the nerve to say anything but – that I did it my way. They’re wrong. They’re absolutely wrong. I did do it my way, since I was 13 years old. I moved out of my house, finally, at 15, and since I was 15 years old, I slept in a back seat, snuck in a friend’s house when their parents went to work, ate candy corn and stuff like that, you know, just sneaking the stuff, you know, shit they wouldn’t really miss, you know. I know what it’s like to starve. I know what it’s like to be zero. And all I had in my life to give me joy was my band. And my band would play seven nights a week. I would make no money – and this is back when I was 14, 15, 16… I wouldn’t make anything. Of course it was in the New Orleans scene, which stretched probably through Shreveport, LA and about three different points in Texas: Houston, Dallas… and somewhere else – I’m not sure. That’s how the Pantera connection became. You know, they were looking for a singer, and I was looking for a way out. You know, I think my band wanted to be more commercial, and I have always been starved for that particular style of thrash that moved me, you know. I don’t care if a band plays fast or [technical] – I don’t care if it’s over-technical or anything like that… it has to have a certain thing about it that moves me or that makes me smile to myself and makes me think, “Okay, I think I love this.” You know. And it can be the simplest thing, or you know it can be something complex, or considered… I can’t even think of the word, sorry.

"I am a 190 pounds of fucking sheer… revenge. I am a walking Slayer concert. I am one explosion after the next."
I’ve heard Phil say onstage before that he doesn’t understand why the press always wants to know what the song “Ozena” is about. The actual definition of the word ozena is: “A chronic disease of the nose characterized by intranasal crusting, atrophy, and a fetid odor.” Well, as a fan I wanted to know who the hell this person or thing was…

ANSELMO: Disease can be anything, and if you let it go – even if it’s an aching heart or suffering mind, and you don’t fix it, that’s when bad things happen. [laughs] So, ozena basically is the latter stages of syphilis, and what syphilis does in the end is eat away at your nose, of course, maybe you’ve seen pictures – it’s incredible looking – the really disgusting part of the whole matter is you are noseless. The breath that comes out of your nose, is supposed to be so– [“Vile?”] Vile is a kind way to put it. It is disssgusting and tough to be around, so you become a suicide candidate, as far as I’m concerned, you know. I’m not catching the “ozena” for fuck’s sake!

Then I wanted to know about the song “The Horror” -- The line “one short fuck does the trick” – was that about AIDS?

ANSELMO: Maybe it is. A lot of my songs I write… it’s not about one subject; it can be… about a variety of things – all entrenched into one song. You also have to understand that shock value and reality are just a fraction away from each other so… You can say some of us have been lucky, or you can say some of have been unlucky – it depends on what has happened to you, if anything, so you know… I know for a fact there’s a lot of people out there in the general public that are susceptible and are either spreaders – they are sick from one type of STD or another, and it’s a lot more than you would ever think, and man, it’s a scary thing. I feel good, you know. I just got a divorce, man. I’ve been with 2 girls– 3 women in 5 years or something.

So the big question is, when will the third album from Superjoint arise?

ANSELMO: Well, we have done an extensive amount of touring since then. I think we’re going to shoot for early next year. It’s a very, very important LP– listen to me, “LP” for God’s sake – oh man, I’m stuck on it. I have a record player at home, and I have like Necrodeath and Darkness on vinyl. Necrodeath was black metal in 1987, before a lot of bands. But I’m not bragging, I’m loving it. But what were we talking about? Early next year. Early next year, because I want a great record. It needs to be the essence of – of violent, over the top lesson in life. The cruel world. View. And it must be, because in my mind there will be way more horrific – horrific – attacks by the Al-Qaeda and copycat terrorist groups, and I think that after a while of chasing their tail, the American government will have to start looking for new sources of information and new sources of power, and that’s where some of this could come into play. If we think logically to defend our country-- is the most noble cause. Period. I could write music all day and all night, and yes I believe in my heart and soul, that is what I was put here for. But, my mind is telling me, and has been telling me, lately, that not only should I organize something tremendous, as I have things in the past, I should have it be absolutely dangerous and our objective – and main objective – would be to gain all the information and counter attack any Al-Qaeda. It’s time to rise, my brothers and sisters. Mark my words.

Um, I’m without a comeback after that speech. By the way his eyes were closed, seemingly chin-deep in the subject, I continue to query the subject. I want to know where his views came from – did he have family members or friends in wars, etc…

ANSELMO: This is something I’ve felt since a young age. That’s an impossible question to answer – “where did it come from.” It’s as natural as hair growing under your arms [laughs]. It’s part of you always, and maybe you have suspicions, destiny – everybody has those – and it just beats in my heart… that one day there has to be a way for all of us to get along, and all of us to have peace. That’s a hard thing to do. Yes, I do believe it is possible. Well, people can look at me and say, “Well he doesn’t make any difference anyway.” Look at the guys running, for God’s sake. Look at them. They are propped up, hairspray jockeys who aren’t going to make any difference AT ALL, and perhaps make things worse. AND, if I were another world leader, I would look into the eyes of these men, and I would know they were not leaders. I would know they were not true leaders. They were not made of strength. And the United States of America needs just that. Especially now.

I need to change the subject. I ask about why Phil would take his seemingly underground thrash band on the Ozzfest tour.

ANSELMO: Listen, the Osbournes have asked me in general, my bands in general… Pantera—they asked us twice to be part of Ozzfest. Of course we said yes. I have a band called Down that they-- we had just put out a new record, and they asked us if we’d want to do it, and we were like, “Of course.” You know? So we ended up headlining 2nd stage. The they asked us to headline 2nd stage, and I believe you asked if that bothered me – you gotta understand, now that I’m in Superjoint Ritual… we’re playing small places—and that is stuff that we expected all along, and wanted. We wanted that Black Flag feeling of small, energetic, intimate audience that could get up on the stage at will, dive into the audience – everybody’s dancing counter-clockwise in the pit – the original pit. That part of the mission of Superjoint Ritual is complete. That is as fun as it gets.

But do they enjoy being on a large package tour such as Ozzfest?

ANSELMO: It’s definitely a big part of [doing it for] the Osbournes. When they asked us to be on the mainstage, where we were at [this year] – we were like yes, of course we’ll do it – but there were definite doubts in our minds that our particular show would definitely not come across as anything like our other shows. Our other shows are-- one after the other person flying off the stage, complete violence, complete -- and I do mean complete – I mean everyone in the place.

Phil has said one time -- on stage at a headlining show in Los Angeles that was particularly rowdy -- that the audience was responding exactly the way he had pictured it when he was writing the songs. What did he mean by this…

ANSELMO: If it was an acceptable, violent crowd, a lot of stage diving— I write music lyrically to destroy by. Music to… shoot your best friend in the back by. And… I wish it were a different thing sometimes, but it's something that I’m good at and it’s a gift for me, and it comes out of me so easily, and obviously it’s coming from somewhere, and I realize that there’s no way these particular lyrics can come from nowhere. There could be a lot of, uh… huh… (pause)… despair in question. But generally, especially now, I am a happy man. I am a strong, happy man that is just good at his job, and if I have to write that way—it just comes out of me naturally, and it’s always easy to reflect on the past—always easy to reflect on the past – and maybe that’s where a lot of it’s coming from. Because when I think of myself now -- I am 100% more of a man now than I was in the last couple of years.

One last question then: will there be another tour following up Ozzfest?

ANSELMO: We have just toured and headlined for like three different tours before Ozzfest, you know. I think we will rest briefly, then look at the scope of things and if a tour happens to come up, even if it’s briefly after the Ozzfest… if a tour happens to come up or anything like that, you know, umm… any reason to make more money to put back into the band, we would take that for sure. And other than that, I think we’ll take a brief amount of time off otherwise, and take a look into our options…

(Photos by Chris Slack (c)2004)

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