Phil Anselmo On His First Gig: "I Was About Seven Octaves Out Of Key"
Next Tuesday, Phil Anselmo comes back to Dallas with Down, to play a show that was originally planned for the Ridglea Theater, but has now moved to Trees. Anselmo talked about the first show he played, how he befriended fellow metallers Rigor Mortis, and his Philcore tattoo.
What are some of your earliest memories of seeing shows? Man, I remember my first gig. I was in a tiny little garage band with a bunch of young friends. I think I had just turned 14, and we played this place called St. Christopher's CYO. It was our first gig. A buddy had a tiny PA system and it was a bunch of piecemeal equipment up on stage. I had a Van Halen shirt on, a pair of jeans, a bandanna wrapped around my knee and one around my neck. When it was time to go out on stage, I was kicked-shit plain scared to death. I stayed glued to the mic stand. The best thing about the show was, we had run a delay pedal through my vocals like a guitar effect pedal. It was for special sections of the set. We had opened up with a song called "Neon Knights" by Black Sabbath. I was about seven octaves out of key. To get to the point about the delay pedal, it was a specialty thing. We played the song "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath. When it would come down to the end of the verses, when Ozzy would say, "Satan's sitting there/he's smiling/watching those flames get higher and higher/No!! No!!! No!!!!!" Hit the delay pedal. "No!" It was horrible. It was really hilarious in hindsight.
Rigor Mortis. Can you remember when you first saw them? And how did they affect you saw them play live? When I first joined Pantera, I lived with Rex [Brown, bassist] at the time and a bunch of other people. Rex was renting out a room there and they had a little extra room for me. I found a Rigor Mortis demo laying around the house and I thought, "Man, fuckin' A." I loved it. I was like, "What the fuck is this?" And what I got back was, "Ohh, it's Rigor Mortis. They play speed metal crap." So the Pantera camp and the Rigor Mortis camp obviously had this slight rift in between 'em. A couple of weeks later, I was hanging out with the singer from Rotting Corpse at the time, Jim Mulqueen. He and I went to Pipe Dream Records. At the time, John Perez, who was the guitar player in Rotting Corpse, was working behind the counter and we'd all go see him and buy underground records and whatnot. Sure enough, the dudes from Rigor Mortis were in there. Jim said to me, "Oh man, it's the guys from Rigor Mortis. You better watch out." I go, "What the fuck do I have to watch out about?" He said, "You know they hate Pantera and vice versa." So I walk up to Casey Orr and said, "Hey man. Nice to meet you. My name's Philip. I love the demo." We're talking and talking and talking and when I get towards the end of the conversation, I said, "Yes, I'm the singer for Pantera." He's like, "You're the new singer for Pantera? What the fuck are you doing singing for Pantera?" I'm like, "Singing for Pantera." Cards were dealt and I rolled a little.
Shortly after that, I saw Rigor Mortis play either some small club in Deep Ellum or Joe's Garage. Either way, it was so intense. I was mesmerized by Mike Scaccia's right hand. I couldn't believe it. Matter of fact, to this day, 20-some odd years later, I still can't fuckin' believe it. He has the fastest right hand I've ever seen. Then the intensity of the whole band. Harden, a left-handed drummer, which is a spectacle to look at. Just solid as a rock. Casey was just a big intimidating force. And Bruce [Corbitt] looked like one of the cast members for fuckin' The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. When you saw Rigor Mortis in a full gaggle with all their roadies and shit, they looked like the whole family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. They had an extreme image at the time. They were intimidating in full force. Intense as fuck live, but I hit it off with the guys immediately and they were always super, super sweet guys to me. Still very good friends of mine to this day.
Since you have a lot of tattoos, do you remember getting the first tattoo? Yes, I do. It's a fist with a bunch of rings on it, on my right shoulder, and it says, "Philcore." How you like that?
Much better than many of the other stories I hear from people, where it is always with embarrassment or that it was painful. Well, you know, there could be a slight embarrassment there. But still, it's like, everybody is going through this core, that core, hardcore, thrashcore. Hardcore and heavy metal were merging at the time as far as a genre goes, so it's like, fuckin' Philcore. It's kind of 50/50 on the embarrassment level. Matter of fact, I have some good friends that live in Dallas who still call me Philcore or Core. So it stuck.
Do you remember where you were the first time you heard your voice on the radio? I don't, but if I had to guess, oh man. It's either in the very first car that got us from gig to gig, and that would be Pantera. A big old red Pontiac or whatever it was. Or it was in one of my little apartments that I lived in the Fort Worth area. Those are narrowed-down guesses, but not precise.
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