UG Special: Exclusive Interview With Phil Anselmo And 'Down'

artist: down date: 10/15/2012 category: interviews
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UG Special: Exclusive Interview With Phil Anselmo And 'Down'
This may look like just another interview with Down's Phil Anselmo, Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein - but it isn't. In an effort to make you, the reader and fan, feel like you are really a huge part of what Ultimate Guitar is all about, we are presenting for the very first time in our history an interview made up of reader's questions. Over 300 questions were submitted over the course of several days and we had a hard time picking out the best ones. Not that all of your questions didn't rock, but if all 300 questions had been chosen, Phil, Pepper and Kirk would have been on the phone for days answering them. Ultimate Guitar was really blown away by the range and excellence of the questions. We thank each and every one of you who took the time to jot down your query and send it to us. We know how crazy life can be and how busy you are. So we truly appreciate that you put on your thinking caps for a few moments and tried to come up with the most rockin' Down questions you could think of. This marks the debut of an interview based solely on reader questions and we hope you're as proud of it as we are. It did take working out some bugs to make this happen though. After several emails to the band's publicist - and a special thank you goes to Tim Hrycyshyn for making this happen - all the details were worked out. We managed to get Phil, Pepper and Kirk on the phone at the same time and that in itself was a bit of a rarity. For their part, the band loved the questions - the honesty and the directness of them - and had an amazing time answering them. At times the guys would talk over themselves a bit and it was a little tough in figuring out who was saying what. But that only added to the craziness and energy of the moment. We hope you dig the interview with Down. This is new for us as well but we want you to know you made it happen. Let us know what you think. And now for the first time ever: Ultimate Guitar readers get down with Down. UG: How did you feel about playing the Pantera songs live on the Metal Masters tour? What is your favorite Pantera song to play? (Maiden95) Anselmo: I feel great to play 'em live. It's fun; it's great. My favorite? I guess my all-time favorite would be "A New Level". You've been involved in bands with hardcore/punk influences. What are some of your favorite hardcore/punk albums? (HandsofStone) Anselmo: 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'. Pepper Kennan: Hardcore or punk? It would be narrowed down to three records probably: "My War" by Black Flag; "Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing" by Discharge; and Cro-Mags "The Age Of Quarrel". And the Ramones "Road To Ruin". Kirk, same question. Anselmo: He don't know punk. Kirk Windstein: I really don't know punk that well. Anselmo: I know some sh-t. Windstein: I'd say "The Age Of Quarrel" and Agnostic Front... Anselmo: "Victim In Pain." Windstein: Yeah, "Victim In Pain". Keenan: It depends which ones made you shift a lot when you were younger. When I heard "Road To Ruin" when I was 13, 14 years old, it changed my life. Anselmo: Tell me f---in' certain Celtic Frost tunes ain't hardcore? Keenan: Well sure. Anselmo: Exactly.

"I have certain values and I guess attitude and with that comes a music that you keep close to your heart."

What album are you most proud of? (red_hot_chili18) Anselmo: To me the ones I'm proud of it would take too long for me to answer. That's an impossible question. Back in the day White Zombie benefited from Beavis & Butthead giving them their "seal of approval". Did Crowbar notice any similar boost in sales after their video was shown on that show? (zalant) Windstein: Umm, it was the biggest selling record that we had. I mean we intentionally sent a package in with a video, t-shirt and a note and everything for Mike Judge. We're like, "Dude, have at it. Make fun of us. We know we're fat and we know we're ugly and we're heavy so have at it. Make fun of us all you want." So it certainly didn't hurt things I should say. What was the cause for such a dramatic change in your vocal style on the later Pantera albums? (K!!LsWiTcH) Anselmo: Ohh, I guess I was finding myself more and more and more. I have certain values and I guess attitude and with that comes a music that you keep close to your heart as genres. Emulating and being an extension of those genres, I was a young man so I would say impressionable. It helped me define myself. You take a good listen around today and I don't think it's the earlier Phil Anselmo kids are apin' but it's the more later Pantera kids have been most influenced by. Have you heard the latest self-titled Corrosion of Conformity record and if so what do you think of it? (YgO) Keenan: I think it's a good extension of where I left off and they kind of went from there. And they went backwards and it sounds good. It's got its moments. It's kind of a hard question to answer because I listened to it hearing things that I would have done. For the most part I think it's really good and it didn't surprise me at all. Let's put it that way. I knew the guys had potential on their own 'cause they're all good musicians. I knew it wasn't gonna be a bunch of sh-t for sure. How do you decide who plays lead and who plays rhythm? (bitchfist) Windstein: We both do both. Honestly I think we both know depending on the type of song it is. Pepper is a lot more of a like we'd say a David Gilmour-type player or something. Where he does more of the solos and things? Anselmo: Who does the f---in' solos on the records? Whoever does the solo on the record does the solo live. Windstein: Yeah, if he plays the solo on the record then he plays it live and if I play the f---in' solo then I play it live. But we decide basically and it just depends on the style of the song. If it warrants his style and his ability he'll do that and there are different songs that require my style and my ability.

"We don't try to sound southern. We don't have to try."

You just released 'Down IV Part I: The Purple EP' as the first of four EPs you'll be releasing. Where did the idea come from to release a series of EPs rather than regular albums? Anselmo: Laziness, man. Laziness and opportunity. All of us do our own little thing but when it comes to Down we know it's time to do Down now. For me personally? It's much easier for me to give my full attention to say, four to six songs as opposed to 10 or 12. Let me preface this by saying Down is the absolute worst f---ing band in the world as far as predicting and telling people when our next records are coming out. Normally it's about five to six friggin' years between albums. So with that said in theory having to pay attention to less songs and give it more attention per song, in theory it's supposed to get the music out quicker to our audience, man. I'm all for that and also with that we talked about approaching each EP with perhaps different styles because we are a diverse band as we've shown with heavy metal songs and songs like "Stone The Crow", which is more smooth rock and acoustic songs. We can do all that and we've shown that diversity but still I think it's all gonna come down to what kind of mood we're in. By the time we're ready to record a new EP, it's gonna depend on the f---ing mood. If we all walk in the room and word has it that it's gonna be an all-acoustic record and we're all in this completely heavy metal mood, why waste the mood? So I don't know to me I'd rather just f---in' rather feel it out as time goes on. Any feelings about the Pantera tribute albums? (dimlight2) Anselmo: It's all been done before and the bands that are tributing Pantera recorded their tributes and I appreciate all that. Uh, it's been done. What is your opinion on the current state of metal and rock? Any albums that have been released in the past five years that have influenced you? (kLeft) Keenan: Influences on me in the last five years? Yeah, that's a logical question. I've had some bands that have spun me around. One of the main reasons Phil and I are even speaking was from a band called Witchcraft. Not that we were influenced by 'em but it was a cool thing to hear that people were doing these things. We didn't even really know that sh-t existed. We heard that and it kind of perked my ears up and got me thinking again that we weren't so crazy for thinking like we thought. In terms of the scene and metal scene? I just go for bands that are real. I don't care what kind of music it is. I have a pretty good knack for knowing which ones are bullsh-t and which ones aren't. Anselmo: And you got the image too as long as the music's right. Keenan: Yeah, I'm just pretty much if you're good, you're good. I'll take that in any kind of music ya got. Whose idea was it to paint you green and turn you into the Hulk in the Pantera Home Videos? (cfhdomination) Windstein: Well, I'll give you one guess [laughs]. The late, great, god bless him, Dimebag Darrell. I'll tell ya one time we were playing Eagles Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the second I got off stage I had no idea what was going on. I walked up to the dressing room and he had like three chicks with green paint and a wig. And within minutes I was literally transformed into the Hulk. I remember standing next to Big Val on the side of the stage and Phil looking to his right and just shaking his head in disgust and laughter over what was about to happen. I got out there on "F---ing Hostile" and sang some backup. Then they said I could tear up everything I wanted to tear up downstairs in the dressing room or whatever. That was one of the funnest things in my memory that I have. It was great. How do you keep drawing inspiration from southern influences and metal though both styles have been around for so long? (K!!LsWiTcH) Anselmo: Because we don't try to sound southern; we don't have to try. Keenan: We're not from Berlin. Anselmo: Exactly. When Down gets into a room, when the core members get into a room, we know exactly what Down music sounds like. When we write a song, ten times out of ten it's gonna come out sounding like Down. If people want to have that association with that southern rock genre or whatnot, maybe we do fit maybe we don't. I don't know. That's up for all you f---in' experts to f---in' figure out. All I know is we're writing Down stuff and it sounds the way it does because of the people in the band really.

"I really don't know punk that well."

Since I mostly play guitar I was wondering if you guys still play Orange amps? If so, why? (Jolan Kent) Keenan: Uh yeah, we still use Oranges. The main reason I like 'em is because it's just a clean, hand-wired amp that's got three knobs on it. You know? The older I've gotten the more I realize the less I need. It's just a good tone and sturdy and reliable and reliable. Did you check out Marshalls and HiWatts? Keenan: We used Marshalls for years, yeah. We had Marshalls for quite some time. We tracked with 'em a couple of times. Marshall basically wasn't doing it. In a nutshell they weren't doing anything for us. We went to the NAMM Show when me and Kirk were drunk and went to the Orange booth and played guitar and got kicked out of the NAMM Show. Then two days later they called us up and asked us if we wanted a deal [laughs]. And they really did sound good. I can remember the day me and Kirk were there and we both were at the G chord and I was like, "F---in' hell!" And that was about it. It ain't rocket science - if they sound good we use 'em. Did you receive the painting I sent to you about two years after a gig in Budapest, Hungary? (panna) Windstein: Yeah, I sent back a letter to her. It's actually on my wall in my den. It's a finger-painting thing, right? I wrote a letter back and thanked her for it and sent some picks and a little bag of whatever and sent it back to her. My dad's probably looking at it right now. Keenan: It's hangin' in your observatory? Your solarium. Anselmo: Laboratory. What is the biggest difference in audiences on various continents? (Sheila1987) Keenan: Some of 'em have white skin; some of 'em have brown skin. Anselmo: Well you know, how do you put this? As far as Down goes, man, it's almost an unfair question 'cause we have a core following all over and anywhere we f---ing hit. So the kids that come out or the people I should say because they're not kids anymore, the people that come out to the shows are informed. They know what they want to hear and they know what they're all about. We played some shows with St. Vitus and Pentagram and the attendance doesn't skip a beat. It makes sense. Then we played with Warbeast and Haarp who are newer bands and again it doesn't skip a beat. We have fans of all ages and all I can say is just from my experience and maybe the rest of us, the U.S. fans maybe could... oh, I don't want to the wrong thing. But let me put it straight - the European fans have longer memories. The European fans have long, long, educated old rock root memories and they're not just spoon fed the flavor of the day. They're very, very knowledgeable. The Japanese are extremely different as far as the energy they give you. It doesn't have to be all physical because they're very, very attentive and they'll watch you. You can kill and destroy a song and come out of it and hear a brief round of applause and hear a pin drop. It's no disrespect to the band but it's just how they're raised and how they do things. I don't know. Everywhere has its own little flavor to it, man. Anybody want to add to this? Keenan: I think another thing is it's amazing how simple it is when you're traveling and playing different countries around the world how the whole heavy metal rock and roll world is really similar in a lot of ways. You could take these kids and transplant 'em just about anywhere. But it's just a love of that music and it's really funny when you're traveling to see that cross all kinds of different lines. Anselmo: It's a universal language, baby. Keenan: It's an underground rock and roll or heavy metal or whatever the f--k you want to call it. It definitely transcends borders all over the f---in' place. Before you were signed and still doing underground gigs, what was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to finally find success? And what words of wisdom would you pass on to newer bands trying to break into the business? (pantallica87) Anselmo: Well, OK, my biggest obstacle I guess would be playing the bar scene. I hated it. I hated playing the bar scene because in the middle '80s you kinda had to play the part of the flavor of the day and if you didn't look the part you weren't gonna get the gig. And if you didn't get the gig then you didn't have any f---in' gigs. So I always grew up with guys that were older than me and that was always their idea and how they were raised and how they were used to doing things. Well, there was a point in my life where once again values and attitude and influence overrode everything and it was either cut or dry. I'm either not going to keep catering to what the bar wants. Let me rephrase that - I was not going to keep catering to what the bar wanted. At that point in time Pantera were already breaking several rules. We were always a band that wrote original songs so our songs were getting heavier and the attitude was getting heavier. We were sneaking Slayer and Exodus songs into the set. But the fact it we were packin' these f---in' places. So after that was a done deal it was like there was not a club owner on earth that was not gonna book us. We packed their f---in' places out. Just because we didn't wear spandex pants anymore, I wasn't gonna do it. I was ready to move back home to f---in' New Orleans, man, and f--k this sh-t. But Pantera at first reluctantly and then eventually completely agreed with me. I guess there was maybe a little bit of a threat there [laughs] but still it was like, "C'mon guys. We have the upper hand here." Sure enough that's how we defeated the f---in' club scene single-f---ing-handedly. And I'll say this again just to answer your question, "What would I say to up and comers?" I'd say do what you f---in' believe a million f---in' per cent and do not look back. Just f---in' pound it into the ground until people f---in' get it. And they either are gonna get it or they're not. But the more persistent and more I guess you push yourself, I would think eight or nine times out of then, the more you'll see good results.

"All I know is we're writing Down stuff and it sounds the way it does because of the people in the band really."

When are Down going to light one up with the South African Lifers? (Mass_debator) Anselmo: Who? Keenan: South Africa. Anselmo: I'd love to do it. Keenan: Yeah, Johannesburg. We've heard about it. Anselmo: So in other words when the offer comes, we will most definitely f---in' consider the date and perhaps jump on a f---in' jet. Can great metal records be made in languages other than English? (liagaspavlos) Anselmo: Sure, yes. Of course. Keenan: Yes. You're all in agreement on that one? All: Oh yes, absolutely. Will your solo record sound anything like Superjoint Ritual? (SOAD_SoG) Anselmo: Absolutely not. Not in my opinion; I don't think it sounds anything like Superjoint. Can you still go falsetto like in "Cemetery Gates"? (xzxw) Anselmo: I never sang falsetto in my life. I was singing full throat out on "Cemetery Gates" and no, I can't anymore. But ya know it's like, "Do I want to?" No, I don't. But the point is get it straight-that ain't falsetto. Falsetto's f---in' falsetto. The difference between what I did and what falsetto is I was singing it the way Rob Halford would sing it and not the way the dude from Manowar would sing it. Put it that way. Why do you have a tattoo of a chick being sodomized on your arm? [laughter from other bandmembers] (isodomizeyou) Anselmo: It's not sodomy I don't think. It's my tongue going [laughs]. I don't know how you wanna take it but some guys like to do this thing called cunnilingus and you can mark me in that group. When you started Down back in 1991, did you know what kind of band you wanted to put together? Keenan: We had an idea but it was all in theory. This was just conversations I had with Phil and Kirk and I guess Jimmy. I didn't know Jimmy and Kirk as well as I knew Phil. I had talked to Phil in New York when "Cowboys From Hell" was out and we had discussed certain bands we were into. We were all kinda on the same trip and we were all into these other doom-type bands even though we weren't hanging out with each other, we were kinda listening to the same weird stuff. So we got to New Orleans and we wrote some songs, man. To this day I can remember recording. What was the first one? "Temptation's Wings" or some sh-t like that? Anselmo: Yep. Keenan: I remember doing it on a four-track and I remember hanging out on the couch literally and Phil screamin' into a 57 with headphones on. And he's singing into this little four-track and he goes, "Dude" and he puts the headphones on my head and hits play. And we just looked at each other like, "What the f--k?" We knew what we wanted to do but we didn't know how good we'd actually execute it looking back at it. Anselmo: It was just one big f---in' idea. It's not like anybody showed up with definite riffs or I didn't have any lyrics with me. It was just one idea. Keena: We did it in a series of little three-song demo tapes whenever we would get in town. A friend of ours had a four-track or wherever and there we were. We were on the same page but it was pretty shocking when we heard back [the music]. When we walked out of that first two-day recording thing and went back to our other bands with our little three-song cassette demo, I was pretty proud of that demo I gotta tell ya. Nothing gave me more pleasure than playing it for people and them going, "F----ck!" Crowbar did that heavy cover of Zeppelin's "No Quarter" on the Crowbar album. Were you all Zep fans? Windstein: Definitely. I was raised on the sh-t. Keenan: Still am. Even going back to the 'NOLA' album you were doing acoustic instrumentals like "Pray For The Locust". You talked about being a diverse band. Can you explain that a little bit more? Keenan: Some of that was also kind of conscious because we had talked about having a band we could possibly get old in. Anselmo: And now look at it - bingo. And now here we are looking right at it. We're old and beat up. Are you looking at the new 'Down IV Part One: The Purple EP' as a separate entity that can stand on its own? Or is it more like a piece in the puzzle with the other EPs to come? Anselmo: Well, there might be some dot connecting along the way. I don't think there won't be some common themes that we'll consciously put out there. Like I say it's gonna come down to what moods we're in as far as the type of stuff that comes out. Like the fact that the next EP is new; the fact that it's more; the fact that it's the next four, five or six Down songs that are gonna be fresh to the ears. It's gonna be its own experience once again. Don't get me wrong - it's gonna be Down music and why change the formula? But within that formula there lies that noxious diversity. We're all over the place by design like Pepper said before. We could take this thing a million different directions. It just depends once again on what f---in' mood we're in. Keenan: Also each one of these EPs has to have the capacity to stand on its own.

"In terms of the scene and metal scene? I just go for bands that are real. I don't care what kind of music it is."

That's what I was talking about. Keenan: Yeah, one doesn't need the other to make it exist if it makes any sense. Anselmo: Along with that answer real quick, that's what I was getting at when I said the fact of the matter it's new Down and each EP is gonna be new. They have to stand on their own and they're going to. "Levitation" is a pretty dark song built on this cool guitar riff with harmonized guitars. It's the first song on the 'The Purple EP'. Was there a reason for making it the intro cut? Anselmo: We just wrote a song. Keenan: Yeah, I think it was planned. We always knew and I think Phil had said that was gonna be the first one. But we weren't making the elegant intro thing for the sake of it being the first thing. We just do what the song needs off the top of our heads. Windstein: The melodic part actually happened by accident. Something happened and we needed a microphone or something and we sent someone to go get something. Then me and Pepper worked up the pretty harmony that I call "the Queen harmony". By the time he came back we just put 'em on tape or on ProTools or whatever you want to call it. If somebody was a fly on the wall watching you record "Levitation", what would they see? Keenan: We did all the basic tracks live as sh-t. Anselmo: What he would see would be Neanderthals hammerin' away with me waving my arms all over the place. Recording at your home studio must give you all the freedom you want? Anselmo: And trash the place and f---in' go crazy. Barbeque and have fun. You've been talking about having Zakk Wylde come in on guitar if Pantera ever toured again? Anselmo: Absolutely. That whole thing was taken way out of context. All that happened was Zakk and I spoke and what it was about was just a personal issue between he and I that was worked out quickly and easily. We were cozy as kittens after that and we just shot the sh-t. And honestly? The whole Pantera thing did not come up at all. Whoever interviewed me and I f---in' forget the whole thing but it was taken out of context because we didn't even talk about Pantera reuniting or anything like that. Matter of fact we talked about relations and mutual friends and just honestly everybody getting along and that's really all we talked about. Do you have any plans to tour in Europe? (Sludgecore) Anselmo: We leave Tuesday. Anything else you'd like to say to the readers of Ultimate Guitar? Anselmo: For the readers of Ultimate Guitar, I'm glad I got ya here. Name's Philip Anselmo and I'm the singer for this rock group called Down. And if you heard anything about Down you know we are pretty half-decent. We love all of ya and we hope ya enjoy this motherf---in' interview and I really hope in my deepest of hearts that you love this. Now put your ear up to the phone [Phil pulls out an electric guitar and blazes crazily for about 15 seconds]. Keenan: I really do appreciate it, Ultimate Guitar. I thought the concept of this whole thing was pretty fun actually. Anselmo: It was fun. Keenan: I didn't know what to expect at first. I thought it would be a train wreck knowing all three of us goons would be on the same phone line. Windstein: This is Kirk Michael Windstein of the hot rock group Down. I hope y'all dig the new EP and we've got plenty more to come. Thanks for all the support over all the years. We mean business and we will continue to beat you over the head with a f---in' hammer if we have to. Anselmo: You can tell Kirk is crying [everybody laughs]. I was messin' with you, Kirk. See everybody later. Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2012
More down interviews:
+ Pepper Keenan Of Down: 'I'm Not Going To Spoon-Feed An Audience' Interviews 10/30/2009
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