WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT
t should have been a joyous occasion. Rock and metal luminaries – including Dave Grohl, Metallica’s Rob Trujillo, Machine Head’s Robb Flynn and past and present members of Pantera, Slayer, Stone Sour and more – were all joining forces to honour late Pantera guitarist Darrell ‘Dimebag’ Abbott and raise money for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.
Dimebag’s long-time girlfriend Rita Haney said of the Dimebash event, which took place on January 22 in California, “I think the thing that embodies this event and entity is unity; bringing everyone together to celebrate the music played and loved by Darrell and to benefit the foundation of a very beloved man, Mr Ronnie James Dio.”
As it turned out, unity was most definitely not what the event would be remembered for. At the end of the show, former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo performed a Nazi salute and screamed the words “White Power” at the crowd – an act that was captured on film by a fan and later posted to Youtube.
The bullish singer initially refused to apologise, posting a comment via his Housecore Records label that said, “Okay, folks, I’ll own this one, but dammit, I was joking.” He claimed it was an in-joke based on the fact that they’d been drinking white wine backstage and added, “I fucking loathe everyone, and that’s that. No apologies from me.”
Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn, who also performed at the event, was the first major name to respond. He issued a lengthy video statement in which he labelled Phil a bully and claimed that the Down and former Pantera vocalist told him that he “hated the ‘n****r-era’ of Machine Head”.
It was only when the inevitable online shitstorm materialised that Phil came back with a video statement of his own. In it he said he deserved the heat he was getting, apologised and called what transpired onstage that night “ugly” and “uncalled for”.
Since then, a number of musicians have weighed in. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian wrote on his website, “Hate speech. Racism. Inflammatory rhetoric. All dangerous no matter what the context. I have zero tolerance for any of this and to not speak out against
Iit is as dangerous as the acts themselves. Philip’s acts were vile and that should be the focus here, anything else is just noise.”
The Jewish guitarist also invited Phil to make a donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center – named after the late Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter – who confront anti-semitism and promote human rights and dignity.
his isn’t the first time Phil Anselmo has run into controversy. During a Pantera show in 1995, he launched into a rant that many considered offensive. Referencing rap acts who advocated stopping ‘black-on-black’ crime, he suggested this was the same as saying “to go out and kill white people” and added, “If I wore a shirt that said ‘White Power’, I’d be called a bigot.that’s reverse discrimination and you should all open your eyes.”
In the aftermath of that incident he issued another apology, saying, “On any normal night the speech that I give on the subject of racism goes in the
This hometown in 2005, Phil ended up living in a hotel surrounded by “all sorts of different people” from New Orleans. “Hail to the natives of New Orleans who returned and dug through rubble and scraps of their entire lives while also braving distraught memories of what once was. Also, hail to those that learned an untapped compassion. That life is so much more precious than anything material,” he wrote afterwards.
His relationship with the Confederate flag is also interesting.to many in the U.S., it has connotations of slavery, while others, particularly in the South, see it as a symbol of heritage. Both Pantera and Superjoint Ritual had used the imagery in the past but, following more recent controversy surrounding the flag, Phil said he’d pulled back from those associations.
“It’d be like, ‘Would we be flying the Nazi flag?’” he said. “I don’t think so, because flags are looked at whether it be nationalism or symbols of something. Truthfully, it’s like… I wish fucking everyone would get along.”
So, does any of this excuse what the singer did and said at Dimebash?
Of course not. No-one can see into the vocalist’s head, but a Nazi salute is a Nazi salute. And, whatever Phil’s motivations for performing one and shouting “White Power”, it’s behaviour that, at the very least, helps to legitimise and promulgate a dangerous and utterly vile mindset.
Phil later posted yet another statement (February 4) on his website, Philanselmo.com, that not only apologised to anyone that took offence, but actually acknowledged that his actions were repulsive.
“My biggest obstacle(s) are the overindulging in the booze and blurting out spiteful, ignorant reductions of the human spirit itself. I will address these issues, head-on,” he promised.
“I’m repulsed by my actions, and the self-loathing I’m going through right now is justified by the hurt I’ve caused.”
It is, of course, one thing to issue a statement when you’re catching flak and your band and career are in danger because of it, and quite another to change your behaviour and perhaps even your long-term thinking.
In response, Pepper Keenan, Phil’s bandmate in metal supergroup Down since 1991, admitted he was “saddened and confused” by the vocalist’s actions – deemed “in terribly poor taste and unacceptable” – yet moved to defend a man who “I know has not hate in his heart”.
“As a proud New Orleanian, life is about celebrating diversity through music,” Pepper added, echoing the thoughts of the entire rock community, “It’s about bringing people together, not tearing apart.
“One of the responsibilities and joys, in my opinion, of being an artist or musician is having the ability to help make the world a better place. I accept Phil’s apology, and I believe he can.”
The onus now falls on Phil’s actions to do exactly that.