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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.

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