PHILIP ANSELMO: PANTERA 'Helped Change The Production Of Heavy Metal Records'

September 30, 2010

U.K.'s The Skinny recently conducted an interview with DOWN/ex-PANTERA singer Philip Anselmo. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Skinny: Is [PANTERA's] "Cowboys From Hell" an album you can listen back to and appreciate as a listener today?

Anselmo: To be honest with you, when we were writing all that stuff — when I was there and living it — there's no way I could deduce how people were going to take it. But when I look back at it today, stuff that I felt was really simple ended up being tricky. Stuff that I thought was pretty plain, regular or ho-hum is pretty spectacular. It's an impressive listen. We get asked a lot about the production and whatnot – it being pretty high-end and tinny — all I can say is I think at the time we were really trying to figure out the best way to take the monstrous guitar sound that Darrell had and put it on a record. You have to understand, you young whippersnappers, back in the day when we did "Cowboys From Hell", we recorded that fucker in 1989 — no Pro Tools, no tricks or whistles. We had to really track that thing; production in itself was changing and I know PANTERA with [producer] Terry Date [who would later oversee SOUNDGARDEN's "Badmotorfinger" and DEFTONES' "White Pony"] producing and Vinnie Paul knowing what he does — we, as a band, helped change the production of heavy metal records. "Cowboys From Hell" was — I would say — a launchpad in many respects — not the actual full figured out article yet but it was a great starting point.

The Skinny: Few bands with PANTERA's intensity have managed to pull off a ballad in the middle of an otherwise aggressive record. Was this something you set out to do on "Cowboys" from the beginning, or was "Cemetary Gates" a bit of a happy accident?

Anselmo: I think it's a little bit of both. Take, for instance, that unreleased track on the new PANTERA rerelease, "The Will to Survive" — we knew that was more of a JUDAS PRIEST-ish power-ballad-type thing. But I think that yes, there was a conscious effort being made to — let me tell you straight — perhaps put something more palatable out for listeners with "Cemetary Gates". But the way we wrote was so for real and things came in such a natural fashion that at the time it didn't feel like, "Hey, we'd better jump on this ballad thing because we need one." It was just a riff that Dimebag wrote and if you think about it, the intro to the song is three minutes long with the acoustic part. That's a six-minute song. So fair enough, you can't say this is a definite radio cut.
The Skinny: "Cowboys From Hell" is regarded as one of the definitive metal albums of all time. What's yours?

Anselmo: From my generation, "British Steel" by JUDAS PRIEST — such a harsh record for its time. We're talking about the early '80s, man, and "British Steel" stood alone. There were also IRON MAIDEN moments, especially "Killers" — the Paul Di'Anno years — but also "Number of the Beast"; very, very influential record. When I say this I don't want anyone to take me the wrong way, but for heavy metal, when I was a kid, BLACK SABBATH was a tremendous influence — everybody wanted to be like BLACK SABBATH. And I've got to say, Randy Rhoads did a hell of a lot for heavy metal guitar playing, so did Eddie Van Halen. They really bumped the guitar sound to a mainstream level. Just listen to Dimebag's playing, he's so Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, but then Dimebag could play a lot of different ways. Figuring PANTERA's such a guitar heavy band, I can't leave those guys out.

Read the entire interview from The Skinny.

Philip Anselmo shout-out to BLABBERMOUTH.NET:

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