SHINEDOWN's BRENT SMITH Believes PHILIP ANSELMO Was 'Sincere' When He Publicly Addressed 'Dimebash' Incident

February 7, 2023

In a new interview with Joshua Toomey of the "Talk Toomey" podcast, SHINEDOWN's Brent Smith discussed the PANTERA concert cancelations in Germany and Austria this spring following an outcry over singer Philip Anselmo's previous racist remarks.

Most of the backlash that led to the cancelations stemmed from the fact that Anselmo made a Nazi-style salute when he performed at the January 2016 "Dimebash" event at the Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood in honor of late PANTERA guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. He also appeared to say "white power" as he made the gesture, but later claimed he was joking about drinking white wine backstage and was reacting to the audience members up front who he says were taunting him.

Before he delivered that Nazi salute onstage, Anselmo already had a history of making troubling racial statements, including several white-pride speeches at various PANTERA shows in 1995.

Addressing the latest PANTERA concert cancelations, Smith said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "They were scheduled to do Germany, Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park, and there was an outcry for it… The reality is that Phil, when what happened happened, he addressed it to the best of his ability. Most people, I believe, when he addressed it, believed that he was being sincere. When I watched what he said, and I saw the video — and believe me, man, I'll be honest with you, I was somebody that when I saw the video, the way that it was presented, it's not good; it's not. The fact of the matter is, the way that I see these types of things is how are you gonna grow if there's a constant level of just giving no one an opportunity to say that they made a mistake, that they genuinely made a mistake. And with Phil, if you look at it, I think point blank, in a lot of those interviews that he did, in a lot of those segments, he was, like, 'I would never, ever do anything that supported white supremacy or anything.' He made a lot of strong points that he said what he was doing and his gesture was towards the wine and what have you. A lot of people called B.S. on it and this and that and the other, but to go at it and to be as strong-willed as he was and to have a lot of the backing from people saying that 'this man is not a racist. This man, that's not who he is.'"

Brent continued: "There's gonna be certain people, because you also don't know how they were raised, how they were brought up, how they're gonna feel about it, and that's why it's called society. And I think we're all doing our best to move past… Especially in this country. Look, in the United States, it's always going to be something that we're gonna have to talk about. Will it ever be at a place in America where we'll all be able to get past it? I think there's a threshold inside of all of it. You don't wanna forget it because you're doomed to repeat it. And I think what we all have to focus on as a society from all walks of life is that in 2023 and beyond and for all time, it should not matter whether you're a man or a woman, whether you're younger, whether you're older, the color of your skin, that's irrelevant. We're all the same inside. Your religion, that's totally up to you. That's what makes you an individual. That's what makes you human. That's what makes you who you are. And we're all on this planet together. And I think in a lot of ways music is medicine."

Smith added: "I know a lot of people have been waiting for PANTERA for a long, long time, and the defiance of that music… Another thing that people should think about, PANTERA music — I know this for a fact — has saved a lot of lives. It has. And that's another thing to get brought up. It was born out of chaos, but it had a message and it was built on strength and perseverance.

"I go back to [PANTERA's] 'Vulgar Display Of Power'. It's probably, in my opinion, definitely in the top 20 of the greatest albums ever recorded — in my personal opinion."

The reformed PANTERA — featuring surviving members Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown along with guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX) — was scheduled to appear at Gasometer in Vienna on May 31 and at Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park festivals in Germany in early June as part of its spring/summer 2023 European tour. However, late last month, promoters released separate statements on social media saying that the shows were scrapped.

There was additional criticism with regard to the fact that Rock Am Ring takes place in Nürnberg (known in its English form as Nuremberg),where Hitler supporters held a series of mass Nazi party rallies between 1933 and 1938.

In calling for Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park organizers to cancel PANTERA's appearances at the festivals, the German Green Party said in the Nürnberg city council that Anselmo "repeatedly and deliberately made Nazi gestures and yelled racist slogans." Réka Lörincz, the spokeswoman for the Greens against racism and right-wing extremism, added that "the former Nazi party premises" were "being deliberately misused for the staging and reproduction of racist and inhuman ideology." The Green Party rep told Germany's Stern magazine that Anselmo's apology for his white power outburst was "not credible enough" and that hosting the band on the former Nazi Party rally grounds "clearly exceeds the limit of what is bearable."

“We are relieved about the organizer's decision not to offer the band PANTERA a stage. Their singer Phil Anselmo had repeatedly attracted attention with anti-Semitic and racist incidents," Lörincz wrote in a statement on the Green Party's web site. "Therefore, a performance was unimaginable for us — especially on the former Nazi party rally grounds."

In the days leading up to the Vienna concert cancelation, the Green party in Vienna demanded that this performance also be scrapped.

"Due to its National Socialist past, Vienna in particular has a special historical responsibility to oppose any form of right-wing extremism. The appearance of PANTERA is completely incompatible with this responsibility," they said in a statement. "Therefore, it can only mean for Vienna: No stage for a Hitler salute, no stage for PANTERA!"

Back in May 2019, Anselmo was asked by U.K.'s Kerrang! magazine if he feels the "Dimebash" debate is something he has moved past. He responded: "I feel like it's ridiculous. I made an off-color joke and 'Boom!' — it's like I'm literally Hitler! I'm not. I take each individual one at a time, in the way that any logical individual will. I have love in my heart. Over the years, I've learned to take the first step with love and to put good faith first. I get along with everybody. If there's any doubt about my political leanings, people should get it out of their heads. I was raised amongst a dazzling [cast of characters] from the theatre, from the mental hospital, from all walks of life — all colors, creeds and kinds. It's absurd to me that anyone in this day and age would judge anyone by the color of their skin, their heritage or their religion. I'm a harmless guy. I'm a reactionary, not a troublemaker."

In the days following the "Dimebash" incident, MACHINE HEAD's Robb Flynn — who played PANTERA songs with Anselmo at the event — released an eleven-minute response video in which he denounced Anselmo as a "big bully" and a racist. He concluded by saying that he would never play another PANTERA song again. ANTHRAX's Scott Ian, who is Jewish, released a statement on his official web site saying, "Philip's actions were vile" and invited Anselmo to make a donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Former PANTERA drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, who hadn't spoken to Anselmo since the band's split in 2003, was dismissive when asked for a comment on the singer's white-power salute. "I can't speak for him," Vinnie said in a 2016 interview. "He's done a lot of things that tarnish the image of what PANTERA was back then and what it stood for and what it was all about. And it's sad."

In 2017, Anselmo blasted "false journalism in the metal community" for suggesting he was racist because of his actions at "Dimebash".

In the weeks after the "Dimebash" incident, Anselmo's DOWN project canceled a number of shows, including at France's Hellfest, Dutch festival FortaRock and U.K.'s Download. The singer wrote an open letter to the Hellfest organizers in which he said it was not the right time for DOWN to tour. He also revealed that he was suffering from a recurring knee injury and needed rehabilitation.

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