The Smiths’ Biggest, Most Unlikely Fan: Pantera’s Phil Anselmo
By Brian Ives
Philip H. Anselmo is an extreme guy whose loves include hardcore punk, horror films, boxing and, of course, the heaviest of metal. He came to prominence as the frontman of Pantera, one of the most influential metal bands of the past twenty years and his sound has only gotten more and more brutal with his other musical projects: Superjoint Ritual, Arson Anthem, the stoner metal band Down and his latest venture, Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals.
But his definition of “extreme,” in regards to what music he listens to, is rather open-minded. To him, the Beatles were an extreme band. So was Queen. And, perhaps surprisingly, so were The Smiths. So, when he came to our studios last year to talk about his first effort with the Illegals , Walk Through Exits Only, and heavy metal in general, the conversation soon veered towards his love of the legendary Manchester quartet. A group that definitely doesn’t make the influence list of many heavy metal bands. Although, Anthrax did cover “London” a few years back.
But as Anselmo points out to all the metalheads out there, “You think you know depression, grimness and self-loathing? Listen to Morrissey!”
In this edition of Radio.com Essentials, he chronicled his Smiths fandom in full. When he first heard Moz, he said it sounded a bit alien to him due to his androgyny, his honesty, his bleakness and his humor. All themes that are often cited by Morrissey’s disciples, but Anselmo is probably one of the first to compare Morrissey to Mercyful Fate frontman King Diamond, whose mic handle consists of a femur and a tibia bone tied together in the shape of a cross.
Anselmo is also quick to point out that the Smiths weren’t just about Morrissey. He calls Johnny Marr an “insane guitar player,” citing the riff to “This Charming Man” as a prime example. And later compares Mike Joyce’s drumming on “Death of a Disco Dancer” to Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
Occasionally the near-impossible concept of a Smiths reunion gets floated around, even though Morrissey has been famously quoted as saying, “I would rather eat my own testicles than re-form The Smiths, and that’s saying something for a vegetarian.” It’s also a topic that Anselmo stays away from. The topic of reunions that is, not the self-cannibalism.
Having fielded questions upon questions himself over the possibility of his own band Pantera, who spilt in the early aughts, reuniting, Anselmo says he’s going to stay out of his favorite band’s business.
“But,” he added, “if they did play New Orleans, I’d be there.”