Previous Pantera Interviews
The Gauntlet: Hey Philip, how's everything?
Philip: It is overcast and as hot as Vietnam in 1967 - it's miserable. It has been storming like crazy here.
The Gauntlet: Are you due for a hurricane?
Philip: Bite your fucking tongue. I don't want to deal with that right now. There ain’t no tellin'. We are almost into September which is good news.
The Gauntlet: I know you have a lot going on now, always busy with something.
Philip: I have a brand new band coming into my studio today to record their debut record. They are called Pony Killer. They are ugly psychedelic pop. Definitely not metal but good at what they do. Just ugly though.
The Gauntlet: You aren’t talking about their looks are you?
Philip: No it is the music. They are handsome guys. I have my label, working on my book, and Arson Anthem is coming out October 12. It is ripping man, fucking ripping. It is old school. 'Old School' is overused though but I can't resist the temptation when talking to Arson Anthem. When I use it, I am thinking about sounds, approach to a chord, structure and timing in the songs, especially if I am talking about hardcore as you can’t have a six minute epic song. Oh god I am gross today. I just got done working out.
The Gauntlet: That is why I requested we speak on the phone and not in person.
Philip: Oh dude you would hate me and wouldn’t stop asking "Why am I here?"
The Gauntlet: Speaking a little about old school music, I know you are a big fan of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, Bathory and Venom. When did you get into that style of metal?
Philip: I grew up wide-eyed, teenaged and hungry for it right there in the 80’s. I know the first time I ever heard Hellhammer, they were on a Metal Massacre compilation put out by Metal Blade Records. "Crucifixion" was the song and I didn't know what the fuck to think. I knew it was raw and it seemed veision to the bands that were starting to develop the double kick and take off on the Judas Priest and Iron Maiden feels and harmonies. Hellhammer had a flat out UGLY sound. Six months down the road there were advertisements for them - "There is no heavier band than Hellhammer.” It was like 'My God!' I have been listening to them since the beginning. I was upset when they broke up and changed to Celtic Frost. I was so bummed out Hellhammer broke up. I didn’t listen to Celtic Frost for over a year. A buddy of mine in ‘86 made me a fucking cassette tape of 'Morbid Tales', it blew Emperor and all that shit away. I talk about Celtic Frost a lot because I thought they put out the best motherfucking heavy record of 2006. A lot of people let that album go under the radar. If that album came out after "To Mega Therion" or "Into the Pandemonium". Even though it was a weird record but it was supposed to be a weird record. Had this 2006 record come after 'Into the Pandemonium' it would have made complete fuckin' sense.
The Gauntlet: Most people got into Hellhammer after the fact, after hearing Celtic Frost.
Philip: I was fortunate to really see it all happen right in from of my face.
The Gauntlet: So you were a fan of this era of extreme music when you joined Pantera.
Philip: Let's get this straight. When I was growing up, the only black metal around was an album called 'Black Metal' by Venom. There was no black metal. Bands like Sodom and Bathory were called Venom rip-offs; Celtic Frost and Voivod were avant garde metal. The term ‘black metal' didn't really catch on until bands like Mayhem in Norway, but that is a wild guess but it is accurate, not precise but accurate. No one said "I listen to black metal" when I was growing up. But to answer your question, fuck yes. I listened to everything I could get my hands on. The more friends you had, the larger your library got. I was well stocked and a tape trading fool, not that I am proud of it. But it did help my library grow. In all fairness, I did buy everything I could with the money I had. All the money I saved went to music.
The Gauntlet: I don’t see how you really ended up in a band like Pantera. You joined Pantera and put out the album "Power Metal", then went on to put out "Cowboys from Hell". Both albums were very power metal-esque.
Philip: I would agree 100%. "Cowboys From Hell" was a transitional album. Rex feels the same way, I am not sure how Vince feels but it is obvious. Most of the songs were written in 1988. We recorded them in 1989 but demoed them before that. The songs were already old news. We had been playing them regionally at gigs and they were crowd favorites and very popular. Fucking-A they were going on the record. Truth be told, mentally and musically it is easy to see we were heading to a more extreme direction. The last song written for "Cowboys from Hell" was 'Primal Concrete Sledge'. That song came at the end of the recording session and was written in the studio.
The Gauntlet: It is interesting with the new "Cowboys from Hell" boxset to hear the demos and compare them to what got on the album. The demos were a bit more power metal and you can see the start of the Pantera that eventually emerged.
Philip: You nailed it on the head. After demoing the songs and playing them over and over, a lot of time passed. I guess with each gig they grew a little more and took a different shape. By the time we set out to record, some of them were tweaked a little more from the last time we played them live, but nothing too terribly much. Nothing too terrible from that last gig we played.
The Gauntlet: You joined Pantera and took the band in a new direction. Was going in a new direction something that got discussed when you auditioned?
Philip: Well fucking absolutely I brought the thrashier sound to the band. I can remember the first time I ever tried out for the band, it was a Monday night. We were talking about the future and what we’d like to do. They told me straight up that they wanted to move to a heavier direction. That was my big 'if' about joining Pantera. It was important to me. There was this insanely talented band and they needed to wise up. They had all the makings for greatness. But to be fair, they were looking for...or looking to play more aggressive stuff. I am not too sure what it would have turned into without me. I am not sure that any other particular singer at the time that was around them would have had them listen to the first Infernal Majesty record or play them Black Flag. I turned them onto a lot of fucking heavy shit...a lot of heavy shit. You can even lump Slayer into the bands they got turned onto. At the time I know for a fact they weren’t big Slayer fans. Metallica sure, but not Slayer.
The Gauntlet: Was it difficult joining the band after this talk, and then going in and recording the "Power Metal" album?
Philip: It was a trip. It was really weird at that time. It was like I was in the band for a week and the next thing I know this entire record was written. I was scribbling down these generic lyrics and doing what I thought was the best. They were in a hurry as they were used to being on schedule all the time. I'm not sure if I was feeling it, I was just filling in a role there. Between "Power Metal" and "Cowboys from Hell", there might have been some sort of schism between me and the other three guys as to where the hell we are really going here. That was also due to circumstance of the year it was, the current club scene, and that the underground was on the rise and coming above ground and gathering a wider audience. They were tough times, but those tough times disappeared when we all just said 'fuck it!' We changed the entire club scene. We did not have to cater anymore to these clubs who wanted us to look like Bon Jovi and Poison with the long hair. What were they going to do, tell us no? We were packing the clubs. It was a big thing back then for us to do that.
The Gauntlet: OK...this wasn't my question to ask, but I have had my writers ask some tough questions in the past so I can't be a hypocrite here.
Philip: OK go for it.
The Gauntlet: You were supposed to stop me and not allow me to continue.
Philip: Now I want to hear this question.
The Gauntlet: Do you really have a 10 inch penis and have you ever bottomed out while fucking a black girl?
Philip: [long pause] Bottomed out? What does that mean?
The Gauntlet: Hit the back wall of the cervix.
Philip: You have the biggest fuckin' balls. I bottom out on every girl I’m with. Ten inches is a mighty big wang. Have people been following me around? Well, I am not sure if I have the full ten inches...you know...I am well hung man. There are some black girls out there that might know something about it. That is an awkward question to ask. And for what it is worth, black girls aren’t any different. It is just cause of the myth of the black man and his penis size. You are insane.
The Gauntlet: You are telling me. I have been stressing all weekend.
Philip: What are some you have had your writers ask?
The Gauntlet: I had them ask Dez from Devildriver in person if he’d finally apologize for Coal Chamber.
Philip: Ohhhh! That was good. I changed that motherfuckers life. It is my fault for Coal Chamber but I had to destroy what was terrible. If Dez hadn’t been on tour with Pantera and heard every single underground thing I could throw at him. I was on a big black metal Norway thing and I filled that fuckers head with black screams and E-tuned guitars.
The Gauntlet: Did your protege do well in your eyes with Devildriver?
Philip: Whatever. He is a good friend. I love that guy. That was a really good question for him. How did he respond?
The Gauntlet: He told me to eat a fucking dick and explained all the world tours Coal Chamber got him on.
Philip: Sells it a little too hard. That was his nu-metal baby though. I am shocked he got mad though and couldn’t chuckle about it. Man! We do festivals with him now and people love him. I can’t believe he was upset by that. Shame on him, laugh at yourself.
The Gauntlet: Was it an easy transition going from clubs to arenas?
Philip: It’s always strange to transition from the clubs to the arenas. We were a great live band and touring was how we sold albums. We knew we wouldn't a big radio hit. The only thing close was 'Cemetery Gates' and that was six minutes long. We weren't even shooting for radio though. These crowds grew up around us and wanted to go berserk. The rooms got bigger and bigger. The Far Beyond Driven tour was just vicious. A lot of old fans began saying we sucked and stuff because we were playing the big arenas and weren’t allowed to have people onstage. We had eight or nine lawsuits from people getting 'hurt' onstage. I quit saying what I had to say. I stopped talking about people getting on stage. Our hardcore fans were really bummed out about that shit...so was I, so was I. That reason right there was why I started Superjoint Ritual. I wanted to get back into the clubs and experience that again. Superjoint shows were insane. I still remember getting lawsuits from those shows too, but not as many as with Pantera. It just got out of control. Oh well, live and learn.
The Gauntlet: How is your solo project coming along?
Philip: I have been writing a lot. I am playing everything except drums. I am working with a no name drummer. I don’t want 'the drummer from'. I am writing everything and it is turning out vicious. I have lyrics and music but I haven’t even laid a vocal down yet. It is different. A lot different than anything I have ever done. I am having trouble with the drummer I have. I love him but he isn't available anytime. People think I can get any drummer I want. I am not in New Orleans anymore. This kid is talented, but he is just not available. It is turning out good though. You'll like it.
The Gauntlet: I like solo projects. You know who to blame. No democracy in the band that might compromise the vision.
Philip: I don't mind outside input. That is another thing that is good about this drummer. I am willing to try his way on anything to see how it will sound.
The Gauntlet: But Pantera, for better or worse, was a democracy.
Philip: It was, it was a democracy. Slowly that democracy kinda...I'd say lyrically especially after "Vulgar Display of Power" I didn't have to consult anyone. Even with "Vulgar Display of Power", that was all me lyrically. With "Cowboys From Hell", I was the new guy. But it is true, we were a democracy. It isn’t that I am selfish now, but I have been in a lot of democracy's over the last few years. I'll take all the blame on my solo work. Fuck it, I think people will like it. It is extreme. As a person who helped define some of this modern metal crap, by no fault of my own. I can't help the way I sing though. Dimebag played the way Dimebag played. One thing Pantera did was we upped the anti on production and the sound and the chugging on the low E-string thing.