On Jan. 22, Phil Anselmo gave a Nazi salute and yelled “white power” onstage at a Los Angeles tribute concert for deceased Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott. Rock heroes like Dave Grohl and Robert Trujillo were on hand, so plenty of influential eyes were fixed on the show.
Slowly, news of the incident began to spread. On Jan. 27, footage surfaced in a YouTube video. On Jan. 30, a contrite Anselmo issued a 90-second video apology for an incident he deemed “ugly and uncalled for.” Still, some in the online metal community suggested it was time to stop giving Anselmo’s allegedly racist behavior a free pass.
This isn’t the first time Anselmo has demonstrated behavior that might be described as racist. In March of 1995, he gave a speech during a concert where he spoke about white pride. And Metal Sucks mentions a 2003 song from his band Superjoint (then called Superjoint Ritual), “Stealing a Page or Two From Armed and Radical Pagans,” that contains the lyrics “no more of the coward Muhammad” and “taking no pity on the Jewish elitists.”
Following the recent L.A. show, Machine Head singer/guitarist Robb Flynn (who was on hand) became the first prominent musician to call Anselmo out. In a video post, Flynn called for metal to be cleaned of racism and said he was done with Pantera. A handful of other musicians have since addressed the issue.
Check out our roundup below:
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian weighed in on Anselmo Feb. 1 on his web site. “Hate speech. Racism. Inflammatory rhetoric,” the Jewish musician wrote. “All dangerous no matter what the context. I have zero tolerance for any of this and to not speak out against it is as dangerous as the acts themselves. Philip’s acts were vile and that should be the focus here, anything else is just noise. Philip has apologized, and I would like to offer him the opportunity to really show how much he loves everyone by making a donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center,” which is a non-profit organization that fights anti-Semitism.
A representative for Anselmo tells Billboard that the artist has made a generous donation to a human rights non-profit and “will be involved with other like minded, established organizations that educate and address racism, bigotry and the dignity of human rights.”
All Shall Perish also took Anselmo to task. In a Facebook post, the deathcore band said that while they consider Pantera to be the “single greatest metal band of all time,” Anselmo’s actions were “not only disgusting and inexcusable but antithetical to the punk, metal, underground ethos to which we subscribe.”
Sebastian Bach, former Skid Row vocalist, tweeted out his condemnation as well.
Rock is supposed 2B fun. Perverting music N2 hate? NOT fun. People who say White Power are PUSSIES. As r those who agree. Or remain silent—-
— Sebastian Bach (@sebastianbach) January 29, 2016
While some in the metal community had harsh words for Anselmo over the incident, the reaction has been more subdued from others. One of the things that Flynn stated in his video was that a lot of people were scared to call out Anselmo for his actions. Whether it’s Pantera’s legacy, fear of reprisal, or their personal relationships with Anselmo, multiple bands we reached out to declined to participate in this article.
Doc Coyle, who plays with Meytal and has been in God Forbid, told Billboard that he found the act detestable and the backlash deserved, but suggested it’s something Anselmo might be able to come back from if he’s truly sorry. “This incident is part of a broader narrative, and if his apology is sincere, there will be lots of public reparations and wounds that need to be healed,” he says.
Rita Haney, longtime girlfriend of “Dimebag” Darrell, said she accepted Anselmo’s apology and criticized Flynn for associating the rest of Pantera with his actions.
Adam Crosier of the band Hymns (who are signed to Anselmo’s Housecore label), has defended the former Pantera singer. In a post on his Facebook page (expanded on Blabbermouth), Crosier says Anselmo is “one of the most caring, compassionate, loving, and intelligent individuals that I have ever met.” Coyle says that many metal fans won’t care about the incident as long as he keeps making good music and performing. “I too can separate the artist from their morals,” he says. “I still listen to Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and will laugh at The Cosby Show. Great art is better than the people who make it.”
However, the negative response has already affected Anselmo’s forthcoming live performances. The Dutch festival FortaRock recently axed Down (a metal supergroup he fronts) from its June 4-5 lineup. The band has eight other European shows scheduled for June 2016, which could come into sharper scrutiny following FortaRock’s decision.
Meanwhile, a petition to have Down removed from June’s Download Festival in Leicestershire, England has about 800 signatures as of publishing time.
Anselmo’s next scheduled appearance is with Down on Feb. 8 at the New Orleans Civic Theater.