Philip Anselmo and Superjoint Are Still Smokin'

Philip Anselmo at Warehouse Live, 2014
Philip Anselmo at Warehouse Live, 2014
Photo by Jim Bricker

Philip Anselmo just celebrated his 47th birthday, but don’t think for a minute that he’s slowing down. The ex-Pantera front man and Texas metal icon isn’t the type of guy to sit still for long. He’ll be touring with long-running New Orleans sludge supergroup Down this summer, and after that, it will be time to contend with his three-day Housecore Horror Festival at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio. But what’s bringing Anselmo to Houston this week is an old project that he never thought he’d revisit. After a successful reunion show last year, he’s back on tour with Superjoint Ritual for the first time in more than a decade.

Well, Superjoint, anyway — the band dropped the “Ritual” due to unspecified legal complications. Superjoint is a complicated band. Though their music is a fairly straightforward crossover strain of hardcore and metal, it’s an act heavily associated with the darkest period in Anselmo’s life, marred by the dissolution of Pantera, chronic pain and drug addiction. Superjoint put out a couple of well-received records between 2003 and 2004 and went their separate ways, with no lack of regrets or hard feelings. At last year’s Housecore Horror Festival in Austin, however, the band made a surprise return — one that even Anselmo didn’t quite see coming.

“That took some arm-twisting, because I had kind of closed the book on Superjoint,” says the eternally gruff singer. “But everybody kept being persistent about it, and then they drug [Down drummer/Superjoint guitarist] Jimmy Bower into it. He’s like, ‘Man, let’s do it!’ So, it was like, ‘All right, all right. Let’s do this one show.’”

“So we did that, and we realized that we were having fun, for God’s sake, and the next thing you know, offers start coming in,” Anselmo continues. “It’s like, y’know, why not? It’s gonna be fun. Why fucking not?”

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Part of the fun has been the addition of new faces on the tour: drummer José Manuel Gonzalez and bassist Stephen Taylor of Anselmo’s band of Texans, the Illegals. It was the only way a reunion tour would work — nobody seemed to be able to get along with the group’s original drummer, and their bass player. Hank III, went and got too busy with his solo career.

“There’s only two guys that aren’t original members, and that’s my bass player and drummer from the Illegals,” Anselmo says. “Everybody else is the real McCoy: It’s me, and Jimmy and Kevin Bond. We knew we were going to move on without the old drummer anyway, regardless. The issue with Hank is he’s so busy doing his own thing, and rightfully so. He’s worked very hard to get his career to where he’s gotten it so far. He’s doing very well.

“To ask him to put his career on hold for Superjoint, when we could tour this year and just put it back on the shelf, it’s one of those things,” he continues. “I’m not going to ask him to drop everything. We have his blessing, and he knows the door’s always open.”

As soon as the current Superjoint tour ends, Anselmo will have to switch gears in a hurry. He heads out with Down just a few days later, with barely enough time to change his socks. From breakneck d-beats to downtuned doom slogs, it’ll be a transition that might give lesser masters of metal severe whiplash. For Anselmo, though, sticking with one style for more than a few months has never quite kept him satisfied.

“I don’t really have to rehearse with Down much,” the singer says. “I know that music inside and out. I think the toughest thing, the most challenging thing for me, is the switch-up of vocal styles. Believe it or not, Down is harder for me to sing, because I have to sing in key! Whereas Superjoint is much more freestyle, and I guess it comes more naturally to the old throat. That’s really the only obstacle.”

Following the Down trek, it will be time to prepare once again for the now-annual Housecore Horror Festival, where Superjoint made their return last year. A lifelong horror-movie nut, Anselmo is deeply involved in selecting the flicks and sounds that will be on display at the three-day event.

“Aside from the awesome bands we’ve already announced, I’m really excited about bands that I can’t even talk about yet,” the singer says. “As of this week, we just got our first slew of film submissions, which I love to go through. That’s normally the more unheralded or not-yet-known directors out there who try and get a film in. There’s always something awesome within that batch, so that’s very exciting as well. I’m looking forward to all that stuff.”

Will any of the Festival bands yet to be announced feature Anselmo on vocals? Don’t bet against it. There are too many musical ideas rattling around in his chromed dome to kick back and relax at the fest. In addition to Down, Superjoint and the Illegals, Phil’s got some top-secret irons in the fire, too.

“I’ve got more, man, and it’s a curse,” he says. “I can’t stop, man. I’ve got different feels for different bands, and different ideas, different takes and different vocal styles for every project, between Superjoint, Down, the Illegals, this other project I’ve been doing and this other project I’ve been doing that’s based around clean guitar and acoustic stuff. Yes, I’m packed to the gills, man. Put it this way: I don’t plan on starting another new project until all this shit’s out of my system. It’s enough to keep me busy for the next year and a half, two years, for God’s sake.”

Now, especially in Texas, Philip Anselmo is a guy who could comfortably coast on his past work, playing as many big stages as he’d care to. Why is he working so hard to play small rooms like Fitzgerald’s when he’s got a bad back and a record label to run?

“Because I’m an explorer, man,” the singer explains. “Music is vast. Music is huge, and it’s a big world out there. I think, really, to not explore leaves you very limited as far as the stuff that you put out there. I experiment with a lot of different sounds, styles, genres. If I feel like doing it, I’m going to, and that’s all there is to it.”

Superjoint plays Fitzgerald’s on Saturday with King Parrot and Child Bite. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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