Phil Anselmo, Former Pantera Frontman, Talks Struggles With Addiction, Sobriety

By David Konow 02/01/17

The heavy metal legend says he hasn't had a drink since Mardi Gras 2016.

Phil Anselmo
Photo via YouTube

Formed by the late guitarist, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, and his drummer brother, Vinnie Paul, Pantera was one of the biggest metal bands of the nineties, with a brutal, uncompromising sound that gained a loyal fan following worldwide.

Yet, going into the new millennium, the band had a bad break-up with their notorious lead singer, Phil Anselmo—a rift that was compounded by Anselmo’s battles with alcohol and heroin.

Anselmo fronted a number of bands after Pantera, including Superjoint, who are currently touring. He recently spoke to the Daily Times about his struggles with sobriety, as well as the drunken incident that made him reevaluate his life.

A year ago, Anselmo was caught sieg-heiling and yelling “white power” onstage at a gig. (Anselmo admitted to Rolling Stone that he was pretty drunk when he did it.) The heavy metal frontman has been accused of being a racist before, which he strongly denies, but said the incident was in response to people in the audience that were heckling him.

Anselmo tells the Times, “I own what I did, but did I mean it at all? Absolutely fucking not. I got nothing but love for everybody and anybody, but we live in a day and age of online piling on. You know it’s going to happen if you walk your own walk.”

Nevertheless, the incident, and the fallout from it, made Anselmo take a hard look at himself and his behavior. Now, he says he’s been sober for nearly a year. (He told Decibel magazine he hasn’t had a drink since Mardi Gras.)

In the past, Anselmo has talked about how he turned to painkillers to deal with back pain, but these days he’d rather let music be his painkiller. “My body feels like I woke up in a car wreck every day of my life anyway, so to put a hangover on top of it? And the only thing that’s going to beat it is more booze? I’m defeated. All hail the hangover—the thing that knocked Phil Anselmo on his ass!”

Last year was also the first time Anselmo performed onstage sober. He told Decibel that when it comes to drinking, “I don’t miss it; I don’t crave it ... Now, will I have a sip at some point in the future? I honestly don’t know. It’s a day-by-day thing. But I feel much better as far as being onstage and having that clarity.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.