In a recent interview with Rock Talk with Mitch, Philip Anselmo, the front man of Pantera, voiced his opinions on gun control and politics in general. Particularly, he expressed a need for gun control and its connection with nationalism and imperialism. Not many have linked the fetishization of guns to state violence overseas. There have been fierce critics of US imperialism and state capitalism in rock music like Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and the majority of Rage Against the Machine’s musical output. Nonetheless, it is hard to argue that such criticisms are mainstream or ubiquitous in the rock scene; doubly so, considering that Anselmo takes on gun control and ties it back to imperialism and nationalism. This makes the interview quite radical in its honesty and pointed criticisms of politics.
However, some fans of Pantera and Philip Anselmo may be surprised by this revelation. Many remember the lyrics of Cowboys from Hell and its comfort with gun-related violence and imagery:
You see us comin'
And you all together run for cover
We're takin' over this town
Here we come, reach for your gun
Sparks fly everywhere in sight
From my double barrel, twelve gauge,
Can't lock me in your cage
However you look at it, this does not appear to be the words of the person who said “I loathe guns and I loathe war.” It could be that he was not taking himself seriously, and wrote aggressive lyrics to a song he considered “cheesy” and “the kind of thing I tried to avoid in the future.” In the interview with Rock Talk with Mitch, Anselmo implies that his views on guns were long-held due to his family background. Nonetheless, I believe it is possible to argue that his emotional relationship with guns shifted due to a particular event. That event is the murder of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell (Darrell Lance Abbott).
On December 8, 2004, during the Devastation Across The Nation tour, Abbott was performing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. 25-years-old former Marine Nathan Gale, armed with a Beretta 9mm handgun, shot Abboot while he was “head banging, his hair in his face.” Since the incident, Pantera had
“prayed that our industry (i.e. club owners & promoters) would do whatever they needed to do to protect artists from gun wielding fanatics. Sadly, that's not the case and another rising star had to pay the consequences with her life. SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE! RIP Christina & RIP Dime, Jeff Thompson, Erin Halk, and Nathan Bray,” as they mourned for the fatal shooting of Christina Grimmie on their Facebook page.
This incident heavily impacted Anselmo as well. During his interview with Revolver Magazine, he spoke much about his feelings towards the incident. He had a hard time “trying not to get choked up,” and said that “I would have taken a bullet for that motherfucker [Dimebag Darrell].” There have been no public statements about gun control from Phil Anselmo until after Abbott’s death. His statements are filled with disgust and hatred for the culture that perpetuates the death of countless persons like Christina Grimmie and his dear friend, Darrell Abbott. From my short research, I could not find any songs after Abbott’s death that depicted the same kind of blatant gun-related imagery in Anselmo’s lyrics. I believe it is possible that the death of his friend affected his emotional relationship with guns. What do you think?