Philip Anselmo of Down Endures Aches and Pains to Keep Himself Alive

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On Monday, Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. PT/1 a.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Down's concert from the Knitting Factory in Spokane, Washington. Tune in HERE to watch!

Having spent much of the year touring with his main band Down and his side project Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals, frontman Phil Anselmo is shot – literally.

“I got a steroid shot in my knee the other day,” he tells Yahoo Music while stretching his leg and occasionally groaning. “I needed it, but it’s f---ing sore now. I’ve destroyed my body, man. I’m a wreck.”

Now in his mid-40s, playing shows isn’t as easy as it was 20 years ago when his former band Pantera released its third major label album, Far Beyond Driven, which entered the Billboard album chart at No. 1. Two decades of headbanging and amplifier-leaping has severely damaged his back, neck, and knees. Corrective back surgery and other procedures have helped, but he’s still not cured. He probably never will be.  

As a result, he doesn’t fling his body around with quite the self-destructive force that he used to, but he still tends to overdo it once he takes the stage, and the kinetic energy of the band he’s with seeps into his soul. With a little over a week of shows left this year, Anselmo’s doing whatever he can to keep himself limber between bouts of stage exertion.

For those who have missed Down’s explosive 2014 live show or want one more chance to see the classic doom-groove band in all its power chord-bending glory, be sure to tune in to Yahoo Live for a stream of their show from Spokane, Washington. "The last Down show is December 21 in Houston, and then that’s it for touring in the foreseeable future,” Anselmo says. 'I need some time to recharge the batteries. It’s never a bad thing to take better care of yourself and get physically stronger, especially with everyone getting a little older and mortality becoming a more prevalent thing amongst my age group.”

To a certain extent Anselmo has learned from his past mistakes. When he was in Pantera, he played shows year after year without a break. As a result, he endured debilitating pain that he assumed at the time was temporary, but which has clung to him like a shadow. To cope with the agony of his last decade in Pantera, he turned to booze and drugs, and nearly became a rock 'n' roll casualty. Literally, he was living the high life – only for much of the time, he wasn’t enjoying himself.

 "I made every rookie mistake in the book," he says. “When you’re going 1,000 miles an hour for a decade or more, it’s blinding. You don’t get to sit back and enjoy much. And there isn’t a penny that you can put in your pocket that gives you peace of mind when your lower back is destroyed. Fun goes out the window. And I make no qualms about it: Turning to hard drugs was a mistake, and it’s one that put me on what I call the drug-addict calendar. You end up saying yes to everything, and you look like a flake when you drop out and do other things and jumble up your life.”

While Anselmo plans to stay off the road for most of 2015 to get healthier, he still has plenty of music on his schedule, including the follow-up to his 2013 solo album Walk Through Exits Only.

“It’s going to be very different,” he says. “I feel like every solo effort should be different. That’s a rule in my house under this particular roof. I don’t want to regurgitate a damn thing I’ve done in the past. Maybe I might touch on certain things, and in a lot of ways there’s no getting around the voice because my voice is my voice. But you can express different musical influences from generations of music. I can do anything I want with the Illegals. It’s my band.”

Anselmo hasn’t sat down and started working on the album yet, but he’s got a treasure chest of material to pore through and consider using. “I’m sitting on top of so much music that I have never put out there,” he says. “Sometimes I wonder if I should just put this s--t out as is or if I should re-record it and try to refine it and fit in in some way within some new band; or maybe even fit it into Down. All of that goes through my head. But I’m really looking forward to revising some of this stuff.”

Even before he joined Pantera in 1986, Anselmo relied on music to escape his troubles and vent his aggression so he could function in the outside world. Much has changed since then, obviously, but he still clings to powerful music to alleviate his physical and mental pain.

“When I’m writing or jamming on something, I can stop thinking about criticism, money, and taxes – all the bulls--t that comes with getting older and growing up.”

 He sighs and pauses for a moment. “Man, I’m so sick of growing up. Now, the only time I feel like I did when I was younger is when I have a guitar in my hand and I’m grinding away. That’s when time slows down.”

In addition to writing a new solo album, Anselmo plans to spend the first have of 2015 working with bands he signed to his record label Housecore Records. He’ll produce the second full-length by Australian death metal band King Parrot and release the next album by one-man noise-machine composer Author & Punisher. 

Then, come early summer, Anselmo will (if he stays on schedule) return to the studio with Down to record the yet-untitled third release in Down’s EP series, which started in 2012 with Down IV – Part I and continued in  May, 2014 with Part 2. "If we get started right before summer really sinks in, we can have that ready by the end of the year,” he says. That’s my goal right now.”

Down started in 1991 as a side project for each of its main members – Anselmo, guitarist Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity), and drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod). These days, it’s more of a breadwinner, which begs the question: Why has the band resorted to releasing long mini-albums every couple of years instead of full lengths as they did for their first albums?

“I still love music and I love discovering new bands, but do I want to sit through 72 minutes a band?” Anselmo responds. “ I’m not so sure...it depends on the band. But even concentrating on my own music, especially Down, I would really rather focus on five or six really good songs than try to pack in 11 or 12  songs, some of which might be leftover or filler. Filler to me is boring. That’s why it’s called filler. And really, I think a lot of music fans today have shorter attention spans than fans 10 years ago. So to give them 30 minutes of hard rock seems only logical, really.”