Former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo's band Down will release a six-song EP, now titled Down IV Part 1 The Purple EP, on September 18th. The first single, "Witchtripper," premiered exclusively here, finds a typically aggressive Anselmo vocal against a twisting, grinding musical backdrop.
Anselmo tells Rolling Stone that like the well-known Pantera songs "Fucking Hostile" and "Psycho Holiday," "Witchtripper" was a song title he had to be goaded into. "Somebody would suggest to me, 'Hey, man, that might make a killer song title.' And at the time I'm like, 'You're out of your fucking mind. There's no way I'm gonna call a song 'Witchtripper,'" he says.
But after digging the riff created by Down guitarist Pepper Keenan and drummer Jimmy Bower, Anselmo decided to give them what they wanted. "I was like, 'OK, check this out, you dicks. 'Witchtripper' you want, 'Witchtripper' you will get,'" he says. "I laid it on them, and sure enough, they were right – it worked, as usual. So there goes the genius of Phil Anselmo. Always doubting, and I'm the last one to get it," he adds, laughing.
The Purple EP marks the first new music from the band since 2007's Down III: Over the Under. In the meantime Anselmo has kept himself plenty busy, touring, running his Housecore Records label and working on a solo album. As a result, he decided to let the Down music come organically.
"I have not really put too much pressure on myself with Down, and I think that's the best approach," he says. "Right now I'm looking forward to the public's consumption and letting them hear it. I'm not sure if it's gonna break any ground. I never put any expectation on any friggin' record I do," he says. "We didn't overanalyze anything. We just let the songs kind of unfold, and once it felt right, there was no reason to go back."
Going back to the title, Down IV Part 1 is apt because the group plans to release four EPs in total, with the second collection of songs due early next year, around the time of a planned U.S. tour. EPs three and four are scheduled for later in 2013. At least that's the plan, but don't hold Anselmo to that.
"The worst thing anyone could do is to count on Down for holding a bargain on timelines," he says. "All I can say is expect it. I'm sure it'll happen, we haven't let you down before."
Anselmo's solo project will kick off with a split single with his Housecore act Warbeast. "I'm gonna put two songs on a split, basically to prompt both of our full-lengths that are coming out later in the year or maybe early, early next year. Maybe that's more the case with my record," he says.
Talking about the solo record, he laughs. "Dude, it's like a nervous-wreck record," he says. "It's very herky-jerky, man. Very extreme, I guess."
Between the solo album and the EPs, there's a lot of new Anselmo music on the way. But his past is being celebrated as well, with reissues, like the recent 20th anniversary edition of Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power. For Anselmo, going back and listening to those songs two decades later has stirred up a lot of emotions.
"I do find myself surprised sometimes," he says. "Sometimes I'll feel, 'God, how pathetically shallow that is?' Or take a song like 'A New Level' – the lyrics are so freaking positive and so strong because I wrote them when I was in my strongest body and my most clear mind at that time, just surging, young and strong as I could possibly be.
"It kind of takes you back, and for a guy like me it's like, 'Jesus Christ, how could I have tripped over so many trip wires and stepped on so many minefields, when it sure sounds like I had it all down when I was 24 years old?'”