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Phil Anselmo may be a dick – but does that mean I have to stop liking Pantera?

After Phil Anselmo's recent outbursts, one writer asks if it's possible to separate art from artist.

I listened to Pantera yesterday for the first time in months. Since the end of January, to be specific – just after video footage emerged of Phil Anselmo performing a Nazi salute and shouting ‘White power!’ to the audience at the annual Dimebash show. It was a dumb, offensive stunt from a man with previous form in that area, and all the half-arsed denials that followed did nothing to detract from that theory. If I’d kept my Pantera, Down and Superjoint Ritual CDs, I’ve have thrown them out. As it was, I opted for a Spotify boycott, starting immediately and ending… well, maybe not ending at all. No more Anselmo and his confused attitude to race relations for me.

All that went out of the window yesterday. Like an ex-smoker craving nicotine, I suddenly fancied listening to The Great Southern Trendkill. And so, with barely a second thought on my part, the neighbours found themselves unexpectedly assaulted by Drag The Waters at an ungodly time in the afternoon.

Did I feel bad about busting my own boycott? Yup. But I had to ask myself: should I stop liking a band just because their frontman is a dick? The simple answer is no.

Separating art from the artist is one of the oldest dilemmas in the book. Think of all those rock stars who slept with underage groupies, or beat their girlfriends, or said something utterly offensive onstage. Reprehensible behaviour, for sure.

But the fact is that music itself – or film, or art – should ultimately stand alone. Granted, that’s not always easy, especially if you’re talking Burzum or Gary Glitter. But for the most part, a song is a song is a song. Nothing more and nothing less.

In the case of Pantera, it’s even easier to separate the song from the singer. A look through their back catalogue throws up nothing in the way of racially incendiary anthems – the closest they come is No Good (Attack The Radical), which is equally dismissive of white power and black power. And let’s not forget that Pantera weren’t just Phil Anselmo – any responsibility, positive or negative, should be shared four ways.

If Phil Anselmo wants to act like a fuckhead onstage, that’s his prerogative. As the Dimebash incident proved, he’ll be called out for it. But his antics in 2016 shouldn’t be held against a band he left well over a decade ago. And let’s face it – if we shut all the idiots up, the world would be a very quiet place.


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