Since the breakup of Pantera, singer Phil Anselmo has performed with more bands than your average session player. There’s Down, Eibon, Necrophagia, The Illegals and Scour, to name a few. Superjoint, originally called Superjoint Ritual, might just be the best of them.
While Down is a straight-up sludgy doom-metal band and Necrophagia remains one of the pioneers of death metal, Superjoint has a hardcore-punk vibe; it’s looser, though not less focused, than some of Anselmo’s other projects. And, of course, it’s as heavy as hell.
The band released two albums for Sanctuary Records — 2002’s Use Once and Destroy and 2003’s A Lethal Dose of American Hatred. It split in 2004, the general consensus seeming to be that Anselmo and original drummer Joe Fazzio weren’t getting along. But 2014 saw a reunion (minus Fazzio), which eventually led to last year’s Caught Up in the Gears of Application album.
Bassist Stephen Taylor was one of two new guys brought in for the reunion, along with drummer Jose Gonzalez. Both were already playing with Anselmo in the Illegals and so were well-placed when he needed new personnel.
“I was friends with some of the guys previously,” Taylor says. “I grew up in New Orleans, and I knew everybody through various people or directly.”
Taylor used to play with Dave Edwards in the Denver alt-country bands 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand. When that all came to an end, he took a break from music before finding himself back in Louisiana. A fan of the first two Superjoint records, Taylor was delighted to climb on board.
“I’m actually in the Illegals also,” he says. “They needed a fill-in for Superjoint at the time, and I happened to be there while we doing some Illegals tracking, writing and whatever we were doing. I just learned the songs and started helping out, and the opportunity came up, so I just kinda slipped on in.”
There was a full thirteen years between the second and third albums, which is almost Guns 'N Roses territory. Naturally, the dynamic of the band has changed a little in those many years.
“Everybody evolved a little bit musically,” Taylor says. “We were involved in a bunch of crazy, extreme death metal at the time with the Illegals and some other stuff that we were tracking. So we were just hyped to get in there and do some punk rock/hardcore riffing, and to me it seems a little bit more mature songwriting to the other ones. But I don’t know. I wasn’t there for the earlier process, so I really couldn’t tell you how much it evolved. But we’re talking ten years later, with a couple of new guys. Of course it’s slightly different.”
Taylor says that he and Gonzalez try to do the same thing with Superjoint that they do with the Illegals: have fun, jam, rock out, and keep it tight. Meanwhile, he says, the fact that the band is now on Anselmo’s own Housecore Records label takes off any pressure.
“We definitely have the freedom to go and do whatever the heck we want to do, which is really cool,” Taylor says. “We’re not under any time pressure or anything like that. We have so many projects that whatever idea we come up with, we just put it on this file over here or that file over there. Everybody’s super-talented. It’s great.”
Taylor also says that the three original guys still in the band (Anselmo, Jimmy Bower and Kevin Bond) are psyched to be back in the Superjoint saddle.
“Yeah, everybody’s enjoying it and having a good time,” he says. “It’s like a traveling family on the bus. It’s like cousins rolling around, and everyone’s enjoying it. We’ve been having some great shows. We did the Whisky last night, and that was really great.”
The crowd is a mixed bag, too; there are the old fans who have been around since the early days of Pantera, and there are brand-new kids who've just discovered this project.
“I’ve seen a lot of young kids right at the front, singing the words and getting into it,” Taylor says. “Some people told us they’ve never heard of Superjoint before, and they came out with a friend or maybe to see one of the other bands. But when they got there, they were immediate fans. I’m sure we’re picking up some new people along the way, and hopefully pleasing the old ones.”
“Devildriver’s ripping it up, and we come in and clean up,” Taylor says. “It’s a little something for everybody. The shows have been going great.”
Despite the fact that Taylor lost touch with most of his old Denver friends years ago, he always enjoys returning to the city for a gig.
“Colorado has always been great to us,” he says. “I don’t really associate with too many friends there; the bands were back in the ’90s, so I lost touch with everybody. I saw David Edwards last year at PsychoFest and reconnected with him. That was great. I’ve spent a lot of time in Denver, man. I love it.”
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As for the set, Taylor says that they’ve been keeping it tight and consistent night after night.
“Actually, we might pull out a couple of surprises,” he says. “We’re just gonna rip through some of the old and a few of the new ones.”
When the show, and then the tour, is over, the men of Superjoint will take a break, and then who knows what will happen. When Phil Anselmo is involved, you can’t be sure which of his projects he’ll go back to next, if he doesn’t start a completely new one. Either way, it’s great to have Superjoint back. However long it’s for.
Superjoint plays with Devildriver, King Parrot, Cane Hill, and Child Bite, 5 p.m. Wednesday, October 4, Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake Street, 303-487-0111.