Jimmy Bower on ‘White Power,’ Superjoint and the N-Word
As one of the most prolific metal musicians to ever come out of New Orleans, Jimmy Bower has done time in Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity and his own short-lived Mystick Krewe of Clearlight. But he’s probably best known as a guitarist for Eyehategod, the drummer of Down and as one of the guitarists for the recently resurrected Superjoint — formerly Superjoint Ritual — which also happens to feature Down frontman Phil Anselmo. As of a few years ago, you can add fatherhood to Bower’s résumé as well. “If you enjoy getting yelled at by your wife, and then you have a little girl and she gets old enough to talk, and she starts yelling at you, too — it’s great,” he laughs. “I’m kidding around, but I’ve grown to become a very submissive man.”
After collapsing under the weight of drug problems and internal tension in the mid-aughts, Superjoint have returned with a new lineup — Bower, Anselmo and original guitarist Kevin Bond, alongside new drummer Jose “Blue” Gonzalez and bassist Stephen Taylor (both of Anselmo’s Illegals) — and a new album, Caught Up in the Gears of Application. “Superjoint is a good band for music right now,” Bower offers. “It’s really pissed off. It’s nasty and violent. It sounds like a controlled car wreck. It’s cool to be almost 50 years old and still playing this kind of music.”
It’s been 13 years since the last Superjoint record was released. Does all that time give you a different perspective on the band?
To be honest with you, I’d kinda forgotten about the band. I never thought we’d do anything again. Phil and I were pretty busy with Down. I was really busy with Eyehategod. But then we were on tour in Europe with Down a couple of years ago and Phil said, “What would you think about doing a Superjoint show for the [Housecore] Horror Fest?” That was pretty much the first time it had been mentioned. But I was all for it, so we called Kevin Bond that night and started working to get the rest of the band together.
By all accounts, Superjoint ended badly the first time around. What’s your recollection?
The way it ended left a bad taste in my mouth. I was pretty screwed up on the drug thing, the opiate thing, and my girlfriend passed away in March of 2005. That was when we were writing the third record, and I just fell into a really bad slump, man. I wasn’t thinking about the band or anything. I was just really depressed. I got asked to leave the band, and then the band dissolved shortly after that. So, to be able to do it again has been really cool.
How did you decide on the new bass player and drummer?
We reached out to [original bassist] Hank [Williams III], already knowing his busy schedule, and he kept saying he would get back to us. But he also had to find a new place to live at the time, which I know was really stressful for him, so it was obvious he couldn’t do it. So, then Phil goes, “I’m tellin’ ya, Blue from the Illegals is badass. He can definitely play all the Superjoint stuff.” I had no qualms about that at all. He also brought up Steve Taylor from the Illegals on bass, and I had known Steve from when he played in a band called Spunk in the early '90s. They were from Houston — he was one of those New Orleans guys that moved to Houston. Getting to know Blue and Steve on a jam basis, they’re perfect. We couldn’t ask for two better dudes to be in the band.
Now that you’ve got the new guys and you and Phil aren’t doing hard drugs, how has the feeling within the band changed?
It’s really cool, as opposed to the last record and us trying to write the third one. Being on dope, you really don’t give a fuck. You care, but you’re kinda blasé about it. This time, I did my homework. I went back and listened to a lot of Black Flag and Righteous Pigs — stuff that had influenced Superjoint in the beginning. Phil and I agreed we had to go back to the first record — the good three-chord hardcore songs with that New Orleans groove. So, that was really fun, because I’d been listening to Hank [Williams] Jr. and David Allan Coe and shit like that. It felt good to go back and listen to stuff that inspired me in the early '90s.
What about guitar-wise?
As far as guitar playing, it was good to be not as challenged as I was when I got out the band. I was on so much dope back then, I couldn’t even play the stuff from the second record. I would just kinda half-ass it. So, it was a really big thing for me to really practice and earn my spot back.
How did it feel to be back onstage with Superjoint at the Housecore Horror Fest in 2014?
It was definitely different because of having Steve and Blue in the band. I was nervous as shit, to be honest with you, but we had definitely practiced a lot. It was great, dude — seeing the kids singing the lyrics and stuff. It brought back a good feeling. Getting that one show under our belt just made us wanna play more. After that, we said, “Let’s get in a room and see what happens.”
You had to drop the “Ritual” part of the band name due to contractual issues, but it seems like everyone called the band “Superjoint” anyway.
Exactly. Most people never said, “Man, I’m gonna go see Superjoint Ritual tonight.” It was always, “I’m gonna go see Superjoint,” so it kinda made sense anyway. And it’s a new band — we’ve got new guys in the band. I dig it just being Superjoint. The name Superjoint Ritual was from Darkthrone lyrics, anyway, so taking the “Ritual” out kinda makes it our own.
After Phil drunkenly yelled “White power!” and threw a Nazi salute onstage at Dimebash earlier this year, he publicly apologized and said that Down should move on without him. Obviously, that didn’t happen — you guys played Psycho Las Vegas in August. What was your initial reaction when you heard what he’d done?
When it happened, knowing Phil and our extremely dark sense of humor, I blew it off as him being stupid. Then Robb Flynn put the video up saying how his feelings were hurt, and the people things were starting to say made me understand that what he said was not cool and not funny, even in a joking sense, and it did hurt people’s feelings. It was really weird because it honestly wasn’t a big deal to me, just because I know how Phil is. Dude, we joke about stupid shit. The bullshit that we come up with and talk about among friends … I guess the lesson learned is that you can’t do that around other people. I mean, we were friends with [Anal Cunt’s] Seth Putnam. He was a freak, dude, as far as his sense of humor. He liked to fuck with people. But behind the scenes he was the biggest sweetheart who would give you the shirt off his back. So, I just wish people could take things with a grain of salt nowadays instead of everyone being so serious.
What do you make of the backlash Phil has received as a result of his actions?
People hit Phil pretty hard over it, but knowing him as he really is, part of me thought it was unfair. Part of me wanted to try to explain to people that Phil’s not like this. You can’t be racist if you’re from New Orleans. There’s so many different cultures here; you just can’t do it. And you’re raised to understand that. I think [the Dimebash incident] was getting linked to other times in his life, when he was younger, and it was just really unfortunate. I think he did the right thing by apologizing sincerely.
Did you and the other guys in Down have any conversations about how to handle the situation?
Not really. I mean, [Down guitarist] Pepper [Keenan] put a statement out. We were talking about it in the room because we were rehearsing for that [Down] show that got cancelled. My attitude was, I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not gonna go make a statement and throw more fuel on the fire. At the time, it was hard to explain who Phil was to people, because nobody was hearing it. It was just all focused on the bad shit. To try and throw a positive note in there, people weren’t having it.
Psycho Las Vegas was the first time Down had played since Dimebash. Were you nervous about how you would be received?
Not at all. Like I said, Phil did something wrong and he apologized for it, but he got dragged through the wringer a lot more than your average person would’ve. That being said, people still love Phil for his talents. It’s just really weird, dude. Back to that humor thing — you can’t write anything sarcastic on social media without getting attacked. Either the world is really changing or we’re getting really old. To me, we’re just a bunch old dudes sitting around making stupid jokes. It kinda comes with old age, like gray hair.
The world of social media is a strange and unforgiving place.
Social media is like  Gilman Street or something. [Laughs] Back in the '90s, I’d read in Maximumrocknroll about all these bands playing in Berkeley at Gilman. We thought it would be a great place to play. Finally, Eyehategod gets booked there with Chaos UK because we did a two-month tour with them in like ’95. But then I get a phone call: “Y’all can’t play Gilman.” It was because of the content of our records and because everyone was so PC. I didn’t even know what the fuck that meant. Politically correct? What does that have to do with music? Music is about getting away from that dumb shit. I know bands mix music and politics, but New Orleans bands were never like that. The lyrics were important, but they were always secondary. It’s more about that groove and being heavy. To me, it’s like, “We’re just a band.” I mean, we’re called Eyehategod — nobody’s gonna listen to us, anyway. Why can’t they just let us play, flip us off while we play and then we’ll leave? But nooooo.
My theory is that G.G. Allin died in 1993 because he wouldn’t be able to exist today anyway.
Yeah! Or put on a Carnivore record — you love it because the content is fucked up. We never sat around going, “Pete Steele’s gotta be into Hitler!” We never did that. We were just like, “This is sick!” It’s music, you know? You don’t read that deep into it. I mean, [Eyehategod] has a song called “White Nigger,” which is about our old bass player Mark [Schultz], who used to act black. So, as a joke, we named the song, “White Nigger.” That was in '93, man. To us, it was taking the stuff we were into as kids and being even ruder. But after [longtime Eyehategod drummer] Joey [LaCaze] died and we were practicing with Dale [Crover] from the Melvins, I called out, “Okay, let’s do ‘White Nigger.’” And he was like, “Ah … that kinda hurts, man.” So, I said, “We can call it whatever you want.” So he goes, “'White Neighbor,’ maybe?” So, from now, on the song is called “White Neighbor.”
That’s a pretty significant change.
Well, shit’s changing. I have a daughter now, so I have to tone my humor down because I wanna raise her like I was raised — to be respectful of everyone and to judge people by who they are, not what they look like or what religion they are or whatever kinda bullshit people judge people for. But as far as the whole “politically correct” thing? I don’t buy into it, man. I don’t even fucking vote. I don’t believe in government. I can’t change the world. I just smoke weed and play my fucking guitar or my drums.