“Back in 2004, I had the privilege of interviewing Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul during a local stop with Damageplan on the Headbanger’s Ball Tour. Two of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, and they made me and my friend feel comfortable right away. After the usual array of touring, Pantera, and Damageplan questions, it came time to ask about their long-talked-about-but-still-a-mystery recordings with David Allen Coe, which had created something of a curious buzz in the underground ever since news first broke of them in 2000. Well, I tell you, those guys just lit up at the chance to talk about it, and we even swapped a few lines from some of Coe’s dirtier material. Still grinning ear to ear, I concluded the interview and shut off my recorder, when they invited us to stick around and actually HEAR some of it. Floored, we obediently handed over our recording equipment and moved to the front of the bus, where Zakk Wylde had been awoken for the occasion. Dime cued up the disc and poured the bus a round of Black Tooth Grins, when that distinctive guitar tone blasted from the stereo. This was a Cowboys from Hell-era riff—and this throaty old country road dog putting his stamp on it. We were in awe. Dime turned and saw our expressions and winked at us as I nodded approval. That song turned out to be “Nothin’ To Lose,” the lead track on the long-awaited release that was branded Rebel Meets Rebel. I have to say I’m getting a little choked up as I write this, although I’ve told the story a million times, and will tell it a million more.”
I wrote that in 2006 as part of my review of the Rebel Meets Rebel album. It was in memory of Dimebag, of course, but it’s just as applicable to Vinnie Paul today. Their lives were completely intertwined; inseparable in life, only by death. Without those two, without what they created with Pantera, I am not where I am today, period.
It all started with a completely by-chance catch of “Walk” on a recorded episode of Headbanger’s Ball (the same one that brought me to Warrior Soul, to boot), spurred by the early 90s gateways of Guns n Roses, Metallica, and Danzig. But this…this was different. This was special. This was…actually a bit intimidating at first. Danzig was more theatrical than menacing; the horrors of Metallica’s “One” video were softened by the streamlined sounds of the black album. Pantera looked like a group of guys that would kick your ass in high school for no good reason, and the music did nothing to make you think otherwise. It wasn’t long before I was begging my sister to order Vulgar Display of Power and Cowboys From Hell via her Columbia House account, then begging my parents to let me go up to SF with a friend to see them live for the first time.
My fandom for the band and for metal in general all snowballed from there. Every album was purchased day of release; every local show was attended (OK, I missed a couple) until there were no more of either to be had. When I needed a little motivation, the first three tracks of Vulgar had me covered. Anger issues? A mix of “Primal Concrete Sledge” and “Five Minutes Alone” was the cure. General catharsis? Here comes “Cowboys From Hell”, “Becoming”, and “Goddamn Electric”. “Cemetery Gates” and “Hollow” soothed a soul wounded by death; “Throes of Rejection” and “Floods” were the cure when burned by the fairer gender (I once went to sleep with the former track on repeat; I can only imagine what horror my family felt at hearing that still going at 3am).
Damageplan was met with great excitement, and while New Found Power had its shortcomings, it scratched the itch for that Abbott Brothers sound and vibe, and hinted that greater things were to come. Until that fateful day where Vinnie watched his brother die on stage. I don’t remember the shooter’s name and I don’t want to do him the honor of researching it (but I will invoke the name of the goddamn hero who took him down, Officer James Niggemeyer). Pantera died with him. The long-swirling rumors of a reunion with Zakk Wydle were absolute bollocks. Not helping matters was the estrangement between Vinnie and Phil Anselmo, which even this mutual loss could not heal. But that’s another story.
Vinnie would go on to form Big Vin Records and finally release that Rebel Meets Rebel album, which added another chapter to the brothers’ shared musical legacy. Oh, and a couple of Dimebag-centric home videos in memorium. He also went on to form Hellyeah, which was hit or miss at best, but Vinnie loved it, and after all he had been through, that was the most important thing. He fucking loved life, and by all accounts had zero ego. High-fiving fellow fans as he walked through a concert crowd; presenting at the annual AVN Awards in Last Vegas. Doing whatever the fuck he wanted in his hometown. Vinnie Paul doing Vinnie Paul things always put a smile on my face.
As I drink this not-quite-a-Black Tooth Grin, I seem to recall news of either a third volume in that series or an unprecedented fourth Pantera home video being in the works. I hope I’m right, and I hope whichever it is sees the light of day.
Thanks for keeping your brother’s memory alive, Vinnie.
Thanks for all the good times, Vinnie.
Most of all—thanks for all the music, Vinnie. We’ll meet again.
“He as hollow as I alone
A shell of my friend
Just flesh and bone
There’s no soul
He sees no love
I shake my fists at skies above
Mad at God”