From the Archive: Dimebag Darrell and Zakk Wylde Discuss the State of Metal and Dissolution of Pantera
Here's an interview with Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell from the March 2003 issue of Guitar World. To see the cover — and all the GW covers from 2003 — check out our 2003 GW covers gallery.
“Okay, Zakk, it’s time!”
As the morning sun begins to break over the Texas hills, Dimebag Darrell thrusts the keys to a waiting sports utility vehicle in Zakk Wylde’s enormous hand.
All through the night, over countless shots of Blacktooth Grin — the particularly potent and tasty mixture of Crown Royal and Coca Cola that flows like water at Dime’s Arlington-area compound — the Pantera guitarist has been psyching up Ozzy Osbourne’s right-hand man for this very moment. Zakk once nearly destroyed a large metallic Christmas tree placed on Dime’s decked-out lawn, and now that the holidays are here again, Dime just won’t be satisfied until Zakk finishes the job.
While Zakk loudly and repeatedly plows the hulking vehicle into the tree, a bespectacled gent in tie and khakis looks on with resigned amusement. A driver for the local limo service, he’s been summoned to take Zakk to the airport in time for the first flight of the day back to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Zakk is in no hurry to leave. He’s too busy shredding the bottom of the driver’s SUV on the tree’s twisted metallic corpse.
"My truck sure looked nice today," the driver says, "before I brought it over here." He shrugs. "Of course, this sort of thing happens all the time at Darrell's. It's okay — he always pays for it."
Crazy shit seems to happen whenever Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell get together. Zakk's rough bark bears ample evidence of a New Jersey upbringing, and Dime's drawl is pure Dallas. But these guys are bonded by a mutual respect that's totally impervious to geographical differences — and each is impressively capable of egging the other on to perform incredible feats of derring-do, be they musical or alcoholic.
The two met in the late Eighties, around the time that Zakk signed on for his initial tour of duty with Ozzy, and Pantera were first wowing headbangers across the land with their vicious brand of Texas metal. But their hard-working, hard-rocking, hard-drinking, straight-shooting aesthetic still resonates deeply with metal lovers everywhere: not only was Zakk voted Most Valuable Player in this year's Guitar World Reader's Poll but Zakk and Dime finished in the two top slots of the poll's Best Metal Guitarist category.
Don't expect either of these longhaired wildmen to rest on their laurels, however. Having spent much of 2002 on Ozzy's most high-profile tour to date, Zakk has begun mixing a new album from his own band, Black Label Society; titled The Blessed Hellride, the record should hit the racks sometime in spring 2003. The follow-up to 2002's highly acclaimed 1919 Eternal, The Blessed Hellride, Zakk promises, will be "some serious sick shit."
With the future of Pantera currently in limbo (singer Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown have spent 2002 touring with Down, and Anselmo is preparing to return to the studio with Superjoint Ritual), Dime and drummer brother Vinnie Paul have busied themselves with New Found Power, a crushingly heavy project featuring the powerful vocals of former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman.
The brothers have also recorded Rebel Meets Rebel, a country-metal offering, with legendary country-western outlaw David Allan Coe. The album is due out in 2003, as is Riffer Madness, a veritable encyclopedia of Dime bag licks and lessons compiled by Guitar World contributing editor Nick Bowcott. "I just don't want anyone to think that ol' Dimebag Darrell's been sittin' here on his ass," Dime says, chuckling.
In an hour or so, Zakk will stroll down to Dime's garage studio to lay down an incendiary, off-the-cuff solo on one of New Found Power's latest tracks. "I didn't think it would be a problem or nothin'," Dime will say, admiring his pal's spontaneous string-bending display. "He's always so ready to go, man!"
But right now, as Dime's saintly girlfriend Rita pours a round of Zakktooth Grins (a Blacktooth Grin with ginger ale substituted for Coke, as per Zakk's preference), the two friends are convening in Dimebag Manor's memorabilia-packed living room for an animated Guitar World summit on guitar playing, the current state of rock and the future of Pantera. Pull up a chair, grab a cold beverage and try to stay out of the line of fire.
GUITAR WORLD: Guitar World's readers have voted Zakk Wylde Most Valuable Player and Zakk and Dimebag Darrell Best Metal Guitarists for 2002. What do you think that says about our readers?
ZAKK WYLDE: That they love heavy shit and drinkin' booze — that's why they like us!
DIMEBAG DARRELL: I say thanks a fuckin' million, right out of the chute. And I just want to say that Zakk Wylde is easily the best, most well-rounded player in every category, and he wholeheartedly deserves the Most Valuable Player award, hands down. He's the hardest workin' motherfucker in rock and roll, period. He does double duty — he does Black Label, he does Ozzy. He's been nonstop since he showed his face in the first place, and he keeps taking it to a new level. He's done scared everybody else the fuck off, so nobody else is even gonna try, you know? [laughs]
ZAKK: The first time I heard Pantera, I thought, Jesus Christ! I still think that, to this day, Pantera is the heaviest fuckin' band on the planet, but it's not just heavy for the sake of bein' heavy; it's got groove to it, and it's pure musicianship at the same time. And what I'd say about Dime is, you can't get that good unless you work at it. You can tell he put the hours in and the practice in, and drew from so many of the great players. You surround yourself with greatness — the Randy Rhoadses, the Van Halens, the Tony Iommis — and you'll be in the right ballpark. Or the right zip code, anyways!
DIME: Maybe that's kinda what ties us in — we come from pretty much the exact same school.
ZAKK: When I was growin' up, to be the big gun on the block you had to know how to play Randy's stuff, Eddie's shit, or anybody that was cool. I mean, I'm not a big Dokken fan, but I'll tell you right now: George Lynch can throw down. It wasn't like superheavy metal shit, but you listened to George Lynch's solos, his vibrato and everything, and it was like, "What the fuck's he doing?" Me and Dime came up at the end of the Eighties, when all that stuff was kind of fizzling out.
DIME: [laughs] The three-handed technique was goin' out of style!
ZAKK: Guitar, with Yngwie and everything like that, kind of hit a ceiling where it couldn't go any further and had to start over again. And that's when GN'R came out, and Slash brought it back to more feel and more rock and roll, you know? Which was awesome. And then, of course, the grunge thing came in, but Jerry Cantrell was still doin' solos. The guitar thing is comin' back around, too. I mean, you'll always have me and Dime playin' solos on our records. But what's gonna happen is, some 19- or 20-year-old kid is gmma come out with some cool kick- ass band, and he's gonna make some 15-year-old kid wanna pick up a guitar and learn how to do a solo.
When Van Halen first came out with "Eruption," every town had some kid who knew how to play the song in its entirety. Nowadays, no one seems to be coming up with solos that inspire kids in the same way.
ZAKK: Put it this way: I love Ozzfest because Ozzy and Sharon started the whole thing to promote metal. But two summers ago — I was actually laughing — I was telling Freddy McTaggart, who does my guitars," I think Dime and I are the only motherfuckers on this whole tour that actually can get up from low E to high E and back safely!" [laughs] We were sitting out there watching Pantera just blow the fucking stage up and Dime just shredding all sick and fucking insane. I was watching the other bands, and no one else was playing solos! And it's just like, why wouldn't you want to get better? I don't understand that.
DIME: I'm into the whole song-as-a-piece-of-music thing: if it literally doesn't call for it, if it already has enough stuff going on, then it's okay not to play a solo. I've tried to force a solo before, but sometimes it's like, "That thing don't really fit, man! " You know, you end up on a groove part that's powerful, I understand that. But let's have some fuckin' action out there! There's more to it than two or three strings on the low-end side, you know?
I mean, I could see how some people might hear some of the shit Zakk does and say, ''I'm not ever gonna catch up, so why even try?" And that's the wrong way to look at it, if you ask me, man. You ain't gonna catch him, but why not do your own thing? Like I always say, the thick strings are a fuckin' nut in themselves, what with all that chugging and grinding. But to really express yourself, you have to get out on them high strings and bend them motherfuckers. Get out there and play some shit! There ain't nothing wrong with it. I can never understand how a solo could ever be "uncool." Play something good and it won't be uncool, you know?
ZAKK: When you listen to Randy Rhoads do a solo, or Eddie, or Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, it brings the song to another spot. It's not like he's just going, ''I'm the guitar player — I've gotta put a solo here."
DIME: That's not what we're saying — we're not saying, " Play the solo for the fuck of it, dude, just so you could say you did it!" But goddanm, you can't tell me that on a whole CD, from start to finish , there's no place for somethin' badass to be played over the top. And for music lovers, man, where we come from, I'm wantin' to hear some of that shit, you know'
This past year, a number of popular guitar bands like the Hives, the White Stripes and the Vines seemed to take pride in playing few, if any, solos at all.
ZAKK: The only thing I think is really cool about that stuff is that it's guitar based. They're not doing solos, but thank fuck it's not, like, tons of Pro Tools. The bands are actually performing live, and the shit's actually kind of a little out of tune, but that's how it is — that's how a fuckin' rock and roll band sounds, you know? It shouldn't be perfect.
At least the Hives have two guys plugging their guitars right into the fuckin' amp, and the bass player's got a P-Bass or whatever, and they're just grinding it out. It's just meat-and-potatoes shit, like the Kinks on steroids. But at least they're a band, and they're writin' their own shit, as opposed to songwriters writing their music for 'em. The whole joy of being a real musician is writing your own music, you know what I mean? Backstreet Boys, 'NSync, all those bands — in Black Label, we call 'em "skin puppets," man, because that's what they are. They ain't real musicians.
DIME: But that's for somebody else, man. It ain't something for real music lovers at all. It's just a form of entertainment for some kids, you know what I mean?
ZAKK: I agree. But you look at Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page… I mean, Jimmy Page wasn't exactly Al Di Meola, but you can't take his songwriting away from him. Like "The Rain Song" — you can't take the fucking "Rain Song" away from Jimmy Page! He wrote that! Or Randy Rhoads playing "Over the Mountain." Or Eddie Van Halen playing "Eruption" or "Hear About It Later" -- not only did he perform it, he wrote it and played it! That's a real fucking musician. Bach, Mozart — all the greats always write their own shit, I don't care what anybody fucking says.
In our poll, among the Biggest Disappointments of 2002 was “No new albums by Metallica, Pantera, Van Halen or Guns N' Roses." Discuss.
ZAKK: The Guns N' Roses thing: I think Ax! should call up the old guys. No disrespect to the new guys, but the original Guns N' Roses lineup was flat-out one of the greatest bands that's ever been. It's just like, call the guys. I mean, how hard could it be to get Slash on the phone? Get the original lineup together, and make a fucking album that pisses all over Appetite for Destruction, and get it on. End of story, you know? That would be my biggest disappointment for the past year, and now that he's canceled all the fucking shows… the world's waiting for it to happen, you know? I think he's a great guy, and I think it could be massive. But then again, it's up to him.
DIME: Well, all I can say is, it's a touchy thing for me. If it's a disappointment that there ain't a Pantera record, I just want to let everybody know that it ain't because Dimebag Darrell ain't sitting here with a fucking cocked-and-loaded shotgun, ready to pull the fucking trigger. I've been waiting, ready to roll; so's my brother. Them cats [Phil and Rex] want to go do their thing. I've got a prepared statement I wanna lay on you, and I'd appreciate it if you'd print it verbatim, just like it is. That'll clear up the situation.
ZAKK: Pantera is the heaviest fuckin' band on the planet, brother!
DIME: Man, it's the only goddamn thing I ever gave a fuck about in my life, and it's an odd situation right now. It's not me holding anything back, that's all I can say. I respect the Pantera fans with all my heart. They've been so great to us for so long. Tell you, this last year has sucked the fucking biggest dong in the world for me and my brother. Since 9/11, it's just not been a good time. There's been a ridiculous amount of horseshit, and we're just ready to let this year pass on by I've had to reach inside, find my strength, get my shit together, figure out what I've gotta do, what I was born on this earth to do. It sucks, man. I miss the fans, I miss the music. But that's all right; we're gettin' some shit rolling, and it's coming.
What are your hopes and dreams for 2003?
DIME: Hopes and dreams for 2003? To have a better year than 2002! I'm looking forward to a better year, period -- gettin' back out and fuckin' rippin', comin' out with a kick-ass new record with New Found Power, and not lettin' anybody down, just goin' out there and throwin' down, doin' what I fuckin' do. This is what I'm meant to do, you know?
ZAKK: You wanna tell them about the album we were talkin' about doin' with you, me and Eddie Van Halen?
DIME: Break it out, dude!
ZAKK: We were sittin' there talkin' one day, and my wife just goes, "Why don't you and Dime make a guitar record together? I mean, you are guitar players, you're old friends. Why don't you just make a record together?" I said, "Yeah, it'd be a fuckin' piece of cake. We could put this thing together and then tour venues like the House of Blues, or whatever. We'd need a third guy, though." And my wife goes, "You're gonna have to call Eddie Van Halen for this one!"
DIME: Zakk done rang his ass and woke his ass up in the middle of the night! [laughs]
ZAKK: When we were on the Ozzfest, I'd call him up loaded. [laughs] I called him, he hung up; called him, he hung up; called him, he hung up; called him, he hung up. Then finally he goes, "What the fuck do you want?" I said, "Dude! We're gonna do this fuckin ' album — me, you and Dime from fuckin' Pantera!" He just goes, ''I've gotta figure out what the fuck's goin' on. I don't even know what's goin' on here at the fuckin' house! What are you fuckin' talkin' about?" It'd be like, everybody writes four songs on the record, and I'll just go, "Dime, what key is this fuckin' thing in?"
DIME: Send things back and forth till the shit's put together.
ZAKK: [to Dime] You've got the studio. We could do it up here, for fuck's sake!
DIME: Hey, strap Eddie down in Dime's compound! Hey man, no disrespect to Ed; if it weren't for Van Halen, I wouldn't be here.
ZAKK: There wouldn't be a fuckin' Pantera, and there wouldn't be a Black Label.
So you're still waiting to hear back from Eddie on that one?
ZAKK: Yeah, but it'd be fuckin' awesome.
DIME [laughs] Let's call him right now!