From the Archive: Dimebag Darrell Discusses Pantera's New Album, 'Reinventing the Steel'
This is the first record that you've made at your home studio.
I built a studio in my house. It's just a little box. It was my original dream to buy a house that had an extra barn or something that I could renovate so I could have a room to jam in with friends and with the band. I just wanted to keep my chops up while we had some down time. Vinnie dragged all the live recording gear into my practice room one night. We started doing demos, and they came out pretty good. The next thing I knew, I had my carpenter down there. It had already been through a three-month process of being soundproofed. All we needed to do was build a control room. I had my boys come over and build a 6-by-8-foot guitar box for my amps so there's some air for the mics, but the sound is isolated. We did the same thing for Rex's bass. Everything is sitting out in this open room that isn't even all that big. Instead of driving an hour to Dallas to go to a studio and sitting there, trying to get pumped up again after driving, it's so much cooler to have everybody come to my house.
What did you use to record the album?
We did it on a 48-track Otari Radar hard-disk recorder. My dad turned me on to the Radar. He said that we could do anything we wanted with it. It's a lot easier than rolling the old tape and splicing things together. You can do all of that inside the box. I've got Mackie boards that give me 100 channels of mixing, quite a bit of outboard shit, and our amps and our drums. We just have to plug it in, make sure it sounds kick-ass and then we go.
Vinnie Paul and I produced the album, and it was co-produced by our boy Sterling Winfield, who engineered 99 percent of everything. It was just we three. We did things on our own terms. It was like having your nuts on the chopping block, but that's not such a bad place to be if you can slide your sack off the block before the blade comes down. There's not a better feeling than knowing you beat the chopper.
Your guitar tone is more lively on this album.
Dude, it's a battle to capture the live sound on tape. The signal has to go through a lot of shit before the listener finally gets it. It's easy to lose that live feel by the time the guitar goes through all that. It's easy to sit there and get your guitar sound close to a final mastered sound when you're recording it to tape, but by the time it's gone through everything else it can end up sounding skinny or flat.
The trick is in the mastering. Mastering is the final stage, and a lot can get fucked up if you're not careful. When you get to mastering, you've got to find the magic mix that works once it goes through all the compression and eq'ing. We worked with Howie Weinberg, and he's a fantabulous motherfucker. We told him what we were going for, and he did what he does by his own ear. I guarantee that this is one of the loudest, if not the loudest, CDs you'll ever hear. This motherfucker is loud and stormin'. It's on the verge of breaking open. We rode it right to the edge, and then a little bit over it.
How do you feel about the new styles of heavy rock that have become popular over the last four years?
A lot of people think metal is metal, and that's all it ever was and that's all it ever will be: Let's put it aside and just strip elements from it. Let's rap over it. Let's turn on the record scratcher. Let's do all this crap to try to form some kind of new music. But it's not really new music. It's just ripping pieces from music that's already been done and piecing it together in a different way. But it's diluted.
When you get something that's pure, it's 10 times as powerful. It's like the difference between nonalcoholic beer and real beer. They're promoting it like it's beer, and it's not beer! Get the real deal.
A lot of dudes play a seven-string guitar that's tuned to an open chord, and they've got just enough strength in the first finger to chord it. There's power in that, and I can see how somebody can get off on that. But if you want to make the guitar sing and talk for you, grab a hold of those high notes and bend that motherfucker over the neck. Pull it down and wiggle it until it won't wiggle no more. Pull that vibrato bar, feed it back and throw it through the fuckin' amp. That's expression. That's speaking how you feel, if that's how you feel. Now, if you only feel like lifting your finger up and down on the neck, that's cool too, and you should enjoy it if that's all you feel.
A lot of people have seven-string guitars, yet they only play two or three strings. If you're only going to use three strings, why not just use a three-string guitar? Scott Ian of Anthrax has a four-string guitar, so he tells it like it is.
I'm not saying I wouldn't play a seven-string. It's just that I've never needed one. Most dudes who play seven-strings don't sound any different than someone playing a six-string that's tuned down.
What is the key to getting that tight but heavy low end?
Randall just made me this new amp called the Warhead. I used prototypes on the record. The regular Randall head kicks ass, but I always wanted a lot more grit, grain and saturation, so I had to put something on the front end to get the gain up there. My dream was to be able to plug into an amp and have it sound out of control. The Warhead has the extra gain that I like.
I also could never get the tone I wanted on an amp that just had mid, bass and treble knobs. This one has a midrange scoop on it where you can dip that nasty midrange frequency out, or if you want to go for some twang you can get more midrange out of it. A lot of amps don't let you get rid of the midrange. Even if you turn it to zero, it still honks at you. The last thing in the chain of the whole head is a nine-band graphic eq, which gives you complete control over your tone.
The amp is also 300 watts, so it's louder than fuck. It has a 4x12 on top and a 2x15 on bottom, because when you're starting to get around 100 to 50Hz, 12-inch speakers start to fart out. Everybody tries to get a mastered guitar sound off of a record to come out of their amp, but the eq on an amp can't get deep enough. I had the amp set up so you could get that tone out of it.
You also have a new Washburn signature model guitar.
My new guitar is called the Dime Stealth. Basically, it's the regular Dime III signature series model, but the wings are sharpened up and beveled off. It looks like a Stealth bomber. Only a Stealth bomber is silent but deadly, and this thing is loud and deadly. It's pretty mean lookin'. It ain't no candyass shit. The Stealth has the Bill Lawrence pickups, which have some killer harmonics. It's set up for all those high squeals, low-end chunk and whammy bar shit. I'm also playing the Culprit and my regular Washburn guitars.
Pantera is making a bold statement by calling this album Reinventing the Steel.
Every record we put out has a bold statement. Folks say, "You people from the South talk a mean game." Yeah, but we back it up, and we ain't even halfway where we're going.