Dimebag Darrell: Animal House
After pointing out some of his favorite toys in the humongous pile of beat-up effects pedals he “dicked around” with while making the album, we walk back to the house and settle down in the game room. Darrell sticks a rough-mix tape of Pantera’s eagerly anticipated fourth album into his stereo system. “I’m sorry that I don’t have any final mixes yet,” he grimaces as he hits “play” and cranks the volume. “I only finished recording the last of my lead shit yesterday.”
As the music kicks in, Darrell pours each of us the first of many Black Tooth Grins we will imbibe during our talk. It is Pantera’s official drink of choice, consisting of a healthy shot of Seagram’s 7 and a tiny splash of Coke.
“Our fans know that we ain’t gonna let them down and we haven’t,” he bellows over the music. After 11 tunes and as many shots later, all I can do is stagger and agree. Yes sir, once again, Pantera has delivered the goods.
GUITAR WORLD Describe Pantera today and how the band has evolved since the release of Cowboys from Hell seven years ago.
DIMEBAG DARRELL Right off the bat I’d say that all of us are more in tune with ourselves and each other than ever before. We’ve been evolving as Pantera the band—we’re not just another one of these groups where one or two guys are in the spotlight. We’re a fuckin’ band in the truest sense of the word. It takes all of us. We all go over each other’s parts together and make sure that we think it’s the shit. We give each other a flame—we rile each other up.
GW How would you describe The Great Southern Trendkill compared to your previous three major-label releases, Cowboys from Hell, Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven?
DARRELL It’s almost like a “best of,” man. Some of the riffs on it date back to our Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display periods. Hell, a couple of ideas even go back to before we got signed. For example, when we were still playing small clubs, I used to play a 20-minute solo that consisted of everything from Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” to Randy Rhoads’ “Revelation (Mother Earth)”—plus whatever else I felt like throwing in. A regular part of my solo featured a long-assed, “singalong” type lead section, which has ended up in a new song called “Floods.”
GW Speaking of lead work, my only grumble about Far Beyond Driven was that it didn’t feature enough guitar soloing.
DARRELL Well, there’s definitely quite a few solos on this one! But beyond quantity, I think that I’m developing more of my own identity, lead-wise. My solos are more focused. Some of ’em even have a melodic, theme-like vibe in places—like the one in “Floods.” Also, I’ve gotten into doubling my leads, like Randy Rhoads used to do. I’m not panning them right and left in the mix: it’s two right on top of each other. To a lot of people’s ears it might sound like I’m using a chorus or a similar type of effect, but it’s just me doubling my parts.
Yeah, there’s definitely some guitar playing on this bitch, and once again man, there’s a real live vibe in my rhythm work. If anybody wants to learn how to play these songs right, you can’t just learn the main riffs and then merely repeat ’em, you’ve gotta listen real close to catch all the little techniques, slurs and bends that I put in there. I think it’s the subleties that really add to the depth of our material, much more so than having some outrageous lead guitar jack-off in every damned song!
GW While there’s definitely more leads on Trendkill than on its predecessor, there are still areas where most bands would throw in a solo, but where you opt to lock in tight with the rhythm section and drive the riff home.
DARRELL Hey, I love wailing out leads as much as the next guy, but, as I’ve already said, only if it complements the track. And sometimes, that means not taking a solo. I don’t want to come off like I’m trying to take away from playing lead, though, ’cause I play fucking lead, man! I’ve worked hard on my technique, and it comes from the fucking heart, y’know. To me, though, playing what works best for the song is much more important than trying to impress other guitarists by jerking off all over the neck.
Sure, you can express yourself by stepping out as a lead player, but it’s always truly something to see a live band jam together on a riff and hump
it and ride it—it’s a jam session and that’s impressive right there, regardless of what type of music they’re playing. And we do that kind of shit a lot. When we work a riff, it’s not a lead break, it’s a band break.
For example, there’s a part in “War Nerve” that was originally gonna have a lead break over it, but we weren’t happy with the section I was supposed to solo over. Then, while we were working on improving the part under the lead, we came up with a riff idea that kicked so hard we said, “Fuck the lead, let’s ride on this instead—it’ll kill people when we jam on it live!” Basically, provding it’s a bad-assed part, you’re not gonna miss having a lead there. Pantera’s a machine, and when we all throw down on a wicked part it sounds real fucking tough.
GW Is there slide work going on during the title track’s solo?
DARRELL Yeah. That’s my favorite lead on the record. There’s some nice stuff that shifts from speaker to speaker and, like you spotted, I even broke out a slide at the end, which was a completely spontaneous thing. I’ve done a little slide work on our music in the past to add some extra brassiness to a part, like on that riff in “Strength Beyond Strength,” [on Far Beyond Driven] but I’ve never really tried to use one up on the higher register of the guitar until now.