Dimebag Darrell Discusses His Roots, Gear and Pantera in 1994 Guitar World Interview
Did you ever get to work in your father's studio?
Yeah, he'd pay me 20 bucks here and there to do piano overdubs or punch-ins while he was trying to do his vocals. So I learned quite a bit at an early age about how a studio works.
However, my brother Vinnie [Paul, Pantera drummer] is really the guy that followed in my old man's footsteps. He's a complete gadget hound and really knows his way around a studio. Vinnie, in fact, is partly responsible for my sound.
On our early demos, I was really frustrated with my recorded sound. I'd tell my dad, "Dude, I want more 'cut' on my guitar -- I want more treble." And he'd say, "Now, son, you don't want that. It'll hurt your ears." But my dad just didn't understand. Then Vinnie started getting behind the boards. That's when things started to sound the way I wanted them to sound.
Could you use the studio any time you wanted to?
Nope! No fuckin' way. And we never abused the privilege. The local motherfuckers who knew that my dad owned a studio would say, "Ahh, dude is spoiled," and this and that. But we didn't abuse it at all. I'd always ask if we could use the studio first, and if our dad didn't want us there he would tell us, and that was that. But I definitely tried to get down there as often as I could. [laughs]
Did your dad have any good advice regarding the music business?
Yeah: "Write your own music."
What's the worst advice he gave you?
To play by the rules. To tum down the treble knob because it will hurt someone's ears. My old man used to flip out whenever I would try to branch out and do something different. Although he didn't do it on purpose, he really held me back in the beginning. If something was a little too hot on tape or was distorted, he'd say, "Don't do that Darrell -- do it by the book."
You mentioned that your father taught you your first barre chords. Did he show you anything else?
I would go over to his house on weekends, bring a record of a tune that I wanted to learn, and he would show me how to play it. I think I took "Cocaine" over there the first time; not the drug, of course -- the Eric Clapton tune. First he showed me a basic barre chord version, then he showed me other ways to approach it with different chord inversions. So I would get little bits of information from him like that.
I also learned how to pick things off of records from him. That was back when people still listened to records. [laughs] I'd watch how he tuned to records, and he 'd say something like, "Son, these guys tune way down." And I'd ask him, "You mean there's a standard tuning?" I was completely clueless. He'd just help me put together the pieces. I watched how he did it and started doing it on my own at home.
So you never had any formal lessons?
Naw. I tried one time. I was in a rut and I wasn't getting anywhere, so I thought I'd just go up the street and get a guitar lesson off this cat. He wrote down some weird scale and tried to explain how it worked. After we finished he said, "Now go on home, practice that scale, and show me how well you can play it next week." So I took it home, played around with it for a few minutes and said, "Fuck this, I just want to jam."
I respect people that can read tablature and all that shit, but I just don't even have the patience to read the newspaper. I'll read three or four lines and that's it. I'm a spazzer, you know?
When did your brother Vinnie start playing drums?
That's a good story. One day Vinnie came home from school with a fuckin' tuba. My old man said, "Son, you won't be able to make a penny playing that thing. Take it back right now and tell them that you're going to play drums!"
A year later, I tried to hop on Vinnie's kit and hang with him, but Vinnie just blew me away. Our story is almost identical to the Van Halen story. Both Eddie and Alex played drums, but Alex killed, so Eddie decided to pick up the guitar. It was the same in our case. "Rigs" [Vinnie's nickname] definitely dominated me on the kit so I started playing guitar.
How did Vinnie influence you?
Vinnie taught me a lot about timing. For example, I can remember one day we decided that we were going to try to learn "More Than A Feeling," by Boston. We started jamming on it right before we had to leave for school. We were already late when Vinnie pointed out that I had left out one chord -- that I was coming out of one section before the beat had a chance to turn around. I'm like, "What are you talking about?" So he counted everything out for me and showed me where I was missing a chord. We went back and listened to the record and, sure enough, he was right.
It's always been like that. Vinnie is very knowledgeable. He was the one that paid attention in school! He learned all his drum rudiments.
That you and your brother worked closely together is easy to see. Your rhythm guitar playing, in particular, is very tight and percussive sounding -- you guys almost sound like you're playing a form of heavy metal marching drum rudiments in unison at times. What's it like playing in a band with your brother?
Great. We're more like best friends. I think we have a better relationship than most brothers because we're working for the same goal. In most families , one brother will be a doctor and the other will be a lawyer, or a street bum -- however it works out. I don't even know how to put this without sounding wacky, but we don't have a "push/pull" relationship at all. It's just very natural; we don't fight and shit.
Was there ever any rivalry between you?
A little bit, but not much. He always had the business sense and I had the street-level sense. We both respect our differences and, luckily, we're able to just kind of put the two together. But now that I think about it, he did kick my ass a few times when we were growing up. [laughs] All I can say is that I'm fortunate to have a brother that can rip on the drums like Vinnie Paul. I mean, it's hard enough to find someone that can just beat on the skins.