Dimebag Darrell: Home of Deranged
From the heartland of Texas comes Pantera guitar dude Diamond Darrell, a heavy thrasher born in the bosom of the blues.
It isn’t that Diamond Darrell, Pantera’s ace guitarist, is a reclusive guy. He’s just a little hard to find sometimes.
Follow these instructions: First, get yourself to Dallas, Texas. Don’t linger—there are lots of handguns in Dallas. Travel 20- odd miles south on the toll road, and make a right on a narrow strip that passes through what used to be a huge plantation. Climb a small rise crested by Luby’s Cafeteria, and head into a maze of truck paths in the lonesomest, most godforsaken industrial park you are ever likely to see.
Welcome to Pantego, Texas.
Just outside of town, squatting in a sea of scrub weed and rain-faded Coors Light bottles, is a brown block house. Tacked on the door is a single sheet of spoiled notepaper bearing a faded, penciled message: “Pantego Studios, closed session.” Some low rumblings reverberate ominously behind the door.
“This is home, I pretty much grew up here,” says Diamond Darrell, pushing aside a stack of fan mail and girlie mags to clear a place for himself and his beer bottle. The studio is part-owned by Darrell’s father, Jerry Abbott, an independent country and western producer. Darrell, his big brother Vinnie Paul, Pantera’s drummer, and bassist Rex spent most of their childhood jamming here in Jerry’s place. The walls are festooned with relics of two divergent musical careers: A Gold record which Abbott received for his contribution to a Jimmy Buffett album hangs side-by-side with a Xeroxed snapshot of Darrell’s buddy, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, flexing his biceps in front of a cactus, somewhere in the Arizona desert.
It was in these homey environs that in 1990 the band cut Cowboys from Hell, a killer 140,000-seller that put Pantera—and their namesake town—on the map. After eight years of thankless road work and four so-so independent releases, Pantera finally put it together with a sound that fused the rawest elements of thrash, hardcore, metal and Texas blues. The addition of New Orleans–bred singer Phil Anselmo—a hyperactive skinhead with a roller-derby approach to performance—has the band’s stage-diving cadre of supporters arguing with ever-increasing vehemence that Pantera is the world’s most raucous live act. For their part, Darrell and company have the Band-Aids, busted gear and bruises to prove it.
But the heart of the band has always been Darrell’s tight disciplined playing. Since he first picked up his dad’s guitar at the age of 13, Darrell has been perfecting his sound—the product of a bottomless bottom combined with a clarion-like lead tone and a blues man’s attention to the sound of each single note. On the road, Darrell’s presence transcends his role as guitarist. He’s a certified Lone Star Wildman, with burning-coal eyes and a crimson- stained fu-manchu moustache and beard. As one nervous management-type associated with the band apprehensively admits, “It’s a little scary sometimes. You never know what the hell this guy’s going to do next.” Which is to say that he likes partying hard and getting in people’s faces—especially mugs belonging to metal’s most self-important superstars.