Dimebag Darrell: Regular People
A school paper lands a final interview with Dime.
The following interview was conducted by Joshua Gropp on Dec. 1, 2004, on Damageplan’s tour bus outside the Phoenix in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Gropp is a 22- year-old jazz-guitar student at Humber College in Toronto, and is also a guitar teacher. He interviewed Dime for the school newspaper, the Humber College Et Cetera.
JOSHUA GROPP When you were a teenager you were known for winning most of the local guitar contests. What was it that prompted you to enter those contests?
DIMEBAG DARRELL I used to go to this huge music store all the time, and they had these contests where you would go in and just jam out, put some riffs on a tape and do your most impressive shit and throw it in a box with your address on it. And the first one I entered I had only been playing for, like, three months, and I thought I had no chance. But that dream was always there, you know? And I won it—couldn’t believe it! After a few years, I had won seven in a row. Won all kinds of cool stuff: ESP guitars, Charvels, Dean guitars, Randall amps. When I went to enter again, they said, “No, dude, don’t even enter—you’re going to judge the next one.”
GROPP What sort of things were you practicing back then?
DARRELL I would just listen to records and learn what I could, then just roll it over and over and over. I tried to take lessons once, and the dude was really good and he tried to teach me theory and all that shit, but none of it made any sense to me. You know, to be just running up and down these scales when I could be playing fucking Randy Rhoads or something, I just didn’t find any enjoyment in it. I don’t know what kind of enjoyment dudes get out of it if they already know what a certain mode is going to sound like, or a certain scale before they go to it. It’s kind of like the cat’s already out of the bag, you know? There’s a certain amount of spontaneity that goes on whenever I’m jamming, and I don’t think that part of my playing would be there if I did learn all that shit. But yeah, lessons didn’t really work out for me, so I went to the old school, listening to records and learning what I wanted to learn.
GROPP In the past you’ve said that a person is influenced by everything you see and hear, whether you know it or not. Your dad had a studio while you were growing up, where he recorded a lot of local blues artists—do you think that music influenced you as well?
DARRELL Yeah, it definitely influenced me. I mean, everything gets in there one way or another, you know? I don’t know if it came from my dad’s studio or from listening to my mom’s eight-track Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes back in the day before I even knew what Van Halen was or Black Sabbath or Kiss. There’s a shitload of kick-ass blues players around here in Texas, and we go out a lot and check these guys out. And it’s going to get in there, you know? It’s not 150 percent pure metal for me my whole life, you know? I love rock and roll, I love the blues, I love King’s X, Merle Haggard, David Allen Coe, you name it. A lot of people that are in bands think you have to preach against every other kind of music in the world to be “hardcore,” but that, to me, is just Hitler bullshit. Go ahead and keep your fucking ears closed, you closed-minded fucks, I’m gonna be jamming. There are so many different things that music can do to you besides beat you between the fucking eyes, you know? Of course, that’s the favorite feeling, and you’ve got to have your favorite thing, but give me a goddamn break! Have some variety in the fucking shit, you know?
GROPP It seems that, with bands like Damageplan, Shadows Fall, Children of Bodom and others, guitar soloing is becoming more popular again.
DARRELL I think it’s getting a little bit more like that. For a while, people were like, “Fuck guitar solos—they’re boring,” but I never bought into any of that shit. And all the people that it was coming from were those dudes that play the seven string guitars that could only play the top four strings. So I think everyone that’s into guitar playing has been screaming out for the last couple years and now you see more dudes doing solos, or at least short little bits. But I’m not into the short bit thing—it almost seems like you’re putting it in there to say, “Look, I could do it if I wanted to.” But that ain’t the truth—either you can fucking rip or you can’t. I mean, what if Zakk Wylde put out a record and it had only two little short solo snippets? Dude, you would know that that ain’t right. You didn’t get the whole meal deal!
GROPP What advice would you give someone just starting out in this business?
DARRELL Well, if you’re just trying to make it and get rich in this business, just go ahead and hang it up right now. Between the record companies being the way they are and the fact that people can just download one song instead of buying a whole album, it’s hard to make a good living nowadays. But if you want to do it because you fucking love it, then go for it—that’s why we’re still doing it, because we love it. When I was a kid, I thought it was fucking Ace Frehley with the fucking smoking guitar, partying, fucking hell-raising all the time, non-stop. But once we got a record deal I found out how much work was involved. You’ve got to be really mentally set to take it on if you’re going to jump into the whole full-blown rig. You might be able to make some money and have some Gold or Platinum records, but people just don’t pay for music the way they used to, and it’s harder to make a good living in this business.
GROPP Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Darrell.
DARRELL Fucking awesome, man. You know, whenever you do an interview with somebody that’s truly into it and knows their facts, it’s a lot more like you’re just shooting the breeze with somebody, and that’s where the best stuff comes out. I damn sure know what I’m talking about, you know what you’re talking about, and it makes for a good fucking thing. So best of luck to you, and best of luck to everybody that wants to go out there giving it a pull.