Dimebag Darrell: Reinventing the Squeal
The final product, which Dimebag tested extensively in his studio and onstage during Pantera’s latter days, was called the SH-13 Dimebucker. The pickup features a 5.1kHz resonant peak and delivers 16.25k ohms of DC resistance for exceptionally hot output. Unlike his L500XXL pickups, the Dimebucker features ceramic magnets instead of Alnico, which enhances the pickup’s treble response and maintains articulation.
The year 2004 was one of many changes for Dimebag. Pantera had officially broken up, and Dimebag was fully devoted to his new band, Damageplan. His contract with Washburn and Randall had also expired that year, which freed him to explore new relationships with other amp and guitar companies.
Dean Guitars resumed building instruments in 1997, and Zelinsky returned to the company in 2000. “One of my main goals was to bring Dimebag back to Dean, but we had to wait until his contract with Washburn expired,” Zelinsky says. “When that finally happened, we played phone tag for a week before we caught up with each other. We talked about a deal for several months after that. Washburn offered to renew his contract, and I told him that unless Washburn was willing to write him a check right then and there for $150,000, he should meet with me at Dean’s office in Florida.”
Washburn made Dimebag some tempting promises, but eventually Zelinsky convinced him to fly to Florida to talk about creating a new guitar. “It turns out that a hurricane was supposed to hit Florida on the day he arrived,” Dean remembers. “Dime called and told me he wasn’t going to come. When I arrived in Florida and went to the office I kept trying to reach him but I couldn’t. I went back to the airport to fly back home to Chicago, but I couldn’t get on a flight. Finally, I reached Dime on his cell phone. He said there was no way he was coming into a hurricane, and right then he walked around the corner.”
About two days after Dimebag returned home from Florida, Zelinsky received a fax with Dime’s crude drawing of the Razorback model. “I thought the design was cool as shit and had legs,” Zelinsky says. “It was the right way to go, and it was going to be our flagship guitar. I made the prototype in my garage using equipment I used to build Dean guitars back in 1977. I fine-tuned it with beveled edges and hooks, and it looked pretty sexy. I sent the guitar to him so he could evaluate it, but he only saw it for a minute before he had to hit the road. He was really ecstatic about the new design.”
Around the same time that Dimebag was rekindling his relationship with Dean Guitars, he also reached out to a new amplifier company, Krank. “I saw a review of a Krank amp in Guitar World,” Dimebag said during an interview at the Krank factory in Tempe, Arizona, in November 2004. “I told my old lady to give Krank a ring to see if they could shoot an amp out to me so I could check it out. When I plugged into it I was like, ‘Goddamn!’ I never played tubes before, because I never thought you could get that shred-your-head-off sound with tubes. With the Krank I got the warmth and the shred-your-fuckin’-face-off tone.”
Dime started using a Krank Revolution stack onstage with Damageplan, but he also started collaborating with Krank amp designer Tony Dow on a new model that became known as the Krankenstein. Dime called it a “super hot-rod hell-raiser version” of the Revolution. “I got rid of everything in my rack,” Dime said. “Now I go straight into the Krank and let it blaze. The less shit you run through, the more pure your tone is. I always thought that I had to have my six-band EQ and my PQ4 and jack everything up to high hell. Now I plug in and let it rip.”
Dimebag approved the final revision of the Krankenstein only days before he was killed, on December 8, 2004. Dime also had several other gear projects in the works when he was murdered. Some of these products, like the Dunlop Blacktooth pedal, which features a Jimi Hendrix octave fuzz in a wah pedal format, and the Seymour Duncan Dimebucker neck pickup, which uses the same design as the SH-13 Dimebucker but has alnico magnets and a lower DC resistance of 7.43k ohms to provide warm, woody neck tones, made it to prototype form and may go into production in the near future. Unfortunately, many of Dimebag’s other design ideas, including his plans for future guitar models, were lost forever. “Dimebag’s death was a bigger loss than we’ll ever know,” Zelinsky says. “He was really charged up and inspired, especially since he finally had a chance to work with me after all these years. I’m very proud of the work I did with him, but who knows what he would have accomplished if he was still with us.”
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