Dimebag Darrell: The Wild Bunch
Can a Seattle anarchist, two liberal East Coast rockers and a Southern thrash man co-exist in peace and harmony? Pantera’s Diamond Darrell, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and Skid Row’s Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill sit down and face the nation.
They were summoned from the most distant reaches of the Unites States: four heavy metal dignitaries, representing three different schools of rock guitar. Given the divergent philosophies of the parties involved and the increasingly fragmented state of hard rock, there’s genuine fear that, far from proceeding harmoniously, this conclave of magnaheavies will degenerate into a vulgar street brawl.
Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, debonair in an old flannel shirt, is the first member of the distinguished panel to enter Guitar World’s luxuriously appointed conference room. The master of all things grungy and alternative clutches a small plastic bag in his right hand.
“It’s a box of Clorox,” confides the swarthy Seattle native. “I’ve got to wash my clothes after this is done. You can tell how well a band is doing by their laundry service. I think Guns N’ Roses has someone whose sole purpose is to dry clean. Skid Row sends their laundry out to a service every morning. We still have to do our own.”
Next to arrive is Pantera’s Diamond Darrell, one of thrash music’s finest new talents. The good Texan is immediately recognizable by his blue Dean Flying V guitar, an impressive thatch of curly hair and unusually long goatee, which he has partially dyed blood-red. When photographer Lorinda Sullivan compliments the cowboy from hell on his startling mane, he sneers good-naturedly. “My hair’s a pain in live performance. I’m always inhaling it: I almost choked to death a couple of times.”
After several minutes of general introductions, hors d’oeuvres and Rolling Rock beer and light conversation, the East Coast contingent arrives. Skid Row’s Dave “The Snake” Sabo and his collaborator, Scotti Hill, burst in and immediately inquire about the evening’s refreshments. After it is announced—to much applause and enthusiastic whooping—that
GW is picking up the tab, Darrell, Sabo, Hill and Thayil, distinguished headbangers of state, sit to talk.
GUITAR WORLD The musicians assembled here all grew up in a different region of the United States—Skid Row on the East Coast, Soundgarden in the Northwest and Pantera in the South. How, if at all, were your careers influenced by your point of origin?
SNAKE SABO Location was a real important factor in our success. Kiss was the first band that made a real impact on me, and they were from New York City, which is only a 35-minute drive from where I was born. It probably sounds silly, but their proximity made me feel that I could accomplish what they had accomplished. Success didn’t seem as remote as it might have if I had lived in middle America.
Also, all of the record companies had offices in Manhattan, which was just across the Hudson River. So when I started writing music and getting demo tapes together, I just talked my way through every door I could. I was very fortunate in that sense. Eventually we were signed to a New York–based label.
GW How about you, Kim?
KIM THAYIL We were affected by our location, but for the exact opposite reason. I think our sound developed because Seattle is relatively isolated. We were allowed to evolve naturally, independent of commercial pressures and various media trends. We didn’t really have the opportunity or desire to play for record people. No one even thought of getting signed, so we just did our own thing.
We were more influenced by Washington’s strong punk, hardcore and alternative scenes than by anything that came out of Los Angeles. Whenever bands like Sonic Youth, Minor Threat, Big Black from Chicago, the Butthole Surfers from Texas and Black Flag came into town, all the local musicians went to see them.
Scotti and Snake were fortunate to grow up near New York, because it has such a rich musical history. We had to create our own history. Our main point of reference was each other. On the positive side, it was a very supportive environment. All the bands went to each other’s gigs, and we constantly exchanged ideas.