Dimebag Darrell: Reinventing the Squeal
One of Dimebag’s longest-lived continuous manufacturer relationships was with Dunlop Manufacturing, which started making personalized picks for Dimebag shortly after Pantera released Cowboys from Hell. Dimebag and Scott Uchida, Dunlop’s director of artist relations, started discussing plans for making a Dimebag Darrell signature wah pedal around the time that Far Beyond Driven was released, but work on the project didn’t begin until 1996. The prototypes for the DB01 Dimebag Cry Baby from Hell were completed in 1997 in time for the Official Live: 101 Proof tour.
“Dunlop had just taken over the Fasel company,” Uchida recalls. “The Fasel inductor was one of the key parts of the Dime wah. Dime initially had a vision of one sound that he really wanted. We had just come out with the 535Q wah, which has six different range settings, and he decided that he wanted to have a wide range of selections for different rooms as well. When he played arenas, he could have a really wide timbre, but when he played smaller rooms he needed a different sound that was throatier, so he wanted to be able to turn it down a notch. Then we took it the next step further by developing a fine-tune knob that he could use to dial in tones that were ideal for concrete or wood platform stages. We later came out with the DB02 Dime wah, which had just the one main setting that Dime used all the time on his DB01, but that pedal has been discontinued.”
The Cry Baby from Hell wah pedal’s camouflage graphics were entirely Dime’s idea. “He liked the idea of having the pedal match his camouflage shorts, which he always wore,” Uchida says. “At first he sent me this drawing he did on a napkin. He wanted to have neon lights along the bottom edge, like you see on some cars, so he could see the pedal onstage. It was totally funny and off the wall. I don’t know if he was serious about it, but I told him that if we did that, all that neon shit was going to generate a ton of noise. He didn’t bring up the idea again.”
Next up was the MXR DD11 Dime Distortion pedal, which debuted in 2003. “Dime was with me in L.A., and we were talking about distortion pedals,” Uchida says. “He told me he’d like to be able to go to a club and not worry about getting a crappy guitar tone out of a Fender Twin or some other amp that’s obviously not metal. That led to the Dime Distortion. Dime’s sound then was a solidstate Randall amp, so it was pretty easy to simulate. We took two shots at it. He really liked the first one. Then our engineer Bob Cedro came up with the idea of scooping out the mids by pushing a button. When Dime saw that, he thought it was awesome. Dime wanted the same camouflage design, but not the same colors. The original one was supposed to be arctic camouflage, but we decided to go with the Desert Storm look instead, because the Iraq War was going on at the same time.”
Dimebag also started looking for a company to make him a signature pickup in the late Nineties, and he approached Seymour Duncan with his concept. Although Dimebag installed Bill Lawrence pickups in most of his guitars, he had new ideas about improving his signature tone that he wanted to explore and Duncan was willing to help him achieve his goals.
“Dime gave us one of his custom pickups as a reference for a starting point,” says Evan Skopp, business development vice president for Seymour Duncan. “He called it an L500XXL. His pickups were custom made exclusively for him, and they were not available to the public. There wasn’t a lot of consistency in those custom pickups, but he found the one example that he liked the most. We made some prototypes using a traditional, Gibson-style humbucker form factor, but we were not able to nail what he wanted.”
Duncan revisited the project in 2001 when Larry English approached them about making pickups for Dimebag’s Washburn guitars. “Washburn was an important OEM customer, and because their Dimebag guitars were mgood sellers we knew it would be worth our effort to produce a custom pickup to go in those guitars. To get the sound that Dime was looking for, we needed to tool up to produce this new form factor that was crucial to the pickup’s design. What’s unique about that pickup is that it has a very small amount of metal mass, which allows it to produce high output but not sound muddy or shift the resonant peak to lower frequencies. Dime needed a high output pickup to drive his tone chain, but he still needed to be able to retain high end. Injection-mold tooling is fairly expensive, so we needed to produce a decent amount of pickups to make the investment worth the cost. Once we had the commitment from Washburn, we were really able to give him what he was looking for.”
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