Walter O'Brien: Strength Beyond Strength
GW Once the split occurred, a war of words began to play out in the media. Behind the scenes, how close was the band to getting back together?
O’BRIEN Well, the strange part is that they never really split. After Reinventing the Steel came out, they went overseas for a European tour, and 9/11 happened. The band was stuck in Dublin, and they cancelled the tour. They said, “We don’t want to be a very obvious American band driving around Europe in a bus right now.” About a week later we got them back to the States, and that was pretty much it. They never toured again.
But the three guys were always gung-ho to get going. They were ready to go into the studio the day they got back from Ireland. Dime was writing songs, Vinnie started writing songs, even Rex started doing stuff. We just could not get them together. Phil moved out to the country in Louisiana, and he wouldn’t answer his phone. We would have to contact his friends in New Orleans, and they would have to drive an hour into the country just to pass a message along. We tried every way to get them together but couldn’t do it. And this went on for a very long time. Eventually the guys said, “We don’t think Phil is ever going to come around.” And they started working on Damageplan. And that was it. I never talked to Phil again. And to this day nobody has ever told me that he quit Pantera.
GW Is it your belief that there would have been another Pantera record one day?
O’BRIEN Yeah, I really have to believe so. I know the three guys were always dying to do it again. And I know they were always ready to forgive Phil. And from what I was hearing from Phil’s friends, he was starting to come around too. But then, needless to say, Dime was murdered, and that put an end to that idea.
GW Publicly, Dimebag was such a gregarious, fun-loving personality. As someone who knew him very personally, was there a side of him that the world at large wasn’t privy to? A “private Dime”?
O’BRIEN To be honest, no, there wasn’t. He was pretty much exactly the same guy behind closed doors. It was genuine. I mean, maybe once in a while he could be a mean drunk, but that was generally only when the security guards were trying to throw him out of a casino. [laughs]
GW Do you have any particular fond memories of him that stand out?
O’BRIEN Actually, one of my favorite memories of Dime—and it happened dozens of times—was when it’d be six in the morning, we’d be at the eighth casino of the night, Dimebag couldn’t be more drunk, and about eight security guards would have us circled and would be walking us to the front door. It was like border collies and sheep. And every single time, at the very last second, Dime would break from the pack and run back and throw himself at the blackjack table, scaring the shit out of everybody sitting there. He’d drop $500 in chips and double down on, like, threes, or something really ridiculous. And he’d lose the $500. And then the security guys would come back, grab him and march him out the front door. And the whole time he’d be yelling at the top of his lungs: “Ya done took aawwl mah money! I just wanna stay here and have some fun!” He’d yell that over and over. He just wanted to have a good time. That was Dime.
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