James Hetfield recalls Dimebag Darrell introducing him to solid-state amps: “He had this freaking amazing crunch going on”

James Hetfield and Dimebag Darrell
(Image credit: BSR Agency / Robert Knight Archive / Getty)

James Hetfield has been recalling the influence of Dimebag Darrell on his musical output and credited the Pantera and Damageplan guitarist with introducing him to solid-state amps.

Hetfield was being interviewed by SiriusXM’s Jose Mangin on his Metal Ambassador podcast when he was asked about Dimebag. The presenter notes the pictures of the two of them “are legendary” and that the Pantera man was “a gigantic fan of Metallica and covered your songs before he met you guys.”

“Well, what a blessing to have been in his life and him in my life," Hetfield replies. “Yeah, some of those early days... just traveling down there to the Dallas area and meeting with those guys and just hanging out.

“Dimebag introduced me to the solid-state amp. I remember he had this freaking amazing crunch going on. It was like, 'What is that?' You know? So yeah, [we] inspired each other. He inspired me as well. No doubt.” 

Hetfield and Dimebag initially met on the road when Metallica toured the US in 1985. At that time Pantera were still finding their feet as a glam metal-influenced underground band in Dallas, Texas. 

Lars Ulrich recently recalled the bond between the two acts, telling Revolver: “We’ve had a relationship with them for decades and decades.”

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For his part, Hetfield has since come to rely on solid-state amps, although not for the crunch sounds that he so admired in Dimebag’s rig. Instead he has long favored Roland’s Jazz Chorus combos for his clean tones. 

Over on the distortion side, Total Guitar recently interviewed producer Greg Fidelman about the amps on Metallica’s new album 72 Seasons, and he notes Hetfield used a “legendary” Marshall amp modded by Eddie Van Halen’s ‘amp wizard’, José Arredondo.

“James has combinations of multiple amps and the balance between them changes from song to song,” says Fidelman. 

“There’s always a Mesa Boogie Mark IIC++ that he’s had forever, and then this José [Arredondo-modded] Marshall – at least a combination of those two. There’s also usually a Wizard 100-watt head that’s usually got a Klon Centaur pedal on it. 

“He also has a Diezel head. When we need to find a bigger bottom-end, especially on the slower songs, we can bring that in. It has huge low-end that the other amps don’t have.”

To read the full Fidelman interview, alongside in-depth conversations with Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo, pick up the May issue of Total Guitar over at Magazines Direct.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.