Categories: Interview

by Michael Yarbrough


Categories: Interview

by Michael Yarbrough


Dimebag Darrell Interview

This Great Interview With Dimebag Darrel, first published on 4th April 1994 in Guitar World Magazine.

Dimebag  Darrell abbott. High priest of six-string destruction is feeling ornery. His eyes narrow as he slowly picks up his metallic blue deam guitar. Cradling it like a sawed off shotgun. The self proclaimed “cowboy from hell” begins to frown. It’s obvious that he has something urgent on his mind.

I grew up a heavy metal kid and we were a heavy metal band.  He growls in a rapid fire Texas twang. I know it’s not fashionable. But I’m proud to say that’s what we are and that’s what we do. It kills me when I see some metal brand trying to pass themselves off as an ‘alternative brand, well. Dude, they can join the pack. But well remain true to our roots while shit keeps twisting around us.”

And twist it does.

While the rest of the rock world continues to be preoccupied with the next big Lollapaloser. Pantera has been steadily reinventing and reinvigorating heavy metal for the nineties. By combining the rawest elements of thrash. Texas blues and hardcore, the band has created a new from of metal-one that is rhythmically aggressive. Sophisticated in construction and yes even hip. At the epicenter of pantera’s musical mosh pit in the band’s larger than life guitarist, Dimebag Darrel. His trademark crimson goatee. Custom guitar and colorful command of good ol’ boy slang has made him a hero among hard rock fans. But his bone-rating rhythm work. Inventive soloing and distinctive razor-sharp “Darrell tone” is what has made him a legend among a whole generation of guitarist searching for a new Adword Van Helen. And like Van Helen. The key to the texam’s large talent is his healthy disregard for rules and regulations.

My old man and asked if I could trade my bike back for the guitar. {laugh } actually, I didn’t ask him that, but if I was slick, that’s what I would’ve done! [ didn’t get my first guitar until my next birthday. I was about 11, and he gave me a les Paul copy and a pignose amp.

Initially, [ just used the guitar as a prop I’d pose with it in front of a mirror in my kiss makeup when I was skipping school. Then I figured out how to play the main riff to deep purple’s “smoke on the water” on just the string started getting really heavy. But I think the turning point came when discovered an electro-Harmonix Big muff fuzz. Feedback! Distortion! Dude, that was all she wrote.

Question: Did you ever get to work in our father’s studio?

DARRELL: Yeah he’d pay me 20 bucks here and there to do piano overdubs or punch-ins while he was trying to do his vocals. So learned quite a bit at an early age about how a studio works.

However, my brothers Vinnie {Paul, Pantera drummer} is really the guy the followed in my old’s man’s footstep’s. He’s a complete gadget hound and really knows his way around a studio. Vinnie infact Is partly responsible for my sound.

On our early demos. I was really fuss treated with my record sound. I’d tell my dad, “Dude I want more ‘cut’ on my guitar I want more treble. And he’d say “Now, son you don’t want that. It’ll hurt your ears. But my dad just didn’t understand. Then Vinnie started getting behind the boards. That’s when things started to sound the way I wanted them to sound.

Question: Could you use the studio any time you wanted you?

DARRELL: Nope! No fuckin way. And we never abuse the privilege. The local motherfuckers who knew that my dad owned a studio would say, Ahh” dude Is spoiled and this and that. But we didn’t abuse it at all. I’d always ask if we could use the studio first, and if our dad didn’t want us there he would tell us. And that was that. But I definitely tried to get down there as often as I could {laugh}

Question: Did your dad have any good advice regarding the music business?

DARRELL: Yeah: written your own music.”

Question: What’s the worst advice the gave you?

DARRELL: To play by the rules. To turns down the treble knob because It will hurt someone’s cars. My old man used to flip out whenever I would try to branch out and do something different. Although he didn’t do it on purpose. He really held me back in the beginning. If something was a little too hot an top or was distorted, he’d say, “don’t do that Darrell-do it by the book.”

The worst advice I ever received from my dad was to play by the book. “explains Darrell. My old man used to flip out whenever I would try to branch out and so something different. Although he didn’t do it on purpose. He really held me back.    

Question: You mentioned that your father taught you your first barre chords. Did he show you anything else?

DARRELL: I would go over too his house on weekends, bring a record of a tune that, I wanted to learn, and he would show me how to play it. I think I took “cocaine” over there the first time; not the drug, of course – eric Clapton tune. First, he showed me other ways to approach it with different chord inversions. So, I would get little bits of information from him like that.

       I also learned how to pick things off of records from him. That was back when people still listened to records. [laughs] I’d watch how he tunned to records, and he’d say something like, “son, these guys tune way down, and I’d ask him, you mean there’s a standard tunning?” I was completely clueless. He’d just help me put together the pieces. I watched how he did it and started doing it on my own at home.

Question: So, you never had any formal lessons?

DARRELL: Naw. I tried one time. I was in a rut and wasn’t getting anywhere, so I thought I’d go just up the street and get a guitar lesson off this cat. He wrote down some weird scale and tried to explain how it worked. After we finished, he said, “Now go an home, practice that scale, and show me how well you can play we next week. “So I took it home, played around with it for a few minute and said, Fuck this, I just want to jam.”

         I respect people that can read tablature and that all shit, but I just don’t even have the patience to read the newspaper. I’ll read three or four lines and that’s it. I’m a spazzer, you know?

Question: When did you brother Vinnie start playing drums?

DARRELL: That’s good story. One day Vennie came home from school with a fucking, tuba. My old man said, “son you won’t to be able to make a penny playing that thing. Take it right now and tell them that you’re going to play drums!”

A year letter, I tried to hop on Vinnie’s kit and hang with him, but Vinnie blew me away. Our story is almost identical to the Van Halen story. Both Eddie and Alex played drums, but Alex killed, so Eddie decided to pick up the guitar. It was the same in our case. “Rigs” [ Vennie’s nick – name ] definitely dominated me on the kit so I started playing guitar.

QUESTION: How did Vinnie influence you?

DARRELL: Vinnie taught me a lot about timing. For example, I can remember one day we decided that we were going to try to learn, “More than a felling, “By Boston. We started jamming on it right before we had to leave for school. We were already late then Vinnie pointed out that I had left out one chord-that I was coming out of one section before the beat had a chance to turn around, I’m like, “what are you taking about? So he counted everything out for me and showed me where I was missing a chord. We went back and listened to the record and, sure enough, he was right. It’s always been like that. Vinnie is very knowledgeable. He was the one that paid attention in school! He learned all his drum rudiments.

QUESTION: That you and your brother worked closely together is easy to see. Your rhythm guitar playing, in particular, is very tight and percussive sounded-young gays almost sound like you’re playing a from of heavy metal marching drum rudiments in unison at times. What’s it like playing in a band with your bother?

DARRELL: Great. You’re more like best friends. I think we have a better relationship than most brothers because we are working for the same goal. I’m most families, one brother will be a doctor and the other will be a layer, or street bum, however it works out. I don’t even know how to put this without sounding wacky. But we don’t have a “push/pull” relationship at all. It’s very just very natural; we don’t fight and shit,

QUESTION: Was there ever any rivalry between you?

DARRELL: A little bit, but not much. He always the had the business sense and I had the street level sense. We both respect our deference and, luckily, we are able to just kind of put the two together. But now that I think about it, he did kick my ass few times when we are growing up. { laughs} All I can say is that I’m fortunate to have a brother that can rip on the drums like Vinnie Paul. I mean, it’s hard enough to find some-one that can just beat on the skins.

QUESTION: What do you contribute to pantera’s songwriting process?

DARRELL: Every song is different. There are no plans, no formulas. We know it’s got to jam, and that’s about it. When we started this album, I didn’t have as many riffs written as I’ve had in the past, but I had a vision of what I wanted. I knew it was going to be one bad motherfucker – refreshing, new, and that’s what it was.

QUESTION: How do you write your riffs?

DARRELL: A couple of songs were actual – ly written in concert. If you improvise a riff and the crowd immediately reacts to it, you know you’re on to something.

QUESTION: You rarely hear of a band that will take a chance on improvising new riffs on stage these days. Everyone seems so well – rehearsed and conservative.

DARRELL: Ah shit, you know us – the most dangerous band in heavy metal! Let me tell you a story. We wrote practically all of “25 years, “of the new album, in con – cert. One night, in front of a packed house, we just started jamming and camp up with the main riff in the song. Phil so really getting into it he started making Sug – gestions while we are playing. At one point he told us to stop. So we stopped. And he said, “dudes, go into a straight chug right there, “This is in front of hundreds of people! We just put the crowd on hold for a few minutes while we put the song together. I don’t think anybody minded, they just sat there and checked us out while we worked things through.

QUESTION: How is this album different for you?

DARRELL: We – ve been getting into the band thing. I ‘ve been trying to look more at the big picture-trying to figure out what’s appropriate for the tune. For example, we were working on this very aggressive song called “slaughtered, “and at first we decided that we are going to insert a slow, melodic lead guitar part into the middle of the tune. But while we are working on the slow section, everyone was just sipping on their beers and staying kind or quiet. Then I realized that the tune had lost of Momen- tum and its power, so I said, “Fuck the lead. “The big picture, man, that’s where it’s at.

QUESTION: “Five minutes alone is another of the album’s songs that features a pretty minimalist lead.

DARRELL: In my guitar world column [“Riffer madness”], I’m always talking about getting on one note and holding, felling it. So one day I was out in my garage, just dicking around on my eight-track, trying to figure out what “Five Minutes alone” needed. Since I was only going to take a short solo, I started asking myself, “Do I need to burn something real quick for the sake a burning?” “never was the answer. Then I thought, “why don’t you take your own advice?” so I hit that one note and it really felt good. At first I was going to hop of it, but then I thought, “no the one note, dude. “And I hung, and hung, and hung. Then I started bending the string up and down until it sounded like a siren, and that is all that song needed.

QUESTION: I noticed and experimental edge on the new album: “good friends And a bottle of pills “has an almost industrial feel. “hard lines, sunken cheeks” is epic in length and mood. And your cover of black sabbath’s “planet caravan” even features bongos and acoustic guitars. Did you intentionally set out to broaden the band’s vision?

DARRELL: we never plan anything: we just let nature take its course. But if you ask me, we did you broaden our on vision on this album. Actually, when I presented a demo of “Hard lines, sunken cheeks” to the brand, I thought I’d get mixed reactions, at best. But everybody dug it And fell saw the possibilities right away.

Musicians tend to get bored playing the same thing over and over, so I think Its natural experiments. On “good friends, “for example, I instead of a playing tradition-al solo, I just open my guitar up all the way and let it feedback for effect.

QUESTION: That’s so cool section, but it sounds like the feedback is being the effected somehow.

DARRELL: Good ears, dude. I discovered the pure feedback wasn’t quite enough, so I added a Digitech Whammy Pedal to the equation, which helped produce a sound that was completely fucked up!

QUESTION: I hear the Digitech Whammy pedal on several other tracks. You used the pedal ‘s harmonizer feature on the solo for “strength beyond strength. “How did you have it set?

DARRELL: I don’t really know! Like I said before, I don’t really have any training in theory, so just kept turning knobs until I found the most wicked sound. Actually, there are two guitar playing that lead, one is the playing lead without effect, another guitar is doubling it with the whammy ped-al, and both are going through one of those little 10-watt Marshall heads to produce what I call my “free sound. “it’s the sound that I get one my eight-track demos.

QUESTION: Is that the whammy again on “Becoming”?

DARRELL: yes, sir I’m using it on the rhythm part. I depress it on the third beat of every other measure to produce what Phil calls the “step on the cat” effect.  It’s to bad that you noticed it was a whammy pedal, because we were going to tell people that we are abusing an animal to produce that sound- you know, “we were jumping on a cat, then we simply plugged a cord up its as and threw a little eq on it. “That was one of the songs that started with Vinnie’s incredible drum grove. Because I used the whammy pedal on the rhythm part, I decided to use it on the lead as well. The only thing I had between my guitar and my amp was my Dunlop Wah and the whammy, so like an idiot I decided try and play my solo using both effect simultaneously. I figured it was going to sound horrible, but everyone started saying, that’s cool. ”so I kept it, and then I doubled it and it was done!

    I know some of yours readers are going to rag at me and say, “Aw” dude, anybody could’ve done that. But I let me tell you, I’m the kind of dude that would do that. And the record, not at, “show and tell. “

QUESTION: when I first heard, “Becoming’ “I thought, “someone is actually come up with some new sounds.”

DARRELL: Noises, dude! Tones and noises!

QUESTION: while we’re on the subject of rude noises, what’s going on at the beginning of “Good Frends And A Bottle Of Pills’?

DARRELL: I was standing next to Vinnie, who plays drums really hard, and I was slowly moving my volume knob to see how far I could go before the guitar started feed-in back. I had my guitar running through and old MXR flanger, and my intention was to just make a little bit of racket in the beginning of the song. Just by chance, the pickup started picking up Vinnie’s snare drum and it popped the gate open. So the drum is actually triggering the guitar, and that’s what your hear.

QUESTION: Are you playing an chords?

DARRELL: Naw I’m just standing there drunk, fucking around with my volume knob, { laughs }

QUESTION: Since we’re interested in details, what were you drinking?

DARRELL: Corrs lite, dude.

QUESTION: let’s talk about a solo where you do let your fingers fly. The double tracked-tracked lead on “I’m Broken” sounds like an homage to Randy Rhoads.

DARRELL: All right! You heard that? That’s right on the money. People always ask me about my influences. I learned about double-tracking leads from Randy-Especially the way he played them. He played them tight but loose, so they would flange just I little and that’s what I tried to do on ‘’I’m Broken. “

QUESTION: Was Randy important to you?

DARRELL: Fuck, yes. If he was still around, there’d be on telling what that cat would be Bustin, off. To me, Eddie Van Halen was heavy rock and roll, but Randy was heavy metal.

QUESTION: Do you fuss much over your parts?

DARRELL: I try to do things in one take, but doubling rhythm parts is always difficult, especially if you want things to cut the way I want them to cut. Each track has to be precise, and that is a problem on a rhythmically complex track like “Slaughtered, “The first run through is always cool, but the second is always the bitch. In fact, I think “Slaughtered” was the most difficult track on the album. It was a nightmare to double. It’s the shit once you’re done with it, but getting there is hell. We actually went with more loose doubles then on hour previous records, but something it has to be right on the money and that’s where the fussing comes in, I mean goddamn, I wish sometimes I could just do an Edward Van Halen-rhythm track on one side, river on the other, and live it alone. But that’s not my style.

QUESTION: what was your workhorse amp add guitar.

DARRELL: I stuck to what I’ve always used-Randall amps, and my main guitar is still my blue ’81 dean with the kiss stickers. [ see this month’s collector’s choice centerfold ] The guitar just can’t be topped. I use that on all the songs that are in standard tuning. When we tune down to D, I use my brown tobacco Brust dean.

        The only thing that was really different on this album is that the signal from my guitar was routed through three Rendall amps which were recorded simultaneously on each track-three amps mixed down to one track One stack was effected with my MXR flanger, for a kind of hollow sound another stuck was just straight up and dry, and the third was set similar to the dry stack except that it had a little more gain. Separately. One sounded horrible, one sounded great and the other sounded incredible.

QUESTION: I know you’re a fan of vintage effect pedals, like the MXR flanger. where do you get them?

DARRELL: pawn shops, man.

QUESTION: where are the best pawn shops?

DARRELL: The best ones are anywhere where the owner doesn’t know the value of his merchandise. { laughs } Part of the fun is just talking trash with the dudes that run the shops, It’s like, “dude, what’s up with this fuckin thing?”

         One time I was checking out some gui-tars amps and effects at a pawn shop and the store owner unintentionally gave me a defective cord. So plugged it into an effect that I wanted and started kicking the box around so the cord would crackle. As soon as I got the store owner’s attention, I started pretending it was the effects box that was broken. I started cursing and calling the effect a “no good piece of shit,” He said “it was working fine three weeks ago. We gave up 30 bucks for that thing. So I said “well it can sit here and not then. Nobody’s gonna pay for this thing.” So I said, “well, it can sit here and not then. Nobody’s gonna pay for this thing” in the end the dude sold it to me for five bucks!

QUESTION: Since this interview will appear in our special “Survival Guide” issue I wanted to ask you a few question about life on the road. What was your biggest disaster while touring, and how did you fix it?

DARRELL: I’ve weathered broken head stock, fried pickup stagedivers breaking my pedals, guitar cutting out and stack going down. I’ve been knocked out, banged up and I’ve run out of seagram’s. all that stuff is coll-I cendeal with it. But the top things that’s tooled me, the worst thing? Food poisoning. I got food poisoning in Venezuela, and it sucked! I couldn’t do anything for two weeks but shit and sweat. And how to cure It? Stay in bed.

QUESTION: what are five things needed to survive on the road?

DARRELL: Bear taco bell joints Whisky a Walkman, and a little acid for long bus for trips.

QUESTION: Places to avoid?

DARRELL: Venezuela got there and found out that we are supposed to play this baseball field that was crawling with bats, snake and huge blue carbs. We were going to cancel, but we were told that if we did that the government might try to plant drugs on us and arrests us, so we decided to play the show. That day  11 kids were treated for snake bites and that night and got the food poisoning that almost killed me. It was pretty crazy.

QUESTION: What is the Pantera philshopy?

DARRELL: go for it, go with it, but just don’t fuck with us.

QUESTION: Finally, once and for all, is it Dimebag or Dimond?

DARRELL: it’s whatever you want it to be.

QUESTION: How about “Five And Dime” Darrell?

DARRELL: “Five And Dime” is beautiful – it may be the new one.  

  Also check:

Interview with Killswitch Engage


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