Interview:Dimebag Darrell Reinvents Texas Metal
By Adam St. James
Born down in Dallas, raised on the rock 'n' roll road. That's an apt description of Damageplan guitarist and former Pantera member (Pantera founder, actually) Dimebag Darrell. While the truth may never be known about the breakup of his former band, Dime ain't too worried. His new group, Damageplan, is ready to whoop major ***, and Dime guarantees it!
Damageplan's debut disc, New Found Power, proves that the power in Pantera was all courtesy of Dime and brother/drummer Vinnie Paul. That power is now readily transferred to the new lineup, which includes former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman on vocals, and tattoo artist/b***ist Bob Zilla on the low end.
In this Guitar.com exclusive, Dime tells us about the new disc, the new band, and his new signature model guitars, amps, and pedals. F****n' A! T-totally Cool muthaf*****!
Dimebag Darrell: Adam? Dimebag. What's goin' down dude?
Guitar.com: I'm checkin' out the "Breathing New Life" video off your website. What are you doin?
Dimebag: I'm doin' pretty goddamn good. Just chillin' here at the house.
Guitar.com: It must feel good to get out there with some new people and rip it up all over again.
Dimebag: F****n' A. Fresh blood is the s*** man!
Guitar.com: I don't know your tour sked right now. Do you have some gigs in the States coming up? I know you've got Canada in June.
Dimebag: Dude, it's not all marked in. I haven't seen it yet either. I just know we're here for another couple days. I believe this Friday we play a Wisconsin gig. And then we go to Europe for like two weeks. And then we come back and do some Canadian dates with Slayer. Everything's kinda up in the air for the summer.
Guitar.com: I see you've got Milwaukee's Summerfest on July 1st. That's a killer festival. You ever been there?
Dimebag: I've heard all about it.
Guitar.com: You'll have like 20,000 people in front of you there.
Dimebag: Bad ***!
Guitar.com: So tell me about your latest guitar arsenal. Do you have any new gear?
Dimebag: We're always creatin' new s***. I've got new pedals comin' out with Dunlop. I'm always doin' s*** with the Dime guitars, always trying to upgrade and update 'em. I've got new paintjobs comin'. I've got the new Dime Warhead X2, which is the second coming of the Warhead amp. It's basically a stripped-down version of the Warhead 1. The Warhead 1 had so many bells and whistles on it that if you didn't know what you were doing, you could either tune it in really kick ***, or you could lose focus of what you were doing. I had so much stuff on that thing because I wanted everybody to have full control over it. But kids today just want to plug in and jam. So I've kinda just simplified the Warhead 2 so there's no way you can get any uncool tones out of it.
Guitar.com: What kind of pickups are you using in your guitars right now?
Dimebag: I'm using the Dimebucker, made by Seymour Duncan.
Guitar.com: And it's the same one that people can get in your signature model guitars, right?
Dimebag: Absolutely. I called them up and said, 'Send me a dozen of them.' And I put them in all my guitars. And every Dimebag guitar from Washburn comes stock with them. We're doin' some 59s in the neck position, and we're f'in' around with a couple of different hybrid pickups. We're always tryin' to make it better, tryin' to make it cooler. Ones called the Stealth, ones called the Dime 3. And that's pretty much all I play.
Guitar.com: And the Warhead 2? What are you doing to simplify the amp?
Dimebag: It's basically just 300 watts of pure molten steel. I had put so much on there: I had a nine-band EQ, mid-range scoop. All sorts of different stuff that, if you're not a super-technical guy, it can get a little too involved. A lot of kids today just want to plug in and rip, so I've simplified the X2 so that it's a little bit more idiot-proof, so to speak.
Guitar.com: Where are you tuning for the new Damageplan album?
Dimebag: You know, tuning to me is just one of those deals where Vinnie gets behind the drums, I pick up a guitar, and we start jamming. Usually we'll be into a groove immediately, and we'll end up rolling tape and writing a whole song. And when we go to double guitars and put bass on it, then we start going, 'Oh ***, where is this thing tuned?' I just grab a guitar and no matter what it's tuned to, if it sounds good, I go with it.
But mainly everything is C#, and sometimes drop the big string down a step. And the lowest we get is B across the board.
Guitar.com: B standard tuning?
Guitar.com: A couple years ago I wrote a lesson for Guitar.com based on a Pantera song, and the tuning was somewhere between C# and D.
Dimebag: The way the whole Pantera thing fell into place was just, back in the day, playing clubs, six nights a week, three one-hour sets a night. We started dropping the pitch down more and more for the singer, then we started getting into the heaviness of it. And we got to a spot we thought, 'There it is, that's our tuning.' And you put a little circle on your tuner, like this is where it is. We've never tuned normal, it's just one of them deals.
Guitar.com: And you're using your signature DR strings on all these guitars?
Dimebag: Absolutely. I really dig the DR. Everything about them. You pull them out of the package. You put them on, they tune right up, they stretch right out and settle real easy. A lot of strings keep f****n' with you back and forth, going sharp and stuff. Once you get up to pitch, you're pretty much set. And I'm doing Floyd Rose whammy bars all over the place, and pull back 10 steps, and stuff like that. And they don't do out of tune. And it's pretty f***ing amazing. They last as many shows as we wanna go back to back. My tech usually changes my main guitars every two gigs. He likes to keep 'em super fresh. But I put 'em on a guitar around the house for a year and they're still cool.
Guitar.com: These strings come in all different gauges. Which set do you use?
Dimebag: Depending on the tuning of the guitar. If it's tuned down low, low, low, the heavier string you use, so it ain't just floppin'.
Guitar.com: So you use the .011 to .050 set for that?
Dimebag: Right. On the tuned-up stuff I go with the .009s, which are a lot lighter.
Guitar.com: Ernie Ball has six different gauges of these sets.
Dimebag: Well, we don't have just two tunings. We actually - on songs like "Moment of Truth" - we just kinda f****n around with the tunings. We said, 'Man that sounds pretty heavy. Let's drop it another half-step just to see what it does.' And then we'd go another half, and it would get heavier, and we'd go another half. And there's actually a point around B and A# where the heaviness goes away and you just can't tell what the note value is. I don't know if there is such a thing as too low, but I think there is. It just gets mushy.
Guitar.com: Have you played baritone guitars, like the Fender Sub-Sonic?
Dimebag: Oh yeah. I got a couple baritones; we throw those in there too.
Guitar.com: You don't ever have different tunings in different parts of a song, do you?
Dimebag: No. We always make it where we're completely capable of playing it live.
Guitar.com: Are you recording analog or digital.
Dimebag: Pretty much digital. We do have the analog 24-track MCI in there. For warmth on s*** sometimes we'll fly it to analog just to get the warmth out of it, then fly it back to digital. But pretty much is cut on the Radar 2, and chop chop.
Guitar.com: You have your own studio out back of your house, don't you?
Dimebag: It's about 20 feet away from where I'm standing right now. It's not huge or nothing, but it's got plenty of room for what we're doing. It's just going to be the band and (producer) Sterling Winfield down there, anyway. We just go down there and crank up and start going at it. It was originally just gonna be just a jam room, so I could have friends come over and just get drunk and crank s*** up. But we rolled in the live recording gear, and here goes Vinnie making demos. And the demos sounded really good. And we've just kinda been buildin' on it for the past six or eight years.
Guitar.com: Do you engineer, or do you leave that to someone else?
Dimebag: In the main studio downstairs, I leave that to Sterling and Vinnie. I can cut somebody else's part, but it's kind of Vinnie or Sterling cuttin' that stuff. I have kind of a sister studio to it upstairs in my house. And that's just for me. Downstairs is always set up for whatever we're doing with Damageplan. We don't use it for anybody else, so the board is always set up for whatever ideas we have. The sister board upstairs, is just for me writin' rough ideas on four-tracks.
Guitar.com: Are you using Pro Tools downstairs?
Dimebag: They've got the Digi 01. We hooked that up for cuttin' a couple extra parts on the side. We don't really use it the way most people do. Most people use Pro Tools and they play a part one time, then chop it up and move it around and try to fix everything and make it perfect. We don't use it like that. We just use it like another couple extra tracks.
Guitar.com: With the new album, is your new singer playing any guitar at all?
Dimebag: No. He totally cut the guitar and picked up the singer role. Me and Vinnie have always been kind of a three-piece kind of thing: bass, drums, and guitar. And we weren't really lookin' for a two guitar arsenal. And when he said he wanted to be part of it, I told him I pretty much had the guitar handled. As much as I know he's a kick-*** guitar player and I love all those Halford records, [Editor's note: Pat Lachman was previously a guitarist in Halford, fronted by ex-Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford.] whenever we look at him live, and he's throwin' down, he's completely natural with what he's doin'. He totally kicks ***.
Guitar.com: Did he write with you or were the songs already written when he joined?
Dimebag: The majority of them were written before anybody was a part of it, and we were searching. Once he became a part of it - he's a great songwriter as well - and he moved to Texas and started helping with the arrangements, and just became a part of the whole thing. We all kind of pushed each other and took it to a new place. On the next round we'll all be writin' all together. It's pretty much always gonna be Vinnie and Dime writin' the music. Zilla (bassist Bob Zilla) will come up with his bass lines. And Pat will write the lyrics and sing his balls off. That's always been the formula, even in Pantera: Me and Vinnie wrote 99.9 percent of the music, and Phil wrote the lyrics.
Guitar.com: Bob's your tattoo artist as well?
Guitar.com: That's convenient.
Dimebag: Dangerous and convenient at the same time. We got a little ink slung last time we were out, but we're really just concentratin' on hangin' with the fans and kickin' *** with the show.
Guitar.com: And the fans have been supportin' you.
Dimebag: T totally cool man. I wasn't sure if there was gonna be a backlash and everybody shoutin', 'Pantera!' But that wasn't the case at all man. Everybody knows what happened, everybody knows the whole scoop. And they know me and Vinnie Paul never turned our backs on 'em, and they're there for us, man!
Take nothin' away from the Pantera days, those were some of the greatest years of my life. But when you do something so many times like that, it almost becomes - you know how people say, 'I could do that in my sleep.' - it almost becomes so routine and robotic that you don't even realize what kind of performance you're giving.
And all I can say is with Damageplan, motherf***ers leave with their butts seriously whooped when we leave! We play a good hour or hour and 20. We only have one record out. Back in the Pantera days we'd play 40 minutes sometimes, and that wasn't due to me or Vinnie. There's a lot of things that we've been cut loose with, that we're able to do with Damageplan that we weren't able to do with Pantera. We just think the fans deserve their money's worth. They deserve a full-blown ***-whoopin'. They get no bulls***. I get up and play a guitar solo, and people really get off on that 'cause nobody does that anymore. We use our capabilities in this band, and the fans are f****n' apes***.
Guitar.com: You've got to encourage them new bands you're playing with to do some soloing too man!
Dimebag: It's all up to them. I say if they can do it, get it out there!
Guitar.com: Well keep rockin' man. Thanks for your time dude.
Dimebag: Anytime Adam. Thanks for getting' the word out about Damageplan man!
About the Author:
Adam St. James joined Guitar.com shortly after the website launched in the summer of 1999 and has been the site's Editor for several years. He is the author of several guitar instructional books, including "101 Guitar Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use" (published by Hal Leonard), and fronts blues and rock bands in the Chicago area. See www.adamstjames.com for info on all Adam's books, bands, and barstool banter.
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