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Metal Edge, November 1997

Fans have been salivating for live music from Pantera for years, and now they’ve got it in two highly potent forms: the Official Live: 101 Proof CD (featuring two new studio tracks) and a new home video called 3: Watch it Go, now available as the road-loving band, following a much-praised stint on the Ozzfest tour, is about to embark on another headlining trek that will send Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo, Vinnie Paul and Rex Brown through the States once again through the end of the year. On a brief and welcome break, guitarist Dime and his drummer brother Vinnie called separately from their homes in Texas with an update on all things Pantera.

How and when did you decide to do a live album? How did it all come together?

Dimebag Darrell: Well, we wanted to do a live record eventually. We knew that a ways back, but we got the recording gear out and we started recording and everything just kinda fell in place like it did. It was just getting to the point of where so many kids were coming to our in-store record signing parties and they were bringing these bootleg fuckin’ CDs… over like 50 of ‘em I think. It’s ridiculous. Some kid’s standing out in the crowd with a little pocket recorder, it’s completely distorted. We wanted to do it the Pantera way, the official, live, 101 proof, pure ass-kickin’. That’s why it’s called Official Live.

Vinnie Paul: We do a lot of in-stores when we’re on tour and fans are constantly bringing us these bootlegs. We listen to them and they’re horrible. Nothing we’d ever put out, and people are charging $30-$40 for an import CD. But fans want Pantera live because that’s what we’re about. We’re not on major radio or MTV and if we are it’s very rarely. Our live element is what we’re all about and we figured after four studio albums and all the touring we’ve done we wanted to put out something that wasn’t a rip-off to the fans. We didn’t want to make an expensive double CD, we wanted to keep it to one CD and keep the price down, and we thought if we gave them two new studio songs it would be more of a value. It’s not two leftover tracks, we went into the studio and did them in two days – wrote, recorded, the whole nine yards.

How did you decide which songs were gonna make the record?

Dimebag: Well, we have our own way of looking at hits. Hits ain’t necessarily what’s on the radio or whatnot. We buy a record and we go, “That’s the hit right there,” and it’ll be like some obscure song that’s totally not a real hit. We have the ones that we know are hits with our fans that are the jammers. I think it covers a pretty damn broad spectrum, from Cowboys to Vulgar to Far Beyond Driven to Trendkill. A couple from each. We were recording that for like a year and a half and we just sit down and we–me and Vinnie Paul– sat down and we started listening to the tapes. We pretty much took everything from the last tour, the ‘96-’97 tour, and it’s taken from various cities.

How many different shows are represented?

Dimebag: I know there’s Chicago, there’s an L.A., there’s a New York, there’s a McAllen, Texas, there’s a Phoenix. I don’t have the list in front of me. We just like turned on the tapes out front and rolled ‘em every night. Instead of taking like one solid live performance we just took the best of the best.

A lot of live albums are touched up in the studio. Did you do any overdubs?

Dimebag: Sometimes it was, “Oh man, I love this track. The fucking crowd’s going crazy. I remember that night, this was on fire.” But you’re missing a snare drum or something didn’t get recorded. That’s when we said, “Since we dig this night so much, we’ll fix that one thing.” it was everything that was technically fucked up that got fixed. But we did not break everything down and re-record everything and tighten it up and you know, manipulate it to make it sound like that. It is definitely raw and live and straight up. The way things were recorded is directly to a digital recorder and we had the crowd tracks turned off at some points. We’re going, “Man, this sounds too close, this sounds almost like our fuckin’ records. Turn the fuckin’ crowd up.” It’s gotta be live.

The two new songs are great. When were they written? At the same time as Trendkill?

Dimebag: They are definitely not leftovers from anything that we’ve had laying around. It’s not anything we scrounged up and threw out there. We wanted to do something special for the fans. Instead of just giving ‘em another live album we wanted to give ‘em at least two new studio tracks. That was pretty fuckin’ tough to pull off, we wrote ‘em four days before we went back on tour with the Ozzfest. We wrote the songs in two days and we tried to mix ‘em in two and get it all together and we almost got there and then we had like a break like two weeks into the tour where we had two days off. We flew here and we finished mixing ‘em and then went back out and the next time we had two days off we went to New York and mastered. Then on the next couple days off I started flyin’ back and forth home here to do the home video and then we moved the home video to Chicago and I was flyin’ in and out of Chicago. And it came to a point I was like fuckin’ croak, ya know. We been bustin’ ass tryin’ to get this out for the fans because they deserve it and hell, that’s what we’re here for.

So the new songs came together very quickly.

Vinnie: Yeah, we had some ideas, Dime always has guitar ideas, Phil came up with some lyrical things. We got in and started jamming. We didn’t try to polish them up, we did the typical Pantera thing. The only thing that’s different is we didn’t have [producer] Terry Date around which was fine because I always wanted to do something with the band without Terry being there. I’m sure we’ll work with Terry in the future but it was a challenge and a lot of fun to go and do it. We went for more of a meatier sound.

Dimebag: It was the same thing Pantera always does. I usually come up with a riff. I had both riffs. We kinda played over a couple things, got a broader idea of the deal. We all kinda had the shit kinda undulatin’ in our heads and we just went down to the studio… that’s why it doesn’t take us too long, because we’ve been writin’ for so long, we know each other’s minds and what they’re thinkin’. We can kinda move quickly through stuff and we can tell if it’s gonna work or if it ain’t gonna work real fast.

How about the lyrics?

Dimebag: Phil wrote them right here in my front room while we were down there cutting the song, after we put the song together.

Do you know what inspired them?

Dimebag: Once again the lyrics are personal experience and it’s a way to get things off his chest. And if you read the lyrics and you check it out closely I think you’ll know where it’s coming from on “Where You Come From.”

And “I Can’t Hide?”

Dimebag: That’s right. It’s a positive way of putting the past behind.

Phil has been through a lot this year.

Dimebag: Oh yeah. But hey man, shit’s so far on track and it’s so strong right now. We’ve been playin’ fuckin’ awesome shows.

Vinnie: Everybody is refocused and rededicated to the band. Phil has overcome all of his things he’s been through.

So the long-awaited home video is finally coming out. How many years have you spent on it now?

Dimebag: Uh, two and a half, three. We just been filmin’ and tourin’ and keepin’ the tapes. We hadn’t really been keepin’ up with them or dubbing stuff off. They’ve just been going in boxes so it’s like thousands…

How do you possibly go through all that?

Dimebag: Well my cameraman Tongs knocked away at it until he couldn’t see anymore. I knocked away at it until I couldn’t see anymore and then one of my closest friends, this cat named Ezra, the only one last person I could trust, went through the rest of it. There was a hell of a lot of it and then we had to go back through and chop that down one more time. It will probably be one-hour-forty-five to two hours.

What’s in it?

Dimebag: Drinkin’, jammin’, fans, some of the unbelievable shit I can’t believe that we’ve made it through.

Concert footage, of course.

Dimebag: Yeah. there’s plenty of that. We’ve got the videos from Far Beyond Driven and Trendkill. There’s this photo shoot we did way the hell out in Caracas, Venezuela, up in the rain forest by this waterfall where it’s real slippery, and we’re going, “How are we going to get down?” I don’t want to blow it all, but I'll say this: It’s Pantera all the way, full blown, on fire, like we always are and it’s got a different angle to it. It’s not just a continuation of the first and second home videos.

Tell me about Ozzfest. What were the highlights for you?

Dimebag: Gettin’ to jam on the same bill with Ozzy and Black Sabbath and all of the bands we’d already made friends with and a couple of bands that we hadn’t made friends with or hadn’t met yet. We got to do that so it was one big, huge family thing. I guess one of the all-time highlights would have to be sittin’ on the side of the stage during Black Sabbath drinkin’ Ozzy’s pails of water. We were drinkin’ out of his holy water and we were just so into just jammin’ with Sabbath. We just came back from doin’ [shows with] Kiss and that was like…. fuck! This is it. I can go ahead and die now. We did that one fill in, the one night in Columbus, Ozzy couldn’t make it – he was sick, and we got up there and just jammed on some stuff. I got to jam a little bit of guitar with Joe Holmes on “Suicide Solution” and got to sing the second half of “Bark at the Moon.” I got to squirt Ozzy’s squirt gun. The whole thing was fuckin’ awesome, very much so. And everybody was a class act. Ozzy and Sharon treated us so good. It was great. We had a great fuckin’ time. The only tough thing about it was starting that early in the day. Having a cocktail, you know, kinda kicks a man’s ass!

Vinnie: That was probably the funnest tour I’ve ever been on. Kiss was short and sweet but as for a full tour, it was great to be back with the Type O Negative guys, we’d toured with them before and they’re like brothers, and all the new bands, and Ozzy and his band treated us great. I’d never been on a tour where you get done like 6:00 or 7:00 and you have the rest of the night to party. If it had been any longer than it was it would have killed us! We were the only band on the tour that had alcohol on the rider so it was the Pantera Bar. we had to do the shots with them so…we had a couple shots before the stage and then everyone was drinking with us and going at it.

When it was over you went on your own to Anchorage, Alaska. What was that like?

Vinnie: It was in the middle of a heat wave. They usually have 75-80 degrees in the summer and it was like 93, 94 degrees and extremely humid. There wasn’t a single hotel with air conditioning. It was so fucking hot and miserable, we wanted to get the fuck out of there. It was light at 3:00 AM, it stays light 22 hours a day. But the show was awesome. We had like 3,500 people and the fans were louder than a lot of the fans at 15,000-20,000 seaters. They were so into it. I’ve never seen pits like that since ‘92. We were real happy we did the show but we had an eight hour flight home and we were happy to get off the plane.

Dimebag: They only get like five or six shows a year, and these kids were so hungry and so starved it was very, very fuckin’ cool. It was definitely the way to end the tour. I think we played for 3,800 people and they were on fire. I was very impressed. They knew the songs and were singin’ ‘em. There were five pits goin’. I couldn’t believe it.

You’ll be touring for the rest of the summer and most of the fall.

Vinnie: We have two shows in Mexico next week, we’ve got Anthrax with us. Those will be a blast. 10,000 tickets so far in Mexico City, where we played with Kiss last time in a 16,000-seat place so we’re doing pretty good on our own.

Dimebag: Halloween we always take off, that’s everybody’s favorite holiday, of course. We’re goin’ to work through till the end of the year, maybe take a little time off and then somewhere in there we’re gonna work on a new record. We got riffs, we got ideas and we all been talkin’ about it and here it comes again.

Vinnie: We’ll do the east coast and midwest in September and November we’ll do the southwest and the northwest. We’ll stay out in December and we’re gonna start working on the new album probably in the middle of January and try to get it out next summer. I don’t know for sure but it looks like we might have Type O Negative, Machine Head and Coal Chamber come out with us, or some combination of that. We had Type O Negative with us before and all the other bands played great at Ozzfest.

Will the show be different this time around?

Dimebag: This one won’t be in the sun!

Will you be going to any places you haven’t played before?

Vinnie: We might do a festival in Budapest. We haven’t been to Korea and we have gold records there so when we play Japan next time we’ll make a stop there. If the live album does well there we’ll hit Japan and Australia one more time.

Will the tour go into next year?

Vinnie: It’s not gonna go much into next year. We have the new album to do. Once we did the two new songs we got thinking about doing a new album but we had the Ozzfest booked. Can’t do it all at once.

What direction will the new music take?

Vinnie: Maybe a combination between Trendkill and the two new songs. It’s always gotta be extreme and it will definitely maintain the heavy metal sound of Pantera.

Fans often get angry when bands change too much. It can be a dangerous move.

Vinnie: It’s totally dangerous, but it’s dangerous to do what we did, totally go against the grain. We just depend on our fans to be there. We’ve got a fan base of a little over a million people in the United States that have supported us and bought the records. It’s not really a goal of ours to go from platinum to double or triple platinum. We’re real happy with the level of success we’re at. If the next record takes us to the next step, cool, and if not, at least we won’t turn our backs on our fans. A lot of bands start listening to managers and record companies who tell them “unless you develop more of an alternative sound or industrial sound you’ll fall by the wayside because heavy metal is dead.” All you had to do is come to the Ozzfest to see that heavy metal is not dead.

This summer is definitely a good one for heavy music. Do you believe things have turned around somewhat?

Vinnie: I do, I think things are coming around 100 percent. I’m hearing more heavy stuff on the radio, and some new bands that are heavy are doing good, like Coal Chamber. They did great at Ozzfest. Ozzfest was pretty much sold out everywhere, doing bigger numbers than Lollapalooza.

Dimebag: When we put out Trendkill and everybody shied away and manipulated the music and went toward what was cool and tried to fit in with the time, we saw past that. We saw that it was not going to last. Heavy music has always been, it lives and breathes inside us, man. And it’s not just us, it’s the fans. People wanna fuckin’ jam and here it comes. I got nothin’ against the other stuff, but just can’t get nothin’ out of it, ya know.

I came across some old Pantera slides the other day that made me smile. What’s your reaction when you see those ‘80s pictures?

Dimebag; I’m glad I could do it that long ago and could be around doin’ it now. If you took a picture of yourself from 15 years ago, whether you had on spandex or not, you know, you ain’t gonna look the same. You’re gonna look at somebody and you’re gonna see the youth in ‘em and you’re gonna see the lack of knowledge written on their face and you’re gonna be goin’, “Hey man, what were you doin’?” Ya know? I was tryin’ to figure it out and I was jammin’ my balls off seven nights a fuckin’ week, three one-hour sets, every cover song under the fuckin’ sun and really, a look back at it and I go “Man, those were some damn good times.” We were just followin’ others, but it came to a point to where we figured out that ain’t necessary for us. It’s the music that jams.

Now that you’ve been around for over a decade, what’s the key to that? How do you thrive when so many bands fall apart?

Dimebag: Having fuckin’ fun. Either you really believe in what the hell you’re doing to begin with… first of all, I don’t know, I can’t name names and I can’t get inside other people’s hearts and heads, ut I know that the key to us doing it as long as we have is we love jammin’. Everything revolves around the music, man. I know it’s the same for Phil, Rex and Vinnie. We’re always jammin’. And on top of that it’s having good times. Enjoying it together and seeing people light up whenever you light ‘em up, you know. And them giving it back to ya and just, I mean it’s somethin’... you gotta have it, man. And our whole thing is based around our fans ‘cause they’re everything we are, you know. So we gotta fix ‘em up, man, we gotta feed ‘em.

As far as the live record goes… this is for you! – the wholehearted, strong and bold, ready to rock, fuckin’ Pantera fans. This is you raisin’ hell in the crowd. This is what it is when you were there so kick back and have a cold beer. Put it on and relive that killer time in your head man, and in your ears when it’s goin’ on. That’s who we made it for and like I said, our fans are everything to us. As far as Pantera goes in the future, it’s gonna keep movin’ man. It’s gonna move forward, it’s gonna keep jammin’ and it ain’t never gonna let you down.