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(Archive) Kerby's Exclusive Interview With Damageplan Drummer Vinnie Paul

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Thursday, December 9, 2004 @ 0:29 AM

New Found Power: From the Fall

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It’s easy to like Vinnie Paul.

Obviously, his skill as a drummer is well documented and well deserved. Mr. Paul was also the backbone of a seminal band, Pantera, that was simply never supposed to break up—at least they were never supposed to fracture in the manner that they did. Anyone who has cable knows that rock and roll is filled with stories of betrayal and greed and allegations of deeds done. The interesting aspect of the great Pantera disintegration is that no matter how many episodes of Behind the Music one watches, there will never be an episode encompassing the level of ambiguity that this one does.

Why is there no more Pantera?

Well… the fact is that Vinnie doesn’t know either. Sure, seeing Phil Anselmo’s name in print followed by some vague reference to drugs is nothing new, but according to all accounts, the initial hiatus that turned into a permanent dissolution wasn’t really drug motivated. To hear Vinnie tell the story, one day the band’s calls to Phil just stopped being answered. After that, the guessing game commenced which ultimately culminated in a decision by Vinnie and his brother, Dime—two years later--to form a new band of their own because at that point there was simply no reason to believe that Phil would ever come back to the fold.

Hence the birth of Damageplan--the brothers’ new group whose first album New Found Power takes the Pantera sound and diversifies it through the use of melody and increased technical virtuosity. What’s ensued are countless debates and comparisons that occur on the Internet and in discussions between metal fans every day. Who is better—Superjoint or Down? Down or Damageplan? Superjoint or Pantera? When there are this many projects involved, fans are destined to succumb to a certain degree of confusion. Besides tearing things up on tour with his new band Vinnie feels that part of his job ultimately is to clarify who is currently doing what as well as trying to explain to Pantera fans that he and his brother never lost the faith—they just had to face reality.

It’s obvious in talking to Vinnie that he’s still hurt by what has taken place and that he believes Pantera’s run was truncated before reaching the levels of which it was capable. Sitting in the bus before the show, Damageplan’s drummer is personable, focused and seemingly willing to discuss nearly any topic although he believes that many of his statements have been taken out of context and misinterpreted for the gain of others. The way Vinnie and the other members of Damageplan amiably interacted with the fans minutes before the interview was the complete and total antithesis to what I saw when a certain other person’s band rolled into town awhile back. It somehow makes him seem more down to Earth and a little more sincere.

Obviously, the old adage about there being two sides to every story holds true to some degree in this case, but it’s somehow extremely difficult to discount the words that come from Vinnie when they come with such credible tones. Does it mean they’re always true? Who knows? Will people ever know exactly what went wrong with a band that fans devoted so much of their lives to? Maybe not, but as cloudy as this account is in certain ways, it may be as lucid as this issue ever gets.

KNAC.COM: I don’t imagine this an introductory question that you get too often, but could you tell me what attracts you to the work of David Allan Coe? What led to the collaboration? Was it his outlaw image?
VINNIE: He’s an outlaw rebel kind of like we were starting out. We grew up listening to some of his tunes, and my dad was a country western artist—me and my brother both. He was just a guy who wrote some songs that just about anybody could relate to. He wrote “Take this Job and Shove It” among a few others, and a lot of our shows we’d play “Jack Daniels If You Please” and that would be like our intro tape. He was playing out at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth one night when we had some time off, and we decided we’d go and see him. At the time we gave him some Pantera cds and dvds and he said he’d briefly heard of us, but not much. He ended up calling Dimebag the next day and he said, “I watched that video, and you guys are just like me. It just blows me away that you play my song before your concert. We gotta write some songs together.” We were like, “fuck, let’s try it and see what happens.” Next time he came back to town, we just set up the stuff and set out to start writing. It turned out to be full on metal rock and roll with this country crooner on there. It’s really cool, and it’s probably been done for about a year now. We just haven’t found the right time to put it out. The last thing in the world we want to do is confuse the fans right now with the Pantera thing and trying to establish Damageplan. I think it’ll be out by summertime next year though.

KNAC.COM: Another project you worked on after Pantera was in a band called Gasoline, and that group actually did perform at least once. What happened with that effort?
VINNIE: Let me explain what Gasoline was: Pantera played every New Year’s Eve until about ’97. After that, the other two guys decided they didn’t want to play on New Year’s Eve, and that was my favorite time to play. Me and Dime decided that we’d put together a good time band and just do cover tunes and it was all about beer drinkin’ and hell raisin’. Our original songs were called things like, “Get Drunk Now” and “This Ain’t a Beer Belly, It’s a Gas Tank For My Love Machine.” It was just fun shit, and we’d do other stuff like Ted Nugent or Pat Travers. We’d just do kick ass classic rock, and we’d only play on New Year’s Eve, and we did it for like five years. Somehow or another word got out and it was like, “Vinnie and Dimebag got this side band called Gasoline.” The last year we did it, we opened up for Drowning Pool. Pantera never played with Drowning Pool, and that was the last time we played with them. Everybody knows what happened to Dave after that. It was a great show and a great time though. We played there and the Clubhouse—we did double duty that night. It was cool.

KNAC.COM: What time did you realize that the Phil thing wasn’t going to work out and that you needed to move on and leave the idea of ever playing in Pantera again?
VINNIE: We tried everything we could to communicate with him ourselves through our management and through our record company. He just blew us off. No one knew what his intentions were or what his plans were or anything. He was out there just talking shit about us and talking shit about the legacy of Pantera and the individual members. For two years we just kept quiet and took it in the face because we thought that one day he would wake up and realize what a machine Pantera was and all that. Super Bowl Sunday rolled around two years ago, me and Dime were just sitting around completely bummed out and started talking, and he said, “we’re not a band anymore, and it’s time to move on and do something else.” Then we started talking about new found power and needing to reach down deep inside if we were going to start over again. It’s not gonna be easy, you know? That’s where it all started, and we started writing music. Then we had the good fortune of hooking up with Pat who loved the music we had written and knew that his time with Halford was running out, and he wanted to be a part of it. He told us, “I can sing, I just never fronted a band.” The first demo he sent to us just completely blew us away, and we brought him down to Texas and wrote a couple more songs together, and Damageplan was born.

KNAC.COM: What was the most obvious difference that you noticed working within the context of Damageplan versus that of Pantera?
VINNIE: Well, I guess I’ll just speak of recent events, but the last couple of Pantera albums were really difficult to make. Phil was in a different place. It was like pulling teeth to get him down to the studio. He didn’t like any of the material, and it was always just like this head butting contest. It wasn’t like it was when we were just starting out, when it was all for one and one for all. With Damageplan, it had that same ‘all for one, one for all’ feeling again. Everyone put 100% effort into it, and it wasn’t like someone didn’t like something because it wasn’t their part. A lot of people get that way sometimes, but it isn’t good for the band.

KNAC.COM: There was an incident that wasn’t very widely reported that concerned you and Dimebag at Ozzfest a couple of years ago in Dallas. Rumor had it that Phil instructed the head of his security, a guy named Big Val, to escort the both of you out—
VINNIE: We never got escorted out. Dallas is our hometown, and obviously Big Val worked for us in the past, but we had a falling out with him and hadn’t really spoken to him. The truth of the matter is--I’ll tell you exactly what happened—I was going to the front of the house to watch Ozzy. I hadn’t seen Big Val all day long or anything. I was walking along, and I had my girlfriend with me at the time, and I saw him and went to wave at him--then the dude just leveled me with one shove. I was there on my ass in front of 20,000 people walking out to see Ozzy. He just kept going, you know. My security guard at the time found out about it, and him and Val exchanged words. It never really went any further than that. I let it go. It’s no big deal. I don’t harbor any grudges or any hard feelings towards the dude or anything.

KNAC.COM: Basically you had no idea anything was even coming?
VINNIE: I knew we weren’t on great terms, but I went to wave at him. The dude weighs about 340 pounds, and I’m 5’8 and weigh a about 185 or whatever.

KNAC.COM: The story even went on to say that Rex was upset backstage even to the point of just outright sobbing. Were you ever aware that he was torn or had any type of conflicted feelings about his situation?
VINNIE: What did he have to cry about? He made his decision to go with Down. He had a few—let’s say quite a few—less than favorable words to say about myself and Dime in the few conversations we had together at the time. He pretty much sealed his fate right there on the spot.

KNAC.COM: How weird was it to have some guy that you see and work with every single day all of a sudden no longer want contact with you? So much so in fact that you have to go through six or seven people just to try to get a hold of him? Was it just like a divorce?
VINNIE: Of course it is. We were four people who were married to each other for close to twenty years. For the communication level to go to zero for no reason and for everything to go from “us against them” just didn’t make any sense. Still to this day, if people want to know why Pantera broke up….there is no real reason. There wasn’t one big argument. There wasn’t somebody fucking somebody else’s girl—there was nothing like that. We played our last show in Tokyo, Japan and we killed. Everybody high fived and said, “we’ll see each other in six or eight months.” The next thing you know, I’m getting a phone call that Phil has quit the band and he’s doing Down now. This was the start of it all. Like I said, there was a phone call from Rex that he made to Dime one night completely lambasting everything I did for Pantera, everything Dime did for Pantera and everything we did as a band. Where the fuck did this come from? He got the biggest free ride of anyone in this motherfucker.

KNAC.COM: So there was absolutely no inkling that any of this was coming at all?
VINNIE: Nope, not a clue.

KNAC.COM: In the early stages of Damageplan it was thought that the title of the new album was actually going to be the name of the band. Was that ever true?
VINNIE: It never was the band name. It was just a working title. You know how quick rumors start. People found out about it, and immediately that was the name of the band. We knew that it was the place that we were coming from and that we needed to find a new found power or source of energy. We also knew that it wasn’t strong enough to be a band name though. When we started to think about what we wanted to accomplish--we want to blow shit up. When they built the atomic bomb, they had a damageplan in mind. That’s where we came up with the fucking title from.

KNAC.COM: How has it been for you guys to have a large amount of Pantera fans follow you over to Damageplan? Many are here tonight wearing their old shirts—what does that do for you?
VINNIE: Once again, it just makes it a little more befuddling that the other two guys decided to just walk away from Pantera. We had the greatest fan base in the world and sold 13 million records without having to be on the radio or be on MTV or nothin’. It was the world’s biggest underground band ever. The thing that’s a trip to us still being out on the road with Damageplan is that even though nothing has happened with Pantera in over three years, there are some people who don’t even know that Damageplan exists or that Pantera is even over--they just recognize us. Everywhere I went in this town today, it was like, “hey, it’s Vinnie and Dime from Pantera!” We’re like, “hey man, we’re glad you supported us, here’s what we’re doing now, and I hope you come to the show tonight.”

KNAC.COM: Is that cool to get that constant recognition even with the situation being kind of obscured?
VINNIE: It was a position that I never thought I’d find myself in, and now that I’m in it, I got to do the best I can at it. These shows that we’ve been putting on, I know are far superior to what we did the last three or four years in Pantera. They fuckin’ kill. These guys we’ve got in the band with us now are hungry motherfuckers and kick ass. I know for a fact that it doesn’t matter whether it’s 400 people or 10,000—I know they are gonna get the best show possible and they’re gonna get their fuckin’ money’s worth every night. I’m not gonna go backstage and be disappointed because we only played 30 minutes because our singer stood up there for an hour and ran his mouth about nothin’.

KNAC.COM: Was it hard to support that at the time when it was happening? I know that you kind of had to kind of hold the party line a bit, but wasn’t there a part of you just burning to play some music?
VINNIE: I felt like we were ripping the fans off. We’d get up there and play eight songs, and it was an hour and a half headlining set. That’s bullshit in my opinion. We had words about it several times, but he did what he did. I understand he still does the same shit in this other band. The only difference is those songs are a minute and a half to two minutes long, so you can get even less music.

KNAC.COM: Do you think he finds it easier to work with bands that aren’t comprised of equals? It’s pretty obvious that in these other groups that he is the undisputed focal point and probably doesn’t have to justify very much.
VINNIE: Without a doubt, he tells every one of them dudes exactly where to shit and what to do and how to do it. Without a doubt, every one of them would lick his balls until it felt nice and good to em’. There you go, and that’s the fuckin’ truth. That’s not the way it worked in Pantera. Everybody had their say, and we all fought for what we thought was the right thing for the band. That’s why it had the chemistry that it had.

KNAC.COM: Does the creativity suffer the majority of time when an artist limits the amount of collaboration in a given project?
VINNIE: There’s plenty of solo artists out there, and not very many of them have the same type of success they had when they were in a band. Being in a band is just so much more than any one person could bring to the table. It’s more than just one person’s vision.

KNAC.COM: In the end, is the purity of the process of creating music more important to you than who it is that you’re creating it with?
VINNIE: You got to do what you’ve got to do. I just believe that a team is stronger than an individual any day. That’s always been my goal, and it’s always been the way me and Dime have operated. Things have always been on a give and take basis, and it’s been a team.

KNAC.COM: The bond the both of you have with music has to cause your relationship as brothers to be particularly intense.
VINNIE: This is something that we’ve always wanted to do since day one. It’s the reason why I feel he’s my best friend. We just always had a common goal to play music. It was real disappointing and a real trying time when Pantera went out of our lives because it was all we lived for. We planned on being the Rolling Stones of heavy metal. Once we finally came to grips with the fact that it was over, we put one thousand percent of our effort into this. People go, “when’s the Pantera reunion gonna be?” No fuckin’ way. I didn’t plan on doing anything outside of Pantera, and now that I’m doing Damageplan, that’s the last thing I’m gonna think about. We’re gonna take this thing right back to where we were and then some. It may take us some time, but that’s what we’re working towards.

KNAC.COM: In retrospect, do you wish you could have figured out that things weren’t going to work with Pantera sooner so that you could have used those two years to start taking the next step?
VINNIE: That’s the thing that is so frustrating for me. All Phil would have had to do is answer one phone call and say, “guys, we had twelve great years together, but I want to go and do Superjoint. I want to go and do Down. If I see you at the bar, we’ll have a drink. Who knows? Five or six years from now, if I feel like making another Pantera record and you guys feel like doing one, we’ll do it.” That’s all it would have took. It would have been disappointing, but at least we’d all know what was going on. Instead, it was two years of wondering what the fuck was going on. Are we going to make a record? Elektra was holding on thinking we were going to make a record and the management and everybody got jacked off in the process, but the ones who got jacked off the most were the Pantera fans. That’s really disappointing. You’ve got them coming to you day and night going, “look at this!”, and it’s “Pantera” inked across their chest. Then they go: “What the fuck’s goin’ on man?” “What the fuck’s wrong with Phil?” “When are y’all gonna make a record?” It’s like you feel helpless when you sit there going, “I dunno. I dunno, man. I wish I could fuckin’ tell you.”

KNAC.COM: What would run through your mind when you would see a fan who was that committed to a band who had a lead singer who couldn’t even return a phone call? Did it seem strange?
VINNIE: You’d have to ask him that question. For me, it’s just disappointing. I won’t say strange because our fans were the best fans. I know a lot of bands say that, but Pantera fans would take a bullet for us any day. They’d stand and fight for us any day. They are fucking the best, period. We’ve done our very best to embrace them and let them know that we didn’t let them down, you know? We hung on to the end, and now we’re movin’ on, and we want them to follow us. He had his publicist blow this thing up that he was gonna set the record straight on Headbanger’s Ball this past Saturday. He didn’t set any record straight. He didn’t tell anybody why he left or what his intentions were or anything. He gives a fifteen second bullshit answer like he does everything and then goes, “thank you, I’m the king. Good night.”

KNAC.COM: At that point, wouldn’t you have to think you were talking to a persona rather than an individual anyway? It can’t be the person that you started with--
VINNIE: Oh, no. He ain’t the same person. I’ll take nothing away from him. When he was at the top of his game, he was Billy Badass. What he does now, I don’t think it comes anywhere near what he used to do. That’s my opinion. Other people can make their own opinions.

KNAC.COM: Is it just too much to ask though to follow up Pantera with Damageplan and expect anywhere near the same type of success?
VINNIE: No, I’m goin’ for this thing as hard as I can. Otherwise, I’d be dumb for even tryin’. We’re not trying to be Pantera, we’re two different bands. We’re just trying to continue the ass kicking tradition that we started with Pantera, but musically we are a much broader band. The singer can cover a whole lot more territory, and we’re unlimited with what we can do musically. We had to make sure that when we started this new band that we weren’t going to corner ourselves anywhere. We can do melodic stuff as well as crush heavy music.

KNAC.COM: There’s never a shortage of talk about who is the most “underground.”
VINNIE: Used that way, “underground” doesn’t mean jack shit. It’s just another term like “sell out.” Really, who on this Earth thinks that they’re gonna make music to have fifteen or twenty people come and see them a night? I mean really, who are you making it for? When you call somebody a “sell out” and they’re selling out a fucking arena, damn right they sold the motherfucker out. They sold it out because people dig what the fuck they’re doing. As long as you do it on your own terms and don’t do anything that is concocted for the man.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that’s pretty rare though?
VINNIE: I think it’s a lot less frequent. I think there’s a lot of corporate stuff out there. Back in the day when we started Pantera, there was a lot more independence. The music business right now is so watered down because everybody wants the next Linkin Park that’s gonna sell six or seven million which makes it more difficult for the real music to come through. A couple of years ago, they all wanted the next Limp Bizkit. Right now, music is just in this really weird state. The rap-metal thing has pretty much run its course, and we’ll have to wait and see what the next big thing is. Hopefully, we’ll be one of the bands that will pioneer the next five or ten years of heavy metal.

KNAC.COM: Does it make it harder when the sales expectations for Damageplan are higher than it would be for say a metal band that is just starting out?
VINNIE: I mean, with every record we made with Pantera, there were sales expectations and stuff, but we just knew that we were making records for our fans. That’s all that mattered to us. With Damageplan, we had the ability to reach more people through the radio and MTV and stuff like that, but at the same time, it’s the die hard fans who are always there. That’s who we have been basically playing to from the start.

KNAC.COM: Have you actually noticed a new breed of fan who may not even know who Pantera was?
VINNIE: Yeah, actually I have. It’s not weird to me though because they are two different bands. The Pantera legacy will always follow us around. I mean, it’s just like Ozzy being out of Black Sabbath—he will always be known as being the lead singer of Black Sabbath. People are always going to know us as being in Pantera, but we’re still gonna make our way with Damageplan. There are times when we do a couple of Pantera songs out of respect for the fans, and about half the crowd is into it while the other half just looks like they think it might be cool instead of everyone just going wild because of it.

KNAC.COM: You also answer some advice letters in Revolver. How much fun is it for you to sift through all the submissions and decide what to answer?
VINNIE: I was joking around with Tom the editor when we were in New York, and I told him that he needed to let me do this “Ask Vinnie” column. Next thing you know, they were like, “do you wanna do it?” I got the questions, and I didn’t know what I was gonna get. Originally, I was thinking that I was gonna get a lot of serious questions about this and that and the other. I ended up with such a broad spectrum of them from people in jail to—

KNAC.COM: People having sex with puppets?
VINNIE: Yeah, I ended up just thinking this would be a great chance for me to have some fun. I try to give them some insight, yet at the same time I like to make light of their situations. That’s just kinda like the type of person I am anyways. You could be in the worst situation in the world, and I’m just gonna start laughing about it because that’s life—that’s the way it is. I had a lot of fun doing it. Some of the questions I get, I can only reply to with a dumb answer because they’re dumb questions. My favorite one that I just got was from this guy who said he had just been thrown in prison for the next five years, and he wanted to know how he could keep up his chops. I’m like, “look dude, why don’t you just steal a couple of pans out of the kitchen when you’re on kitchen duty, and you can beat on those. Just don’t get caught because then you’re gonna go down for another five or ten years. Nobody keeps up their drum chops in prison! Just steal a couple of fucking pans and start over like you did when you were a little kid.”

KNAC.COM: That would make him really underground at that point though, right?
VINNIE: Yep, just go back to what you did that got you put in there in the first place. It happens all the time—they call them repeat offenders. I get letters from them type of people. “Been to the pen three times. How do I stop?” Just stop! It’s like I was at the fucking casino tonight and there was this big sign. It said, “If you think you have a gaming problem or someone you know has one, call us.” They’re just gonna tell you to stop fuckin’ gamblin’. How fuckin’ dumb do you have to be? “I just lost $200—it was my whole paycheck. I’d better call that number.” They gonna give you your money back? No. They’re just gonna charge you more to tell you what kind of problems you have.

Extended discussion of Indian Casinos followed. At this point of the interview, Vinnie asked that I turn the recorder back on for a final statement.

VINNIE: I’d like to say this to anybody who is going to print excerpts of this interview be it Blabbermouth or whoever: print what the damn thing is about and not just the one or two lines that go “so and so said this or so and so said that.” Print a little bit more than just the punch line, so people know what’s going on and not just “Vinnie Paul Talkin’ Shit About So and So.”

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