Pantera’a Vinnie Paul
Interviewed by Keith McDonald in Jan 2001
Pantera – Reinventing Metal
Pantera has become the band that never goes away, the party that just doesn’t end. Despite almost no radio, MTV or other vital musical outlet support, Pantera have to their credit four Platinum albums, three Gold home videos and have grabbed two Grammy nominations in their ten year history. Their rise to the top is nothing short than miraculous. Non-stop touring and incredible live shows have allowed Pantera to accumulate a large loyal following of metal-heads all across the globe. They have recently released Reinventing The Steel, possibly their hardest offering to date and are getting ready to continue their world tour following the freak injury to singer Phil Anselmo. I had the opportunity to speak to Vinnie Paul who filled me in on what’s been going on in the Pantera camp.
Tell me about Phil’s injury.
Pretty simple thing. He has this haunted house thing down in New Orleans that he runs called The House of Shock. He has always been an actor in it and apparently he jumped out to scare some people as he always does, tripped, fell down and landed on something that jabbed him pretty hard in the back. He was sore but thought he was going to be o.k. He got up the next morning and was pissing blood. So he went to the doctor and was told ‘you have two broken ribs and one of them punctured your kidney. You’re not doing anything for six to eight weeks because that’s how long it’s going to take to heal. That’s what happened and it’s unfortunate. One of those things and there’s nothing you can do about it. Never had to cancel a show so it’s strange for all of us, but we’re looking forward to February.
How did Pantera start?
Started as a high school band doing cover tunes. A different lead singer named Terry who wanted to do more of a pop thing and didn’t really fit into what we were looking for. I hooked up with Phil in 1986; came together and we just took it from there and moved forward.
How did you hook up with Phil?
We were playing a club in Treeport, LA called the Circle and The Square and we were going through different singers. We knew we hadn’t found the right guy yet and his band would play there a week after us. Everyone was telling him ‘hey man you need to hook up with this Pantera and that they need a singer really bad’. Then we’d play there and they’d say ‘you’re singer ain’t cutting it, you need to check out this guy Phil’. So somehow he got my phone number and called me. Before he even jammed with us I knew he was the right guy from talking to him over the phone. He came down and we just clicked instantly.
How did Pantera get signed?
After being turned down by every record company twenty-eight times, the fortunes of a hurricane changed our careers. An A&R guy who was on his way to Charlotte, NC to see a band called Tangier that they had just signed was stranded in Dallas due to Hurricane Hugo. He had been checking us out for a while and was a little interested but not over-the-top. Since he was stuck he decided to check us out. We were actually playing a little Mexican disco, a private birthday party with about eighty people there. He flipped. He said it was the best live band he ever saw. We got signed, so that’s what happened.
How has the label support been over the years?
I think they’ve done pretty good for us. We’ve sold 13 million albums worldwide. You really can’t complain about that especially since we’re not on mainstream radio, MTV or any of that. We’ve been pretty successful to this point.
What about the new album, why four years in the making?
There was so much touring that we had. We put the live album out in ’98 and we were going to do one small tour and then go into the studio. Black Sabbath called and wanted us to do their reunion tour. That tour went on forever, the entire first leg of the U.S., then all of Europe and the entire U.S. again. That’s what took so long. It didn’t take us that long making the record.
I see it was self-produced. Was that something you wanted to do?
Something we’ve always had a desire for. I co-produced all the albums before and really understood how we worked in the studio. It just worked out. It was a lot of fun and was just the right time.
Were there any problems?
It was probably the smoothest record we ever made. We didn’t have any deadlines put on us by the record company. We didn’t put any on ourselves, took our time and feel we made the best record we’ve made to this point.
How do you explain Pantera’s longevity?
Four people that understand that it’s a give and take world. We love playing the music we play and enjoy playing live. We don’t have to depend on the radio to make sure the next record we have is a hit or whatever. We go and play live and always tour. That’s what we built this band on and will continue to do that.
What about the first Glam record you made. Will it ever see the light of day?
That was out first incarnation of the band back in ’83 when we were all fourteen-year-old kids. All we knew was emulating our heroes who were Judas Priest, Van Halen, Black Sabbath and all that kind of stuff. That’s how they and everybody dressed back then. We were just doing what we thought was the right thing for us to do. We learned a little later on that flashy clothes, hair and make-up don’t play music we do so we dropped the image and turned into what we became. I think the band really came into it’s own when we put Cowboys From Hell out. I think those old records are good collector’s items and there’s plenty of bootleg versions of them out there so there’s no sense in us taking them and trying to capitalize on something that really doesn’t represent what we do today.
How was the Ozzfest?
We headlined the mainstage with Ozzy. It was a blast, sold out every night. Anytime we get an opportunity to play with Ozzy or Black Sabbath it’s an honor and a lot of fun. A lot of people get to see different kinds of rock on the tour.
Do you like package tours or headlining on your own?
We’re definitely looking to our headlining tour, it’s always the way you want it.
What other tour plans do you have?
It starts in New Mexico and goes all over the States, three nights in New York City. Ticket sales have been phenomenal so far. Then we go to Korea, which is the first time we’ve ever played there. Our records are Gold so I know it’s going to be great shows out there. Then New Zealand, Australia and then on the way back we’ll hit South America. Chile, Brazil, Argentina and then Puerto Rico in May. After that we don’t have anything booked. We may do Europe, some festivals or we may do another States tour.
Who will support the tour?
Soulfly and Morbid Angel.
What about your side project?
We have Gasoline. It’s about beer drinking and raising hell. We do some of our own songs and then some Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, stuff like that. Our lead singer is Thurbert T. Mingus and the bass player is Jerry Montana. A lot of fun.
Will there be an album?
There’s a possibility an album could come out of it. Right now it’s something to do on the downtime of Pantera. The main focus is always Pantera.
Do you try to make each album harder and heavier?
It’s something that’s natural. When the four of us get together that’s what comes out. A natural progression.
What about The Great Southern Trendkill, what was the idea behind that?
We made a record at that point in time in ’96 that was basically a big bird finger to the music industry. The most anti-commercial record ever. If you were a metal fan you loved that record and if you hated metal we wanted you to hate that record more than anything.
Were you surprised Pantera had a #1 album?
It didn’t surprise me. The fans were there. That’s a different accomplishment. Far Beyond Driven was #1, Great Southern Trendkill made it to #4 and this new record made it to #4. To be able to chart that high on U.S. charts competing with N’Sync and everything else is pretty amazing.
Do you feel touring helped break the band in the beginning?
It’s the ultimate. A lot of bands, they don’t realize how much touring is going to be the basis for their success. A lot don’t tour that much and aren’t that good live. For Pantera and any band that wants to be around for any length of time, touring is the ultimate.
It seems to be harder and more expensive to tour these days.Because they keep getting more elaborate. Pantera has always been bring the band, the amps, P.A., songs and the fans. A straightforward rock show. I’ll see Limp Bizkit and feel like I’m watching Stars Wars.
Was that the reason behind releasing the live album?
It seemed to be the right time. We are a live band. We wanted people to get in their car, kick back with a beer and feel like they’re at the concert.
Who are the band’s influences?
Collectively, the four biggest things that were influences on us were KISS, Van Halen, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.
How does it feel to be an influence on the bands of today?
From being on the outside to having all the bands come back and say ‘I grew up listening to Vulgar Display of Power, it’s a big musical chain all the way down. It’s a good thing.
How would you compare the Heavy Metal scene in Europe to the U.S.?
The fans in both are great at a Pantera show. The fans in Europe are really more in tune. This last tour we did in Europe was the most fun.
What do you think about the Heavy Metal scene today?
I think it’s pretty weak. I get all the new stuff from the record company. If they don’t all sound like Rob Zombie. When we came out you had to have some kind of personality or something. There needs to be a band or two to come along with some originality.
What about bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn that are considered Metal?
To me it’s not the real deal. It’s watered down. The bands that do it do it well. They’ve discovered a formula and they all use it.
Does Pantera still party or have you slowed down?
No, man. We ain’t slowing down. On the Ozzfest we had the biggest rider of anybody on the tour as far as alcohol. The Pantera bar is always open.
How did you get Slayer’s Kerry King to guest appear on the album?
We’ve been really good friends for a long time. Kerry used to come down and jam with us before we were signed. He called us when they were on the Ozzfest and we were making (the record). I said we’re gonna record you on our next record. I brought the ADAT’s and he did it in one take after their show backstage.
What’s the future for Pantera?
Well you never can look too into the future. We’ve made it ten years at this level and just look forward to maintaining it. We’re excited about this tour and look forward to making a new record as long as our fans love what we’re doing.