Game Changers: how the legend of Pantera's Vinnie Paul remains as strong as ever
Three years ago, the world of heavy music was robbed of one if it's most formidable talents when Pantera/HellYeah drummer Vinnie Paul passed away at the young age of 54.
If there was any consolation to his tragic, untimely passing it's that Vinnie was now finally able to join his brother "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott for the greatest gig in the sky. In 2004, Dimebag was gunned down onstage by a deranged fan while he and Vinnie were performing in their band, Damageplan.
It was heinous act of violence that left the world of heavy culture reeling and grim reality that many assert left long-lasting trauma on Vinnie. Not only was he nearly killed himself tat day, but he lived through the horror of watching his brother die onstage. This was the same brother that he had conquered the world with, the brother that famously turned down a gig with Dave Mustaine and Megadeth because they wouldn't hire both the Abbott brothers, the brother that in tandem, helped to redefine heavy music for generations to come with signature groove of Pantera.
Triumphantly, Vinnie Paul would find the courage to press on and continue his prolific run by churning out some six more studio albums with the supergroup HellYeah. In fact, he remained active with the band up until his passing, with HellYeah releasing the last album Vinnie recorded in 'Welcome Home' as a posthumous tribute to the unparalleled talent behind the skins.
As a fixture of heavy metal lore, few names carry the kind of clout as the Abbott brothers. Apart from the music that remains a marvel of groove and precision, the personalities and legendary stories are as ubiquitous as their sonic stylistic signature.
The passing of Vinnie Paul closed the chapter on an era of heavy music that will never be replicated because of the talent and the authenticity that defined the drummer. No one hit harder, no one played heavier, and still no one can fuck with Vinnie Paul Abbott.
Here are just a few moments that made the man a true legend.
Vinnie Paul's famous "First Take" call on "Domination"
Among Pantera's most relentless showings of force, the studio version of "Domination" from the seminal Cowboys From Hell album features Vinnie Paul's infamous call, "First take motherfuckers!" The heavy metal equivalent to Babe Ruth calling his shot, the version on the album was in fact, the first studio take.
In an interview with Louder Sound, Vinnie shared the story behind the track. "Some people think it says, 'Art stinks like a motherfucker' in the beginning. Actually, it was me going, 'First take like a motherfucker.' It was the first time we were gonna actually lay it down after we'd been jamming on it. And we used the first take. It's full of energy and it's very raw."
The infamous party at Vinnie Paul's house that dented the Stanley Cup
Back in 1990, proud Texans Vinnie Pau and Dimebag Darrell recorded an instrumental anthem for their NHL team the Dallas Stars. That season, the team went onto secure their first-ever franchise Stanley Cup victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The post-match party at Vinnie Paul's house was a bonafide rager complete with cases of Crown Royal and Lord Stanely's Cup being tossed off Vinnie'a balcony into the pool... only to fall short and hit the concrete lip.
Cowboy boots and boxer shorts at the blackjack table
Rock journalist Katherine Turman recounted a story of decadence and debauchery following the finale of Pantera's tour with Type O Negative in the early 90's. The finale show of the tour actually resulted in Pantera being banned from the Thomas & Mack Center for pranks that the Fire Marshall deemed to be fire hazards. Following the show, the bands, crew and industry insiders all took to the MGM Grand Casino to take in the spectacle of Vegas. It was there that Turman recalls seeing Vinnie Paul, in his boxers with is cowboy boots kicked up at the blackjack table - a true badass.
Megadeth's loss was metal music's gain
Back in 1989, Vinnie's brother Dimebag got a call from Dave Mustaine of Megadeth to join the band. The offer came with a boatload of cash, a Nike endorsement and the ability to play alongside one of thrash metal's most revered contributors.
As fate would have it, Dimebag opted to turn down the gig as one of his conditions was that Vinnie Paul also come on as the band's drummer. Dave had already hired Nick Menza, so the brothers Abbott joining ranks never came to fruition. What resulted was a shift in focus for both Vinnie Paul and Dimebag which materialized in the songs that would comprise of the band's pivotal Cowboys From Hell LP.
Vinnie Paul and Pantera make history in Russia
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia hosted a historic concert in the Monsters of Rock Fstival that featured performances by AC/DC, Metallica, The Black Crowes and a young, brash, bold quartet of Texans in Pantera as the event's opening act. The performance in front of a literal sea of humanity offers visuals that are forever engrained in the lexicon of heavy music.
Photographer Joe Giron captured one of the moments for his comprehensive book, A Vulgar Display of Pantera, which showcases Vinnie Paul dawning a cut off tee and shorts in the frigid Russian air before unleashing one of the band's most legendary performances ever - if you have never seen the footage, do yourself a favor.
A real Vulgar Display of Power
While Cowboys From Hell certainly catapulted the band into a new stratosphere of heavy music's elite, Pantera's follow-up in Vulgar Display of Power solidified the Texas wrecking crew as legends. The groove heavy tandem of the Abbott Brothers redefined the boundaries of metal with a collection of tracks that still holds up to this day. Vinnie Paul recalls that work on the historic release was almost immediate - as the band had no interest in resting on their laurels from the success of Cowboys.
Vinnie Paul recounted the mindset fo the band during that era with Revolver Magazine.
"On Cowboys, we got the opportunity to tour with some really kickass bands, including Judas Priest, Exodus, Sepultura, Suicidal Tendencies, and Prong. And that really drove us to another level. We saw our music kicking ass and I think that really catapulted us into what we did with Vulgar."
When we got off the road for Cowboys, we literally sat at home for two weeks at the most, and then we said, "C'mon guys, let's go do this next album>," because we were so fired up. Our mentality was, "Give us the ball and well get a touchdown."
Rebel Meets Rebel
Both the Abbott Brothers held tight to their Southern roots. Born to father and country musician Jerry Abbott, it seemed only natural that the brothers would eventually dabble in genre. Recorded during 1999-2003 during off time from their primarily projects, Dimebag, Vinnie, and David Allan Coe worked to bridge the worlds of metal and country in a way that was organic and especially cool.
When Dimebag was murdered in 2004, the project was thought to be shelved indefinitely but would finally see the light of day in 2006. Featuring a guest spot from Hank Williams III, the project is said to have spurned a movement of underground country that resonated with punks, metalheads, and country fans in way that was as authentic as it was artistic.
Vinnie Paul returns to the stage
On February 23rd, 2005, Vinnie Paul Abbott made his triumphant return to the stage following the tragedy in Columbus that saw Dimebag murdered onstage and Vinnie Paul himself narrowly escaping his own demise. The trauma Vinnie endured was enough to make him rethink music entirely has his lifelong collaborative partner, is brother, his best friend was gone.
However, Vinnie would show his courage during a charity event for the other victims that were slain and injured art Alrosa Nightclub that fateful night by making a surprise appearance. During Anthrax’s set, Paul joined in for Pantera’s “A New Level” and when Disturbed took the stage, Paul sat in for a powerful rendition of “Walk.”