Jun 25, 2018

Ride Easy, Vinnie Paul

by Robert Dean

A few years back, I got Pantera’s CFH logo tattooed on my arm. It’s about the size of a half dollar, small and unremarkable, and hidden amongst other splotches of colorful mayhem covering my arm. But for people like me, it symbolizes a brotherhood of riffs and spliffs, black tooths, and obscure references like “May Pop Tires.”

My CFH is a buddy tattoo I got with my best friend after too many Christmastime whiskeys. We hauled ass over to Austin’s Atomic Tattoo an hour before closing, slapped our $80 on the counter, and within minutes were branded Pantera fans for life – a gesture true to the spirit of the band and how they lived. On the way home, through our haze, we air guitared along to The Great Southern Trendkill, doing our best not to raise the ire of local law enforcement. 

At 13 years old, I was rabid for The Headbanger’s Ball. That WAS my Saturday night. When “I’m Broken” slammed across the screen with these four dudes in a room, hammering away at 100MPH, I was hooked and almost 24 years later, nothing’s changed. How could I take bands like Slayer seriously?

I was let deeper into their world watching Pantera Home Videos and loving how they weren’t stuffy and serious like Metallica or Megadeth. Instead of endless montages of boring tour life from the seats of their private jet, Pantera played pranks, drank like fish, and managed to shoot up a few hotel rooms with pellet guns and hold ad hoc boxing matches for $10 bills.

It’s not lost on me that I was lucky enough to have seen Pantera destroy Chicago six times. The shows were brutal, emotional, an exorcism of whatever garbage life threw at me. Pantera owned their musical carnival, chucking beers and paper mache joints into the crowd, but always ripping the seats out of the stadium without any bullshit laser beams or fancy smoke shows; it was four dudes who caught a lick

Pantera came along at the perfect time: they existed along the margins of grunge and metal, making friends with Slayer and Alice In Chains, raising beers and smoking forearm-sized hog legs along the way. Pantera was loud, unruly, vicious, ugly, but goddamn were they a dump truck of fun. 

Songs like “Fucking Hostile,” “Drag the Waters,” and “This Love” sounded pissed and delivered neck-breaking grooves. The guttural moans, the insane guitar playing, the devil may care attitude of a couple of drunken Texans and a New Orleans boy changed how people listen to heavy metal. In all, Pantera released five classic records and even recorded the music for an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, because why not?

Through it all, Vinnie Paul was a meat and potatoes percussionist who laid in the pocket and stayed there, because when your brother is Dimebag Darrell, the best guitar player since Eddie Van Halen, and you’re sitting behind one of the greatest frontmen of all time, Phil Anselmo, you have to let them shine and Vinnie got the memo. 

But, it never mattered; Vinnie’s first love was crushing behind the kit. He let the legacy of the music do the talking for him, winning drumming awards, going platinum a few times and earning a few Grammy nominations. A pretty good haul for a guy who barely finished high school.

I’ll admit I lost track of Vinnie Paul in his post-Pantera life. I didn’t like Damageplan and Hell Yeah was not my thing. But Vinnie Paul was an icon, a man who changed how drummers played and more importantly, how they didn’t play. 

Wherever Vinnie Paul and Dimebag may be, those cowboys from hell can rest easy knowing punk kids with a shit attitudes are always going to hear the iconic riff of “Walk” and realize life finally makes sense. Rest easy, Vinnie. I hope the weed is good and the Crown Royal is plentiful on the other side. 

1 comment:

  1. Great tribute. Pantera was one of the first CD'S I ever owned. Saw them in concert at a small place in Denver. Awesome show.



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