Music Interviews

Interview: Damageplan

On 9 December 1980, John Lennon was shot and killed by an obsessive fan as he entered his apartment building in New York City.

Twenty-four years to the day later, Nathan Gale – an ex-marine with a fixation for ’90s heavy metal pioneers Pantera – smuggled himself into the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio where Damageplan, the band featuring former Pantera brothers Vinnie Paul and “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, were playing.
Gale got on stage, mumbled something about Dimebag being responsible for Pantera’s break-up, stuck a gun to the guitarist’s head and shot him three times. Gale then killed two audience members and Damageplan’s security guard, before being shot by police.

This interview with Damageplan’s bassist Bob Zilla and drummer Vinnie Paul was conducted shortly before Dimebag’s tragic murder. It is musicOMH‘s tribute to one of the finest guitarists that the heavy metal world has ever seen.

Contrary to what a gun-toting, murdering maniac might have claimed, Dimebag Darrell was not responsible for the split-up of Pantera. Sitting in a hotel near London’s Regent Park, Vinnie Paul lays the blame squarely at the feet of former singer Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown:

“Me and Dime realised that Pantera was finally over because with the other members there was no communication and they didn’t express an interest in working together any more.”

“I want to take absolutely nothing away from Pantera because when it was at its peak, we were a f**kin’ machine – you couldn’t touch it. But over its last couple of years, it really went downhill to a level that I wasn’t happy with and Dime wasn’t happy with. You know what I’m talking about – the lead singer – his performance level was hit and miss, depending on what type of chemicals he was on. He would stand up and do 30-minute ramblings on stage about nothing. It was difficult because the fans were there and they still got into it but I know we could have given them a whole lot more as a band.”

“Over its last couple of years, it really went downhill… The lead singer – his performance level was hit and miss, depending on what type of chemicals he was on.” – Drummer and founder Vinnie Paul on Pantera’s demise and Phil Anselmo.

Once Dimebag and Vinnie realised that Anselmo and Brown were only interested in pursuing their moonlighting projects like Down and Superjoint Ritual, they moved quickly to start afresh, forming Damageplan with former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman on vocals and their friend (and tattoist!) Bob Zilla on bass. Zilla still seems to be revelling at playing with such living heavy metal legends:

“It’s pretty amazing, you know. It’s pretty much a bass player’s and a musician’s dream come true. And it’s not just that they’re great musicians, they’re just great guys to be with.”

In Vinnie’s eyes, this camaraderie and unity is one of the vital ingredients that could help Damageplan to turn into an even better band than Pantera:

“Without a doubt, it makes a huge difference… With Pantera, at the end, it was a lot of ‘me, myself and I’. It didn’t have that f**kin’ bond, that f**kin’ power that four people together can have. With Damageplan, we have that right now and I hope we keep that because that’s really important.”

“With Damageplan I don’t feel like the fans are being sold short one f**king bit. Every night that we f**king step up on stage – if we get an hour to play, we play an hour and five minutes, if we get an hour and 10 we’ll play an hour and 20 if they’ll let us… It’s great to be in a band where everybody f**king knows the songs, everybody is into them and, at the drop of the hat, if there’s a song that’s not on the set-list that we wanna play, everybody’s like, ‘Go! Let’s do it!’ It’s cool.”

“With Damageplan I don’t feel like the fans are being sold short one f**king bit… It’s great to be in a band where everybody f**king knows the songs, everybody is into them…” – Vinnie Paul on the optimism that came with forming Damageplan.

Damageplan’s debut album, New Found Power, is certainly a strong beginning but most fans would probably assert that it’s not quite up there with Pantera’s zenith – A Vulgar Display Of Power. In Vinnie’s eyes, the best is certainly yet to come:

“I’m not taking anything away from the first record because I love it but it was all about discovery and putting everything together. Now we’ve got it all together, we’ve been out and played live, and we know what this band’s capable of. With the next record, everything will fall into place, it’ll be so natural. Almost every band that I ever fell in love with – the second record is my favourite record. It just seems like the first one was to introduce us to everybody and the second one is where it will really come together and blow up.”

Of course, thanks to the actions of Nathan Gale, we don’t know if there will ever be a second Damageplan record. This makes Vinnie’s explanations of the lyrics on New Found Power all the more poignant:

“Blunt Force Trauma (To The Head) is about when something you don’t expect comes right up behind you. It doesn’t matter what it is – it could be a situation in your life, it could be a person you know with a beer bottle – it’s something that you don’t expect.”

“Basically the lyrics are a lot to do with where me and Dime were coming from at the time, with the crumbling of one empire and then starting over… So there are a lot of lyrics about being reborn in a sense, about it being a new day, moving forward, letting go of the past and becoming something new. It’s in the titles – Reborn, Wake Up, Breathing New Life. It’s all about moving on and having the strength to carry on.”

Let’s pray that Vinnie and co have the strength to carry on, in what ever form that takes.

Dimebag Darrell“With all his greatness and accomplishments on the guitar, Dime will be missed more for his giving personality, charisma, caring for others, love and most of all his HEART!! Twice as big as the state of TEXAS!!!!!!!!!!!! Dime gave it all every day to each and every one of us and our lives have forever been hollowed without him…Thanks to all of you for reaching out to us in this time of our immeasurable loss. REST IN PEACE BROTHER DIME!!!!!!” – Vinnie Paul’s eulogy for his brother, Dimebag Darrell.

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Damageplan – New Found Power