When a heavy musician passes away, it sends a shockwave of emotions across the globe which family, friends and fans all react to in their own unique ways. Some remain silent as they’re hard hit more than others, some pull the back catalogue out and just hit play, taking in everything they’ve heard and followed over the years and others even go s far as sharing the stories and experiences they’ve had with the recently deceased, so others can get an idea of the impact that particular musician has had on their lives.
Over the weekend we lost another metal legend, Vinnie Paul, drummer of Pantera, HellYeah, Damageplan, Rebel Meets Rebel and his various other projects, sadly lost his life at age 54 on June 22nd, 2018 after suffering a major heart attack during his sleep. Still considered a spring chicken to some and way too young to leave this earth, the rock icon leaves behind a legacy which dates way back to the early 80’s and spans over and almost four decade career.
— HELLYEAH (@hellyeahband) June 8, 2018
Tweets from his band HellYeah indicated they had only just entered the studio at the start of the month, working on new material for their upcoming 6th studio album and the band had to pull out of several appearances/shows in order to finish recording. There’s no indication of how close to completion they were before Vinnie’s passing.
Over the past few days of reflection, we’ve seen tributes and stories flooding in from many of Vinnie Paul‘s fans and former associates who had the opportunity to rub shoulders with or see the man live in the flesh, so we’ve gathered a few personal anecdotes about their experiences and how the tragic news has hit them…
AJ Maddah (@iamnotshouting), former Soundwave Festival Founder/Promoter:
I was the Sydney “on ground publicist” for Pantera’s 1994 Far Beyond Driven tour. A bullshit title because street teams did not exist back then. Essentially I spent time I should have been at University lectures, running around putting posters and fliers into record shops and working with community radio metal programs.
Needless to say the show itself was INSANE. From the intro (Ministry’s NWO) which announced the arrival of the band to the dying echoes of ‘Cowboys From Hell’ which signalled their departure, jaws were dropped, minds were staggered and pants were soiled. Along with 30 or so other very lucky punters, I had the opportunity to meet the band – minus Phil. Dimebag was nice but exasperated with the demand of various guitar & gear sponsors, Rex was accommodating but an introvert at heart, and then there was Vinnie, larger than life and holding court; cracking jokes and interacting with the fans like they were longtime friends. His warmth was genuine. He was happy to give something of himself to make the fans happy. His was an authentic joy and wonder at being half a world away, rocking a massive crowd of adoring fans. Man, would I have loved to be friends with this guy! And for 15 minutes or so that we were in his presence, he made each and every one of the fans feel like we already were.
By the time the opportunity arose to work with Vinnie’s new band, HellYeah, in 2007, I was already an established promoter. Naturally, there was quite a bidding war for the band and at the end, it took a direct intervention from vocalist Chad Grey, whose other band (Mudvayne), I had successfully worked with, for me to secure the tour. The tour was a series of killer shows, steakhouse dinners in every town and copious quantities of high end Bourbon whiskey. So much damn whiskey.
Over a decade may have passed, a decade in which he had experienced the shocking tragedy of seeing his brother and best friend Dimebag murdered a few feet away on stage during a Damageplan show; but Vinnie Paul was still exactly the same guy. Generous. Humble. Genuine. And above all deserving of love and loyalty. He was still with us only because his tech had put himself between Vinnie and a crazed gunman and LITERALLY taken the bullets intended to end his life as it had done for his brother.
I can try and tell you about the fun times. About a crazy dusk til dawn night of drinking and hijinks on a London rooftop, or teaching me to BBQ in El fucking Paso. Or how he opened his home to down on their luck band members, never expecting a damn thing in return. How he was fucked over many times for his generosity and yet always managed to find forgiveness and love in his heart. But I cannot define him any more perfectly than his technician who willingly took the bullets that were intended to end his life. That is what he inspired in those around him.
Farewell and rest in peace Vincent Paul Abbott. There will never be another like you.
Duane James (@pieman227), lifelong Pantera fan:
“Get in here, you have to fucking see this.”
It’s mid 1993, I’m 16 and I’d just got to my best mate Jacks’ house to hang out for the weekend. He’s taped RAGE from the night before and he’s got it paused, waiting for me to turn up.
He presses play and we lose our fucking shit. Two teenagers, jumping around the lounge room, mullets flailing, watching, for the first time, MOUTH FOR WAR by PANTERA.
It was life changing. We’d always been metal fans but this changed the game. More than when we’d first heard GNR. Even more than when we first heard Metallica. It was a return to what Metal should be after the onslaught of grunge and the apparent “death of heavy music”.
1994 hits and “Far Beyond Driven” debuts at No.1 worldwide. Jack and I had counted down the days and we each pick up a copy each on the first day. It’s brutal. A statement that Pantera don’t give a fuck about the trends in an age where the bigger metal bands are starting to wind their sound back or call it a day. Also it’s fucking great to listen to. Groovy, abrasive and unlike anything that’s come before it.
It gets firmly flogged on our stereos, alongside “Vulgar Display of Power” and “Cowboys from Hell”. Our mate Sestic brings in the “Pantera Home Videos” and it’s like nothing else matters. In amidst it all Pantera announces a tour of Australia. We’d seen video and heard stories of Pantera live. People came out of a Pantera pit battered and bruised, sometimes hospitalised. We had to go.
Nov 12, 1994 Jack and I head to The Sydney Entertainment Centre (RIP) and lives change. Pantera are at their absolute best. Focused, brutal and loud as ten fucks. There is no filler. Every song’s a belter and the pit is a fucking blur. I’ve never seen a pit as ridiculous as when they played “This Love” and followed it up with “Primal concrete sledge”. Nearly 25 years later and the memory is still vivid.
As we exit the arena (unharmed), we hear chants of “PANTERA, PANTERA…” churning out from the rear entrance. We head over to a sea of Pantera fans climbing up on the fence and hanging off the walls of the adjacent car park. This huge fucker has hold of one fence and has shaken it free of the concrete, another skinny surfer looking bloke is hanging of the third floor car park ledge. It’s mayhem and the crowd is getting bigger. Security officer Big Val (RIP) heads out, assessing the situation, does his cigarette trick to loud applause, turns and as he heads back inside he tells us all to wait there.
Seconds later support band Powderfinger emerge and bottles of piss get launched at them. Fuck Powderfinger. They had no business being there.
Then it happens. The exit doors burst open, a bunch of roadies head out with Val and start stacking hundreds of empty Gatorade cups on the ground and then the boys emerge. Phil, Rex, Dimebag and Vinnie Paul Fucking Abbott, loaded up with longnecks of VB and they start pouring. The roadies take the reins, keep pouring and the boys start handing out beers. PANTERA chants are getting louder and the boys are drinking with the fans. Dime has our corner and he’s giving beers out one by one. It’s our turn next and Jack and I are excited as all fuck as Dime starts approaching us, beers in hand. He’s inches away when he looks up at us and says “WOAH, YOU GUYS ARE TOO YOUNG”.
He hands the beers to some other blokes, looks back at us, points and gives us a thumbs up. It was huge and at the time we were spewing. But we had that moment with the lads.
(Pantera Home Video Part 3 – Video supplied by Jack Bremner)
That event made it onto the next home video. We were there. The video scanned past us after Phil says “Good God”. We’re a blur, but Jack and I are on Pantera Home Video Part 3.
The next and last time I saw Pantera was May 15, 2001 at the Hordern. Phil was off his guts and the boys were doing their best but even at their worst, Pantera were still dangerous and better than most bands at their best.
They called it a day soon after.
When Dime died in 2004 I was working in Byron digging trenches at Gerry Harvey’s new resort. Me and the guys I worked with had hit the piss pretty hard over the previous few days and had made a collective decision to have a night off. But when I got back to the hotel and heard the news of Dimes death, me and the boss beelined it to the pub and the boys met us there. I rang Jack and he was devastated. We both were. The next day Pantera got played all day from every stereo on site.
Not everyone there were fans, but in the short time I’d known these guys they knew that I was.
I got to meet Vinnie briefly in 2012. I was walking around Soundwave Festival with my brother Luke. There was this huge fuck crane in the middle of the arena with a Jaegermeister bar that was hanging in the air. I looked up and from a thousand miles away I could spot it. Vinnie Paul’s great big fucking cowboy hat.
I grab the brother and head straight for the crane. He says “you can’t climb up there dickhead”. I says “No, but he’s gotta land some time and when he does, I’ll be there to say g’day”.
He lands and there’s a fence between us. I tell him I’m a lifelong fan and I fucking love him. He thanks me and we bump fists. I fucking float away. Day made.
Last year it was my 40th and I got to visit Dimes graveyard in Arlington, Texas and have that beer with him I didn’t get back in 1994. He’s buried at Moore Memorial Garden Cemetery in Arlington. His gravesite has the marks of a man loved by his fans. There’s a few scratched messages, candle residue, empty whiskey bottles and flowers. My missus Amy and I had a Corona each and she turns to me and says ” You made it.”
It hit me like a sledgehammer. Tears. An enormous moment for me.
We finished a couple of beers, I put my hand to his grave and took off.
The next day I went to Dime and Vinnies strip bar “The Clubhouse”. An event in itself. Vinnie wasn’t there unfortunately but I drank a bucket of beers with Amy and my mate Cookie while a bunch of ladies climbed this one pole on the stage. Jack should have been there. It’s a bit sad when I’m in a strip club and I’m thinking of my mate on the other side of the world….
Vinnies death last Saturday came as a shock. I was having a beer at the end of my working week, checking my messages at the local when I found out. Had a quiet tear at the pub when I thought of him reunited with his brother Dime at the great bar in the sky.
Spent the rest of the night blasting Pantera by the fire pit while drinking black tooth grins. Jack called. My post on Facebook is how he found out. He started a fire in his backyard, got out the crown royal and watched Pantera’s home videos on a makeshift projector screen hanging from his clothesline.
Even after 25 years of listening to Pantera and 17 years after they called it a day, their impact on my life still remains. Their music feels ingrained in my core. They were never above us. They were one of us. They remained unrelenting in a time when heavy music was “dead”. Grunge and Nu metal was taking its toll. Metallica released Load. Pantera released Great Southern Trendkill. Brutal. Abrasive. Unapologetic and Pure.
Other bands have tried and a few have come close, but there’s only one Pantera. You don’t get metal today without them. They raised the bar and, for me, have been the benchmark for heavy metal. Others have been bigger. None better.
RIP Vinnie Paul Abbott. Thanks for everything mate. Cheers.
Chris Maric (@maricmediaAUS), PR/Promoter Maric Media:
When I was a kid, rock stars seemed immortal. They were, to me anyway. I was in year 12 when Kurt Cobain died and working at Sony Music when Layne Staley passed away. Those two had major impacts on me and many people of my generation. Of course no one of that generation would ever forget where they were when they heard the news about Dimebag Darrell either. These artists, they aren’t just some face you see again and again on TV or in a magazine, they and the music they create are ingrained in your DNA. Those formative years when music is everything, it stays with you. Which makes Vinnie Paul’s sudden passing all the more difficult to realise.
I first encountered Vinnie by way of his thundering drums coming booming at me out of my (rather kick ass at the time) stereo in 1991 via the opening to Cowboys From Hell. From then on I was in. I saw Pantera three times as a kid, Twice at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which were both nights of unbridled electric energy, in and out of the arena that can never be experienced by anyone ever again. Crowds are so tame compared to those days!! In 2000, maybe 2001, I actually met Vinnie and Dime for the first time. The bands popularity had significantly waned by then and the show was at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney, roughly almost a third the size of the ent cent. It didn’t seem to deter the guys though as Vinnie and Dime played their asses off. After the show, both of them rocked up to the meet and greet and I got to shake hands and get photos with legends.
Fast forward to the late 00’s and Vinnie’s new band Hellyeah were on the scene. The company I worked for, Riot Entertainment, had licensed the bands second album, Stampede. I had worked with the bands singer and guitar player, Chad and Greg waaay back at the start of the decade when they were in Mudvayne when I was at Sony so it was great to be working with them again, but of course, the 15 year old in me was losing his mind over the fact I’d be working with one of my childhood inspirations. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Im also a drummer, so as player, I regarded Vinnie as one of the greats.
Hellyeah toured in 2010 and we looked after them. A couple of big dinners where we joined the band and crew at some fancy restaurants and listened as Vinnie retold road stories I’m sure he had told a million times before but loved to recite so every time was like the first time. He had a genuine appreciation for the people around him and wanted to make sure you felt respected and appreciated for all the work you did for him and his band!
After the Sydney show at the Metro, which was just killer, we held a VIP party at Club Venom down the road and it was packed. It somehow turned into a makeshift instore and the whole place came rushing at the band to get photos and autographs. John (Howarth, Riot boss) and I got a tiny glimpse of what it must be like in the life of Vinnie Paul. The crowd surged and the table between them and the band started to shift, making the whole area very chaotic and actually pretty scary. Knowing what happened on stage that night in 2004 with Dime, I could see some serious concern on Vinnie’s face as the whole thing became a little unpredictable. In the end, we sorted it out and true to form, he stayed until every last fan got what they needed.
Two years later in 2012, the band were back and part of that years epic Soundwave line up and we were looking after them once more. Hooking up at the start of the tour in Brisbane, I knew it was going to be a mental week. Hellyeah had some interviews to do and they were held on the opposite side of the band compound to their dressing room. I grabbed Vinnie and Chad and attempted to walk them over to the press area. It was no more than 60 metres and it took almost half an hour. Literally dozens of people came rushing up to greet Vinnie with high fives, big hugs and bigger smiles. Band people, crew and various industry types stopped him every few feet. He knew them all and even though he knew he had press to do, took the time to speak to everyone he encountered on that short walk. Chad just looked at me, rolled his eyes and gave a knowing look as if to say ‘yep, this is just everyday life when you’re in a band with Vinnie Paul’ The party never ends.
The next day in Sydney, Channel V came and asked me if Vinnie would be interested in doing an interview in their ‘skycrane’ A literal crane that was inside the main arena of the stadium that had a large table and a bunch of racing car seats bolted on to it, which was then hoisted 200 feet up above the crowd. I didn’t even finish telling Vinnie what it was before he slapped me on the shoulder and said in his big Texan voice ‘hellfuckinyeah, lets do it, c’mon!!’ and so we went. Vinnie, Chad and myself got the safety drill, got strapped in and before we were ten feet off the ground, got given our first Jagermeister. For the next hour we sat high above the crowd, Bad Religion were ripping into their set on the main stage as Jane Gazzo from Channel V interviewed the guys and I just sat there, getting plied with Jagers and soaking it all. ‘Holy shit, I’m drunk in the sky and doing it with these guys!’ It was pretty fucking rock and roll!
We eventually got lowered back down to earth and Vinnie gave me a big hug and said that was one of the coolest things he’s ever done at a festival. It’s still the coolest thing I’ve done at a festival haha
The rest of that tour is a blur of hard work, good times and lots and lots of drinking. It takes a special kind of soul to do that for nearly 30 years non stop.
In 2014, Hellyeah released Blood For Blood which I worked for Sony Music and the usual promo cycle of phoners and things like that began again. This time, I dealt mostly with Vinnie direct on setting up all his interviews as it was just faster than going through the chain of label people. Over a couple of weeks, I think he must’ve done 20 or 30 interviews with Australian media for that album. Every time I’d give him the schedule for the next round, I’d get more requests from more media outlets and so I’d go back to him and say ‘by the way, another 6 people want to talk to you, cool?’ He’d email back ‘more fucking interviews!!, sure man, whatever you need Chris’ and so I’d line em up and he’d knock em down, no dramas at all.
The last time I saw him was on the tour for that album, in August of 2015. He was as gracious as ever and spent more time than he should have doing interviews with media at the venue but his attitude was always one of gratitude. If people want to talk to him, he will absolutely give them the full Vinnie Paul experience.
As evidenced by the sea of tributes out there from legion of fans, the wider music world and so many close friends who he left an impact on through his lifelong dedication and service to heavy music, Vinnie Paul’s loss is beyond tragic. One of our leading lights has gone out and one no one ever expected. Not so soon. He was just 54 years old.
Vinnie Paul burned bright, burned hard and make sure you had as much fun as he did.
Rest In Peace. Stronger Than All
Simon Valentine (@SimonValentine1), Wall of Sound writer:
I was lucky enough to catch Pantera in 2001 on their tour for Reinventing the Steel. I still hold that concert as one of my favorites today. Both the Abbott brothers were amazing musicians, but while Dimebag was the larger than life guitarist who influenced how I played, Vinnie Paul was a powerful influence on the way metal drums are played today, inspiring a generation of big names in the world of metal.
Beyond the kit, Vinnie was the backbone of Pantera, from having a hand in the production of their albums, to being the guy to piece together countless hours of footage for the band’s legendary home videos. In Hellyeah, Vinnie continued to be a powerhouse behind the drum kit and continued to bring that fun-loving attitude from Pantera to the masses.
On a side note – it still amuses me today that when Pantera first toured Australia in 1994, they were supported by two then little known aussie acts – Powderfinger and Silverchair. Legend has it that both bands weren’t too well received by both the diehard metal audiences, nor Pantera themselves.
I wonder if Vinnie Paul ever found out what became of those weird blokes from Brisbane and those squeaky kids from Newcastle.
Dan Brixey (@DanielJBrixey), Wall of Sound writer:
I got into Pantera when “Vulgar Display of Power” came out in ’92. I still think it’s one of the greatest metal albums ever made. They toured Australia in ’94 on the back of the equally impressive “Far Beyond Driven” and I went to see them one warm night in that year at Festival Hall in Brisbane (one of the great music venues).
They were incredible live, and still one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen. The mosh pit was crazy, especially during “Mouth For War”. However it was at the mid-point of the show when the guys came out with a keg of beer, and started pouring beer into plastic cups and throwing them into the crowd. Vinnie Paul had the biggest arms I’d ever seen and he was hurling cups toward the back of the crowd. I was at the middle section and one of the beers that Vinnie threw was coming my way. Hands were reaching toward the sky, as if this was a gift from God, but after all the pushing and shoving, it was me who was holding a still half-full plastic cup of beer in my hands. Everyone around me cheered. But I didn’t feel the urge to drink it. Instead, I poured it all over myself. I had the best time.
Thank you Vinnie, and your brother, Darrell. For the beer and the music. Both gone too soon.
Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Paul Abbott
1964 – 2018
Rest in Peace brother, hope you’ve knocked back a few Black Tooth Grins since reuniting with your brother Dime…
Header Photo courtesy of Mick Goddard (MickG Photography)