Zakk Wylde and Charlie Benante have opened up about their participation in the upcoming PANTERA tour.
Two weeks ago, it was reported that Wylde and Benante, along with PANTERA's surviving members, singer Philip Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown, will tour as PANTERA, headlining a number of major festivals across North America and Europe and staging some of their own headline concerts.
According to a report by Billboard, Wylde and Benante's involvement in the project has been approved by the estates of PANTERA's late co-founders, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott and guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.
Earlier today (Thursday, July 28), Zakk and Charlie discussed their involvement in the PANTERA celebration tour while speaking to SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk". Zakk said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It's gonna be awesome. The fellows have always… When Vinnie was still with us, it was always rolling around that, 'Zakk, would you honor Dime and all of us get together and do this thing?' And I said, 'Fellows, whenever you wanna do this thing, I'll be over here waiting in the dugout and in the bullpen. And just call me when you need me and I'll learn everything and we'll go do this.'
"Throughout the years, there's always been rumblings about it, so it wasn't until, obviously, now… I was speaking on the phone with Phil — we might have been all on a group call — but Phil was just, like, 'Zakk, would you honor Dime and would you play?'" the OZZY OSBOURNE guitarist and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY frontman recalled. "And I said, 'Yeah, Phil. Of course. I've always said I would. Of course.' I said, 'If you guys wanna go do it, then let's do it.'"
As for what his approach is going to be to playing the parts originally written and recorded by Darrell, Zakk said: "You approach it the same way as you do when I'm playing with Ozzy. Obviously I've gotta learn [Randy] Rhoads's stuff and I've gotta learn Jake's [E. Lee] stuff, and when I was doing the [BLACK] SABBATH stuff, you learn it and do it as faithful as you can. Charlie's gotta learn all of Vinnie's parts. You approach it as if you're in a cover band. When we do the ZAKK SABBATH stuff," referring to his BLACK SABBATH cover band, "I don't start changing lyrics midway through 'War Pigs'. You learn the songs — so that's what you do."
Benante concurred, saying: "I can't go do this as the drummer from ANTHRAX because it would be a different sound completely. So the way I'm gonna do that is if you close your eyes, it's gonna sound like it's Vinnie, basically. And that's how it's gonna be… The sound is gonna sound exactly like him."
Asked when he first got approached about taking part in the PANTERA tour, the ANTHRAX drummer said: "Oh, man. December [of last year]. End of December. I was talking to Philip, and then he just mentioned this. And I said, 'Oh, yeah, sure. Whatever.' And then it became real about January [or] February… To this day, if it happens, if there's one show that's played, great."
Pressed about whether he knows when the first show from the PANTERA tribute project is going to happen, Benante said, "No."
Both Charlie and Zakk went on to say that they see the PANTERA tour as nothing more than a celebration of the music created by the legendary Texas-based act. "Absolutely," Benante said. "And I think everybody in [ANTHRAX] feels the same way about those guys. We go back a long way [with PANTERA] — '86, maybe even '85. We played a show at a place called Cardi's in Houston, and PANTERA were the opening band. It was in [April] '86. HELSTAR was on the bill. It was the first time we met them. My friendship with Darrell goes a long way, and I love both of those guys so much. So, for me, it was a very emotional thing to do this. That's what it's all about — it's all about those two guys and doing it… I don't wanna see anybody else doing it but me, 'cause I'm gonna do it right."
Added Zakk: "Whenever [the idea of doing a tribute has] come up, you're celebrating the guys and you're celebrating all their achievements and their greatness. And that's what it is. 'Cause everybody was just, like, 'How can they call it a PANTERA reunion?' And I go, 'Well, it's Phil and Rex getting back together,' 'cause they haven't played together for a while. I go, 'It's a PANTERA celebration.' That's what it is. It's no different than Mitch [Mitchell] and Noel [Redding] from 'Experience Hendrix' asking Eric Clapton to come out and sing and play Jimi's [Hendrix] stuff and honor him, and they're gonna go out and honor Jimi Hendrix. To me, it's the same thing. With Ozzy, we honor Saint Rhoads every night. Every time we're playing 'I Don't Know', 'Mr. Crowley' — everything — you're honoring Randy. To me, it's an extension of that. You're honoring Dime, you're honoring Vinnie and you're honoring Phil and Rex, all the guys, their achievements, what they achieved as PANTERA and all the mountains they conquered. That's the way I look at it. That's the way I've always looked at it."
Benante and Wylde had both voiced their appreciation for PANTERA's musical legacy on a number of occasions in recent years. Back in June 2018, just one day after the death of Vinnie Paul, Benante told SiriusXM about the first time he met the PANTERA drummer: "The very first time, it was the first time we ever were in Texas. And those guys [PANTERA] were there. We played at this club, and I believe PANTERA were the opening band. A mutual friend of ours, who everybody knows now — Rita [Haney, longtime girlfriend of Dimebag] — she kind of was the conduit to grouping us together to become friendly. We've known those guys since 1985, and just the two of them, Darrell and Vinnie, after you met those two, it was like you had a friend in Texas, both of them, and they just made the experience so much better, and you immediately bonded. So throughout the years, we just remained friends."
Benante went on to draw a parallel between PANTERA and another legendary rock band which featured siblings who achieved notability together.
"I always equated Dime and Vinnie as, like, Alex and Eddie from VAN HALEN; I always thought PANTERA was like VAN HALEN reborn," he said. "They had a guitar player, who was a hero. The drummers were fucking awesome, but the thing about Vinnie that, I think, not a lot of people know — maybe they do — but from a technical side of things, Vinnie made those PANTERA records sound like that. He was the guy behind it all who was turning the knobs, EQing shit so that his kick drum wasn't fighting with Darrell's fucking chunky guitar. He was a lot of the brains and the glue that held that band together and, basically, pushed that band."
In 2019, Anselmo, who has spent the past few years playing a PANTERA-centric set with his solo band, THE ILLEGALS, told Chile's Humo Negro that he would consider getting together with Wylde and Brown and performing PANTERA's classic songs in concert. "Well, Zakk is a busy man," he said. "He does his own band, he does stuff with Ozzy and all that stuff. We spoke about it maybe one time. And I think everybody — everybody — is… I guess they're like me. Keep an open mind about it. We'll see. But I know from all the hard work with [Anselmo's] THE ILLEGALS [project] here to make those songs right, all of us, we would have to take time off and really practice together and get everything perfect. So it's a lot of work. And I'm doing a lot of bands, man, right now. [But] if everything was lined up, I would do it — sure. Fuck yeah! Why not?"
Zakk was also open to the idea, telling "The Cassius Morris Show" in October 2019: "When Saint Vinnie was still around, they were talking about it then. I mean, the way I always looked at it is it's a PANTERA celebration and an honor. I mean, every night I'm playing with Ozz, we honor Saint Rhoads [late Ozzy guitarist Randy Rhoads]. I'm playing the Randy stuff every night, and I'm blessed and it's an honor to do it. Basically, we're paying tribute to Randy every night — keeping his music alive.
"No one's replacing anybody. No one's replacing Randy Rhoads — he was a one-off. If [LED] ZEPPELIN was going out, and if Jason's [Bonham] playing drums, no one's replacing his father. What they're doing is celebrating his father's greatness and what he achieved and all the mountains he conquered with ZEPPELIN. It's more of a tribute and a celebration than it is... You can't replace any of these people I'm talking about — they're all legendary guys. But, yeah, you're just celebrating all their achievements — that's all."
In April 2021, Rex told Eonmusic that he and Philip still get offers for a PANTERA tribute tour. "But if you don't have the other guys in the band, it's not going to sound the same," he said. "If we were ever to do something like that, it would have to be spot-on, or I wouldn't do it. It would be a tribute."
In February 2020, Haney said she would "definitely" be in favor of Anselmo, Brown and Wylde teaming up for a PANTERA tribute tour. A few days later, Brown weighed in on her comments, writing on Twitter: "I wanna make sure that ppl understand what I'm about to tweet.. It's not up to Rita to say what will happen, only what Philip & I say...I'm in!! Dig?!?!?"
Rita discussed the possibility of the former PANTERA members and the OZZY OSBOURNE guitarist paying tribute to Dimebag and Vinnie while speaking to "The Blairing Out With Eric Blair Show" on the red carpet of the Ronnie James Dio 10th Memorial Awards Gala at the Avalon in Los Angeles. She said: "I don't think there could be a PANTERA reunion, but I think that his two remaining brothers, Rex and Philip, if they wanted to honor Darrell and Vinnie, as far as where I'm coming from and what I believe Darrell would believe — because he was the most forgiving person that I know — I believe that he would be honored. It's kind of a cliché to say, but he truly would be grateful that he meant that much to them. And I think if they wanna honor their fallen brothers with a tribute, I think that that's great. But as far as trying to say put PANTERA back together, PANTERA tribute, this and that, no — that's distasteful without those other guys. But I think as a tribute, it would be a really great thing. Because I know, from a fan's point, if I hadn't been able to see them play or hear those songs — the songs, they mean so much to me; I can imagine [they do to] other people as well. I think it's great that they can at least see it performed, and by people that truly love 'em. So, yeah, I think it would be a really cool thing."
When asked to clarify if she would "be okay with a tour," she responded: "I definitely would. I'd wanna be at every show. [Laughs]"
Talk about a possible PANTERA "reunion" intensified when Anselmo regularly joined Wylde's BLACK LABEL SOCIETY to perform PANTERA's song "I'm Broken" during DOWN's 2014 stint on the "Revolver Golden Gods Tour". That buzz only got stronger after Brown joined the jam on May 23, 2014 when the tour swung through Texas.
Up until his passing, Vinnie remained on non-speaking terms with Anselmo, whom the drummer indirectly blamed for Dimebag's death.
Vinnie Paul and Dimebag co-founded PANTERA. When PANTERA broke up in 2003, they formed DAMAGEPLAN. On December 8, 2004, while performing with DAMAGEPLAN at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, Dimebag was shot and killed onstage by a troubled schizophrenic who believed that the members of PANTERA were stealing his thoughts.