Longtime PANTERA producer Sterling Winfield, reportedly one of the people who control PANTERA drummer Vincent "Vinnie Paul" Abbott's estate, spoke to Reckless Rock Radio 89.3 KNON FM about the reformation of PANTERA, featuring surviving members Rex Brown (bass) and Philip Anselmo (vocals) along with guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX).
Winfield, who was one of the people who attended a PANTERA dress rehearsal in New Orleans on November 21, less than two weeks before the reconfigured band played its first show, said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "When I was in New Orleans, I knew it was gonna be huge because I got to see how serious they are taking this, how to heart they are taking this. Phil and Rex are different people now; they are not the same people from 20-something years ago. You mature, you grow up, you own your mistakes, you move forward in your life and you hope to make a better way for yourself. And that's exactly what I see here."
Winfield went on to say that "this is not a reunion", despite the fact that Brown, Anselmo, Wylde and Benante are touring under the PANTERA banner. "It is not PANTERA 2.0, at least not at this point," he said. "Whatever you wanna think, that's fine; go ahead and make your assumptions. But it was the media that called this a reunion; it was the media that called this the reformation of PANTERA — not them. They never put this out there as that; they put this strictly out there as a tribute to the brothers [Vinnie Paul and PANTERA guitarist 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott] and for the fans and for the music and for the legacy of this music, to bring it to another generation of people."
He added: "There's little kids out there wearing PANTERA shirts, and it's amazing to watch, because, yes, since Dime got killed, there's a whole generation of people that have been born on this earth."
According to Sterling, Wylde and Benante are absolutely the right people to perform the PANTERA material with the kind of respect and attention to detail that it deserves. "I cannot think of anyone better to handle the duties of Dime and Vinnie than Zakk and Charlie," he said. "I've known both of those dudes for a very long time. And Charlie is just a model human being himself and a monster drummer and loved the brothers like you wouldn't believe. And same goes for Zakk.
"They're not trying to be Dime and Vinnie, guys; they're not trying to be that," he explained. "That would be disrespectful. But they are being themselves and they are having fun. And I think you should come out and do it too. Even just watch some of the videos. You've seen 'em on YouTube. These crowds are insane, and I think you're gonna be missing out if you don't come check it out."
Addressing the question of whether other musicians were considered for the drummer and guitarist position in the new PANTERA lineup, Winfield said: "There was no doubt in my mind that he would be the one to take over for Vinnie. [It was a] no-brainer — absolute no-brainer. Now, there were some other guitar folks that were brought up. I'll just say this — that it would not have been a good fit, and quite honestly, they would not have been able to pull it off. But it always kept circling back around to Zakk. And after a couple of times, it was, like, again another no-brainer. Because he knew Dime better than most any other guitar player on the planet knew him. Is it gonna be Dimebag Darrell's exact notes and riffs and everything? No. It's Zakk Wylde, you idiots. It's Zakk."
Regarding the possibility of the reformed PANTERA recording new music, Winfield said: "It's not unheard of, it's not blasphemous. I will say that it is entirely plausible, it is entirely possible, but at this point in time, I don't know that anybody's looking that far down the road. They've got a world tour to tackle, man, for the next two years, and they are gonna be busy doing that. Now, could it happen? Yes."
Asked if he "would be cool" with Brown, Anselmo, Wylde and Benante making new music together, Sterling said: "It depends, man. Again, it has to be done right, like this whole thing; the whole tour that's happening has to be done properly. And I don't really feel comfortable — if it were to happen, I would not feel comfortable calling it PANTERA. I don't think that would be classy. I'll put it that way. And I'll just leave it at that for now. [But] this lineup could make some very badass music. And the music is all that matters."
In a recent interview with Overdrive, ALTER BRIDGE and CREED guitarist Mark Tremonti said that he spoke with Brown "a number of years ago" about PANTERA's then-hypothetical return, and Rex suggested that he "put [his] name in the hat" of potential guitarists who might fill the shoes of Dimebag. According to Tremonti, he responded to Brown's suggestion with an emphatic "Hell no!", explaining that "you have to be a certain type of personality to take on that role." BLABBERMOUTH.NET has also heard rumors that SLAYER guitarist Kerry King was approached to take part in the PANTERA comeback, but this has never been publicly corroborated by anyone associated with Anselmo, Brown and the Abbott brothers' respective estates.
Vinnie passed away on June 22, 2018 at his other home in Las Vegas at the age of 54. He died of dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, as well as severe coronary artery disease. His death was the result of chronic weakening of the heart muscle — basically meaning his heart couldn't pump blood as well as a healthy heart.
According to TMZ, Vinnie Paul left the bulk of his estate to his longtime girlfriend Chelsey Yeager and his best friend; Charles Jones got 38% while Chelsey walked away with 37%. The rest was split between Vinnie's tour manager (10%),drum tech (5%),producer (5%) and friend (5%). In addition, Vinnie gave his interest in Dimebag's estate to the guitarist's longtime girlfriend Rita Haney.
While he was alive, Vinnie Paul had repeatedly dismissed talks of a PANTERA reunion, telling Germany's EMP Rock Invasion in 2014: "People are selfish, man. They want what they want; they don't care what you want. And it's unfortunate that people go, 'Oh, wow, man, they can get Zakk Wylde to jump up there on stage and it's PANTERA again.' No, it's not, you know. It's not that simple. If Eddie Van Halen was to get shot in the head four times next week, would everybody be going, 'Hey, man, Zakk, go play for VAN HALEN. Just call it VAN HALEN.' You see what I'm saying? I mean, it's really selfish for people to think that, and it's stupid. It's not right at all."
He continued: "They call it a reunion for a reason. It's called bringing the original members back to what it was. So there's a lot of these things that they call reunions that aren't really reunions. They've got one dude from the band floating around in them, you know. That's not a true reunion. With PANTERA, it'll never be possible."
He repeated those same sentiments a few months later, telling PlanetMosh in a separate interview: "Without Dimebag Darrell, there is no [PANTERA] reunion. And that's all there is to it. We were a very influential band, and we touched millions and millions of people with that band, but it's over. People really have to come to grips with that, and that's all there is to it. If all of us were still here, then the possibility would truly be there, but since it's not, you know… It's selfish of the fans to want something that they can't have. And they don't ever understand that, and I get it. There's things I want in this world too. You know, people in fucking hell want ice water, but they're not gonna get it. So… Anyways, I'm glad that the people who have decided to follow me in HELLYEAH do, and hopefully more of them will. And the ones that wanna live in the past are gonna live in the past."
Up until his passing in June 2018, 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.
Haney in 2011 called on Vinnie and Philip to settle their differences in honor of Dimebag.
Vinnie, who is Dimebag's brother, and Anselmo had not spoken since PANTERA split in 2003. But the relationship got even more acrimonious when Vinnie suggested that some remarks the vocalist had made about Dimebag in print just weeks earlier might have incited Dimebag's killer.
Haney told the producers of "Behind The Music Remastered: Pantera" that she forgave the singer after they found themselves unexpectedly face to face at a concert in California.
PANTERA played its first show in over 20 years on December 2, a co-headlining slot at Mexico's Hell & Heaven Metal Fest.