PANTERA's REX BROWN: ABBOTT Brothers Are 'Looking Down' On Us And 'They're Digging What They're Seeing'

April 22, 2024

In a new interview with Sweetwater, PANTERA bassist Rex Brown spoke about the decision to tour with a reformed version of the band, also featuring fellow surviving member Philip Anselmo (vocals),alongside Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, OZZY OSBOURNE) on guitar and Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX) on drums. The lineup has reportedly been given a green light by the estates of PANTERA's founders, drummer Vincent "Vinnie Paul" Abbott and guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.

Rex said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The last show, man, I had a creepy, like a cold — something came by me. It felt like there was a cold feeling. And I've gotten this a couple of times before. When we were down recording with Charlie — me and Charlie just went down [in late 2022], put up eighty to a hundred hours of tape before Zakk [started rehearsing with us]. Zakk was still on the road. So we wanted to get the bass and the drum real tight, and we had this scratch guitar player. I felt that same chill. And, to me, they're angels. And I think you know who they are. Those guys, I think they're looking down, or they're looking around us, with us, and I think they're digging what they're seeing, man. I really do. And that's the only kind of way I can look at it, and get as close as we can with Charlie and Zakk. And God, it's getting really, really good. And there's so much more potential to get even tighter."

Speaking about the opportunity to perform PANTERA's music to new generations of fans who never saw the band before, Rex said: "There's a lot of memories in this band that are hard to put down. And losing the brothers, I just never in a million years thought that something like that would happen. Here we are 22 years later, and to see these new fans' faces. You've got one kid sitting there, or man, woman or child crying, and you have this other guy just going, 'You did it right.' It's just amazing."

Earlier this month, Rex spoke to American Musical Supply about how touring with PANTERA in 2024 is different from how it was in the band's heyday. He said: "This is a completely different thing, man. We have Charlie and Zakk now, and they're just — number one, they've been great friends of ours for all these years. We get along extra super cool. Charlie and I went down, probably put about eighty, hundred hours on tape of all the songs we were gonna do for the set, and others that we would want to do. Charlie and I worked on this for six months before we ever got into a rehearsal room. That's just how good friends we are. Charlie has been one of my best friends for years. So, this is another band. It's hard to fill the shoes of the brothers. At the same time, this has become a really tight unit. And Zakk just puts the extra… Dime was a very unique guitar player, and he was my best friend, and it's good to see those boys up on the screens and with us. And that's what this is about tonight, for me."

Regarding how he and the rest of the current PANTERA lineup have balanced honoring the band's legacy with any new creative goals they might have, Rex said: "There's many ways that we wanna keep this legacy alive, 'cause the music is still played all over. We have a whole new generation of fans that, they probably wouldn't have heard this stuff if we weren't playing out here playing these shows. And so, that generation of fans — let's say the 15-to-18-year-old kids that come out — they'll shortly have children, and that keeps that new generation alive. And Phillip even says it in the set, the parents of the '90s, which I'm a parent of the '90s, it's a very important statement in the set because it's about the gratitude.

"We're not doing this for ourselves; we're doing it for the name and the brand PANTERA," he continued. "And by God, this music needs to be heard again. It does. It needed to for a long fucking time. And that's what we're here doing tonight… It's just wonderful to be able to do this and pay homage to my music, the riffs that I wrote, or the riffs that Dime wrote, or the patterns that Vinnie played, and for what Phil came up with — tremendous impact on this music."

Last month, Rex told Rolling Stone Australia about performing with PANTERA in 2024: "Two of our beloved brothers that just aren't here anymore man, that's life, you know? They're just not with us man. That's just fate; it's the way the ball rolls, dude."

He added: "This is no tribute band — Philip and I get to play these songs of ours that we haven't played in 23 years. And to be able to do that and connect with the enormity of what's happened is just extraordinarily fucking insane, you know?"

Regarding PANTERA's latest additions, Rex said: "We knew who would fit and who wouldn't. We knew what the obstacles were in front of us, and we knew after… I'll put it this way — Charlie and I came down in September [2022] before we played that [first] show in December [2022], and we have probably one hundred hours of tape of us playing every fucking PANTERA song that I could remember. And so, you know, me and Charlie lockin' in like that… the drummer and the bass player, that's your foundation. So when Zakk came in, there were certain things we had to go over and over and over, to get tight. And today, this band is about as tight and about as badass as I fucking want. You know what I mean, and that's all I'm gonna say on that."

"But, man, this band is on fuckin' fire, and I couldn't be happier, man," he added. "I just can't explain that as much as I need to, I could not be happier."

Rex previously told that he was "absolutely" open to writing new music with the reformed version of PANTERA. "Yeah, I could tell you more but I'm not going to," he teased.

Earlier in the chat, Brown talked about what is has been like to go out and perform as PANTERA to a whole new generation of fans.

"You can't see it on the YouTube. You can't feel that vibe until you actually come to the show," he explained. "And we haven't been doing interviews just for the fact we want people just to come to the show. It's not about anything prior past or present that I wanna talk about today — just the show tonight.

"We're pinching ourselves over these new fans that have never seen this before, and it's a whole another generation that we either didn't know a) that were out there, b) that were still listening to us, and the turnout has just been unbelievable," Rex continued. "Of course, at first you had the naysayers and all that stuff, and as we played gig by gig, it's made us tighter. And I've been trying to rehearse this band as much as I can within schedules, and we'll just go down for no fucking reason and just jam. That's what makes a band tight."

The reformed PANTERA is headlining a number of major festivals across North America, South America and Europe and staging some of its own headline concerts. They are also supporting METALLICA on a massive stadium tour in 2024.

It was first reported in July 2022 that Anselmo and Brown would unite with Wylde and Benante for a world tour under the PANTERA banner.

Asked how it feels playing those "timeless" songs again, Rex told "You just said it — they're timeless. So getting to play them again is a… These were a big part of Philip and I's songs too. Of course, respect to the brothers. I think that looking down on us and giving us a big — and they're with us. It's just uncanny. That's the glue. Those guys are hanging around with us.

"Look, I'm not some crazy old man, man. I know that we're here for reasons," Rex added. "And this time he gave us a heavy load, and we have come through in spades. And I'm very proud of Charlie and Zakk and Phillip for stepping up… All of us [were very close back in the day]. We were intertwined. There was a close-knit family of friends — Jerry Cantrell and all those guys, ALICE IN CHAINS. We were all brothers and we all had each other's backs — even as fucked up as we got. We're fine now, I'll put it that way. But it's just such a different time and we're older men and can appreciate this more. And I feel 25 years younger, man. It's just insane."

Addressing complaints from some fans that Brown and Anselmo are going out and touring under the PANTERA name even though Dimebag and Vinnie Paul are not involved, Rex said: "I don't call it anything. I call it PANTERA. The show itself is a celebration of the lives of all four of us. Two are sadly not with us, and we cannot bring them back. God, do I want them back. But that's just not possible. So we're doing the best thing that we can to keep our music alive. And I think they're smiling down and saying, 'You guys are doing all right, man.' And they're with us. And I'm not shittin' you."

Asked what his initial thoughts were when he was first approached about relaunching PANTERA as a touring act, Rex said: "Philip and I talked for several months before. He got on the phone and said, 'Hey, man, you wanna do it? I didn't have — maybe a six-second… not a hesitation, but just to wrap my head around the full gravity of the enormity of it. I went, 'Okay, I've got a couple of questions.' And, man, ever since that call we've worked really, really hard to get this thing going. And we've jumped over a lot of mountains."

In February, Zakk spoke about the possibility of the reformed lineup of PANTERA making new music during an appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk". Asked if he would be open to working on new material with PANTERA, Zakk responded: "No. I think you would have to call it something else. You know what I mean? PANTERA is those four guys. So, yeah, you can't replace that."

Pressed about whether he would want to do it under an altered name rather than calling it PANTERA, Wylde said: "Yeah. If that was ever a bridge we crossed, we'd have to wait until we get there. But right now, it's just the four of us celebrating what the fellas [from the classic lineup] created."

Zakk went on to say that he was open to making new music with Anselmo, Brown and Benante, provided that it was presented differently than just PANTERA. "Yeah, of course," he said. "I mean, how could you call it PANTERA unless it was just pre-existing material and we were gonna record it — stuff that was in demo state or whatever, and it is songs that the guys wrote. But as far as new songs, it would have to be — you'd call it something else."

Back in January 2023, longtime PANTERA producer Sterling Winfield, who is reportedly one of the people who control PANTERA drummer Vincent "Vinnie Paul" Abbott's estate, told Reckless Rock Radio 89.3 KNON FM about the possibility of the reformed PANTERA recording new music: "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 2016, Vinnie Paul said that he would eventually release music that was planned for DAMAGEPLAN's second album.

The drummer formed DAMAGEPLAN with his brother "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott after PANTERA's split in 2003 and released the debut DAMAGEPLAN album, "New Found Power", a year later.

Vinnie Paul told "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk": "The first [DAMAGEPLAN] record, I think, was pretty diverse. We wanted to do something that didn't sound exactly like PANTERA, and with [the material that was written for] the second record, it was really focused, man. I've got the demos and someday they'll come out. But I really feel like we had turned a corner. We'd been out, the fans had seen us, and they'd accepted the fact that this was our new thing at this point."

Anselmo and Brown spoke about PANTERA's return to the stage during an appearance on the seventeenth episode of "The Metallica Report", the podcast offering weekly insider updates on all things METALLICA. Philip said: "It's empowering. It is incredibly beautiful, and you feel so much love when you're up there. And if you take it in, it's a great feeling, man. These days, man, that's where me and Rex, you know, we get to dig the shows more."

He continued: "When we were younger, we were at war and when we were on stage; we were just angry and at war, man. Now it's — the songs are there. I can concentrate on singing the fricking songs, number one. Geez, that's a relief for me, man. I don't have to break my fricking body in part anymore."

Anselmo and Brown also talked about Charlie and Zakk being part of the PANTERA team. Philip said: "Them two dudes, so enthusiastic. And they got their damn thing and they got their own damn legacy, both of them, without us. It's an honor to play with them. They're the nicest frickin guys in the world, man. I'm just so... [Laughs] Zakk, he's a crack-up, man. He's a sweetheart. And fricking Charlie, we've known Charlie since '87, man. It's a long time."

Rex chimed in: "The way [Charlie] plays Vinnie's parts is uncanny. I don't think there's any drummer out there that could play the way that Vinnie did. I would close my eyes, because I was trying to get tight, and sometimes if I close my eyes, I can hear a little better; I think I can. And there'd be a tear of joy just coming down, because that was so close to what Vinnie and I used to play. So you have the foundation."

Philip concurred, saying: "The low end sounds so PANTERA, man. It's freaking me out."

When the interviewer suggested that PANTERA in 2023 had Vinnie Paul and Dimebag's "spirit inside it", Philip said: "Only thing I can say is, man, I know for a damn fact Vince and Dime would want us to do this, hands down. They would want the PANTERA brand or the legacy to go on. And I don't know what you believe in, but sometimes, you know, you would like to think that them old fellas are looking down on us, giving us the thumbs-up."

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."

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. 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.

Dimebag's longtime girlfriend Rita Haney in 2011 called on Vinnie and Philip to settle their differences in honor of Dimebag.

Vinnie, who was 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.

Photo credit: Epiphone

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