April 26, 2023

In a new interview with Meltdown of Detroit's WRIF radio station, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner, who hired PANTERA bassist Rex Brown to play on the debut album from his ELEGANT WEAPONS project, was asked if he was ever in consideration to handle guitar duties for the reformed PANTERA on the latter band's current comeback tour. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "No. To me, there was only one guy that could do that, and that's Zakk [Wylde]. To me, there's a thousand guys on YouTube that can play that stuff note for note, but there's only one guy that had that relationship with the band and with Dime [late PANTERA guitarist 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott]. And that's Zakk. That's who they've got doing it. So there's only one guy, to me, that can do that gig."

Asked if he ever had a chance to meet the guys from PANTERA, including Dimebag, Richie said: "I met Vinnie [late drummer Vincent 'Vinnie Paul' Abbott]. Vinnie came down to a couple of shows that we played with PRIEST in Texas. I've never met Dime. I met Philip [Anselmo, PANTERA singer] a few times. I was never lucky enough to meet Dime, no."

The 43-year-old Faulkner also revealed that he never saw the classic lineup of PANTERA perform. "I didn't, unfortunately," he said. "Back when I was a teenager, I listened to [IRON] MAIDEN, METALLICA and PANTERA religiously for about a year. And a year is a long time when you're 12 or 13 years old. That was all I listened to, but never got the chance to see the band. And I think that goes for a lot of people in that age group."

Richie went on to say that the current PANTERA tour is a chance for younger fans to see the band's classic songs performed by the remaining surviving members of the group.

"We were just down in South America [with JUDAS PRIEST], and there was, like, 80 thousand people rocking out to PANTERA," he said. "And, obviously, we know the situation that they're in — Dime's not around, Vinnie's not around — but they didn't care. They just wanted to see and hear those songs, and they were going absolutely ballistic, man. It was an amazing thing to see."

Faulkner previously discussed PANTERA's comeback in an interview last fall with the radio show "Sonic Boom" on Real Rock 100.3 The Fox in Rapid City, South Dakota. At the time, he said about Zakk stepping in for Dimebag: "I think there's only one guy that could have done that gig. He's the right guy for it. He's the only guy for it. The relationship he had with Dime over everything else. I mean, there's tons of guys that can play that stuff note for note for note, but I think the integrity that Zakk brings to that whole thing because of his relationship with Dime, I don't think there's anyone else on the planet that can do the gig like Zakk can do it.

"I don't think you need to play that stuff note for note," Richie continued. "I think it's all about what comes from the heart. People are sure to disagree with me there, but that's just my opinion on it. Dime played from the heart. It was all about emotion and passion. And I think as long as you put emotion and passion into that music, that's what it's about. Anyone can learn notes off a page, but if you don't have the passion and the emotion, what have you got with that music?

"So, Zakk's the guy," Faulkner added. "It was always gonna be Zakk. It always should have been Zakk, and it's gonna be fucking amazing. It's gonna be great… PANTERA were fantastic, and to hear those songs again, it's gonna be off the charts, man.

"The Internet is one reality, and then reality is another reality. And it's gonna be off the hook."

Anselmo and Brown, along with Wylde and drummer Charlie Benante, are headlining a number of major festivals across South America, Asia, North America and Europe and staging some of their own headline concerts. They will also support METALLICA on a massive North American stadium tour in 2023 and 2024.

According to Billboard, the lineup has been given a green light by the estates of the band's founders, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag, as well as Brown, who in 2021 said Wylde wouldn't tour with PANTERA if a reunion were to happen. It's unclear what changed his mind.

Last month, PANTERA headlined the 2023 "comeback" edition of Japan's Loud Park festival. The two-day "limited" event took place on March 25 at Intex Osaka in Osaka and March 26 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba City near Tokyo.

In December, PANTERA played seven shows in Mexico and South America.

Brown was forced to leave PANTERA's Latin American tour after testing positive for COVID-19. Filling in for him at some of the shows was CATTLE DECAPITATION bassist Derek Engemann, who also plays with Anselmo in both PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS and SCOUR.

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.

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.

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