VINNIE PAUL 'Was Never Behind' The Idea Of A PANTERA Reunion, Says His HELLYEAH Bandmate CHAD GRAY

March 28, 2024

MUDVAYNE singer Chad Gray, who played in HELLYEAH with Vinnie Paul Abbott for 12 years prior to the PANTERA drummer's tragic passing, has weighed in on the fact that PANTERA's surviving members Philip Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass) have united with guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX) for a world tour under the PANTERA banner.

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

According to Billboard, the lineup has been given a green light by the estates of the band's founders, Vinnie Paul and his brother, guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, 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.

Gray offered his views on the PANTERA returned during an appearance on The Jesea Lee Show. He said in part (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I know what it is, and I know that some levels of the intention are true and pure, but I also know that from sitting in on a million fucking interviews with Vinnie Paul and him and I interviewing together and shit, and the whole time, basically, that [PANTERA reunion] wasn't happening. And there was always some clown interviewer [who] apparently was just setting himself up for failure, he'd be, like, 'So what's the deal with all the mutterings we're hearing about the PANTERA reunion with Zakk,' and Vinnie would literally go, 'My brother's dead.' It's all he would say. That's all he would fucking say. And they wouldn't say another fucking word. And that's where it was. And that's the way Vinnie thought about it. PANTERA was done 'cause his brother was dead. So when I hear that and I hear how passionately he said that, and I know how much he meant it… He didn't care. Vinnie didn't need the fucking money. Vinnie's whole heart was in HELLYEAH. He loved HELLYEAH so fucking much. It was such an honor to be able to play in that band with him and have him literally bleed for that band. It was everything to him, and he didn't care about PANTERA anymore."

Gray went on to say that he understands why so many PANTERA fans are excited to be able to see the band's classic songs performed live.

"I've talked to so many people about it, and honestly, I think that the general consensus is that people are loving to fucking be standing on that floor again and listening and having them fucking, no matter how they sound, fucking blazing into those fucking songs and playing that setlist," Chad said. "That setlist is mean as fuck. That setlist is all my favorite shit."

Asked if he has had a chance to see the reformed PANTERA perform live yet, Gray said: "I haven't seen it, no. But, dude, I saw PANTERA 14 times as [the classic] PANTERA. The first time I saw them, they were basically still [touring in support of the] 'Cowboys From Hell' [album]. And then I saw them 13 more times from then to [2000's] 'Reinventing [The Steel]'."

He added: "The PANTERA thing, to me, it's so hard for me to process, because I get it. I get it. I was a fucking massive PANTERA fan. And I understand what standing on that floor means too, because if you're standing on that floor, chances are you're probably a little long in the tooth. Not that there aren't those young kids that never saw 'em, 'cause I guarantee you there's a lot of 'em or whatever, but there's something… The fountain of youth is heavy metal — it's like a fountain of youth. You go stand on that fucking floor and you're standing there and you're looking at the PANTERA backdrop and they fucking walk out and they tear into 'Strength Beyond Strength' or whatever, dude, guess what? You're not fucking 40-something, you're not 50-something, you're 18 years old again, dude, and you're 18 years old again for that night."

Elaborating on why it has been difficult for him to embrace the PANTERA comeback, Chad said:  "I was best friends with one of the fucking men that did it, that made that band happen and stuff like that. And he was never behind it, man. He was just never behind it. So it's hard, for me to… 'cause I have a lot of fucking respect for Vinnie Paul. I really do. And I have a lot of respect for Dimebag Darrell. And it's cool — let it be the tribute thing or whatever, but really question how much longer it goes or what else happens with it. I would just like to make sure that we're giving love and respect to those two fallen brothers, man, because they were a really, really fucking big part of music, man. It seems like kind of a cheat that they're not here to be a part of it, something that they built with their own hands."

Gray clarified that he has "nothing but love for Zakk. And Charlie's a fucking tremendous talent. And I think that where they're doing it from the place is pure — for those two," he said. "Those are big fucking shoes to fill, but they're both fucking phenomenal players and they're both great people. So I've got nothing but really good things to say, but it's hard for me because Vinnie was my bro and I know how he felt about it. And he didn't have a say, so it's hard."

Anselmo and Brown spoke about PANTERA's return to the stage during an appearance on the seventeenth episode of "The Metallica Report", the recently launched podcast offering weekly insider updates on all things METALLICA. Philip said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "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 has 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. 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.

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.

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