Interview with Vinnie Paul of Pantera By Roger Scott
Pantera has played 200 to 250 shows a year. Not bad for a band who proudly cranks out blistering, hard-as-hell Heavy Metal, in an age when the recording industry has declared the genre dead.

Back from a prestigious supporting slot at the Ozzfest, one of summer 1997’s biggest events, Pantera’s drummer Vinnie Paul will only be home in Dallas for a few weeks before Pantera embarks on their own tour, supporting their new album, Official Live: Pantera 101 Proof. Vinnie took the time to discuss these ventures and other things with NY Rock freelancer Roger Scott.

__NYROCK:

What was it like touring with Kiss? I assume that they were childhood idols.

___V. PAUL:

Yeah, they're one of the reasons why we started doing what we do. We've known Paul [Stanley] and Gene [Simmons] for quite some time, and Gene's come out and jammed with us, several times, it was just amazing – they treated us so good.

__NYROCK:

Speaking of childhood idols... What was it like at the Ozzfest?

___V. PAUL:

Man, it was just a great, great tour; it was probably the most fun tour we've ever been on. Ozzy was great; Black Sabbath, getting to see them once again, was like being with Kiss. It was a childhood dream come true.

__NYROCK:

Were you surprised at the appeal of some of the bands at the Ozzfest? When you look at some of the previous huge tours, they're usually comprised of bands with much more mainstream prominence; whereas here Ozzy went out with Neurosis, Downset, Powerman 5000... it was a pretty interesting, and lower profile lineup

___V. PAUL:

Well, I think it just made a statement to a lot of people that want to claim Heavy Metal dead and gone. It's alive and well: we did sold-out big numbers just about everywhere we went.

__NYROCK:

What do you think could be the next big trend in music?

___V. PAUL:

I'd just like to see more reality in the music, more bands that want to come out and play music, not depend on a computer to play it for them. And more bands that jam – there are so many bands today, you can call them “Alternative” or whatever you want – that are garage bands who got record deals, and they go out there, and they stand there on the stage, and they look at their feet. There's nothing to watch. It's boring. When I was a kid, when you went to see Van Halen, [they] were all over the stage. And that's the same approach that Pantera's had. I'd just like to see more bands get back into the energy of the music. Put it this way, if you were a 13-year-old kid today, Marilyn Manson would probably be your favorite band. It's exciting, and controversial, people like that kinda stuff.

__NYROCK:

Interestingly enough, Pantera is just as hard-hitting and harsh lyrically as you are musically, but yet, no one has really bothered you as far as, like when you look at problems that Judas Priest or Ozzy has had, with people taking them to task over “controversial lyrics.”

___V. PAUL:
Pantera

We really haven't had that problem. One time, in Alabama, we had some church group carry around crosses and stuff out in front of the show, but none of those PMRC [Parents Music Resource Center] and other of this crazy stuff has come after Pantera. Maybe when they read the lyrics, they see a lot of reality. It's stuff that happens to everybody in people's lives. Philip [Anselmo] writes straight from the heart. He writes songs about his personal experiences in life, or the things that the band collectively has gone through, and that's why a lot of people really can relate to the lyrics, because they go, “Man, I've lived that, I've done that, or my friend's going through that.”

__NYROCK:

You guys in the past were pretty vocal about the whole “legalize marijuana” issue. The opening track on Far Beyond Driven, “Strength Beyond Strength” makes mention of it. I remember even seeing an interview in High Times...

___V. PAUL:

I would just say the only stance we've ever had on it is anybody can go into any bar around the world, become inebriated, hop into the car, and go kill somebody. Most people who smoke dope do it on their own time, and at their own house, chillin' out, that kinda thing, and it makes you no more fucked up than drinking alcohol. In fact, it probably enhances your perception of things. I truly believe that if it was a legalized thing, it could help our government get out of all the trouble it's in, as far as money. Instead of taxing everybody to fuckin' death, just put a hefty tax on that crap.

__NYROCK:

Getting back to music, in the '80s, Metallica was considered the high water mark in terms of intelligent lyrics, music complexity, sheer intensity, originality. In the '90s, the metal fans have put you in their place. Is that something that you think about at all?

___V. PAUL:

It's something that we're very proud of. It makes us feel good because, like you said, Metallica was the thing then, and they still are today, it's just they've chosen a different path to go with their new music.

__NYROCK:

You've led the pack in terms of opening up the really brutal heavy thrash sound to a more mainstream audience, and a whole mess of bands have followed. What keeps any of them from achieving the kind of major success that you guys have had?

___V. PAUL:

I really think that touring has so much to do with it. We've realized that you're not gonna hear us on a whole lot of radio stations. You're not going to see us on MTV. When we started out, we went and played every little shit-hole on the face of this earth. We played nightclubs for seven years before we ever got a record deal, and were also fortunate early on to get on some really good tours when we first started off.

__NYROCK:

Which is a perfect segue into your new album... Official Live: Pantera 101 Proof.

___V. PAUL:

We just felt that after four studio albums, and years of non-stop touring, we'd see all these fans at our in-store [appearances] and they'd be like, “when are you putting out a live album?” So we decided to start working on this live album. We just felt like, let's try to give something back to the fans, and make the very best valued product that we can. So instead of doing a big double CD, or box set, or something that's gonna cost a lot of money, we went for, as cheap as possible, and to make it that much more special too, we went and did two new studio tracks [“Where You Come From” & “I Can't Hide,”] right before we went on the Ozzfest.

__NYROCK:

What was the last great record you bought?

___V. PAUL:

Well, I listen to a lot of really different music, and I'm into mood music. I like Enigma and I like Seal, and there's this band that Danny Elfman does called Babble. They've got a new album, and if anybody just wants to chill out, and listen to something that'll put ya in like a trance mood, it's amazing.


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