In the brand new issue of U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine, former PANTERA drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott recalls how the band began falling apart in the midst of its biggest success after singer Philip Anselmo turned to heroin to combat his back pain.
"This is when the drug thing came about and everything started going sideways with him," Vinnie says. "That's when the band and him started separating and he started demanding his own tour bus. We'd see him before the show and then he'd be gone, and you never knew which Phil you were gonna get. You might get the pitbull that we all knew and loved, or you might get some dude who was completely whacked out on heroin and didn't do what he was supposed to do.
"It did become difficult on that touring cycle, but also we'd never had a break, so we could never get away from it.
"A lot of elements started creeping in, particularly with him. I mean, we were all in some pain. I had to deal with tendonitis, but I never turned to drugs to pacify it.
"None of us had any clue that he was even thinking of doing heroin — we used to be the most anti-drug guys in the world — and when he OD'ed in Dallas, when we played our big homecoming show to 18,000 people, the first thing that came to my mind was that he'd passed out because of the heat. When I saw him laying on the ground, blue, I was, like, 'What the fuck?' If it hadn't been for our drum tech, Kat, chasing down some paramedics, [Anselmo] wouldn't be around anymore. And it really would have been a shock because none of us had a clue.
"It definitely went from being all hunky dory to being a lot more work and not knowing what was gonna happen.
"We kept working, and, really, our intention wasn't to stop. Until Phil decided he'd rather go and do DOWN and SUPERJOINT RITUAL, we never stopped. I really felt like we were gonna be THE ROLLING STONES of heavy metal, and we could have been."
Vinnie, who is late PANTERA guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott's brother, and Anselmo have not spoken since PANTERA split in 2003. But the relationship got even more acrimonious when Vinnie indirectly blamed Philip for Dimebag's death, suggesting that some remarks the vocalist had made about Dimebag in print just weeks earlier might have incited Dimebag's killer.
Asked if he thinks Vinnie Paul will ever be open to repairing the rift, Anselmo told Artisan News: "You know, that would be a question for Vinnie Paul; I don't know. But once again I'll say that I love him. I feel his pain every single day. Dime was very much my brother, Rex's [Brown; PANTERA bassist] brother as well."
He continued: "In this life, one thing I've learned is that it does not take pure blood to make family; it's the relationship and how strong you hold that bond. And once again, my door is always open for Vince."
Dimebag's longtime girlfriend Rita Haney has called on Vinnie and Anselmo to settle their differences in honor of Dimebag, telling 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.
In Rex Brown's memoir, "Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story Of Pantera", Haney said: "My line has softened over the years since Darrell's death, probably because I feel an element of forgiveness and a desire for everybody to get along. No matter what ever happened, nobody did this to Darrell. I mean, they — Rex and Philip — didn't. The person who did it did it, and no matter what reason the killer — if he was still alive today — could give to justify that, it wouldn't change anything. But when you go through something like this, you want to lay blame somewhere. Obviously I had resentment to Rex and Philip because I had to watch Darrell trying to save his band. I wanted to fix it for him. As far as Philip is concerned, we are at least communicating, albeit on a fairly surface level. We haven't talked about any deep things like resentments because I've told him that I still harbor some resentment for how he handled band issues and how that impacted Darrell and I've made that very clear to him. And it's hard for me to trust him. But we'll see. It's a start and in time we'll probably sit down face to face."
She continued: "Despite all the issues I'll say this: going out selling the merchandise for Darrell every summer has given me a whole different perspective. When you are with all the people that PANTERA's music touched and you hear the stories they have about how a certain song got them through, even if they never got to see them, it makes you realize that you're being selfish and that your issues are petty and false. I'm not the big picture. They are. I'm so grateful for all the things I learned from Darrell and I want to try to be that kind of person you know. Better."
She added: "I wish Vince was more like his brother when it comes to welcoming new people into his world, instead of feeling strapped up or that it's a problem or an inconvenience. Of course it can be overwhelming, I used to watch Darrell every day and marveled at how amazing he was at handling it, but I wish there was more of that in Vinnie. I know he has never really dealt with the death of his brother head on, and instead he's chosen to shut it away and hope that he'll never have to discuss it. If he was open to sharing some of his stories with people, he might just find peace, and if he let people in, he might also just see the big picture I'm talking about."
Asked about the persistent rumors of a PANTERA reunion with Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, OZZY OSBOURNE) filling in for Dimebag on guitar, Vinnie tells Metal Hammer: "All I can say is rumors are rumors.
"I'm not interested because there's no Dime, and, to me, if there's no Dime, there's no PANTERA.
"That's my reason. It's behind me. I've moved on.
"I play in a band called HELLYEAH and I really love doing it.
"I'm looking forward to moving forward; I don't wanna live in the past."