On December 8th, 2004, Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was assassinated onstage while he played with his brother in post-Pantera band Damageplan. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a decade since then, since Dime’s presence has loomed large over metal nearly as much since his passing than when he was alive. Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn weighed in on the fallen guitarist via his “General Journals” diary in a lengthy post. And while he promises in the title that this is only part 1, it’s a lengthy entry that details where he was when he found out that Dime was killed, how he met him on the first Ozzfest, and one of the most memorable Pantera-related nights he had. Here’s the full entry, which can also be read on the band’s Facebook page:
DIME REMEMBERED PT. 1
2004/2014 …Hard to believe it’s been 10 years…
Over the last month or so I’ve gotten asked a lot to talk about Dimebag. It seems like the magazines all want to do a cool story on the 10 year (Anniversary…? Memorial…? Passing of the man…?). It’s got me thinking about him. Really, it’s got me missing him.
I’m not going to sit here and try to make it look like Dime and I were best-bros or something, we were not… but I’d certainly call him a friend.
You can look at these as my brain-droppings, some of the stories may not even have much to do with Dime, but he was directly connected to these moments in one way or another. My hope is that by telling these stories it helps in some way. The whole world has their feelings about 12/8/2004 and all that were affected, so if these can at all make someone smile, me included, then this is a good thing. I don’t think there will ever be anything that makes sense out of that horrible, horrible day.
So here is Part 1 of series of my recollections about Dime to coincide with what is still, even 10 years on, one of the most incomprehensible things I’ve ever heard happen to anyone. Let alone a famous musician and someone I happened to know.
On December 8th 2004 I was asleep in my bunk on our Silver-Gray tour bus, when I was woken up by my tour manager Mark Workman screaming “Dimebag Darrell’s been shot, Dimebag Darrell is dead.”
“It’s all over AOL, it’s true, he was shot onstage last night”, Mark yelled.
It seemed like a bad dream.
As I slowly crawled out of my bunk, I kept thinking, “no way… no fucking way… people don’t get shot onstage.” I mean… even if I was up and fully awake and read this / heard this it still wouldn’t compute.
We were in Zagreb, Serbia finishing the last week of an 80 day tour around the globe (around the world in 80 days for real!) A jaunt that had begun in Australia and now was wrapping up in Eastern Europe. At this time (Dec 2004) I was pretty fried from the road as this was the most extensive tour of Europe we had ever done in support of our 5th album, “Through The Ashes Of Empires.”
The sports arena / warehouse we were playing was essentially “the land of NO” as it had no phone lines, no internet, virtually-zero cell reception, no TV, I mean there wasn’t even heat on this bitter cold December day in Eastern Europe.
The walk from the bus to the building was weird as we all walked in a bit of a daze. I went to talk with the opening bands God Forbid and Caliban, to see if they had heard any news from back home, but it was the same story. No connection to the World. There was no iPhone, Wi-Fi wasn’t available back then like it is now and in Eastern Europe it was nonexistent. We did a press conference a little later in the day and many in attendance confirmed that it was true, that this had happened, though most people still seemed pretty unclear about the details.
The 3 bands all sat around backstage huddled together drinking hot water and hot tea just to stay warm, wearing parkas, heavy jackets, gloves, and beanies to stay warm in the freezing backstage area. There we recanted our favorite Pantera moments. From the songs and Dime riffs, to the shows, to the solos, and in Machine Head’s case the many stories of Dimebag that we had from 5 months of touring with Pantera back in 1997 and the various times our paths crossed on the road since then.
Later that night we played in the freezing hall and it was just a weird vibe, it was so hard to get into the show and honestly… a little paranoid of a copy-cat incident. That night we dedicated “Descend The Shades Of Night” to Dime and a huge “Dimebag” chant greeted that intro. Half way through the 2nd verse I lost it, we all lost it. I couldn’t even sing the chorus I was choking up so bad. It was very emotional for everyone and I mean EVERYONE. We had known this guy; we had toured with this guy, Christ we had just played with him a few months earlier at Download. A week or ten days before this tour kicked off he and I had a great phone conversation.
But before we get into all that let me tell you about how we met “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott…
In 1997 we got the opportunity to play the inaugural outing of the Ozzfest tour. Before then, OzzFest had been a set of shows in California, but this was the first time it would be a living, breathing, fully operational touring festival. So to say no one really knew what to expect would be putting it mildly.
All that aside, you couldn’t deny the bill (Ozzy AND Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Pantera, Type O Negative, Machine Head, Fear Factory, Neurosis, Downset, Vision Of Disorder, Coal Chamber, Drain STH, Powerman 5000, and (Slo Burn), I mean it was amazing, really! Ozzy Osbourne was doing double duty with a set of Ozzy solo tunes AND then a set with (a Bill Ward-less) Black Sabbath’s reunion line-up. To say that this was a dream-come-true tour for me (who had never gotten a chance to see my favorite band of all time, Black Sabbath) fuck…I was in freakin’ heaven!
The main support to Ozzy / Sabbath would be Pantera for the first chunk, then Pantera would drop down a slot and the then-hottest band on the face of the earth at the time, Marilyn Manson would come in and support Ozzy / Sabbath. It seems weird to write that even now… So… let’s just say there were lots of grumblings backstage about it, but this was during the “Antichrist Superstar” era and Manson was shit-hot, a walking controversy /publicity magnet. I mean some of you will remember the mayor of New York tried to get him kicked off the NY show at Giants stadium!!! Manson was huge at the time.
We were stoked to tour with Pantera. We were nuts about “Vulgar Display of Power” and “Far Beyond Driven.” I first met Dimebag on that ’97 tour and early on he invited me and our-then-guitarist Logan, into their dressing room for shots of Crown Royal whiskey. If you know me, you know I’ve never been a big whiskey fan, always been a vodka guy but this was just one of those “go-with-the-flow” moments and “see-where-the-night-takes-you
“. It was awesome! I felt like I had made it into some cool-guy club! Dimebag kept on coming over and saying “damn, dude you look like you’re doing good” and all I could muster up was a “Fuckin’ A’ dude.” Just trying so hard to play it cool on the outside, but inside I’m going “this is fucking awesome!”
This was the beginning of Dime’s “3” phase. He talked endlessly of three’s and how everything in life comes in three’s, he’d spit on the wall and sure enough it would splatter and drip down in 3 drips, he gambled like crazy, he always playing dice and always betting on 3’s. Dude would win and lose money like crazy. He got Logan for something like $700 dollars one night and let’s just say dude was bum-min’! But while Dime may have “taken him” he also took to Logan in many ways. Offstage Logan could often be shy and a little reserved and Dime truly brought out the best in him.
Dime was THE life of the party.
If and when he’d walk into a venue there was usually an entourage of people, fans, and video cameras following him in. From there the volume of everything just went up and that’s when you KNEW Dimebag was in the building.
When we toured with Pantera they were out of their minds! There seemed like daily drinking sessions of biblical proportions, gambling all night, and strip clubs all the time! Always a gracious host himself, Vinnie Paul would often be entertaining (read: bangin’) strippers under Mike Bordin’s drum riser… while Ozzy was playing!! It was nuts!
At one point on that tour Ozzy got sick and lost his voice. That whole day was nothing but talk that they (Ozzy’s camp) might have to cancel the 2 sets and they were (rightfully) scared of a riot. Around the time of the tour, I had become friends with Phil Anselmo and we’d drink and hang out before and after their show in his dressing room, which was separate from the other guys. So Anselmo and I are hanging in the hallway after their set, during Manson’s set, and one of the Ozzy people comes up to Phil and says, “You know Ozzy’s lost his voice and it looks like we’re gonna have to cancel the show. But we were wondering if you’d like to get up there, and you and Marilyn Manson go up and sing with Ozzy’s band so we don’t have any… ummm… issues… would you be up for it?”
Anselmo looks at the dude and in that classic Anselmo baritone voice says, “The only way I’ll do it, is if Flynn here does it with me!”
Yeah… exactly…my jaw hit to the floor.
If I didn’t already have a full-on and thinly-disguised Man-Crush on Anselmo by that point, I was pretty much ready to drop to my knees and perform fellatio on the dude! So despite all the strength I could muster, like some fucking Heavy Metal Star Wars tractor beam my hand magnetically reached over and fondled his balls for him. It was the least I could do, right? But yeah, it was a completely surreal turn of events. Anselmo and I head into the Ozzy band dressing room and begin talking with Robert Trujillo, Mike Bordin, and guitarist Joe Holmes about what “Ozzy songs” Phil and I are going to “sing” with “them” tonight.
I pick “Crazy Train,” Phil picks “I Don’t Know,” and just then Marilyn Manson wanders in. He wants to do “Crazy Train” as well. Now…I’ve already staked my claim… and I’m not giving it up for nothing! So Marilyn Manson agreed to share it and we decide we’ll do a “duet.” Surprisingly, not a lot of the singers knew the Ozzy back catalog very well so I volunteered to duet with several of them to help to fill-in-the-blanks. Now keep in mind I’ve been drinking for the last 4 hours and I’m well buzzed and if the night wasn’t crazy enough… shit was about to get batty.
Next thing I know, the Ozzy person who approached us just a few minutes ago comes in and says, “the Black Sabbath guys want to do the same thing” and “could we come over into the Sabbath dressing room and talk about what songs we know and could possibly perform with them tonight.”
My brain has this inner dialogue that goes something like this: “So… Mr. Ozzy representative… let me get this straight, it’s been four hours of drinking here. But you want me, Robb Flynn to “come over and enter the Black “Fucking” Sabbath dressing room to have a chat with “the guys” about what song I’M going to sing with them?”
**My head explodes… right then and there**
Thankfully I keep my mouth shut.
So Anselmo and I go into the Sabbath room to talk to them. We walk in and well, gee, there’s Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and they both enthusiastically approach Anselmo and I about “what Sabbath songs we know, and what songs we would like to sing them tonight!”
If this Iommi / Butler conversation was a scene out of a movie it would have been the dream sequence scene in ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High’ where a slow-motion Phoebe Cates climbs out of the pool and flashes her breasts at a feverously masturbating “Brad.”
Keep in mind, this is the first time I’m meeting these guys.
**My inner-child weeps with joy**
But the liquid courage in me thankfully allowed me to speak up and boldly proclaim, “I know every lyric to every song you’re playing tonight.” Iommi replies “confident… I like that!” All the while my inner-Beavis is saying to me “Tony Iommi just talked to me… heh heh… cool…”
Thankfully, with Anselmo at my side I’m actually able to play it cool. Phil, Geezer, Tony, and I have a thorough discussion about what songs he and I would perform with them that evening when Manson walked in and now this seems like a very real possibility.
Yes! I was now going to sing with both Ozzy’s band and my favorite band EVER, Black Fucking Sabbath! The band that made me want to smoke “Sweet Leaf,” get “Snowblind,” chase “Dirty Women,” believe “Fairies Wear Boots”, see “the pope at the end of a rope”… yes… I was singing for them tonight.
In the end Sabbath decided against it. However the Ozzy band went ahead with it, and I did that duet with Manson on ”Crazy Train”, did backups on “I Don’t Know” with Anselmo doing lead vox, sang with a bunch of other guys including Peter Steele and Burton C Bell, and ended the set with a thoroughly wasted Dimebag and I in an arm-around-shoulders-hammered version of “Bark At The Moon” well…I sang a lot of it while Dime…well…he howled and barked a lot!
But it was Dime and my rather… uh… salubrious performance that the crowd turned… after our “performance” the crowd was like, “uh… where the fuck is Ozzy?” The mic was handed to Anselmo who was given the rather unfortunate task of breaking the bad news to the crowd… 20,000 people began to “BOOOOO” and promptly reigned beer cups down on the stage. A few minutes later a full scale riot was happening in good ol’ Columbus Ohio. They lit the entire back fence of the amphitheater on fire, turned over police cars, Christ they tried to pull down the entire PA! We all hid on our bus watching the NEWS of the riot happening outside of our bus doors.
I’m not gonna say it was Dime and my “fault”, but it was kinda… well… sorta… the last straw for the audience. Must have been a full moon?
I’m going to end here, but the one good thing I can say, is that I had my guitar-tech-at-the-time Jack (aka: Blackie Lee Gifford) bribe the guy running the Jumbotron screen with an 8-ball of coke to get the video footage of the riot-jam…
And I still have it…
Pt. 2 coming soon!!